Why I Liked The Last Jedi

I will strive to avoid spoilers, but beware…if you have not seen the movie yet, you might not want to read this.

Since I was first exposed to Star Wars (and FYI, I will nearly always refer to Episode IV – A New Hope as Star Wars), it has elated and inspired my imagination.  That blockade runner flying over our heads, pursued by a Star Destroyer, lasers blazing away…so great!

Last Jedi 1Overall, the prequels fell flat.  Cutting all the worthwhile scenes together would maybe net you a half-hour film total.  The Force Awakens brought us something new, and rekindled the spirit of the original trilogy.  A worthy successor to Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Yes, The Force Awakens in many respects retold the story from A New Hope.  Dessert dwelling kid discovers the Force, and a big planet-killing weapon gets blown up.  Still, it was a fun story, and the new characters we were introduced to sparked our interest.  What will happen next?

The Last Jedi answers that question.  For a lot of people, that answer was a disappointment.  I disagree with that.  While to some degree I think we all expected Last Jedi to mirror Empire Strike Back, I was rather glad that it didn’t.  The choices made for Last Jedi are going to take the series to unexpected places, and I’m pretty excited for that.

I think a lot of people, nearly 40 years ago, didn’t like a lot of what Empire Strikes Back gave them.  Vader was Luke’s father?  Boba Fett managed to cart Han away?  Luke lost a hand and his lightsaber?  WTAF?

Where does The Last Jedi take us?

I would argue, and I know I am not the first to do so, that The Last Jedi does a lot of the same stuff.  A lot of this had to do with the answers to questions left over from The Force Awakens.  The answers we got were, I think, unexpected.  They left some people wanting, because of that.  I do not wish to go into further detail because, well, spoilers – but suffice it to say, I found myself rather pleased that they made those particular choices.  Oh, we all thought it was going to go direction ‘x’ or ‘y’, and instead it’s going in a fairly unexpected direction.

Further, a lot of people are disappointed by what became of Luke Skywalker.  Given his mentors and their actions, truth be told he very much followed in their footsteps.  Yes, when he was told he would have to confront Vader, he chose to turn him rather than kill him, despite what Obi-Wan and Yoda said.  Just because he took one path his mentors may not have chosen, didn’t mean he’d always choose as such.

Porgs?  I thought they were adorable.  Certainly more entertaining and less annoying than Gungans or Ewoks (which, btw, never seem quite as awful after meeting Jar-Jar Binks in the prequels).

There were some light and funny moments in this movie, which were never jarring or off-putting.  I liked Rose a lot, and it was good to see Poe, Finn and Rey back in action.

The Women of The Last Jedi kicked ass!

Last JediLet’s talk about the other elephant in the room.  This was a movie about some mighty, empowered women.  While the guys wanted to either blow stuff up, sulk, run away, or disobey orders, the women kicked some serious ass.  Between Vice Admiral Holdo, General Leia, Rey and Rose, we were given some complex, tough, and wonderfully self-sufficient women.  They were the voices of reason, wisdom, and strength, and it was absolutely fantastic to see.

Some of the trolls out there are offended by such diversity.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are wrong, this is a fantastic direction for Star Wars to go.

I really really enjoyed this movie.  It held up to a second viewing, and I think it might be my second-favorite Star Wars film after Empire Strikes Back.  I am sorry so many people didn’t enjoy this movie as much as I did, but it was everything I had hoped for, and more.

I can hardly wait to see the Solo: A Star Wars Story movie, and more than that, Episode IX!

If you have not seen The Last Jedi yet, I suggest you get to it!

How Am I Breaking from Typical Story Tropes?

It’s fun to break away from the typical story tropes.

For years I have wanted to write a sci-fi “space opera”.  An epic along the lines of a Star Wars or a Star Trek, but as unique as I could make it.

One of the problems you face with these things is that there have been numerous epics created.  Beyond Star Wars and Star Trek, you get Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly, and on and on.

Star Wars happened “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”  As such, the humans are not from Earth.  I like this idea a great deal, and rather than rehash all of the sci-fi books, movies and TV shows where the Humans are from Earth in the future, my humans come from somewhere else.

This opens up a great deal of options for my sci-fi.  I can create star systems, worlds and alien races with no ties to anything but my own imagination.

One of the things I most love about sci-fi and fantasy is that there are few actual rules.  Yes, with sci-fi you need at least vague plausibility in your technobabble and such.  Fantasy, however, has no actual rules.  You can do whatever you want, when all is said and done.

Playing with 21st Century tropes.

One of the things I loved about The Force Awakens and Rogue One was the ways they took a new approach to things.  The main characters were not white guys, but women and ethnically diverse actors.  They were all strong, mixed characters both likeable and not, and added a new dimension to the series.

Along the same line, Chuck Wendig defied the norms with several of his characters in his Star Wars: Aftermath series.  In all of these instances, several people lost their minds, and got upset because for whatever reason they think sci-fi is supposed to focus on white male heroes.

Drawing by MJ Blehart

This is the 21st century.  Sci-fi in the past broke many barriers along the way.  The original Star Trek provided the first interracial kiss on television.  Given many of our modern societies’ issues, I applaud taking new approaches to the material.

As I began to write my sci-fi epic, I took several different steps to my approach.  First, my humans are not well described.  Male, female, and maybe at some point a reference to height, but I never reveal their hair color or skin tone or any other descriptives.  As such, my reader can imagine them however they choose.  It is all open to interpretation.

Further, I figure if they ever make a movie of this, ANYBODY could be cast in any role.

I give a lot more attention to my aliens.  But that’s because they need more description.  One race, however, has no gender definitions.  As such, I even invented new pronouns for them.

As if I wasn’t having enough fun with my story, I made a few other choices.  One of my primary characters is a middle-aged lesbian woman.  Another is a thirty-something omnisexual male (omnisexual because he has no preference not just regarding straight or gay, but towards non-humans).  Mind you, there is no sex in the novel (I feel no need to write sex scenes) but the topic gets discussed among the characters.  My aliens are not all humanoid in appearance, and even those that are may be sexually compatible, but cannot reproduce together.

Writing is joy.

I have had the desire to write a sci-fi epic space-opera for some time now.  I am thrilled to be playing with this story, and looking forward to completing and sharing it soon.