WARNING — MAJOR SPOILERS —If you did not see SWTLJ, Do Not Read Further. Of course, if you did see the film, or if you don't mind spoilers, read on.
By now most fans have seen the new Star Wars movie and have not been shy to voice their disappointment with the film. Hell, even Star Wars star Mark Hamill has been critical. Being a fan, I've read many of the negative comments and fan reviews, and I have to agree with most of the criticism.
Yet rather than pile on and reiterate the same points already brought up by most of the fans and reviewers, I want to explore the missed opportunities the filmmakers let slip through their fingers.
As most have already pointed out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is, at the core of the story, a mash-up of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. However, where Empire gave us answers, with lengthly commentary from Yoda and even a cameo from Obi-Wan, there was a definite goal achieved story wise. Luke (and through him the audience) learned about the Force, learned about his past, and watched him prepare for his future. His goal, of course, was to defeat Vader and the Emperor, and by doing so bring down the evil empire. The question was, could he succeed or would he fall victim to the dark side and succumb to Vader and the Emperor? As for the other characters, they had to defeat the Empire, obviously, but they had no chance without Luke.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the filmmakers give us a set up similar to Empire; however the payoff is virtually nonexistent. Instead of a wise Jedi Master ready to train one of the most powerful Jedi yet, we get a petulant Luke Skywalker who goes through most of the movie telling Rey practically nothing about the Force, just some quips and one-liners. How much more interesting would it have been if Luke imparted what he's learned over the past 30 years about why the Jedi were unable to detect the rise of Darth Sidious (The Emperor) or the corruption of Anakin Skywalker, or what secrets he's uncovered by finding the First Jedi Temple. It would have added so much depth to the characters and the storyline. As the title of the article states — a lost opportunity.
It would have been so much more satisfying to see, not just Luke training Rey and giving her the insight he's gained beyond what the Jedi knew, but also to see Rey help Luke redeem himself, regarding the fall of Ben Solo to the Dark Side, by convincing Luke to help her defeat Kylo Ren and Snoke, instead of seeing a Force projection of Luke at the end of the film. Really, how did anyone involved in the film think that Kylo Ren facing off against, for all intents and purposes, a hologram Luke would add to the tension and drama, especially at the climax of the film? Here's a little hint, guys: a holo Luke can't be hurt or killed... Or apparently he can die, for no good reason, other than it's the end of the movie and I guess we need to have a sad moment... Please, how lame.
Another missed opportunity was the way they used Leia. At least in The Force Awakens, Han Solo went on a mission, completed his mission and died a hero. In The Last Jedi, Leia, like Luke, is there it seems just to be a reminder to the audience that these are Star Wars movies because Luke, Leia, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are promptly displayed throughout the film.
Moving forward, during the movie's Return of the Jedi plot point, Rey is brought before Snoke by Kylo Ren, much in the same way Luke was brought before the Emperor by Vader in Jedi.
It would have been much more satisfying if Luke and Leia had been captured and brought before Snoke. Both Luke and Leia then could have squared off against Snoke, with the film cutting between them fighting Snoke, and Rey fighting Kylo Ren. The opportunity, story wise, would have been tremendous if it were revealed that Luke had secretly trained Leia in the ways of the Force. Imagine if we got to see Luke and Leia both taking on Snoke in a lightsaber duel. That would have been epic, much more worthy a treatment for the original characters than what we got in the film.
Oh and on a little side note here to the producers and director — what is up with killing off the major villain of the new franchise before the end of the trilogy, and before we learn anything about him and how he turned Ben Solo to the Dark Side?
At least Lucas waited until the end of Return of the Jedi before he killed off the Emperor and Vader. By killing off Snoke, we're left with Kylo Ren as the major villain, who is not menacing or intimidating at all. He's not even a military genius, as he pretty much lost every battle in the first two films. Hell, he barely won a lightsaber fight against Fin in the first film!
As for the new characters, Poe, Fin, and Rose... What is their purpose in the film? They really served no purpose whatsoever to the plot. Poe at least is the hotshot pilot who can take out Star Destroyers and First Order Bases. Basically he's a glorified Wedge, and they can keep him as long as they leave him more in the background, not as a major character. But Fin... a First Order janitor who deserts — he doesn't even want to help the Resistance. What does this character add to the plot? It would have been much more interesting for the development of Rey's character if Fin had died.
Think about it: his schtick about being a janitor so he knows how to take down the most highly classified areas within the First Order's arsenal was pretty lame and pretty much used up in the first movie. Using it again for this film adds nothing, unless you do something unexpected and kill off the character. It would make the character more interesting, dying as a hero, and it would add to Rey's development, as we watch her deal with the fact that her friend has died and that more will die unless she becomes the Jedi she needs to be.
My advice to the filmmakers and Disney: If you're going to use the basic structure of past films like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, please understand what made them work in structure, character development, and storytelling. Or just get screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Force Awakens) to write episode 9 and pray he can salvage the corner you've painted the storyline in.
All in all, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was just a series of action and special effects scenes wrapped up in weak attempt to piece everything together into some kind of plot.
By the way Disney, I'm available if you'd like to bring me onboard as a screenwriter or script doctor... Just putting it out there.
Hopefully, the Force will be with us for the next film.