If there is one piece of common knowledge about myself that is in the public sphere, it is that I fancy myself a fan of the Star Wars franchise. But, it is no secret that I am not a fan of the new Star Wars trilogy. However, I often feel that objective criticism gets drowned out by loud complaints of illogical crowds on the internet. About a year ago, I wrote a roughly 17-page paper on the failures of the sequel trilogy, but in hindsight, I think that was overkill. First of all, the trilogy hadn’t even been completed yet and I already put a knife in it. That was not fair. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it was way too long. No one wanted to read it! It was one of the first things I had written for the blog and I have learned a lot since then. I would like to revisit that premise with a renewed vision.
With the addition of new material to consider, I feel my original opinion has been reinforced, but with new perspective. I am well aware of the perception of confirmation bias so I hope to present my case in an as close to an objective manner as possible. I think if you are going to make a point in an argument, you must remain objective and mustn’t let emotional attachment sway your logic. So, in this post, I will present 10 problems with the writing in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. I will define the term problem as a (1) flaw with the structure of the plot that results in consequences that did not need to exist, (2) inconsistencies within the established story, and/or (3) illogical or incomplete plot threads. I will not be addressing anything in a comparative sense to any other aspect of the franchise, as that would only show my personal preference and not a true problem. Furthermore, this is not a list of things I do not like, as that is not a criterion for objective discussion. We are all allowed to like different things!
Snoke and The First Order
Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced in “The Force Awakens” as a new shadowy threat to the galaxy. A dark side wielder with no association to the Sith, Disney paraded him around as a great mystery to be solved with goals and origins outside of what we thought we knew about Star Wars. This was a lie. Snoke is killed off roughly halfway through “The Last Jedi” without ever explaining who he was, where did he come from, what he wanted from Kylo, or even what his goals for the First Order were. He just existed. This is an example of very poor creativity, but even according to my own rules, it is not defined as one of my problems. Of course, the real problem with this is that the writers introduced threads that did not lead anywhere causing the conflicts and philosophies that surrounded the character to be nullified. This problem was attempted to be reconciled (poorly) but that eventually led to a new problem…
Palpatine and The Final Order
This is a pseudo-continuation of the previous problem, as they are essentially symbiotic. When Snoke was killed off, the writers scrambled to introduce a threat that could be greater than Snoke so that Kylo Ren and Rey would be forced to team up for victory. This led them to go crawling back to the very dead, most definitely deceased Emperor Shev Palpatine. Immediately, two major problems arise from this action: this nullifies the Prophecy of the Chosen One and means that the Rebels actually didn’t accomplish anything in the Original Trilogy. Vader apparently never killed the Emperor. The saga, that always had been about the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker’s life, no longer features the redemption that drives his whole character. The Emperor and the Empire never died and Anakin sacrificing himself because of the love he felt for his son was meaningless! Forget the fact that the writers removed all tact and nuance from his character, and forget the fact that the only reason he is still alive is a vague callback to a line from the Prequels about the Dark Side. Those are bad, but not problems. This reduces the meaning of the 6 films that this franchise is based on!
And, how could I not talk about that Palpatine’s plan in this film is illogical? He announced that Snoke was somehow his creation, meaning he essentially controlled The First Order. But, upon arriving at Exegol, Palpatine reveals he has an entire fleet of planet-destroying warships, and troops that staff them called The Final Order. What was he ever trying to accomplish with The First Order in the first place if The Final Order existed and he controlled both? This renders the previous 2 films, in addition to the 6 before that, as nothing more than flashy backstory for this moment, as even those conflicts were never important. Plus, he now wants Rey to kill him so he can take over her body or something (?). I am not even sure, to be honest. Whatever it was intended to be, it ends in him becoming a classic Marvel CGI sky-beam that is inexplicably defeated by Rey having a second lightsaber and saying that she is “All of the Jedi”…. What?!?!
Finn and Rose’s adventure in “The Last Jedi”
Finn and Rose have zero impact on this film. I don’t mean this hyperbolically, either. I mean if you simply remove them and their actions from this movie, nothing about the conclusion or how any events transpire change. Follow this: The Resistance flees from The First Order in a slow-speed chase until they run out of gas until Poe and Maz Kanata send Rose and Finn to Canto Bight to find a codebreaker that can help them sneak onto The First Order cruiser and disable their tracking so the Resistance can get away. Simple enough. Well, they do not find their codebreaker, but find someone else. They sneak onto the cruiser and get betrayed by their new friend without succeeding in their mission. Meanwhile, the Resistance fleet was able to escape on their own and destroy the cruiser they are on, all while freeing Rose and Finn and allowing them to meet up with the Resistance fleet immediately afterward. If they stayed on the ship, to begin with, and never left, they’d still have ended up in the same place with the same people in the same situation. Their actions have zero impact on anything and it fills roughly 1/3 of the film’s runtime. And then the writers make Rose do the single most illogical maneuver yet: stop Finn from saving the Resistance. Finn was about to make a heroic sacrifice and complete an character arc that would have given some credence to his time with Rose, but instead, Rose, a character who was adamant about defeating the First Order from the beginning, puts all of the remaining members of the Resistance in immediate mortal danger, including herself and Finn, who she was trying to save!
Leia’s full training as a Jedi
This is an example of J.J. Abrams tripping over his own feet as he panics to course-correct after Rian Johnson drove over a cliff. “The Last Jedi” showed Leia performing one of the most over-the-top Force feats in all of Star Wars after she is sucked out into the vacuum of space for a few minutes due to the bridge of her command ship being destroyed with her on it. After floating in the cold emptiness for some time, she magically regains consciousness and Force-flies her way back to the ship where she survives with only a minor case of being tired. Then, the film concludes with Luke sacrificing himself so the Resistance can escape, leaving Rey with little over a few days’ worths of training and zero remaining Jedi to help her grow to a reasonable level. J.J. tries to remedy this by explaining that Leia was secretly trained as a Jedi by Luke sometime after “Return of the Jedi” but before Ben Solo was born. Leia has been a known force-sensitive since the 1980s, so that’s not the problem. The problem is that we were already given an explanation of what Leia was doing in between the trilogies, and being a Jedi, specifically, was not that. We were told she chose not to be a Jedi so she could focus on building the New Republic and later the Resistance. But even if we look past the inconsistent storytelling, how is it that this was never once mentioned by Leia or anyone else before “The Rise of Skywalker”? When everyone spent the previous 2 films searching for THE LAST JEDI, nobody thought to mention how Leia was a fully-trained Jedi of supposedly equal strength as Luke AND SHE WAS IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU?
Kylo Ren’s inconsistent and unclear goals
Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is touted by some fans as the deepest character in Star Wars, and even suggest that Adam Driver’s portrayal is what George Lucas was aiming for with Anakin in the prequels. In fact, one of the few aspects of the trilogy that I will vocally support is that Driver is more emotionally ranged than Hayden Christiansen. But the character of Kylo Ren is very inconsistent with his intentions. He is introduced as a warrior of the Dark Side in the first scenes of the trilogy, and we only get slight glimpses into why he chose that path for the remaining parts of the series. We were given bits like “he’s got too much of Vader in him”, to him being a “Vader fanatic”, to “Han and Leia were absent parents”, to the eventual explanation that Luke sensed him having a bad dream and then he stood over his sleeping nephew with an ignited lightsaber threatening to kill him in cold blood. Understandably, he is pissed off at his family and even embraced the Dark Side as a means of vengeance, but one thing we have never understood is what his goals were when he aligned with The First Order. Was it simply power? It seems lazy enough of an explanation. But what of his calls to “Let the past go. Kill it if you have to”? In “The Last Jedi”, he is more than just an angry boy. He asks Rey to help him start anew. He is an anarchist… at least until Rey rejects him and he immediately takes up the mantel of Supreme Leader of the First Order. And wasn’t he obsessed with fulfilling Darth Vader’s legacy (recreating the past) and collecting all those relics before that moment? . It is so hard to keep track of what he is trying to achieve at any given point. The easiest way to follow his ever-shifting ideologies is to observe the condition of his helmet. After he destroys it to symbolize his independence in “The Last Jedi”, he quite literally undoes his character development by putting it back together piece-by-piece, serving as one of the least subtle visual metaphors I have ever witnessed. All we know for sure is that he is conflicted and that is used as a shield to hide a character that can’t figure out what he wants but sure as hell wants whatever it is!
Admiral Holdo’s Evacuation Plan
The “Holdo Maneuver” has been essentially explained away into being a fluke that can never happen again, so I won’t be talking about it here. What I will say is that Admiral Holdo is not a good leader and her plan is illogical. This is not some crazy theory by some kid on YouTube either, this is just a fact within the story itself and it makes no sense as to why it would ever be executed the way it was. When the First Order is waiting for the 3 Resistance ships to run out of gas, Poe demands to know what course of action Holdo plans to take to ensure their survival. Instead of informing anyone in the fleet what she had in mind, she simply chose to patronize Poe for being brash. Sure, Poe was very reckless in the past but this is hardly the time or the place for that conversation considering everyone is near moments from death and he simply wished to know what they were going to do. Her refusal to communicate with anyone, let alone other top military personnel stationed on her vessel in moments of emergency, led to an attempted mutiny that split the remaining forces of the Resistance against themselves, all while 2 of the 3 cruisers were shot out of the sky. After Poe is subdued by Leia, it is revealed that Holdo had always planned on using the escape pods to escape undetected to a nearby planet. Why would she not make this information available to anyone? The entirety of her plan was put at risk because she didn’t communicate. Similar to Finn and Rose’s meaningless adventure, Poe’s mutiny did not need to happen. What’s worse is that it doesn’t seem Poe has learned his lesson by “The Rise of Skywalker” as his single character trait is still being reckless.
Abandoning General Hux as a serious character
I was a really big fan of General Hux in “The Force Awakens”. He had a very interesting power dichotomy with Kylo Ren as they vied to be Supreme Leader Snoke’s favorite. Hux was always destined to lose to Ren eventually but he was still able to shine with an underappreciated Nazi-inspired speech before the initial firing of Starkiller Base. He even ended that film on top, having successfully placed the blame on Ren for The First Order’s defeat to the Resistance. However, once the opening crawl for “The Last Jedi” finished on-screen, Hux’s characteristics changed abruptly. He went from being a cunning rival to Ren and a feared military tactician to nothing more than a punching bag for cheap attempts at comedy. The major problem is that “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” have no gap in time in between them for this sudden change to develop. He went from being a “Schindler’s List” Nazi to a “Hogan’s Heroes” (Google it if you’re too young to know the show) Nazi in a matter of minutes. How does one go from delivering a booming edict to commemorate upcoming genocide to being pranked by a series of “yo-mama” jokes in essentially a couple of hours? From that point on, he became so non-threatening that they had to kill him off and introduce General Pryde in “The Rise of Skywalker” just so The First Order could retain even the slightest perception of being serious and threatening.
Killing all of the Jedi (again)
The most pivotal moment in the canon of Star Wars is “Order 66”, which is when the then-Chancellor Palpatine ordered all of the clone soldiers of the Republic to turn on the Jedi and kill them. This marked the beginning of what is known as “The Jedi Purge” where the followers of the order were nearly hunted to extinction, with a select few individuals surviving for a time. It is the moment that sets up the Dark Times and allows the reign of the Empire to exist relatively uncontested for almost 2 decades. After Luke defeats the Emperor on the Death Star II over Endor, he starts a Jedi Academy where he begins training a new generation of Jedi, until the Academy is destroyed by the Knights of Ren and all of the new Jedi are killed, except for Luke (and Leia). This essentially is the 2nd canonical Purge. “But if it was fine before why is it a problem now?” you might be asking. The problem is not really relevant within the films but rather Star Wars canon as a whole. On the side, several other survivors of the First Jedi Purge have become extremely relevant characters with many of their exploits playing pivotal roles in major plot lines. These characters are believed to have survived the totality of the Empire and gone on to be part of the future of Star Wars, even in stories that might not yet be written. But with the introduction of a 2nd Jedi Purge, their survival of the Empire no longer means anything, as they will inevitably be killed off by the Knights of Ren. I am sure there are ways to write around this incident and allow those select survivors to continue on their path unobstructed by inevitable defeat, but for now, it seems the likes of Cal Kestis, Ezra Bridger, Ahsoka Tano, and Baby Yoda* are doomed to perish in Luke’s Jedi Temple. And, as for all of the Jedi we have not yet been introduced to, their stories have ended before they even began.
*I do believe they will give these characters a different path, but my point is that at the moment, all surviving Jedi are still going to die and rooting for their success in the interim seems less meaningful.
Reliance on filling in the blanks retroactively
Who remembers the line “A good question for another time” in “The Force Awakens”? Maz says this to Han when he asks her how she came into the possession of the supposedly lost lightsaber of Luke and Anakin. The line is innocent enough but it reveals a key problem in this trilogy: details being filled in by supplementary materials. At best, we as the viewers are forced to suspend our disbelief in some capacity to allow that lightsaber to be in her possession. If you were curious, that story is being revealed in a comic book series. What of Captain Phasma? She was presented as a badass warrior and a rival to Finn in the films, but she received barely over 4 minutes of total screen time in the entire series before her death in “The Last Jedi”. But don’t worry, you can purchase a hardcover novel about her to tell you why she would have been interesting in the films. And the Knights of Ren? They do little in the entire trilogy except stand ominously in a circle and be killed by some version Ben Solo. But, once again, have no fear! Their backstory and history with Ben Solo are explored in a comic book series! There are situations, characters, and entities that are supposedly important pieces to the plots of these movies, and yet, other than their physical presence in the films, the films ignore them. What’s most insulting is that to get the information, you usually need to purchase material that is more expensive than a movie ticket.
It is unclear if anyone in the Galaxy cares
In a classically cynical ending, “The Last Jedi” concludes with Leia’s personal distress call to the Galaxy going totally ignored by everyone. It seems that all of the favors and good graces she had racked up throughout her life were not enough to convince a single person in the Galaxy to help save her and her Resistance from total annihilation. People suck. Fast forward to the conclusion of “The Rise of Skywalker”, roughly 1 year later. The Resistance sends out a similar distress call, this time without Leia, and quite literally everyone shows up! What changed? Did everyone just really hate Leia? Was Lando that much better of a recruiter to the cause? And how did he assemble an army at the planet of Exegol? That planet was not charted up until a few moments before this people’s militia arrived. Everyone must’ve been on the edge of their seat waiting for that call to action. I understand that there needed to be an army present for the final climactic duel of the entire saga, but it is very unclear if or why anyone cares. Even after the conclusion of the trilogy, we have only seen with our eyes a single planet under First Order occupation, and it was unceremoniously destroyed like a fly on a windshield. As far as we know, The First Order isn’t bothering anybody other than the Resistance. For as meaningless as the Canto Bight was to the plot of “The Last Jedi”, the one thing it did show us was that a planet had a functioning society that operated on the outside of The First Order and even coexisted in economic harmony with it. The impact of the conflict as a whole was poorly explored and inconsistent in every single film of the trilogy.
And those are 10 Problems with the Writing in the Star Wars Sequels. I could make a whole other list to focus on more opinion-based takes, such as missed-opportunities and criticisms of creativity, but I feel like that could be a little too much negativity for one sitting. As always, I want to remind everyone that I love Star Wars, and being critical isn’t meant to be malicious. I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you think these problems are a fatal flaw in the storytelling process or do you not consider these problems at all? Do you have a different take on any arguments that I made or do you have an argument to make for a point that I omitted? Let’s discuss!
2 thoughts on “10 Problems with the Writing of the Star Wars Sequels”
Some really interesting thoughts here Zach. What did you think of Colin Trevorrow’s reported leaked script for episode 9?
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I think it had potential, but then again, so did much of The Rise of Skywalker if we are just talking about ideas. The difference would be in how well Trevorrow would handle smoothing out the details.
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