I’ve noticed this trend lately in science fiction movies, and it’s bothering me. The movie’s going along at a nice clip, but all of the sudden something happens that’s completely unnecessary to the story, and the film goes off the rails.
The first time that it really jumped out at me was while watching The Force Awakens. So much of the middle of the movie wasn’t about the characters doing what they should, it was about them doing what the story needed them to do to advance the story.
And that was bad enough. But then it got worse.
Rey and Finn are on Jakku, and they get attacked by TIE fighters. They run for a ship, which promptly gets blown to bits. So the divert to the piece of junk over there - the Falcon. We all know the scene.
It’s what comes next that bothers me.
Why did we need the whole sub-plot of the Falcon having been stolen and Han tracking and capturing it? Why couldn’t Han and Chewie simply have been stopping at the planet, perhaps because the Resistance had asked them to sniff around for Poe? Instead, we have this stupid sideshow of two gangs and some stupid creatures fighting as the ‘heroes’ escape. Worse, far worse, this stupid sideshow creates at least two continuity problems for The Last Jedi.
So, how did Han find the Falcon? Everyone knows how to track the Falcon through hyperspace, Han tells us. (Wait, wasn’t tracking ships through hyperspace a sudden tactical advantage of the First Order in the Last Jedi? Why yes, yes it was.). Also, the First Order can track the Falcon, but doesn’t follow it to Ach-Oh, Luke’s hide-out. In fact, they have no idea where it is, even though they can track the Falcon and can track any ship through hyperspace. Um… stupid much?
Just having Rey and Finn meet Han and Chewie on a parked Falcon would’ve reduced all those problems, and made a tighter story (And I still don’t understand why the diversion to Maz’s bar was needed on the way back to the Resistance, except of course, that Kylo needed to kidnap Rey. Was Han working for Kylo? How did Kylo know where to find Rey? He tracked the Falcon. Then immediately forgot how to do that. Oops.).
Chronologically, Valerian is next.
I wanted to like this film, and maybe I do. My partner doesn’t generally like science fiction, and she loved it. But there’s a whole section in the middle that’s just time filler. We both noticed and commented on it. What part, you ask. Think Rihanna. That whole sequence, the kidnapping and rescue of Laureline, served no narrative purpose. But it allowed us to shoehorn Rihanna into the movie, so I guess that’s what we’re supposed to take away from that 20 minute diversion.
Oh Last Jedi, such a noble failure. There was so much to love about this film, but the stupid ran so deep. In the end, I don’t know which it will be remembered for. Sadly, there can’t be a fan edit that fixes this, because what it really needs is more footage, but not of what we already have.
I just want to focus on the Canto Bight subplot. It has its defenders, mostly people who say that we needed time to get to know Rose, that we needed to see her fall for Finn. I watched that film, twice, and I still don’t see how she falls for Finn - it just arrives unannounced. During Finn’s confrontation with Phasma, Rose abandons him to join BB-8 on the walker. But yeah she loved him enough to give up the whole Resistance. But, But, But - that’s not actually what I want to talk about (here, anyway).
Wouldn’t you have loved another fifteen or twenty minutes of Phasma?
What if, instead of needing a code to get onto Snoke’s ship, they just snuck on? What if, instead of the whole Canto Bight casino crap, we had a long cat-and-mouse chase between Phasma and Finn, something that did Phasma’s character justice? Wouldn’t that have been cooler than having Rose tell us about her abusive childhood then abandon the children that they find living in the same circumstances?
And yes, you could still have had that final scene of the child using the force - perhaps with two or three more examples around the galaxy of the same.