Let’s be honest here: the sequel trilogy is nothing more than fan fiction. We have fans writing in the universe that George Lucas created. Even though Disney owns the rights and hired J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson to write the films, they are still fan fiction. When writing fan fiction, there are important guidelines you should follow. We’ll address how The Last Jedi didn’t follow many of these.
First, however, I want to talk about how much Star Wars means to me. I was born in 1979. I can never remember a time that I didn’t know about Star Wars. I remember my parents telling me that they had stopped going to the movies in the 70s until Star Wars came out. As a child, I remember playing guns with my brothers and friends and we played Star Wars music and whenever it came to Leia’s theme we'd stop shooting, because that was the time to rest and then, once the main thing came back on, we would start shooting again.
I really didn’t become a big Star Wars fan until my early teen years when I bought a game for my computer called TIE fighter. This came on five three and a half inch floppy disks. Playing this game as a TIE fighter pilot made me want to learn more about the Star Wars universe. I bought The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels and read it front to back several times. My fascination was with the technology and the ships that were in the universe. This led to studying about the lore, about the Jedi, and most other aspects of the universe. I really didn't get into reading the books, though I have read a few. My main focus was the lore from the movies and the technology to do with the vehicles.
Before I go on, here is your spoiler warning. I don’t think anybody who reads this needs it, but I’m putting it in anyway.
When The Phantom Menace came out, I was so excited. I was actually mad that my brothers got to see it before I did. While I admit it has some problems, I was mostly happy with it. Because I had studied more of the themes in the lore, I saw characters such as Jar Jar Binks in a different light than many people did. That, however, is an entirely different subject than what I'm talking about today.
When they announced the new trilogy, I was again excited. I kept track of things, watch the trailers for The Force Awakens and was there on opening night. The Force Awakens was a good movie. I liked what I saw and, just like the prequels, there were some problems but I could overlook them. I was getting Star Wars. I defended The Force Awakens in many discussions and was looking forward to the next film, which turned out to be The Last Jedi.
Needless to say, I was disappointed, like many others. There were some good things and there were some bad things. I like to call it a beautiful mess. The mess part is oh so messy though. My biggest problem with what happened in The Last Jedi is that it broke the world that it was written in. Characters were not honored, characteristics were changed, and even the way vehicles and ships operated were made different in the name of subverting expectations. Because of these things, The Last Jedi is simply bad fan fiction.
I'm going to start with a few things that I did like. I was mostly okay with the Rey and Kylo side of the story. I didn’t like what they did with Luke, but I understood it. 20 years is a long time and things can happen that can majorly change people. I don’t agree with people who say that this would never happened. It was unlikely, but it was plausible. I would not have chosen to write him like that but everyone would have written him different than I would.
The dynamic between Kylo Ren and Rey was done well. I really like the storyline of some kind of force connection between the two. I’m not in the Reylo crowd. I don’t think a relationship between the two of them would happen or work. Beyond that, I feel that storyline was resolved too quickly. The play of not knowing where either truly stands when it comes to the force could have extended into the next movie. One of the many opportunities that were missed.
I know a lot of people had a problem with the death of Snoke. I thought it was very consistent with the way dark side users act. Snoke's overconfidence was on full display and he forgot one important thing: the greatest enemy of a dark side user isn’t the users of the light side, but their own apprentice or master. There comes a time when the users of the dark side must face their master. Those who use the dark side do not share power willingly for long periods. Eventually, the apprentice will desire the power and position that the master has and will move to kill him. The master doesn’t want to lose their position and will defend themselves or may make a preemptive move.
Kylo Ren saw an opportunity to take out his master, who was distracted. It was a perfect dark side move. While I may have wanted to know more about Snoke, his death was well within established dark side patterns.
While I will acknowledge that that side of the movie isn’t perfect, it is more consistent with the established Star Wars universe. The other side of the movie, the Space Chase, broke the world and many of the characters. Now, as I go into this, some of the things I have gripes with may seem like nit picking. You have to remember that small things build into larger things. Large problems have their roots in the details.
I'll first address the problems with Leia. Leia is a character that has been established since the beginning. She is a strong woman who will lead when called on and follow when necessary. She is experienced in combat and war. She is sensitive and kind, but passionate when standing up for what she believes. Most of all, she understands her place and trusts those around her.
This is where people are going to accuse me of being picky. I’m going to start with the very clothes that Leia was wearing. If we go through the other four movies that she appears in, we see that the clothes she wears fit the circumstances that she's in. In A New Hope, she’s captured wearing a simple white dress that is appropriate for a senator. It looks nice but is functional. She wears this through the entire movie because she was captured and never had a chance to change until the end. Then she dresses into something more elaborate for a ceremony where she is presenting honors to the heroes. In The Empire Strikes Back, most of the time she is in a simple uniform that is easy to move in and is appropriate for a commander on a base. She changes into a dress on Bespin when she is relaxing. In Return of the Jedi, she is in a military uniform most of the movie and only in a dress when she is relaxing with the Ewoks (how the Ewoks had a dress her size is anybody’s guess). In The Force Awakens, she is always wearing a uniform that is appropriate for her position.
In The Last Jedi, however, we find her, during a major evacuation, wearing a gown. It is not a simple gown; it is an elaborate gown. Completely inappropriate for what's going on. She would not choose to be wearing something that would inhibit her movement and make it more difficult for others to move with her. As many will say, I’m being picky, but this small thing shows that the writer of the film did not understand her character. While we're on the subject of clothes, I'm going to talk about Admiral Holdo. Here is someone who is supposed to be a great military commander. I’m sorry, but anybody who’s a career soldier would not be in a flighty outfit with complicated hair. She would have a simple uniform that would make her easy to identify and her hair would be something that she could put up in a couple minutes, not an hour.
Now, back to Leia. for most of her life, she has been part of the Rebellion and then the Resistance. These are terrorist's organizations. The Resistance even more than the Rebellion. Terrorists are willing to sacrifice more to accomplish their goals. The plan that Poe gave for keeping the First Order fleet busy while the evacuation proceeded was desperate. This plan would have been discussed between him, Leia, Admiral Ackbar, and any other senior staff. The possibility that none of the starfighters would come back would have been accepted. They wouldn’t agree to this plan without knowing that there’s a possibility that many lives would be lost in order to save the majority of the people on the ship. This makes the fact that Leia demoted Poe even more ridiculous. If they hadn’t destroyed that large ship, it most likely would have destroyed their cruiser with its large auto cannons. Leia’s experience would have made it so she wouldn't have backed down at the last minute. This is the same risk as when they launched the attack on the Death Star at Yavin 4. On Hoth, she agreed with the decision to send rebel troops and speeders to engage the Imperials, knowing that most of those soldiers wouldn’t be returning. The whole attack on the Forest Moon of Endor and the second Death Star had little chance of succeeding. She approved of all of these. They were desperate plans, just like a Poe’s was. While they lost many starfighters attacking the First Order Dreadnought, they accomplished their goal and were able to escape. Just like on Yavin and Hoth. Why she acted different here makes no sense. The loss of life, while horrible, would have been accepted. There never would have been a demotion.
The whole scene with Leia using the force to escape outer space is again out of character. The only time that she's been shown using any type of force ability is force telepathy, usually to connect with family members. What she did was an ability developed by years and years of practice, especially surviving in space using the force. It did not make sense that she would be able to do that out of nowhere. She did not have the training to accomplish such a feat.
The last thing with Leia I will address is that she trusted those around her. This was not shown in The Last Jedi. This has directly to do with them not telling Poe the plan to go to another planet. Poe was the commander of their starfighter squadrons, which would have made him a member of the senior staff. The whole discussion of this planet would have included him, and if for some reason he couldn't be at that meeting, he would have been told what they were doing. If they were worried about First Order spies, he would not be one of those who were suspected. It’s shown time and time again that he was a valuable member of the Resistance and would do anything to fight against the First Order.
This last break in character is probably the most egregious. It was done merely to create a storyline that shouldn't have been there. The breaks in the established world show how much the writers and director didn’t understand or care about the Star Wars universe. They made changes to the world and characters to fit the story that they wanted to tell. This is the worst possible thing you could do when writing in someone else’s world.
Now I will talk more about the technical side of things, mainly the ships and their capabilities. It has been established that starfighters can be a threat to capital ships. From A New Hope to The Force Awakens, we see starfighters play major roles in multiple battles. That being said, how easily Kylo Ren and his wingmen were able to take out major parts of the Resistance cruiser is ridiculous.
Why were none of the weapons on the cruiser operable? They just came out of a battle situation and all of the weapons would have been manned. We’ve seen that ships can start firing their weapons as soon as they come out of hyperspace. In fact, there were several minutes before Kylo and his wingmen engaged the cruiser. Where were the cruiser’s defenses? Also, why were the shields so different from every other Star Wars movie. A capital ships shields have never been seen to be that far from the surface of the hull. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo turns the Millennium Falcon around to attack the star destroyer chasing them, the captain turns on their shields to protect their bridge. Where are the shields protecting the bridge of the Resistance cruiser? That whole thing doesn’t make any sense in context with how starfighters and capital ships have been portrayed. If it was that easy to take out a capital ship’s bridge, it would be happening all the time. The defenses around the bridge would be double or triple what we seen the movies if it was that easy to take out the bridge. Anytime we’ve seen starfighters cripple a capital ship, it has been at the end of the battle. In Return of the Jedi, when A-wings take out the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, it was near the end of the battle. I can guarantee that the attack by the two A-wings on the shield generator was the last of many attack runs. Everyone knows that the shield generators are a weak point on a Star Destroyer and therefore, they are one of the heaviest armor parts of the ship. The bridge of the Executor was not vulnerable until they took out that shield generator. Is the Resistance cruiser that poorly designed? If you study the design of the Mon Calamari cruisers, you’ll realize they have more shield capability than any Star Destroyer. Was this not part of that cruiser’s design? In fact, why was there only one hangar bay? Multiple starfighter bays are another common attribute of Mon Calamari cruisers. The whole fight between Kylo’s starfighters and the Resistance cruiser makes no sense when you look at canon and the way starfighters have been established in the Star Wars universe.
Another aspect is the whole space chase itself. If the rebel cruisers are faster than the first order cruisers, why was there always a constant distance between them? Wouldn’t the distance increase over time? Once that distance increased, the First Order weapons would have become so ineffective that the Resistance ships could’ve dropped their shields, saving the energy resources for their engines. In fact, they would have been able to reach the planet and execute their planned escape out of sensor range of the First Order. The First Order ships would’ve kept going and the Resistance would’ve landed on the planet.
The last technical aspect I want to address is the last scene in space where Admiral Holdo initiates a hyperspace jump through the First Order dreadnought. The use of this is ridiculous, as this would have happened long before this if it were possible. There have been many desperate battles throughout the Star Wars universe and somebody would have done this already. Once they’ve realized that they can weaponize jumps into hyperspace, capital ships would become completely useless. We’ve seen that small fighters like the X-wing or even probe droid can jump into hyperspace. As soon as a ship like a Star Destroyer or a Mon Cal cruiser showed up, all you’d have to do is hyperspace a probe droid through the ship. The ship would be destroyed or severely damaged, making it useless. While it looked cool on screen, it does not fit within the universe and creates many problems.
Those are the biggest reasons that The Last Jedi is bad fan fiction. It does not pay attention to and honor the established cannon and the well-known characteristics of characters and technology. When, as a writer, you are creating in somebody else’s universe, you do not decide to change established rules. This is not your universe. You do not have the right to change anything because it fits your story better. When you play in somebody else’s world, you have a responsibility to honor what they have written before. I will admit, writing in such a big universe like Star Wars could be hard to maintain canon. However, Rian Johnson had at his disposal many, many experts on the what was canon. Watching The Last Jedi shows that Rian Johnson did not use these resources. He broke characters, he broke established technology norms, and he did other things that conflicted with the rest of the Star Wars movies.
I can’t imagine how George Lucas feels about what Ryan Johnson did to his universe. I imagined in the legal agreement that George Lucas signed when he sold Star Wars there was a clause that prevents him from saying what he truly feels. That is speculation on my part, but as a writer, I would be furious if someone did this to my world.
For all the things I pointed out that I liked, it does in no way justify what was done to the Star Wars lore. It was an offense to all those who care about Star Wars and especially to George Lucas. I don’t know what can be salvaged in the Rise of Skywalker. I don’t envy J.J. Abrams task and I don’t know if he will even attempt to correct the course or if he will continue to drag this story into the ground. I have hope, but it is small. I have emphasized this from a writer's standpoint and I hope that any of you that read this and want to write a fan fiction or any other story in another author’s universe will realize that you cannot do whatever you want when writing in a world that is not yours. We all need to help each other and support one another as writers. Doing what Rian Johnson did to George Lucas is offensive and disrespectful. You wouldn’t want someone to do that to your world, so don’t do it to theirs.