How That One Hyperdrive Scene in "The Last Jedi" is an Insult

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Submitted by SuperSayu on Mon, 01/29/2018 - 18:37

This entry contains a spoiler discussion for 2017's "Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi".

So while there are things to like about The Last Jedi I have been stewing over the writing and how some of the plot points are terrible. It feels like I am seeing in this movie what I have seen and argued against in game designs at least four times. While I could sum it up in a variety of ways, I would suggest that there is, basically, a responsibility that comes with writing, and it's upsetting that people at once don't seem to believe this and also get promoted to positions where they can scoff at the idea while working on large public projects.

In the abstract first: there is what I will call "implicit narrative" behind the narrative choices and plot points in any given movie, game, or other script. This differs from the explicit narrative and also from the "intended takeaway" of the script. For example in a previous post on Final Fantasy VII's remake trailer I was upset that where previously, two characters each took out one enemy, in the remake they cooperated to take out one. The explicit narrative has them defeating an enemy; the intended takeaway is that they work together as a team and have some experience coordinating and cooperating. However, the implicit narrative is that they are not strong enough alone to defeat the enemies, which is a change in tone from the original, and serves as unnecessary support for a plot point that (assuming the script remains the same) will come up later in the game

In The Last Jedi, a woman named Admiral Holdo (among the many faults she presents in the script) has her redeeming moment when she decides to pilot one cruiser into hyperdrive while pointed at an enemy ship several times larger than her own. Because the script writer decided it would be a big moment for her, this act is wildly, spectacularly successful, not only crippling the one ship that is larger than her own, but destroying at least seven Star Destroyers.

The explicit narrative here is that she stopped pursuing vehicles. The intended takeaway is that by sacrificing a large ship in a desperate maneuver, she made a critically important victory for the rebellion. The implicit narrative is that absolutely everyone who died in the Rebellion was an idiot, because if they had just wanted it enough to sacrifice cruiser-class ships, major battles such as the ones against the Death Stars would have been no problem, and the Emperor's private battleship (whose size is on par with that of the larger ship destroyed here) would have been trivial to ambush and eradicate. In short, the war was only necessary because greedy people refused to use the assets at their disposal.

First things first: there is not one chance in all the hells in all the planets in all the galaxy that nobody had ever tried using the hyperdrive as a weapon before in the history of the Star Wars universe. Weapon manufacturers enjoy making money too much not to experiment with any and every high-powered thing they can get their hands on. The fact that nobody ever made guided missiles out of fighter chassis with a hyperdrive in it, means that it never worked before. If it had ever worked, the Rebellion could have sacrificed one X-wing to take out one Star Destroyer at any point in any movie, which is important let's say in the Battle of Hoth, where the Empire was destroying unarmed ships full of non-combatants, but they only had so many Star Destroyers on hand. If they could simply have taken out one or two Star Destroyers, the battle would have been a lot less dangerous for the Rebellion.

I guess the rebel pilots didn't want it enough? They'd die trying to defend them but not commit suicide?

The only argument that could be made is that the ships pursuing the Resistance Fleet in The Last Order had let their shields down, and commensurately, at no point during the Rebellion did a Star Destroyer not have their shields up, even when sitting idle for long weeks or months. She must have realized that when given an unshielded target, then suddenly this one desperate move would work.

Except for one problem: we have still never seen hyperspace weapons even for use against unshielded targets. If a hyperspace missile could have one thousandth of the destructive power of the cruiser's final act, then one missile could cripple a Star Destroyer in a single hit, or more likely, one missile could have taken out any Rebellion ship in any engagement that the Empire had ever had. Yet in seven movies across three full, long, bloody wars, plus video games, tabletop games, and all the extended universe novels in existence, this was never a thing.

Until a movie director wanted one character's sacrifice to be really awesome.

No Rebel had ever wanted it enough until now. The Empire destroyed whole planets, but they didn't want it enough. But this lady didn't want hope to die. Everyone else before her did want hope to die, I guess. She redeemed herself for being a bad leader by proving to be the only person in history to think of using a big engine engine to hit something with something else, really hard.

If this was the first movie in a series, it would be really cheesy writing. People would roll their eyes and say "Well someone should have seen that coming." Except this isn't the first movie in a series, nor the second, nor the third, nor the fourth, nor the fifth, nor the sixth, nor the seventh. We as fans had invested in the idea that the universe was actually pretty well thought out. When a director says "Ah, but you didn't expect THIS!" it stops being funny. I am sure that more than a thousand people have thought of exactly that scenario when playing video games in the Star Wars universe, or when playing tabletop roleplaying games in the Star Wars universe. And the video game designers didn't allow it because that would be stupid. And most game masters didn't allow their players to do that because that would be stupid.

This plot point was stupid. The writer is stupid. And it upsets me, as a person who believes that good writing is a responsibility, and not optional. Because if someone had run the idea past me, I could have come up with a dozen reasons within thirty seconds as to how, exactly, it wasn't a good idea. I could probably have come up with at least three alternatives that would have been just as visually and narratively satisfying without destroying fourty goddamn years of canon. Rian Johnson was four years old when the first movie came out, for chrissake, you would think he would understand that two generations had grown up with the canon he was destroying. If he had kids when he was 18, and his kids had kids when they were 18, his grandchildren would be easily old enough to watch and understand the Star Wars movies today. That's how long Star Wars has been building canon, and he really, honestly does not seem to mind completely screwing it up.

Look, I admit to being stupid about this. I admit this is a dumb argument about a dumb movie. But the "implicit narrative" of the entertainment industry today is this: they think it's funny hurting fans. Millions of dollars were spent on this movie. It doesn't take a genius to look at the script and say that it's a bad idea. In fact, there are a lot of things in the script that it doesn't take a genius to push back against. And this is not the first or only project in Hollywood or elsewhere in entertainment to have gleefully put bad writing front and center with spotlights and fanfare. You can say that I am reading too much into it, but it's what is implied by the context.

And that makes me mad, and it probably won't stop making me mad.