They are the Spark, or something

Though Rey’s demotion stings the most, Finn, too, loses much of his charm from The Force Awakens and seemingly is only able to string a sentence together if one of the words in that sentence is “Rey.” He vacillates between trying to run away from the Resistance and trying to sacrifice himself for the Resistance. And his Canto Bight caper with Rose merely serves to distract from the other goings on of the film, without paying off in any (positively) significant way for either character or the Resistance at large.

After his absence and presumed death in The Force Awakens, Poe, at least, has a lot more to do in The Last Jedi. And while I love that the movie turns the Han Solo-esque, “trigger-happy flyboy” trope on its side by calling Poe out for singlehandedly decimating the majority of the Resistance’s fleet with his impulsive and irrational decisions, the character himself doesn’t seem to learn any lesson. Again, this is a case where The Last Jedi foregoes character development for message-mongering, using Poe as a case study instead of treating him like a fully-fledged human.

One way to rectify this would have been to have Poe risk his life rescuing Finn from his suicide mission on Crait instead of Rose. This would demonstrate Poe’s growth as a character, showing that he now realizes he shouldn’t be risking the lives of others for larger glory. It would also, of course, put Poe and Finn in the romantic situation that was hinted at by their sparkling chemistry in The Force Awakens. I understand the unfortunate reality of the business side of Hollywood, and that the chances of Finn and Poe getting together are small if only because China, the world’s second biggest movie market, has banned all content containing homosexuality from its screens. I’m delighted that there are innumerable fans who can now see themselves in a Star Wars film thanks to the remarkable display of diversity in The Last Jedi, but there are still legions of LGBTQ fans who cannot. Don’t dismiss the very legitimate despondency of Finn/Poe shippers in the wake of this film’s release. We can only hope that Abrams will double down on his declaration that there should absolutely more LGBTQ characters in the Star Wars universe when he directs Episode IX.

Side characters get the shaft too: Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, so quirky and warm in Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan, exhibits barely any personality in barely any screen time in TLJ; Kelly Marie Tran is a treasure and I want to carry her around in my pocket forever, but her character, Rose, is superficial and really only used to spout exposition (and cockblock Finn/Poe). Finally, Benicio Del Toro’s DJ is basically just a Lando Calrissian knockoff, Captain Phasma gets the Boba Fett treatment, and Maz Kanata, who was supposed to be the new Yoda, is sidelined and replaced with actual Yoda. (So much for inverting old Star Wars tropes!)

star wars: the force awakens bb8 thumbs up

Why are you here?

Why do people love Star Wars? Different people have different reasons that draw them to the screen: some delight in the designs of the different ships and star cruisers, some enjoy the creature creativity, and some – guilty! – go weak in the knees for stunningly intricate, impeccably choreographed lightsaber fights. But as with any good story, the components are secondary to the overarching themes, and as much as Star Wars contains these sci-fi tokens, it is essentially one long story about heroism, hope, and heart. The Last Jedi talked about the first two until it was blue – or red, as it were – in the face, but in its haste to create shock and awe, the film skimped out on the heart. The Force Awakens is certainly not as bombastic as Rian Johnson’s film, but it respects the characters, respects the saga, and respects us, the fans. And for that, I’ll always love it…and will always be a little skeptical of The Last Jedi.

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