It’s Time to Admit We Need a New Space Opera

On American Idol, whenever a contestant sings a song like Last Dance, it is usually prophetic — he’s going home. So it’s no surprise that the last installment of the Star Wars franchise is subtitled, The Last Jedi. It’s time to wrap this thing up, too.

We’ve suffered through Ewoks, stilted dialogue, hammy acting, and Jar-Jar Binks. From a mile-high view, the story is tragic, dreadful, and even involves the slaughter of dozens of children. The religious cults of Jedi and Sith battle each other mercilessly, with the “light” side, time and again, failing to convince its pupils not to go “dark.” Yet we sell stuffed Chewie toys in the preschool aisle.

WARNING — SPOILERS AHEAD — WARNING — SPOILERS AHEAD — WARNING

And now, with The Last Jedi, we have porgs. While it appears porgs have existed in Star Wars literature for a few years now, their appearance in this movie is window dressing. At least the Ewoks joined in the battle. The porgs don’t do anything other than look cute, add a bit of comic relief, and sell merchandise.

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But that’s not the main problem at all. The movie is a failure about failure. Commander Poe Dameron defies orders to bomb a Dreadnought. Never mind that the bombs fall in space, the entire Rebel bomber fleet is destroyed in the process. Poe’s hubris causes a breakdown in communication between Poe and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo leading to Poe’s defiance of her orders and his instigation of a plan to save the rebels that winds up getting the bulk of them killed. Some have labeled Poe the real villain of The Last Jedi. But he’s not purposeful, like a villain would be; he’s just stupid, proud and brash.

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So certainly Poe is a failure. But Holdo and General Leia Organa keep Captain Poe Dameron (he gets demoted) in the dark about their own plans. When he finally hears their plan, Poe quickly admits that it could work and gets behind it. So what was their reluctance? Chain of command? Then why didn’t it flow down the chain? Need to know? What was so secret? No, it was just another failure, another prideful power play costing rebel lives.

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Holdo dies in an incredible moment of self-sacrifice, beautiful and stunning in its visual and aural production. And while her act allows the rebels to escape temporarily, it introduces a weird question, “If a small ship can ram a destroyer at lightspeed and cause its destruction, why haven’t we used this tactic more often?” I mean, put a bunch of C-3POs at the wheels of freighters and cut the entire First Order fleet in half. (And why couldn’t Holdo have put a drone at the helm?)

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Luke is a whiny failure. He makes a big deal about not coming to help. Finally does as a hologram. Makes a big deal about fooling Kylo Ren, outlives Ren’s laser cannon and light saber assaults on him. And then just dies anyway. Lame. And he whines the whole time about the Jedis and, channeling Greta Garbo, he just wants to be let alone. The great Luke Skywalker becomes an old miserable bitch. And then dies.

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Yoda, precious Yoda, appears as a Force Ghost but is able to summon real lightning to destroy a stone temple and some books. Why not use that lightning on the First Order? There are probably rules, I suppose. But still, seems like you could be a little more helpful there, Master Y.

Even though the rebels make an escape, their numbers are decimated, the Last Jedi is gone, and they are on the run from a force that appears to be much better equipped. The “good news” is that there are miserable failures on both sides.

Emperor Snoke of the First Order is all talk and very little power. His own lightsaber, with crystals that are presumably attuned through the Force to his own nature, is wielded against him by Kylo Ren, his snively student.

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General Hux is an idiot. It’s played for some comic relief, I guess. But it’s hard to suspend all reason when bombers are approaching your new beast Dreadnought and you have Star Destroyers standing idly by. Or you’re chasing a slow-moving rebel ship through space and you ‘can’t catch up.’ Like, hyperjump in front of them, call in another ship, how fast can the Tie Fighters fly? Or when all these escape pods are flying around and you have a super-magnifying glass but somehow they all evade you. And finally, you’ve been given orders for ‘no survivors’ yet two people, one badly injured, walk unharmed across red-footprint-marked terrain that took speeders minutes to cross. It’s not funny anymore, it’s failure.

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I don’t quite know who we are supposed to cheer for. Rey might be the one shining light in the universe. But her best bet might be to lightspeed somewhere else, where folks show a little more common sense.

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The better option would be to let this whole thing go. It’s run its course – right into the belly of a sarlacc. Time for some intrepid science fiction writer to begin a whole new universe/franchise. But for this Star Wars space opera, the fat lady is singing. And she’s singing “Last Dance.”

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