As a Star Wars fan, I was hugely let down by The Last Jedi. I had big expectations following the previous film, The Force Awakens, which, despite criticisms that it was essentially a rewrite of A New Hope, just felt like Star Wars to me. It’s a hard concept to explain, but I’m sure other fans who have that feeling know what I mean. The Last Jedi didn’t give me that feeling at all, and the more I try to pinpoint why, the harder it gets. I thought there were far too many main characters, too many irrelevant characters, too many subplots, none of which really paid off – what did Rey really learn by the end? How did relationships established in the first film develop or not? What the hell does Kylo Ren even want, what’s his endgame? Despite how bloated the film was I don’t think we got satisfying answers to any of these questions. And don’t even get me started on the cringey, self-referencing, one-liner humour that made Luke into almost a parody of himself.
I could go on, but criticising gets boring quickly. Instead, I wanted to try something a bit more constructive. Below is my attempt to write a plot summary for The Last Jedi if it was rewritten as a Star Wars film that I personally would have enjoyed. Of course, this only addresses the very basic issues I found with the film – mainly story, tone, and character development – and much of what makes a film good will be lost here. But if you’re a fan like me and up for a bit of creative thinking, have a read and let me know what you think!
- The film starts as is. The First Order is making a surprise attack on the base of the Resistance, who are trying to evacuate. The key difference from the original film is that there’s no focus on Rose’s sister and her big sacrifice (Rose, whose whole purpose in the original film was seemingly to die and deliver a single inspirational line to Finn, isn’t in my version of the film). Instead, the central focus in this scene is on Poe, who’s doing his whole daring-pilot thing. As he does that, there’s a juxtaposition between Kylo Ren, who is leading a fighter squadron outside the Dreadnought ship trying to finish Poe, and General Hux, who’s giving orders from the inside. Against Leia’s orders, Poe pulls off the attack that destroys the Dreadnought, and the Resistance fighters escape. But as this opening scene closes there’s a shot of Hux’s face that suggests he’s not entirely upset about it.
- Cut to Rey. She has a concerned, confused look on her face. The camera pans down to Luke’s lightsaber still in her hand. She’s sitting outside Luke’s hut. Frustrated, she gets up and bangs on his door. He won’t see her. She tells him about the Resistance and the First Order, the destruction of Starkiller Base, and how that hasn’t stopped the First Order. She explains that the Resistance is still losing. Luke still refuses to see her.
- Kylo Ren walks into Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room. Hux is there looking very smug. This scene with Snoke plays out pretty much as it does in the original film, but it’s revealed that something about Poe’s attack was what enabled the First Order to track the Resistance through light speed (I don’t think this was really explained in the original despite it being apparently impossible – that the First Order achieved it despite its impossibility is a pretty crucial plot point in my opinion). Snoke heaps praise on Hux but rips out Ren for his failings. The First Order then prepares to pursue the Resistance and Ren has his moment in the elevator where he smashes his helmet.
- The Resistance arrive on a hideaway planet. This planet has an indigenous population of aliens who basically look after the Resistance and supply them. The Resistance celebrate their escape and Poe meets back up with Finn, who is recovering from his wounds. There’s some good banter re-establishing their bromance along with an intro to the alien locals, some funny bits with BB-8 annoying C-3PO, and some tension with Leia who’s still pissed with Poe for disobeying her orders.
- The First Order arrives shortly after and attacks. Kylo Ren leads the assault, landing on the ground and executing some sweet lightsaber action along with Captain Phasma, who ruthlessly murders many local aliens. Finn witnesses this and his bloodlust grows, but Leia urges him and Poe to flee. Of course they both try and be big heroes and protest that they can’t run anymore. Leia responds that she’s not telling them to run; she needs them to be able to keep fighting. They get the point and go, taking BB-8 and C-3PO into the wilderness. Ren overpowers the soldiers protecting Leia, along with Captain Phasma, who encourages him to kill her. He refuses, instead detaining her.
- Back to Rey, who finally gets through to Luke by bringing Chewie and R2 along. Their presence helps break through Luke’s walls and he emerges from his hut to face Rey. This Luke is very different to the one in the original film; rather than being cynical and cracking jokes, he’s just depressed. He’s a defeated hero. The scene ends with Luke embracing Chewie to mourn Han Solo’s death.
- Kylo Ren visits Leia in a cell. He doesn’t know how to act around her. Leia tries to reach out to him but he’s confused and volatile. He wants to talk with his mother but equally doesn’t want to be vulnerable. When Leia mentions Han he lashes out, venting that Han wasn’t there for him, which evolves into accusations that Han and Leia abandoned him, sent him away because of what he was. In the end, he composes himself after his angry outburst and begins to reach into Leia’s mind like he tried to do to Rey in the last film. This reveals that he didn’t spare Leia because he still cares for her; he’s just using her to find Rey.
- Meanwhile, Finn and Poe are trying to work out how to rescue Leia and break the blockade that the First Order has set up to ground any Resistance ships on the planet. BB-8 and C-3PO provide some comedy relief in their interactions with each other, but tensions rise between Finn and Poe; Poe just wants to go in guns blazing yet Finn understands that approach isn’t going to work. Poe rips into Finn for being just another soldier following orders, but Finn responds that in this case he’s following orders he WANTS to follow, orders he believes in. With C-3PO’s translation skills they manage to enlist the help of the locals to help them free captured rebels and commandeer a fleet of ships to fight back against the First Order. (As I’ve removed Rose and Admiral Holdo from my version of the film, perhaps either of their characters could be used here – I’m thinking an alien version of Admiral Holdo who leads the locals helping Finn and Poe??)
- Back to Rey. She’s gathering food and returns to find Luke inspecting his lightsaber, which Rey had left behind. He talks a bit about how he lost it in his fight with Darth Vader, and as he puts the lightsaber back, she asks Luke about him. Luke shares some reflections that leads to a line something like “In the end I was able to turn him back, help him see the good in himself. I couldn’t do that for Ben.” Rey takes the opportunity to ask him about what happened between him and Ben Solo, and Luke explains:
- Rather than this weird moment where Luke was tempted to kill Ben in his sleep (which I don’t think Luke would ever have done – his whole arc in Return of the Jedi culminated in him refusing to kill Darth Vader because he believed there was good still in him, which is ultimately what turned Anakin Skywalker back to the light side), we learn that Ben Solo possessed great power, power he couldn’t always control. Importantly, he possessed power that he himself feared.
- [While this next scene is playing out, it would juxtapose with shots of Kylo Ren torturing Leia with his mind, desperately trying to rip the information on Rey’s whereabouts from her head.] Luke explains that, despite his Jedi teachings that fear leads to the dark side, Ben’s fear only grew alongside his growing power. He was terrified that he might not be able to control his power, that it might lead him to fall to the dark side like his grandfather. In the end, it was fear of fear itself that led him there – one day, after losing control of the power he had suppressed for so long, he accidentally killed another pupil. The other pupils turned on him and he was forced to kill them, despite Luke’s best efforts to intervene. He fled, and Luke was left with the ruins of his fledgling Jedi Order.
- Luke laments that he failed; he failed to revive the Jedi, he failed as a mentor, and most of all he failed his nephew, and by extension Leia and Han. Luke’s driving belief – that there is good in everyone – has been shattered by this. He truly believes Ben Solo is lost, and that with the great power he possesses at Snoke’s disposal, it’s only a matter of time until the First Order is victorious.
- Rey tries to convince Luke that it’s not too late. She says she’s faced Kylo Ren, even had a glimpse into his mind, and believes he can still be turned back. She begs Luke to return, to help the Resistance overcome the First Order. Luke refuses, saying he came to Ahch-To for a reason; the Jedi must end. Their teachings, which he sought to revive, have proven false. He realises now that Anakin Skywalker’s and Ben Solo’s falls to the dark side were partly the failure of the Jedi – in Anakin’s case, by denying him love for Padme, and in Ben’s by neglecting to acknowledge and address his fear.
- As Luke makes to walk away, Rey asks, if he won’t return to fight for the Resistance, to teach her in the ways of the Force instead. He berates her for not listening; the Jedi are finished and he has nothing to teach her. She clarifies that she doesn’t want him to teach her in the ways of the Jedi, but of the Force. She says she has power she is afraid of too, but that she needs someone to show her her place in all this. Despite her desperate plea, Luke refuses this as well, stating he will never teach anyone again.
- Rey realises here that Luke is a lost cause. She takes back the lightsaber and points out to Luke that it was fear that lost Ben Solo, and it’s fear that has lost Luke now. She vows she won’t let her fear consume her. Taking Chewie and R2, she packs up and leaves the planet.
- As the Millenium Falcon takes off into the horizon, Luke watches, sitting cross-legged on a rock, before closing his eyes to meditate. After a flashing montage of images and sounds from previous films (and maybe future ones??) his eyes open. He gets up and there are a few shots of him walking across the island. He arrives at a cliff, where the camera pans up and overhead to reveal his X-Wing in the water below. There’s another shot of Luke from below, slowly zooming in on his grizzled face. He sighs, closes his eyes, and lifts his hand (mirroring Yoda in Empire).
- Rey arrives in the midst of a huge battle on the planet where the Resistance are being suppressed. We see Kylo Ren halting his mind-torture of Leia as he senses Rey’s arrival. Rey senses him too, and through this connection she realises that Ren is after her. After fighting through the blockade from the other side, she makes contact with Finn and Poe, and explains that she’s going to give herself up to Ren. They protest, but she tells them it’s the only way the attack will end. She leaves the Falcon with them, and makes her way to meet Ren. He detains her, and together they depart the planet to meet with Snoke up in orbit.
- Once they are gone, Captain Phasma orders her troops to raze the planet to the ground. Poe fires up the Falcon to join the fighters trying to break through the First Order blockade, while Finn stays on the ground. He eventually confronts Captain Phasma, and the two fight. He defeats her after a long battle, but at that point it seems as if the First Order have won; Captain Phasma tells Finn to look around, and he sees destruction everywhere – Resistance ships falling out of the sky, local aliens dead everywhere, their homes in ruins. The First Order have won.
- In the air, Poe realises the same and looks defeated. But then, as the Millenium Falcon is about to be fired on, a battered X-Wing swoops in, executing a wicked run that takes out one of the massive First Order ships keeping the Resistance grounded. Poe whoops as Resistance fighters cheer and R2 gives a squeal of delight. Poe yells to nobody in particular “Who the hell is that?” and C-3PO replies “Master Luke!” Poe turns to him, incredulous, and says, “That’s Luke Skywalker?!”
- Rey and Ren arrive at Snoke’s throne room. This scene (which is really a great scene) plays out pretty much as it does in the original film, with Ren killing Snoke and then teaming up with Rey to take out Snoke’s guards. The key difference is when the fight is over and Ren asks Rey to join him; he talks about how they don’t need anyone to guide them or tell them what to do, no light or dark side, just their own destiny. They can find out what it is together. He holds out his hand. Rey looks troubled for a few moments, her eyes darting from his own and back to his outstretched hand, before she takes it.
- Back on the planet below, the battle draws to a close as the First Order retreats. The Resistance are puzzled by the First Order’s sudden change, but don’t question it, taking the opportunity to regroup and account for their losses. Finn frees Leia, who is exhausted but has withstood Ren’s mental torture unharmed, and Poe joins up with them to be congratulated by Leia for not being too brash and following her orders for once (she can really twist the knife in about the whole macho-man thing not working at all). Behind them, the old X-Wing lands and Leia finds the strength to walk out to greet the newcomer. The cockpit opens and Luke emerges to the awe of the Resistance survivors. He embraces Leia and apologises for everything, saying he knows he is too late, and that they’ve lost Rey now too. But he knows he can’t hide – or run – any longer. He has to believe that Rey and Ren can be just as formidable a force for good than for bad, and he won’t let his fear cripple him any longer. The scene closes with him and the others looking up to the First Order ships turning away from the planet in the sky.
- Rey and Ren enter the bridge of the lead First Order ship. General Hux, looking terrified, inclines his head as they pass, acknowledging the newly established leadership. Ren looks to Rey and asks, “Where do you want to go?” She thinks for a moment, smiles and says, “Anywhere.” Side by side, they turn back to the infinite space before them. Roll credits.