Attack of the Screw-ups (Thoughts on THE LAST JEDI, part 9)

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8

Ye Gods, there’s a lot of failure in this movie, on all sides. Nearly everybody fails in this movie at least once. I don’t recall a story so completely full of capital-F FAIL in quite some time. Let’s take a photographic tour of all the FAIL in The Last Jedi!!!

Seriously, that is a lot of screwing up, across the board. What gives?

For me, all the failure in TLJ is one of the most interesting things about its story. Over the course of the movie everybody fails at one thing or another.

The First Order attempts multiple times to snuff out what’s left of the Resistance.

The Resistance takes out one of the First Order’s biggest ships, but at way too high a price.

The Resistance attempts to flee to safety, but fails.

Kylo Ren tries to kill Leia, and fails.

Finn tries to flee the fleet so that Rey won’t fall to danger, but he is stopped by Rose.

Finn and Rose fail to deactivate the First Order hyperspace tracker thingie.

Phasma fails to kill Finn and Rose.

The Resistance tries to flee its doomed last ship in cloaked vessels, and fails.

Snoke thinks he sees what Kylo Ren is thinking, but fails to his own doom.

Rey thinks to appeal to Kylo Ren’s good side, and fails.

At the end, the Resistance is trying to call for help…but fails. Meanwhile the First Order is closing in, with more than enough firepower to win the war right then and there…but they fail.

Only in the film’s last act does anyone succeed…maybe. Luke Skywalker manages to command Kylo Ren’s attention, and therefore the rest of the First Order waiting, while what’s left of the Resistance can get away. Meanwhile, Luke’s would-be pupil, Rey, who hasn’t really learned a hell of a lot about the Force in his presence, steps up to rescue the fleeing Resistors.

All this failure strikes a keenly interesting tone for this so-very-different Star Wars tale, combined with the film’s very short timeframe and its deeply intimate feel. TLJ makes the war feel like a war of attrition, with all the compounding failures piling up on one another. By the end, when the Resistance numbers less than twenty people, Rey can’t even see a way forward. But Leia can, and assures her that there actually is one, in point of fact.

This, then, is the difference in the failures. The failures of the First Order, of Snoke, of Kylo Ren, all feel like failures of over-confidence and hubris. The Resistance’s failures, though, are something different. They are fighting the good fight, trying to ensure not victory but survival. This leads to the kinds of stories that get told again and again over fires. As a result, the Resistance’s failures feel like lessons being learned and valuable experience being gained. The Resistance is leveling up, while the First Order is not. Kylo Ren clearly believes that there are no more lessons for him to learn…while Rey knows that she is just getting started.

And in the end, all the failure by our heroes has the best result of all, as Luke has already told us.

Next up: Concluding thoughts and random impressions and speculations.

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