Tis the season wherein no one knows who they are, much less what day of the week it is. No one reads the blog this last week of the year. Therefore. I CAN RUN AMOK. Haha. I will bring it back around to writing/story craft, though. I promise.
If you haven't yet seen the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi, TURN BACK NOW. I have seen the movie and I HAZ OPINIONS. There will be swearing. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.
Here. Have a winter sunrise to shield your tender eyes from what is to come whilst you attempt to flee this spoiler-laden rant.
All righty. Let's get straight to the geek talk. For that silent ten seconds of the most glorious and gorgeous bit of film I've seen outside of the Wonder Woman movie, I adore this film. However. I am sorry to say that the writer(s) broke faith with their story consumers. Herein lies my rant.
Can we all agree that at heart, the Star Wars franchise is Joseph Campbell's work made space opera manifest? It's a HERO'S JOURNEY. Well. When it's done correctly. And in this case, there's an entire story thread where our intrepid writers got hopelessly lost. Hopelessly.
I'm talking about the Finn and Rose story line. I wish I could call it an arc, but that's the problem. There isn't one. An arc implies characters in need of change - they begin their story with a flaw, a flaw which prevents them from achieving a goal. You see this done very plainly with Poe, right? Leia demotes the dude because his hubris got people killed. His goal is plain, too: He wants to lead. But he can't until he learns that not every problem can be solved with a gun. What's Finn's flaw? Rose's?
Anyone? I'll wait. That's right. Neither of them HAS a flaw. How about goals? You know. Past playing fetch in order to save everyone? Nopers. Nothing there, either. No clue what either of them wants.
So you have these two people, sent off on a wild damned goose chase that fails - not because they cannot face and conquer their failings - but because of shitty luck. Not once. Not twice. THREE TIMES they fail to do anything remotely meaningful to contribute to the theme of the story and there's no WHY to the failures.
In a hero's journey, the hero reaches for a goal and fails because internal change has not yet taken place - it's that failure that spurs change - the character must make a choice - own the flaw and mend it or don't. If they cannot mend themselves or learn their lessons, they cannot reach their goals and that character becomes the star either of a tragedy, a literary novel, or a cautionary tale. So when I talk about failures needing a why, for story to work in the Western psyche, we need that flaw/goal/antagonist cycle. These were clear for Rey and for Poe. They were totally absent for Finn and Rose.
Note this is not the fault of the actors! This debacle rests firmly at the feet of whoever wrote that story thread. In every single case, they fail their short term goals (find the code breaker! Oh no! Arrested for parking violation! But they find a different code breaker, but they get caught because luck! So code breaker betrays everyone. Need I go on? I swear. If it weren't for bad luck, Finn and Rose would have no luck at all.)
There was no character development of these two people because neither of them changed. Neither of them were called to change. They merely went galloping off into danger because - I dunno - they'd just mainlined every last episode of the original Scooby Doo and kids cruising into danger sounded like fun? Sure, sure, we find out some backstory on Rose, but frankly, without knowing what her goal is, I have no reason to care. And those segments that followed the pair of them dragged. The scenes were hollow and wooden. They didn't resonate. Not the way scene of Poe turning away from a fight to yell at everyone to listen - and then, having learned his lesson, leading them to escape.
So anyway. I'd like to slap some sense into the Last Jedi writer(s). Years and years ago, L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine Crook de Camp put together a how to book for writing speculative fiction as they preferred to call it. They spent a chapter convincing the reader that luck and twists of cruel fate were lazy writing. If you spend pages and pages getting your character off that planet filled with man-eating iguana people, tuck the heroes safe into their get away ship only to have them hit and destroyed by an asteroid, you aren't clever. You're just a jerk. Though maybe the how to guided didn't actually use that wording. Whoever wrote the Finn and Rose story thread never read this how to guide, apparently, and subsequently robbed the characters and the viewers of the hero's journey we'd signed up for.