Two Decembers ago in a mid-sized East Coast city not far away, I took my family of multi-generational Star Wars fans to opening night of The Force Awakens. Everyone enjoyed it: after enduring that wretched prequel trilogy in the 2000s, the franchise was finally fun again. And so, continuing the new tradition, we kicked off this year’s Yuletide festivities with a showing of The Last Jedi.
Perhaps being an author makes me hypercritical of story-craft, but this latest Star Wars felt like a rough draft that never got the revision it needed: frantic and cluttered, with too many underdeveloped characters chasing too many flimsy objectives. Plot holes gape wider than the Pit of Sarlacc across two hours of uncoordinated narrative fragments garnished with thirty minutes of battle effects. Homage is not a story. I’m not sure what movie the fans fawning over The Last Jedi saw, but the one I watched went something like this…
The following parody script, for obvious reasons, contains general thematic spoilers for The Last Jedi.
STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE RETURN OF THE LAST JEDI STRIKES BACK
A long time ago on a Hollywood green screen far, far away…
OVERTURE BLARES. TITLE CRAWL scrolls iconic yellow text through space at a precarious angle:
After debuting a new trilogy with the “The Force Awakens”, its creators grew increasingly resentful of criticisms that, despite its many charms, it was basically an updated version of “A New Hope”. Emboldened by the first installment’s box office success, they vowed to double down on derivation, rebooting both “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” in a single film. This cinematic chimera could tip the balance of “Star Wars” fandom throughout the galaxy…
EXT. PLANETARY EXOSPHERE
With Star Destroyers closing in, the Resistance evacuates yet another compromised base while their fighter squadron engages the First Order fleet. Hotshot pilot POE DAMERON leads a foolhardy maneuver, destroying an enemy Dreadnought at the expense of his own forces. After the battle, POE returns to the flagship where GENERAL LEIA ORGANA commands.
INT. REBEL FLAGSHIP
POE: So when do I get my medal?
LEIA: You mean the Leeroy Jenkins Award for Military Stupidity? Way to go, flyboy. Now we have no fighting units and we’re running out of fuel.
POE: Fuel? Are you serious? When in the previous seven movies has fuel ever been an issue? In all those lightspeed jumps across the galaxy, I never once saw the Millennium Falcon stop for gas!
LEIA (sighs): Just go with with it.
ADMIRAL ACKBAR: Contrived technology as convenient plot device? It’s an amateur science fiction writer trap!
The First Order fleet suddenly materializes around the vulnerable command ship and destroys the bridge. All of the Resistance leadership drifts out into space except LEIA, who uses the Force to glide into the airlock.
LEIA: I am a leaf on the wind….
BRIDGE OFFICER: While General Organa recovers from space exposure, we will be under the command of Admiral Effie Trinket.
Polite applause as the stylish ADMIRAL TRINKET appears, patting her purple hair.
TRINKET: Welcome to the Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!
C3P0: Odds? Madam, the odds of the odds being in our favor are approximately….
TRINKET: Together we will defeat the totalitarian regime of Supreme Leader Snow!
POE: You mean Snoke?
TRINKET: Yes, that’s what I said. Pay attention. Now, since the enemy can apparently track us through hyperspace, we’ll need to revise our strategy.
POE: Strategy? What’s that?
TRINKET: Something above your pay grade. Just trust me.
POE: I’m a rebel, dammit, I don’t do orders!
Rather than follow ADMIRAL TRINKET’S directive, POE recruits FINN and mechanic ROSE TICO for his own ill-conceived tactical blitz.
FINN: What’s going on? I dreamed that Rey kind of friend-zoned me, but then I woke up wet and naked and wrapped in latex….
POE: That wouldn’t be the least plausible thing to happen today. Now, we need to disable that new lightspeed tracker thingie.
FINN: Well, I’m an ex-Stormtrooper, so I can probably find the device on their lead ship.
ROSE: We’ll just need to get through enemy security. We must have shuttle codes from our Bothan spies, or a droid with hacker protocols.
POE (scoffs): That is so old school. Take a detour to Cantina Royale, the casino planet, and find some random dude to help.
ROSE: The fleet’s running on fumes, but we have enough fuel for a side trip?
POE (sighs): Just go with it.
FINN: I don’t care if I have to get out and push, I’m going to search for Rey and that endearing chemistry from the last movie….
EXT. SKELLIG MICHAEL
REY and CHEWBACCA land on the sacred island. Crotchety former Jedi master LUKE SKYWALKER bursts out of a stone hut, brandishing his fist.
LUKE: Hey you kids, get off my lawn!
REY: Your lawn’s already ruined. (Scrapes porg droppings off her boots) What are these creatures?
LUKE (shrugs): Merchandising. Everyone’s already got a BB-8 lunchbox, so we needed a cute new franchise ambassador.
REY: I didn’t come here for a lunchbox, I came for Jedi training.
LUKE: Okay, I’ll give you three lessons on how goofy Star Wars can be. Lesson one—this is where that iconic blue milk comes from.
REY: Does anyone really care about that?
LUKE: Listen, padawan, this is the stuff that builds generations of fandom. Lesson two—people still worship these obsolete sacred texts.
LUKE shows REY tattered copies of the original trilogy’s screenplays and extended universe novels.
REY: These are actually pretty fun adventures. (flips through screenplay) But why are the pages are all cut up?
LUKE hides his script, a gluey mess of recycled dialogue pasted like ransom notes, inside his robes.
LUKE: “Adventure! Excitement! A Jedi craves not these things!”
REY: I won’t be a Jedi if you won’t teach me any Force stuff. How about I try to levitate that X-Wing out of the bay?
LUKE: What do you think this is, “The Empire Strikes Back”? Lesson three—go face your darkest inner self in the Cave. Er, I mean the Pit of Evil Whispering Seaweed.
REY dives into the pit and discovers a storage room full of abandoned franchise movie props. She gazes into a mysterious mirror.
REY: Mom? Dad?
Silvery light coalesces behind her, forming DUMBLEDORE’S GHOST.
DUMBLEDORE: I see that you, like so many before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised.
DUMBLEDORE’S image freezes in static and KYLO REN appears in REY’S mind, his face a mess of tear-streaked black eyeliner.
KYLO: Your force power must be interfering with my Wi-Fi.
REY: Wi-Fi? Wait, are you binge-watching “Harry Potter” movies?
KYLO: Never! I’m the heir to the Dark Side, not some whiny kid wallowing in his still-undisclosed childhood trauma. (Wipes eyes with Ninja Turtle blanket) You wanna come over? Netflix and chill?
REY: Sorry, I’m busy at Jedi camp.
KYLO: Ugh, my mom made me to go Jedi camp. When I told Uncle Luke that weaving lanyards with the Force was boring, he tried to murder me in my sleep.
REY (turning to Luke): Did you do that?
LUKE: What he told you was true, from a certain point of view.
REY: A certain point of view?
KYLO (tears off his shirt): How about this view?
REY: I can feel the good in you!
LUKE (suspicious): Oh, is that what you feel?
REY (blushes): Er, I’m going to confront him and turn him back to the light.
LUKE: What to you think this is, “Return of the Jedi”?
REY: Hey, yeah–it worked for you!
LUKE: (waves goodbye to REY with his mechanical hand) Totally.
INT. SNOKE’S THRONE ROOM
SUPREME LEADER SNOKE sneers condescendingly at a shackled REY while KYLO stands by, chewing on his black-painted fingernails.
SNOKE: Little fool! You thought you’d discover who you are, or who I am? Plot and character are irrelevant in franchise movies! This is their true power. (Indicates his throne built of porg lunchboxes)
KYLO: My parents never bought me a porg lunchbox! Wahhh!
KYLO throws a tantrum and kills SNOKE. Together he and REY defeat the GUARDS, who have really stepped up their combat skills since Palpatine’s administration.
KYLO: Finally, a chance to be just like Grandpa! (extends hand to REY and lowers voice) Join me and we will rule the galaxy together.
REY: As what? Co-regents? Boyfriend-girlfriend? Possible long-lost Jedi twins?
KYLO: All of the above?
REY: What is this, “Game of Thrones”? Finn was never this creepy, I wish I hadn’t kind of friend-zoned him….
INT. CANTINA ROYALE.
FINN and ROSE wander helplessly through the slot machines, get jailed for a parking violation, and cause a few million credits in collateral damage while riding giant space greyhounds.
FINN: Could this get any weirder?
A stolen shuttle drops in, with BENICIO DEL TORO grinning from the gangway.
ROSE: Who are you?
BENICIO DEL TORO: A personification of war’s moral ambiguities.
FINN: Wait a sec, was this whole side quest just an excuse for hamfisted social commentary?
BENICIO DEL TORO (smirks): Maybe.
BENICIO DEL TORO delivers ROSE and FINN to stormtrooper captain BRIENNE OF DARTH.
BRIENNE OF DARTH: Winter is coming.
ROSE: You mean we’re going to the planet Hoth?
BRIENNE OF DARTH: Actually….
FINN: You forgot it’s a song of ice and fire.
A short duel ensues and FINN knocks BRIENNE into a blazing inferno.
BRIENNE OF DARTH: I might be back, if I can borrow some burn cream from the Hound.
INT. RESISTANCE COMMAND SHIP
POE: Oh, so this is strategy–Admiral Trinket’s been sneakily fueling up the escape pods this whole time! But with what? I thought we were out of fuel.
TRINKET (sighs): Just go with it. The important thing is we have another abandoned base nearby.
POE: A hideout on every planet in the galaxy, but no fuel stations for a hundred parsecs….
LEIA: Don’t make me turn this ship around, young man. Everyone get on that transport.
TRINKET: No thanks, that salt planet will destroy my hair. Someone needs to stay behind.
LEIA: That’s ridiculous, we have autopilot.
TRINKET: I volunteer as tribute! And may the odds…
LEIA gives her a stern look.
TRINKET: …Force be with you.
The transports depart, leaving TRINKET alone on the ship. Laser fire from the enemy cruiser penetrates the hull and scratches the commander’s desk.
TRINKET (screaming): That is mahogany!
Leaping into the pilot’s seat, TRINKET initiates a lightspeed suicide run through the First Order fleet, reducing it to scrap while the rebels escape.
CUT TO EXT.
HOTH SALT PLANET
In the trenches outside the base, a SOLDIER rims his margarita glass in the sparkling soil.
SOLDIER: See? Salt! Not snow! It’s not Hoth, dammit!
LEIA: Either way, we’re trapped and outnumbered, so I’m launching an—
LEIA: —e-mail campaign to everyone who donated to the rebel cause last year. Surely one of them will come to our aid. (Begins typing) Dear friend, this is our most desperate hour…
POE (chugs a RockStar): Screw politics, let’s go blow something up!
POE, FINN, and ROSE fly out to meet the enemy forces. Speeders race across the battlefield, drawing scarlet fractals against the white salt flats. PHIL SIMMS and JIM NANTZ appear beside KYLO on the AT-AT bridge.
PHIL SIMMS: Welcome to tonight’s Color Rush game, presented by Calrissian Tibanna Gas. Tough matchup for the rebels here, Jim.
JIM NANTZ: Absolutely, Phil. With their depleted o-line, the rebels are counting on their plucky defense to pull them through. They can’t afford any more losses.
FINN makes a kamikaze run for the cannon.
PHIL SIMMS: He’s at the forty! Thirty! Finn’s putting up some amazing yardage in this revenge game against his former team. He’s in the red zone…
ROSE knocks FINN’s speeder aside at the last instant and both crash into the
PHIL SIMMS: There’s gonna be a flag on that play.
FINN: Hey, no one called foul on Admiral Trinket when she martyred herself. How come I can’t do it?
ROSE: Because I have a crush on you.
FINN: We only met like three hours ago!
ROSE (kisses him): Just go with it.
JIM NANTZ: Penalty for excessive celebration!
The MILLENNIUM FALCON swoops in, destroying the broadcast booth and luring the enemy fighters into a destructive chase.
LEIA: That bucket of bolts will get us past the blockade! Evacuation, everyone. Again.
C3P0 painstakingly re-folds all of LEIA’S clothes he’d just unpacked. While the rebels flee, LUKE appears on the battlefield and dangles a crudely made lanyard for KYLO to see.
LUKE: Your dad still had this on his rearview mirror.
KYLO (bawling): My dad never loved me! No one loves me! Die!
LUKE: If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can–
KYLO jams his lightsaber through LUKE, to no effect–it’s just an image.
LUKE: Shouldn’t have quit Jedi camp before earning your astral projection badge, sucker.
Light-years away, the real LUKE dissolves. Meanwhile, the MILLENNIUM FALCON collects the handful of rebel survivors.
FINN: Rey! I’ve been looking for you since… (checks his chronometer) …yesterday. Huh.
REY: Yeah, it seems like I’ve been gone for weeks! Maybe the Falcon hit a wormhole, violated a few laws of spacetime?
FINN: That wouldn’t be the least plausible thing to happen today.
FINN and REY embrace, desperately trying to pack an entire movie’s worth of emotional connectivity into one hug.
REY: What did I miss?
FINN: We’re abandoning a compromised base, our forces are in tatters, and we’ve lost a beloved original character, but we still have hope.
REY: So we’re right back where we started.
FINN: Not quite….
KYLO moons over REY from afar. ROSE makes eyes at FINN. POE sidles up to REY, polishing the Leeroy Jenkins medal pinned to his flight suit.
POE: Hey girl, are you a dreadnought? Because my x-foils are locked in attack position.
FINN and REY exchange looks.
FINN: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
REY (sighs): Just go with it.