Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

January 30, 2018

GUEST ROOM | The Last Jedi Reimagined

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I got to review The Last Jedi when it came out, along with some other Arts & Entertainment writers. To sum it up, we all pretty much said the same thing: it was a film of highs and lows. The overarching theme of balance the movie sought to explore shone through in its quality: good balanced against bad. But this isn’t a movie review. This is a “rewrite” of sorts, in which I will attempt to suggest a few small tweaks that had the potential to improve a movie.

I’m a Star Wars guy. I’ve always been a Star Wars guy, but I’m not nearly nostalgia-blind enough to say I hated the new movie. I’d be out of my mind to sit here and tell you The Last Jedi wasn’t stunningly beautiful or the acting wasn’t good. That’s what we’ve largely come to expect of projects with multi-hundred million dollar budgets, especially those from the House of Mouse. However, my acknowledgement of the film’s general decency certainly doesn’t mean I loved it.

The Last Jedi, in an almost Dunkirk-esque fashion, follows three distinct but eventually converging storylines. Aboard the Resistance flag ship, we see that our heroes aren’t just desperate, but fractured, as they run for dear life from the baddies’ overwhelming might. On a remote world, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) delve into the untold, hard truths behind the Jedi mythos, shedding new light on the celebrated order. Finally, on a voyage to an opulent casino city, Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) discover that the war isn’t as black and white as they thought.

On paper, those stories all sound promising, but if you’ve seen The Last Jedi I’ll bet that last one was your least favorite. Just about everyone I’ve talked to seems to think the Finn and Rose segments fell flat, which is a real shame because I do believe Boyega and Tran have the acting chops to make divergent storylines interesting. However, the clumsy manner in which the film’s writers tried to shoehorn in the handful of themes the arc explores made the whole thing miss the mark.

On subsequent viewings of the film, I’d let out a little sigh whenever the film cut away from the more engrossing other two portions to show more of Finn and Rose. Their egress from the Resistance’s fleet could have served to further the notion that the group lacked cohesion, but devoting serious time to their off-site journey was a serious misstep. Without Finn and Rose’s little misadventure, the film could revolve more tightly around two intertwining and compelling storylines.

The whole point of Finn and Rose’s storyline was that they needed to travel to the casino to track down a “codebreaker” capable of cracking the First Order’s shield, which could’ve been avoided entirely if the writers had made Rose the tech wiz instead. Obviously, stomaching any Star Wars movie requires a hefty suspension of disbelief, so why would it be any more unbelievable if Rose, a technician on a borderline magical spacecraft, had some knowledge of how the bad guy’s magical spacecraft worked? Maybe “they both run on basically the same tech” or she was trained on the kind of ship they were attacking. There are endless little one-liners that would’ve perfectly sufficed to convince the audience she could do it.

Not only would dropping the whole outward venture remove an unnecessary storyline and free up some time to further explore the more well-developed arcs, it would also give a little more agency to Tran’s underwritten character. As it stands now, Rose’s potential is almost entirely wasted. Sure, she’s got a spunky little scene near the start of the film, but following that she merely serves to accent Finn and cram in an awkward animal abuse message.

Right now, The Last Jedi is sitting at a 48 percent from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, which is just absurd. For reference, The Boss Baby has a slick 52 percent. This movie is better than that as is, but removing the Finn and Rose stuff that everyone just seemed to hate so much could’ve turned  it  into one of the franchise’s best entries. Apart from the portion I’d “cut,” the story is actually pretty well written and, like I said earlier, the visuals and acting are solid.

The Last Jedi is a truly good  — or even great — film derailed by a single errant train of thought. Rian Johnson breathed exciting new life into the franchise with his writing and directing, but just one misstep kept him from apotheosis in the Star Wars fandom . I hope that for Episode IX,  J. J. Abrams has someone with fresh eyes in the writing room.

Nick Smith is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at nsmith@cornellsun.com. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.