Let the Past Die: The Last Jedi Flings the Torch

—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi


When Rian Johnson was announced as the director for Episode VIII, I recall one of my first thoughts being “oh shit, the ‘Ozymandias’ guy”. While I had seen Looper and liked it well enough, Johnson’s work on Breaking Bad was the most interesting to me in light of this job—what would a TV director do with Star Wars?

So it’s fitting that one of the easiest comparisons people are making to The Last Jedi is ’33’, an early episode of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica that sees the heroes’ fleet hounded indefinitely by the Cylons with no escape in sight. We knew the Resistance’s escape from D’Qar would be an early set piece in the film, but never in a million years would I have expected that escape to be the entire film. Though maybe that’s on me—The Empire Strikes Back is mostly about the heroes running away as well.

Nevertheless, it felt like a bold decision in a film full of bold decisions. Both supporters and detractors can generally agree that The Force Awakens was the safe version of a new Star Wars movie—it needed to be loved by as many people as possible or the whole operation would have been limping right out of the gate. But The Last Jedi expands the cinematic (and tonal) language of Star Wars enough for both of them. Actual, non-Force-based flashbacks, time lapse shots, X-Men-style telepathic conversations, and that crazy lightspeed ramming sequence are just some of the new ideas Johnson injects into the saga here, and while one or two of them may not be well-regarded in the final analysis, you have to give the guy credit for daring to try.

In fact, I can see why Johnson made so positive an impression on Lucasfilm that they gave him a whole new trilogy to develop—for both better and (occasionally, mildly) worse, he’s apparently kind of a nutty dude who made kind of a nutty movie, one that isn’t particularly concerned with how many people love it. It feels like, well, a very George Lucas way to operate, while the film itself feels distinctly Johnson’s—experimental and idiosyncratic and goofy and melodramatic all at once.

For all the risks Johnson takes stylistically, though, I do wish he’d been a little more daring with the lore. When all is said and done, Luke really did just plain give up—no terrible original sin for the Jedi Order, no shocking history with Snoke (that we know of yet), no real history of any kind. He’s just a sensitive guy who went through a terrible ordeal with the dark side as a young man and would sacrifice anything, even the Jedi’s future, not to repeat it. I can buy it, but I was hoping for more. I was hoping to be not just saddened but stunned.


With that being the case, though, neither Luke nor Snoke making it out of the film alive is really the best possible scenario going forward—as is Rey’s family having no great significance. Kylo was right to an extent, it really is past time to wipe the slate clean and build something new from this galaxy. Luke was right to an extent, too—he couldn’t have taught Rey himself, there was too much baggage there. But as we learned from the Expanded Universe, Rey could never fully become who she needed to be with Luke still around to solve her problems; for the film to be thematically sound, he had to go.

As did Snoke, and man, did I giggle like a lunatic when that happened. My biggest question going forward—and you could call this a failure of the sequel trilogy so far if you were so inclined—is, did Snoke even matter? While I’m positively over the moon as far as what this will mean for Kylo’s future development, will the films just move on without Snoke now and let the novels tell his backstory or is there something there that remains important? My Rey Snoke theory (RIP) was partly borne of the fact that we knew so little about him and what he actually wanted that it was possible finding Luke Skywalker was just a means to some other end for him—but nope, apparently he just wanted to kill Jedi and run shit and Rey was irrelevant beyond that.

Is that really all there was to him, and to the First Order’s larger goals? I still hope not, just like I still hope Rey will find something in those books she swiped that turns her into a Jedi as distinct from Luke as The Last Jedi is from The Force Awakens. But for all we don’t yet understand, I really respect the ballsiness of lurching this trilogy so conclusively past the old generation, on both sides of the fence. At the end of the day the saga lives or dies by our investment in the new characters, and every second away from the old farts makes Rey and Kylo and Finn and Rose and Poe another second stronger, gives them more time for their own decisions and fears and losses and loves. Bring them home in one piece, JJ.


  1. Pearlann says:

    In a next-day reflection here – after a deep long-night reflection – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to give a shit. About any of them, any of their plights, any of the new, any of the old, or any of the “plot points” presented. And I WANT to care, I just can’t find it.

    The movie jumped around so wildly, punctured nearly every single weighted moment with a slice of comedy, introduced so much be investigated so little, and made so much of the motivations irrelevant or meaningless, it leaves me with an evaporating fluffy feeling like consuming a huge pile of cotton candy.

    Please – Don’t get me wrong: I REALLY REALLY want to care! And my caring is not contingent on any of my theories not coming to fruition (see: any other Star Wars movie), but I feel like there’s been nothing to get emotionally or intellectually involved with. I have no idea what the stakes are for anyone, I don’t feel anyone has grown or learned anything, or why I should care other then ‘good guys good, bad guys bad’. Unlike your sentiment, I thought this movie took no risks whatsoever.

    Perhaps I will watch it a few more dozen times over the coming years and it will all grow on me? Perhaps some deep, thoughtful analysis will be done that will help paint it in a new light? Or maybe all of it is completely contingent on being wrapped up with the bow of Episode 9? I want to love it. I want to to feel like it belongs in this saga.

    It’s just a first for me: To come away from a new Star Wars movie and not care about any of them. At all. My heart feels a little broken for all the wrong reasons. But I will not loose faith. I hope more than anything these feelings change. And I will continue to read about other reactions and thoughts regarding The Last Jedi to help me understand this place I’m in. As a life time Star Wars fan, I feel a little lost. Maybe I just need someone to help me find my place in all of this…?

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      The funny thing is this is pretty much how I was expecting you to react to TFA—“who are these new people and why should I care?” The difference there was that bringing in people like you were its Mission Number One, while TLJ takes our investment for granted and focuses way, way more on trying a crapload of new things just to see what happens. I don’t strongly disagree with the criticisms you’ve expressed so far, but I can’t help but admire its willingness to put some people off rather than be everything to everyone.

      Looking at the future, though, I’m much more appreciative of a) them bringing Abrams back for IX and b) the next project they gave Johnson being a completely original story. Let him be the cutting edge of what Star Wars movies are doing and then others can take that and refine it.

    • Vega29 says:

      Warning to all: some “spoilers” below:

      I’d just like to state that beneath the great visuals and special effects of this film, there’s a lot of food for thought packed into its running time.

      As far as characters growing and changing, Poe grew in leadership ability — he went from being demoted and shot by Leia for his insubordination to being declared the new leader of the Resistance (for all intents and purposes).

      Fin went from still wanting to flee away from the Resistance (and all confrontation with the First Order) to be willing to sacrifice himself for the Resistance when all others had retreated.

      Rey went from naively looking to Luke to solve her (and the Resistance’s) problems to eventually moving beyond the withdrawn and inhibited Luke and taking matters into her own hands. This includes the fact that she retrieved the Jedi texts for her own study (a detail that some viewers may have missed).

      She also learned lessons from Luke’s failings — mainly his failure to properly train Ben Solo. Luke instead decided to take a shortcut and kill Ben rather than nurture and guide him away from the influence of Snoke.

      Instead of fearing the influence of the dark side, Rey will nurture her students by teaching them to confront the dark side and keep it at bay — thus overcoming its influence. In other words, she’ll teach them about the dark side so that they are able to recognize it if it tempts them. She’ll harness wisdom of the dark side to recreate the Jedi order into something greater than it was. Luke simply wanted to “slay” the dark side and suppress it — an approach he admitted was faulty. Yoda, in so many words, stated that a new way forward was emerging through Rey — who has learned (and will continue to learn) from the failings of Luke and all past incarnations of the Jedi.

      So basically, there’s a lot of character growth in this film — movement from self preservation to self sacrifice (Fin), movement from hubris and arrogance to more humility and respect for others (Poe), and movement from naivety and ignorance to much greater wisdom and self awareness (Rey). And when you compare Rey who literally fled the call of Maz Kanata with the mindset and level of wisdom that she had gained at the end of The Last Jedi, the change in her character is quite immense.

      I haven’t gotten into Kylo Ren and his journey either — nor the dynamic between Rey and Kylo that has grown since The Force Awakens — as well as Kylo Ren’s evolving motivations. I may do so after some more thought in the days ahead.

      In essence, a lot is going on and expanding here — even with the Force itself as a concept in the lore of Star Wars. Just the concept of “Force powers” has been given a huge expansion. We have a Force Ghost physically enacting on the environment (thunderbolt to the temple). We have minds being bridged to the point of real-time “physical” contact through the power of the Force (the “touching” of hands). We also have projection of one’s physical form through Force power (Luke’s “in person” confrontation with Kylo Ren). It seems that the Force itself is “Awakening” into something greater and more expansive than it once was…

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Master Ki-Aaron-Mundi says:

    Pearlann, I’m still processing myself. While my general feelings are much more positive than yours–and I agree with Coop, I thought this one took risks and feels like the first post-Lucas Star Wars movie in a way none of the others have–I strongly agree that the movie struggled to know when it had reached a point where it needed to be serious and play a scene straight. The slices of comedy inserted into so many otherwise-dramatic scenes stands out as a shortcoming.

    Coop, I, like you, am impressed by the film’s willingness to kill off both Snoke and Skywalker and leave us with a clean(er) slate heading into the future. It felt daring and right. In some ways, I came out surprised that with the tone of the film, Leia nonetheless survived as opposed to passing the mantle of leading the Resistance to Poe. However, we all know real-world events have conspired with Carrie Fisher’s passing to suggest that just might be a reality in Episode IX, anyway.

    • Eric J Brown says:

      Oh, but in a way, she does pass leadership to Poe. Almost her final words (and her final words to the resistance) are, “What are you looking at me for; follow him.”

      And I loved the little grin she gave — this is what she had been working the whole movie towards. The strongest part of the whole film, I think (not necessarily the most enjoyable or more entertaining, but the most well done on a wholistic level) was the training of Poe Dameron to be a leader. Every scene with him hinged on learning to see the big picture, to learn to value people as people, to save lives rather than simply destroy (Finn gets that lesson a bit too). Poe’s plan fails and is harmful because he didn’t see the big picture.

      In fact, I think one of the beautiful ironies is that many were expecting this to be the “Luke trains Rey” when it was actually much more about Luke refusing to train and Leia doing it instinctively. (And yes, Leia using the force WAS AWESOME but that’s my own personal balliwick).

      + + + + +

      With Fisher’s death, things will have to be changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the timing, the chronology of Ep 9 isn’t placed further back instead of taking up right as 8 ends. I also fully expect Force Ghost Luke to return to give Rey lesson 3 at some point – and probably more so than would have happened if Carrie was still alive.

      • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

        Great point about Poe—if they do want to handle Carrie’s absence by putting him in charge next time TLJ sets that up perfectly.

  3. Eric J Brown says:

    My thoughts:

    1 – As a story, it was great fun. As a film, I don’t think it hung together as well as TFA or Empire. It felt HIGHLY Episodic – which isn’t bad, but just means it’s not epic. I don’t think Johnson worked the transitions between scenes that well – which is something that was a hallmark of the franchise.

    2 – I didn’t like the soundtrack as much. It hit all the right notes, played all the proper greatest hits – but it never carried the emotion. If you watch TFA again, there’s no dialog until 2:50 in – the music and images carry the narrative. I don’t know if there was a point where the music carried the story – perhaps by the last show down on Crait – and even then that wasn’t a new theme… it was the ending of the old. Perhaps the slate is wiped clean for some more new themes… but I worry about John Williams – he is getting old, and HE has been one of the vital elements of Star Wars success.

    3 – Upon my first watching, I wasn’t sure if I liked how the story moved. I worried that it would rely too much upon the surprise twist, and as such it would fall flat upon seeing it again (some movies just aren’t as good the second time). There was, though, enough internal set up – in fact, quite a bit of the first half gets repeated and used again (everything you said in that sentence is wrong – we are the spark…). It works to be watched again; the twists don’t fall flat. I still think the transitions are less elegant, but the story holds.

    4 – Luke the Jedi Failure and Teaching Failure – I did like the thematic interplay between teaching via failure but also the importance of aspiring to legend. Luke sees that he isn’t really the legend – but that doesn’t mean the legend is bad to have. Legends may fail – but it is in failing and learning and moving on that they can do legendary things… you know, instead of just sitting on an island and stuff. This is highly contrasted with Leia and Holdo teaching Poe through his catastrophic failures (Poe fails HARD in this film – Poe basically gets the Resistance killed – losing the fighters, throwing in motion the place that leads to the transports being sold out – his decisions all go wrong, until the retreat call on Crait).

    5 – Where next? I have no idea. That’s sort of fun. We have absolutely NO idea where 9 is going to go. We knew there would be interaction between Rey and Luke in 8. 9 – no clue what so ever. We know they will have to raise a rebellion… but how, what shape – no clue. That’s the first time Star Wars has had that since Empire Strikes Back was being made – it will be the continuing adventures, but we have NO idea of what those adventures will need to be. Johnson is passing off a CLEAN slate.

  4. oh no, has the double posting spread here too? :p

    Anyways, overall I really enjoyed this film on the first viewing, but I want to see it again to make sure I’m positive that I liked it as much as I did.

  5. John says:

    It’s interesting that so many people seem intent on contrasting VII with VIII. Although my views on them will no doubt continue to evolve, my experience with them thus far is pretty similar – they are both deeply-flawed movies that I enjoyed the hell out of. VII is a blatant rip-off of previous Star Wars material, and the plot of VIII is a meandering mess, but I’ve loved them both. In general, the stellar cast of the new trilogy is doing a lot of heavy lifting, and their excellent performance and general on-screen chemistry can cover up a lot of sins.

    A number of more specific spoiler-y observations:

    – Snoke’s death was the most Sith thing I have seen in a Star Wars movie. What an incredibly manipulative sequence of events! I’m looking forward to a second viewing, because I am now curious whether Kylo intended to murder Snoke from the very beginning, and was manipulating Rey to create that circumstance (even as Snoke was manipulating him to reach Rey), or whether Kylo’s decision to murder Snoke occurred only in the moment when Snoke ordered him to kill Rey. Given Kylo’s continued impulsiveness in the third act, my guess is the latter, but I kind of like the idea that he is growing in cunning, even if he still loses focus when faced with the sudden appearance of his hated mentor-figure.

    – There was some strange stuff in the conversation in which Kylo tries to turn Rey – it seems like Kylo is basically arguing for a radical “no attachments” sort of philosophy, in which he and Rey will burn everything else and rule together because they need to let go of all the things they care about. This causes me to reflect on Kylo’s struggles going back to VII, and the sort of twisted “non-attachment” that leads him to kill his father. Much as in Vader’s redemption in VI, Rey’s compassion for others (whether or not this is “attachment” is debatable) is what saves her from this temptation.

    – Luke’s third act “appearance” is one of the most Jedi things I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie. Although it was totally badass, it really bugged me when he was able to survive that sort of barrage from so many walkers (all the Prequel Jedi die to a few clone blasters, and Luke can somehow survive that sort of bombardment?), but to have it be that sort of sleight of hand is a perfect encapsulation of how the Jedi *should* fight – after all, running in lightsabers blazing worked out so well for them in the past! I’ve always been interested in Star Wars exploring more what it means for Jedi to be peacemakers: if the slash-’em-up warfighting of the Prequels is the wrong way to stand against evil, then what more creative applications of the Force might allow the Jedi to contribute without falling? I thought this was a cool way to square that circle.

    – I can’t say I buy the idea that Luke would ever go so far as to pull out his lightsaber with the intent to kill his sleeping nephew, no matter what the circumstances or the darkness he felt. This guy faced down the Emperor and Darth Vader – you can’t tell me that Ben Solo’s dreams somehow pushed him over the edge. Obviously, there is a lot of backstory and character development we are missing here – Luke *tells* Rey (and, by extension, us) that his growing hubris tempted him into considering a violent solution, but that is *so* different from the Luke we see throwing away his lightsaber at the end of Episode VI that I feel like some more visible intermediate steps would have been nice (in the vein of “show, don’t tell”). Perhaps a way to fold in a bit more Snoke backstory, as well? Maybe Snoke’s malign influence extended not just to Ben Solo’s temptation, but also to building up Luke’s pride (especially if Snoke was initially a false friend). Perhaps that would be too much backstory to weigh down an already long movie. On the other hand, I feel like there might have been ways to emphasize Luke’s culpability in his nephew’s fall short of “I literally drew my weapon on him while he was sleeping.” Even Luke kicking Kylo out (in a nonviolent way) would have been sufficient, establishing why Luke feels guilty, why Kylo feels victimized, and why Rey (with her tremendous fear of abandonment) would feel sympathy toward Kylo and antipathy toward Luke.

    – However silly the specific backstory was, there are still interesting questions here concerning legacy and hubris that I think deserve to be unpacked, especially as it relates to Luke and Rey’s earlier debates about the purpose (or lack thereof) of the Jedi. Luke worries that the hubris of running out to meet the latest threat is ultimately self-destructive; Rey worries that having power and failing to use it to help others is in and of itself a destructive ethical choice (echos of a lot of previous EU Jedi material, which I appreciated!). In a very zen sort of way, Luke’s final appearance seems to neutralize the opposition between these two points of view. On the one hand, Luke’s decision to “appear” is clearly calculated to bank on his reputation, both in the moment against Kylo Ren, and in the larger-than-life propaganda victory of “Luke Skywalker survives an army of First Order walkers!” that is explored in the final scene (after all, if those slave-kids have heard about it, I bet everyone in the galaxy is talking about it). This is very clearly a decision to throw both one’s power and reputation into the fight for the good. On the other hand, Luke avoids the hubris of assuming that he can resolve every problem himself. His final conversation with Leia, in which he apologizes for not being able to save Ben, takes on a much less sinister tone once we realize that Luke is not here to kill Kylo Ren – Luke is apologizing not for resolving the Kylo Ren problem violently, but rather recognizing that Kylo is ultimately not his problem to solve. Unlike a number of reviewers, I’m not convinced that Luke’s psychic projection killed him (although Kylo sets that up as a possibility in an earlier scene). Luke seems to be struggling, but clearly recovers physically before vanishing into nothingness. I’d like to think that this isn’t a simple example of him shuffling off his mortal coil, but rather might be a reflection of him resolving this cosmic puzzle. Though if Obi-Wan and Yoda are any indication, I suppose it might be both!

    – There were a number of things that didn’t make much sense, even by Star Wars standards. Like many viewers, I think the second act is a bit of a mess, structurally – Rey, Kylo, and Luke drive most of the plot, while the First Order and the Resistance are stuck running around in a series of plans and gags that fail one after the other. The stasis throughout the second act becomes pretty grating. I liked parts of Finn and Rose’s work on Canto Bight, but given that their whole plot ends in abysmal failure it ends up being a lot of effort for very little payoff. DJ did nothing for me – they ought to have cut his character and just had Maz be their hacker-insider (it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, given how little we know about her). Phasma again felt pretty tacked-on – perhaps if she had been chasing Finn and Rose, rather than some generic Space Cops, the payoff of fighting her would have been bigger? General Holdo created a lot of pointless drama by refusing to tell people about her fairly reasonable plan – I get that she’s trying to put Poe in his place, and he definitely deserved to be taken down a peg (and a rank) after that disastrous bomber attack in the opening sequence, but not communicating effectively with your subordinates in a life-or-death situation is just bad leadership. Most of this confusion ends up with what I think is one of the film’s biggest mistakes, which is Tico being romantically involved with Finn. This seemed unnecessary and unearned to me. Tico saving Finn was totally believable absent any romantic interest in her part. Nor do we really get to spend enough time with these two total strangers for me to believe that Tico is really that into Finn.

    – Oddly enough, the number one thing that bugged me in this movie was the lightspeed collision sequence. Like most of the rest of the movie, it was incredibly badass to watch – a fun special effects bit. But it is absolutely impossible that a ship going at lightspeed could hit another ship in Star Wars, for a very simple reason: if ships in Star Wars could ram other ships at lightspeed, allowing much smaller and cheaper vessels to destroy suddenly larger ones, *people would do that all the time*! There would be no reason to arm your battleships with lasers or missiles or other massive doomsday weapons, because your most advanced Star Destroyer will just get blown in half by a lump of dense metal strapped to a hyperdrive! The only weapon you would need would be lightspeed capable missiles, which would immediately render basically any large military spaceship obsolete.

    Was Admiral Holdo really the first person to think of this? Why didn’t the Republic or Separatists do this during the Clone Wars? Remember that cool ramming sequence from Rogue One? Turns out the Rebels could have skipped all that and just rammed a ship at lightspeed into the shield gate itself, with another one for the Star Destroyers for good measure. But then, why worry about stealing the Death Star plans when the rebels could have just bombarded the Death Stars with generic cruisers or freighters travelling at lightspeed? For that matter, why did the Empire build Death Stars in the first place, since you could probably fragment a planet with a lot less effort just by flying a really large but really basic ship into it at the speed of light?

    Unlike the plot or character issues, this critique clearly falls into the realm of nitpicking, but unlike most of the problems with this movie, which are just that (problems for *this* movie), the idea of a smaller ship destroying a larger one by ramming it at lightspeed calls into question most of the combat situations in the entire franchise. Furthermore, a more canon-friendly alternative was readily available: Admiral Holdo could just have easily rammed the lead Star Destroyer at sub-light speed, and accomplished the same thing – at least at that point, ramming a Star Destroyer only works when you have another really big, heavily-shielded, and expensive cruiser, hence why people don’t ram each other all the time. The fact that this idea, no matter how cool, got a sign-off from the Story Group makes me kind of sad.

    • Vega29 says:

      I don’t think the ship was going faster than the speed of light *yet* — it was just going very fast and on its way into the hyperspace dimension. In Star Wars ships go into hyperspace — kind of an alternate dimension in which they don’t interact with objects in ordinary space. If a ship is using its hyperdrive, it’s travelling outside of space and time — doing so allows the ship to travel faster than light.

      Thus, the only reason her strategy worked was because of the large size of her ship. Her “acceleration” *into* hyperspace supplied the ship with enough speed to damage the First Order ship. Yes, she could have done quite a bit of damage by simply going very fast, but I think she surmised that the “acceleration into” hyperspace would create a maximum blow — greater than simply going very fast with normal engine power.

      If we’re talking about the ability to “poke holes” into space faring objects with other space faring objects, the size of the object will probably be the most important factor — regardless of the speed of the approach. In Star Wars small objects would probably “bounce off” or explode because of the various shield technologies available.

      Ha! — I may be off base here and overthinking the whole thing! :-)

      • Master Ki-Aaron-Mundi says:

        Vega29, as someone who shares John’s concerns about the implications of Holdo’s hyperspace jump, I appreciate your explanation. Size having something to do with it is a helpful idea. Nevertheless, Holdo’s ship was a lot smaller than Snoke’s flagship. If the proportions hold, I’d think John’s right that the hammerhead corvette could’ve rammed the Star Destroyer in Rogue One by jumping to lightspeed.

        John, I interpret Kylo’s “no attachments” idea as more of a “stop trying to live up to their expectations.” I think it’s less about attachments and more about playing by others’ rules and living by others’ codes.

        Luke pulling out his lightsaber on Ben Solo is definitely not the Luke I thought I knew. However, I think it’s possible the burden of being the Legendary Luke Skywalker and responsibility of being in the master’s chair have changed him in a way foreign to the Luke of the old EU. I agree, I’d like more exploration of who Luke became in the intervening years and of how he arrived there.

        I am more sympathetic to Holdo’s decision to cut Poe out of the loop. She’d decided he was a brash flyboy who couldn’t be trusted with information–and ultimately, she’s proven right when DJ learns of the Resistance’s plans through Poe’s blabbing. Giving him more of the plan might have solved this, but he’s the type of guy she doesn’t trust and so attempted to give him less.

        I’m not convinced Finn and Rose are romantically entangled, even with the kiss. I took it more as an expression of affection than one of romance.

      • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

        I pretty much agree with you, Vega, and I’d add one more thing—Holdo did ram the Supremacy at sublight speed. Once you’re fully in hyperspace you just go through stuff but she was positioned at the ideal distance to a) not be obliterated by its guns and b) get close enough to lightspeed to do maximum damage.

        As far as why people don’t do it more often, it could be analogous to Han jumping in under Starkiller Base’s shields—technically possible but so precise and dangerous that it’s not normally worth the risk. Too close and you’re either shot out of the sky or not moving fast enough to do real damage, too far and you’re out of realspace before impact.

      • John says:

        These are fair points.

        It makes sense that the “Raddus” (as I today learned the ship was called) was probably in the process of accelerating to superluminal speed, rather than at lightspeed at the point of impact. As far as the continuity problem is concerned, however, I’m not sure that whether the ship was *at* lightspeed or *nearing* lightspeed is particularly relevant. If a hyperdrive is capable of producing acceleration to the speeds necessary for the sort of destruction pictured in the movie, then we would still expect people to use hyperdrives as the basis for ramming maneuvers or missile attacks regularly. The only additional wrinkle would be that such attacks would be complicated by the need to calculate the necessary timing to hit the target *just before* entry into hyperspace. Perhaps in the GFFA this is very hard to accomplish – accurate weapons are certainly not the GFFA’s strong suit. On the other hand, Holdo’s hyperdrive ramming attack was an act of improvised desperation, which suggests that the challenges of execution can’t be all that high.

        Shielding technology no doubt provides a more reasonable explanation than difficulty of execution for the rarity of this type of maneuver. Perhaps particle shields provide an effective defense against most high-speed ramming attacks, except in the case of a truly massive ship-projectile. For example, in VI we are explicitly told that the Executor’s bridge shields have been disabled prior to Crynyd’s collision – presumably Crynyd’s fighter would have bounced off otherwise. On the other hand, as noted above, Rogue One indicates that a Star Destroyer’s particle shields are incapable of protecting it against the effects of a ramming attack by a vessel considerably smaller and slower than the Raddus, which brings us back to the original question: if particle shields can’t even repel a smaller and slower ramming attack, how can fast and large ramming be uncommon? In fact, the comprehension of other characters regarding the purpose of Holdo’s maneuver suggests that this attack is not outside the realm of conceivable tactics – Hux, for example, begins to panic when he realizes what is about to happen.

        Given that this is all made-up technology, we could obviously posit any number of reasons for why Holdo’s attack is virtually unique. Perhaps particle shields usually do block hyperdrive-accelerated ramming maneuvers, but the shields of the Supremacy failed in some way. Perhaps the Raddus was special: its own particle shields were unusually strong, or its hyperdrive especially powerful. Perhaps Holdo was an uncommon genius, and had some special but difficult-to-execute maneuver that allowed her attack to work. In the end, I am sure there will be some explanation for why this is a one-off event and doesn’t happen elsewhere. I could have used that explanation in the movie. I know that techno-babble is generally reserved for Star Trek, but if Finn and Rose can get in on it on how to disable the First Order’s super-sensor, then I could have used a line from Poe or Leia about what circumstances, exactly, made this unusual attack work.

      • Eric Brown says:

        It doesn’t happen all the time because it is a kamikaze, a suicide – and your navicomputers are designed NOT to jump into an object. She must have subverted the navicomputer somehow.

        But the new movies have been way more free with Hyperspace… and hyperspace timing. That would be one of my gripes — Hyperspace is fast, but it still takes time, folks!

      • John says:

        So, perhaps this sort of hyperdrive ramming attack is so rare because it requires a suicide attack on the part of a pilot, as well as extensive re-jiggering of the hyperdrive’s safety controls. Or perhaps the economics of hyperdrive construction merit against the use of complex, expensive, and rare drive systems as disposable munition components.

        Again, everything here is made up, so virtually any explanation works – from a franchise perspective, what matters is not so much internal logic as external consistency. I’d note that we’ve seen starships remotely piloted through hyperspace by droids, so I’m not sure that the suicide attack limitation really holds (unless we consider droids existentially capable of suicide, but the films’ biological characters usually seem to treat them as disposable). Having safety systems built into a hyperdrive to prevent this sort of maneuver also makes sense, though a) if this sort of maneuver works from a physics perspective presumably hyperdrives could be built without those safety systems, and b) as noted above, Holdo is able to improvise this attack in a matter of moments, sitting alone on the ship’s bridge, so how hard can overriding these safeties be? As for the economics argument, a) hyperdrives seem pretty common in Star Wars (even the cash-strapped Rebellion and Resistance are able to equip most of their fightercraft with them), and b) in a cost-benefit analysis, if a hyperdrive is able to generate the level of destruction seen in Holdo’s ramming attack, then the cost of the drive itself might be a moot point, if it allows such tremendous asymmetric advantages over a battleship the size of the Supremacy. Put another way, who do you think lost more from an economic perspective in Holdo’s attack maneuver?

        Specific quibbling aside, even if we accept that for technical, economic, or even ethical reasons hyperdrive ramming is a relatively rare event in Star Wars, an act of true desperation, we would need somehow to believe that Holdo was more desperate than any other character in any other Star Wars movie. This is not to deny the long odds of her situation – VIII does a good job of building the stakes to the point where an act of supreme desperation would make sense. But was her circumstance really that much more desperate than the Separatists at the end of the Clone Wars (especially given their droid-piloted vessels)? Or the Rebels at Scarif, or Yavin, or Hoth, or Endor? Or the Empire at Kuat or Jakku? In a universe where hyperdrive ramming is a viable tactic, even if only in desperation, wouldn’t we expect the losing side to resort to it more often? (There are shades here of real-world debates about the so-called “nuclear threshold” and whether an armed conflict between nuclear-armed states could remain non-nuclear, even as one side suffered battlefield defeats). In these sorts of extreme circumstances, we would expect questions of economics or ethics to fall by the wayside, the way that they do for Holdo.

        Which ultimately leads me back to my original complaint: it can’t be that hyperdrive ramming is only a good idea in the most desperate of circumstances (which occur for one side or the other at least once per Star Wars movie!). Rather, hyperdrive ramming must be *impossible*, or else we are left with a massive (and needless) inconsistency.

    • austencollins says:

      I just assumed hyperdrives or whatever it is that enables Holdo to accelerate like that were too valuable/difficult to produce/useful to stick on a missile that can only be used one time.

  6. chriswerms says:

    I think people who argue that Luke would never take out his saber to kill Ben because tossed it on the Death Star are sort of right…but, I’ve rationalized it as such:

    Luke laments that his hubris was related to himself and the legacy he had cultivated, either intentionally or unintentionally. I wonder if he thought he could turn Ben simply because he is Luke. Not because of who Ben was – but because of who Luke is. When Luke looked into his mind and saw the darkness, he thought he failed. Notice that Luke doesn’t blame Snoke, like Leia, or Ben, like we do. He blames himself. When Ben was seen as too far gone, he blamed himself. Thinking that he holds some magic key to redeem anybody on the dark path, he realizes that he was wrong. BUT, he can’t say that this is someone else’s fault: he thinks it is his own. Because HE, THE Luke Skywalker can’t do anything, he thinks the only recourse is killing Ben. Thankfully, he relents, but the damage is done. Now Luke has to live with the fact that his hubris about himself paralleled the hubris of the Clone War era Jedi.

    • Eric J Brown says:

      Yep – and it’s that hubris that drives him to the island and exile. And Yoda comes and burns down his pride.

    • Timothy Maddocks says:

      A fairly common theme across trilogies is that people behave entirely differently when they have power to when they crave it. Palpatine is flat-footed and unimaginative compared to his prequel self in ROTJ.

      One can only hope that Abrams can play with this idea in IX, specifically around Kylo.

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