Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be releasing in December and needless to say it will do very well. After following movie channels and blogs, there seems to be a much higher percentage of people whom are excited for this movie. I on the hand cannot even use the word, “intrigued” to describe how I feel about this upcoming sequel and here’s why.
Those who talk to me (regarding narration) will know that my investment lies in characters rather than story. The story must be proficient and I can always respect a strong story but it’s not the factor that moves me emotionally. People… Desires… Motivations… These are the meat of any story but since movies are a visual medium, that often can be substituted for spectacle.
So lets talk characters:
Our new heroes are Finn and Rey, both are characters that at first seem interesting, however when I finished the movie I personally could not become invested in their story. Rey came from this backwater planet and was basically a homeless scavenger hustling to survive. Now I wont go into the Mary Sue debate in detail but for the record I believe she is a Mary Sue. That being said, her backstory is vague but she comes on the screen with an earnest attitude and morals. Her life at that point was to stay and wait for her parents but then after meeting Finn and BB-8 she joins the droid’s cause nearly instantly and that becomes her motivation. Why? Is she a huge fan of the legendary Luke Skywalker? Did she have a huge hatred for the Order? Or perhaps she just really wanted something new? Mabye be she wanted to experiment, and thank goodness there’s this black gu– actually never mind – you get my point. Rey goes with the flow from the beginning to the end and while doing so she’s kicking ass. Unfortunately, I just find it hard to believe.
Now quickly side-step to Finn, a former solider of the Order. Now we learn that Finn made top marks in his class and was recognized even by Phasma, his superior. However the movie failed again to firmly establish the core of this guy’s character. We see he decides to defect after one mission when he witnesses his friend die, but why? Was there any further information regarding this? How did the Order’s brainwashing since childhood fail to work on Finn? I would assume Finn has done some dirt in order to be brought on a mission regarding finding Luke” the infamous” Skywalker yet here’s Finn, “Most Peaceful Trooper” among them. Let’s say I were to buy all that, Finn since joining Rey has not shown any pain or distraught from killing some of his lifelong comrades during his escape nor does he exhibit any residue from the Order.Normally if you bring a solider home things just don’t click back easily. Finn is not hardened or even confused about his previous life of brainwashing. I just need to know Finn, what do you desire!? Are these your desires? Did you leave one faction just to join another because without someone else’s cause, you’re not sure how to function? Hell, even that explanation would have been interesting because now we have a character whose allegiance is questionable. But no, Finn finds Rey, starts to get a crush instantly and then reluctantly joins her on a journey that she herself has no personal investment in.
So we have our two main leads in similar situations and while many would like to give me all the details and book notes, I’m looking for the most simplistic of information: What motivated these people from the start? What motivates them now?
Rey: I’m waiting on my parents – to – I’m training to be a Jedi, because I have the Force? Because I just want to be stronger? Because it’s the right thing to do?
Finn: I just wanted to get away from the Order – to – I’m fighting for Rey? The Resistance? For myself?
The best and most pivotal (but not limited to) character development moments are when the character makes that decision on his/her own. Superman decides to be a hero, why? Because my power is a responsibility to protect. Batman decides to dedicate his whole life to becoming a Vigilante, why? Because he wishes to prevent the losses he experienced at the hands of evil. Even Goku decides “I want to be the strongest fighter,” and why? Because he just loves fighting(albeit not a provocative reason but you understand). Kylo-Ren is much more interesting character simply because he has a clear motivation. He wants to be a true Sith and he’s actively striving to do what believes is necessary to do so. These are small examples but keep in mind I’m not just picking on the new kids, I had this problem with Luke as well. I recall in A New Hope he was presented the choice to become a Jedi, he chose not to at first. It wasn’t until his family died that he decided to leave, or as he puts it, “there’s nothing left for me here now”.
Like him I never felt these two made the conscious decision on their own. This is something a writer cannot be coy with because it is the most primal core of a narrative protagonist. So whatever they succeed in, I feel its just a product of them going with the flow and being amazing at it… And that…. Is just not interesting to me.