Guys, I’m more exhausted than a one-legged bantha in a pod race.

These last couple of weeks of the year are going to be a whirlwind for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do. So I’m letting you know right now, updates will be sporadic. I do plan to put a new Black List script review up Wednesday. But who knows after that. Maybe I can astral-project a post or two. Then again, I’d be risking death. I’ll have to think about that.

Speaking of thinking, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Last Jedi. Whether you liked it or hated it, I love that it’s inspiring general audience screenwriting debate. Regular people talking about plot! Regular people talking about storytelling! That’s awesome.

And what I dig about Rian Johnson is he doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. When you ask him why he made the choice in regards to Rey’s parents, he tells you. Hell, he goes into specific detail about it.

In listening to Johnson discuss his two most polarizing story choices in The Last Jedi – Rey’s parents and killing Snoke – I noticed that he mentioned a very specific screenwriting maxim in determining those choices. That maxim was: “What choice in this moment results in the the most dramatically interesting result?”

This is a storytelling tool that’s been around for years and something most screenwriters learn in the late intermediate and early advanced stages of their training. The idea is this: when you’re posed with a big choice in your story, you should ask, “What choice can I make here that will have the most dramatic impact on the story/character?”

As a basic example, let’s say your hero is trying to decide if he should shoot the bad guy. Before you write this scene, you ask the question, what choice is going to have the most dramatic impact? If the bad guy says, “Go to hell,” there’s nothing dramatic about that. It actually makes the hero’s decision easier. However, if a woman walks up and our hero realizes it’s the bad guy’s innocent wife, that makes things more dramatically interesting because pulling the trigger now requires more variables to be processed.

So Johnson’s whole thing with Rey’s parents was, “What’s the most dramatically interesting thing Rey could hear?” He noted that Rey hearing she was a Skywalker had zero dramatic implications. And I would agree with him. Same thing with being a Kenobi. Nothing dramatic about that. But, Johnson argued, what if a girl who was so sure that her parents were important and were coming back for her one day, found out that they were nobodies and had sold her off for a few space tokens? That’s a much more dramatically compelling dilemma, Johnson argued, for Rey to wrestle with. I would agree with him on that as well.

Moving over to the Snoke scene. Same deal. What’s the most dramatically compelling thing that could happen in this scene, Johnson asked. If Snoke tosses these two around just to let them know who’s boss, the scene ends, and Snoke continues to rule the galaxy, that’s not very dramatically compelling. If Rey gets turned to the Dark Side, that’s more dramatically compelling than the first option but Johnson still felt it wasn’t enough. If he killed Snoke, however, now everything was up for grabs. And that uncertainty of who would take the reigns and how the new order would be established was the most dramatically compelling option of them all. Which is why he went with it.

So why are so many people divided over these choices? Johnson is following sound screenwriting advice. And the bold choices technically achieve what he set out for them to do.

Well here’s where Johnson gets it wrong. He forgot that there are two sides to every screenwriting choice. There’s the character you’re making the choice for. And then there’s the audience you’re forcing the choice upon. Johnson was so consumed with what would have the most dramatic impact on Rey and the First Order, he forgot to consider whether the audience would actually like these choices. And sometimes the most dramatically potent choice and what the audience wants to happen don’t line up.

Let’s go back to my earlier example with the hero deciding whether to kill the bad guy. Let’s say, in that moment, the hero decides, “Actually, if I kill this dude, he doesn’t even suffer. But if I shoot his wife in front of him, he’ll be in pain for the rest of his life.” Technically, that’s a more dramatically interesting choice. But is it the choice the audience wants? I would argue no. It’s barbaric and makes my hero unlikable. So clearly these two maxims don’t always line up.

And I’m not indicting Johnson alone on this. This is a mistake writers make all the time. We get so caught up in the world we’ve created that we forget that we’re actually creating it for somebody else. If you’re not including the audience in the process, there’s no reason for your script to ever leave your computer.

I don’t think anybody believes that Rey’s parents being nobodies was the best choice for Rey’s story. I know some people were okay with it. But the BEST choice? No way. There’s an answer in that question that could’ve been both dramatically interesting, like Johnson wanted, and crowd-pleasing, like the audience wanted. But Johnson was so focused on how this answer impacted Rey, he forgot to ask whether the audience would be excited by it.

And don’t get me wrong, it can go the other way too! Attack of the Clones was the most audience-service Star Wars film ever made. Not a single choice was made in that script with dramatic consequence in mind. It was only about “What does the audience want to see?” And that film is probably the least liked of all the Star Wars movies. So you can O.D. on either.

Which is why I endorse both. Like Johnson says, make choices that have the most dramatically compelling impact on the character/story. But don’t forget to consider whether the audience wants them to happen. Ultimately, you’re there to serve them. You’re not there to serve yourself. You’re not there to serve your characters. You’re there to serve the audience. Keep them happy and they’ll stay off your Twitter feed.

Just for fun, can you come up with choices to the two big moments I listed above (Rey’s parents and the Snoke Scene) that you believe would both have a ton of dramatic impact and that the fans would love?

  • Poe_Serling

    I was hoping for another SW article.

    ;-)

  • Dimitri

    I really liked the decision for Rey’s parents. It just didn’t make sense for her to be a Kenobi or a Skywalker. It also really fits the theme of the movie. That heroes can come from all kinds of places.

    • RO

      True. But was that theme/theory really ever contested in any of the earlier SW films?

      Even though I didn’t like it, Anakin was a slave before becoming a Jedi. Luke was a farmboy, with a father who was a selfless hero and he wanted to be like. Not dissimilar to many military children.

      ‘Anyone can be a hero’ is nice and all, but that’s not how movies work. We focus on one protagonist or a small ensemble. From the looks of it, Rian Johnson wanted to say that everyone is a hero/protagonist, but all great movies achieve this by having a relatable character for the audience to identify with. So that theme seems like it would derail the movie.

      • Dimitri

        Yeah, maybe you’re right. But what I really liked about the movie is that it steered away from too much fan servicing. The force awakens felt like it was made, purely to please fans and didn’t really surprised me. It was fun, but that was it. TLJ though, did the exact opposite while still being a Star wars movie (in my mind), which I really liked. The fact that it split it’s audience into two is really fascinating to me. Star wars fans in general are pretty fascinating to me (I see myself as a fan, but on the lowest tier). They seem to like more of the same, but complain when it’s more of the same.
        I would shit my pants if I have to write and direct a Star wars movie. Because the fanbase is so hardcore and don’t really know what they want.

        The last Jedi wasn’t perfect, the biggest problem I think was that it was too overbloated with things the story didn’t demand.

        • RO

          I am all for not doing fan service stuff. TFA I knew I wasn’t going to like when they hired JJ to direct and got Kasdan in to write. While I appreciate taking risks and chances, a lesson I learned from a writer who worked intimately with George Lucas and Lucas film in the late 80s early 90s said that any choice you make, no matter how mundane you think it is or how dramatic you want it to be, overall needs to be satisfying when the story is over. Is it true to your characters? Do their actions feel inevitable? If the answer is no to any of those, you’ve got to rewrite it.

          This is how I learned the difference between inevitability and predictability when it comes to screen writing. I don’t think those thoughts were present in the creative process for this new trilogy.

    • susanrichards

      i have to agree. this was the best part of the movie, to me. and how it was revealed to her. how he said…”youre a nobody. but not to me” something like that.
      i love how she comes from nowhere, neglected, thrown away..only to possibly become the STRONGEST jedi yet.
      it gives HOPE to all.
      plus sets up this whole should they or shouldnt they love story.

      i also like how shes not afraid of the dark side, really. she dove straight in, literally. this was shocking to luke.
      shes much stronger than luke.

  • klmn

    I haven’t seen the movie yet and may not at all. But as for Rey’s parents, I’d have them be Princess Leia and Jabba (from when he kept her chained up). I mean, he wouldn’t keep her around just for decoration, would he?

    • Pugsley

      You’ve just turned me into a Jabbleia ‘shipper.

  • Zapotage

    I liked the death of Snoke and I’m okay with Rey being a nobody. I think Luke was mishandled the most along with a bloated story and too many characters.

    However, I believe Rey could’ve been a Solo… I know, I know, but what if:

    As a young child Rey was Ben’s little sister with both of them being force sensitive. However, Ben noticed Rey growing stronger than even him with the force. Maybe Snoke has already started contact with Ben by this time. The dark side tendencies inside him lead to jealousy and competition. Snoke encourages him to destroy her, but he can’t follow through.

    Unbeknownst to Han and Leia, Ben takes Rey away on the Millennium Falcon and abandon’s her on Jakku. He uses a new (Snoke) force power to wipe her memory of who her family is, but infuses a belief in her that they’ll return. He sells the Falcon to Unkar Plutt and leaves the planet.

    He purposely injures himself in some way and tells Han and Leia that Rey was killed, the Falcon destroyed and he barely managed to escape. Devastated, Han and Leia grow apart. Han goes back to smuggling, while Leia occupies her time with the New Republic.

    Soon after, Ben Solo turns against Luke and becomes Kylo Ren.

    Fast forward to The Force Awakens: When Kylo Ren discovers that BB-8 had help from a girl he replies: “What girl?!” as if he knows who it could be on Jakku. The will of the force.

    Rey understands Chewbacca? Old childhood memories. Han is drawn to her for some reason. She can fly the Falcon. Leia walks past Chewie and hugs a stranger after Han’s death?

    Fast forward to Last Jedi: Luke recognizes Rey, whom he believed to be dead. She could be the spark he needs to return and face Kylo Ren and Snoke. This would eliminate him as a crusty old curmudgeon, which he probably already spent years suffering as.

    She finds out that Han was her father and her own brother murdered him before her eyes. Plenty of drama to unfold from here on out.

    Sidenote: Give Finn more to do and get rid of Holdo and Rose. I have a soft spot for Benicio Del Toro though. Just give him a better part.

  • Citizen M

    “Rey, you father is George Lucas’s sperm, frozen for a thousand years.”

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Bingo! Winner!

      Got me to laugh anyway.

    • PQOTD

      And transported back in time, to a galaxy far, far away…

      • Citizen M

        The source
        Of the Force
        Is a receptacle
        Containing George Lucas’s testicle.

  • Avatar

    Just an informal survey, but for all the readers here, what movies have you seen during the holidays and what movies are you going to see? For the movies you’ve seen, how many times did you see them?(For instance, I saw the Titanic re-release twice and Murder on the Orient Express twice).

    • Raza Rizvi

      I went to the Chicago Film Festival so I got to see a lot of films being released now back in October, but films I’ve seen recently were: The Disaster Artist, Thelma and Call me By Your Name. Over the next couple weeks I plan on watching Downsizing, The Post, and I’m most excited for Phantom Thread. I’ll also probably check out Jumanji as well.

      • Avatar

        It looks like you have a type as far as movies. I really liked Thelma.

    • shewrites

      I’m planning to watch The Greatest Showman. Again. I saw it last week at a screening and can’t wait to see it tomorrow. It’s a gorgeous, heart-warming and super fun movie. The music and dancing are phenomenal.

    • Lironah

      I saw Coco and highly recommend it. Nothing else in theaters I’m interested in except maybe a rewatch of Thor.

  • Lironah

    I thought both choices were the right decision, but they didn’t work because there was ZERO SETUP for the moves. They felt like a smack in the face with a baseball bat, because all this time you were expecting the batter to swing at the BALL the pitcher threw, but he just ignores it.

    That said, I think it would have been fun if Kylo had lied about who her parents were, strung her along. I also would love to see the First Order split when a Rey-you-thought-had-gone-bad changed her mind in the 9th movie.

    • moog

      +1
      Great choices, poor setup and TFA is accountable for that. They jammed so much stuff into it but never really gave the film a chance to breath. The scenes that really stood out for me in that film were those early Rey scenes of her scavenging and eeking out a life. What they didn’t really give us there was a sense of how that mattered to her family situation. She’s waiting for them to come back. And.. on with the next thing.

      In the original Star Wars, the corollary is Luke’s scenes with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Lucas spent a good amount of time there. He understood that in order to show the hero venturing forth from his common day hut, he had to build that point of origin in 3D. It also had the effect of grounding the entire saga in what would turn out to be a family drama.

      So to TLJ where we’re really beyond these questions and to revisit them would clutter up the film’s momentum. Unless Johnson did the predictable thing of connecting Rey to the Solo / Skywalker clan.

      Giving the audience what it wants… I feel like there’s understanding how an audience works and using that well. Then there’s pandering, which, I mean, who wants to see a movie where you get exactly what YOU wanted. I still remember being traumatised by Empire. My child’s brain couldn’t hold the idea of Luke being so much of a force for good yet spawned from such evil. It took getting all the way to Jedi before I could come to terms with it. But it captured my imagination in a way that no other film has since. Years later I read Bruno Bettelheim and finally learned that children of a certain age can’t deal with that kind of complexity between good and evil. If Lucas cared about what I wanted at that point. Vader would be the one in carbonite.

      And props to Rian Johnson for tackling a much beloved character (Luke) and standing his ground in the face of an even more treasured actor objecting to his choices. That can’t have been easy, but I’m glad he stuck to his guns. I’d have loved it if Luke had become a junky of sorts, using narcotic blue milk to quell his Jedi powers. Can’t really do that in a kids movie, but hey ho.

      Someone put this together to (I think) show why RJ got Luke so wrong. When I watched it, it actually helped me understand why I was feeling this deep sadness as Luke explained his continued exile. As an audience member, this is what I want – characters going through heavy shit and coming out at the other end for better or worse. The force was better explained and given back to the universe in a simple but profound way.

      https://www.facebook.com/SWUniverse/videos/1564506620299100/

  • RO

    I sort of addressed this in the previous post, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Rey’s parentage? I think the most dramatic element would be having her be Luke’s daughter that he mind wiped and abandoned on Jakuu. I also think it should be something Luke doesn’t reveal to Rey when they meet, but something she discovers through her training (which is really more of a test by Luke to see if she’s worthy of training – like what Yoda did when he first met Luke but in a different style, a different set of lessons to learn) to become a Jedi and that discovery puts her in conflict and anger. Luke shows no emotions towards Rey and that frustrates her during these tests, but when the reveal hits, it breaks her heart. Is this what being a Jedi is? Emotionless? A slave to the will of the force? She leaves. She found her father and he didn’t live up to her expectations. No embrace. No apology. No explanation. She starts to learn the ways of the force, but if it turns her into a cold person that Luke has become, she wants no part of it. She returns to help her friends flee the first order, and keeps her Skywalker name a secret.

    I would keep Snoke dying by Kylo Ren’s hand. I would do it in a form of jealousy. Snoke tortures Rey (who has abandoned the force at this point) and exposes her Skywalker lineage and sense greater power in her than Kylo. Snoke tries to manipulate her into killing Kylo and joining him. Kylo turns the tables, kills Snoke and he and his red clad soldiers attack Rey; Kylo is destined to be the most powerful Jedi. She barely escapes. She could have done it easier with her Jedi training, but she refuses to be pawn of the force.

    For the climax she’s put in a position where she has to use the force she abandoned in order to save her friends, and comes to the realization that Luke’s attitude towards her was a test of her character, and that the force is not a controlling will as Luke deceptively suggested, but a symbiotic tool that can be used to help or harm. She figures out that the action Luke took in hiding her was to strengthen her resolve, to give her a humble perspective and prepare her for the dangers ahead that she could not learn under the protective watch of a parent. Ben was raised in a bubble and it lead to his path towards the dark side. The lesson being that a mentor/parent doesn’t protect/shield their child, but rather prepares them for the larger world they’ll one day enter.

    Luke joins her with the resistance and the two reconcile. The last line in the movie, spoken by Luke. “Now, young Skywalker. Your Jedi training can begin.”

  • BMCHB

    I would make Snoke Rey’s father.

    Luke kidnapped Rey as a child from Snoke and left her on Jakku to keep her out of his reach, as with him on Tatooine out of Vadar’s way .

    Kylo still kills Snoke but now he has killed Rey’s father which sets up Rey turning to the Darkside, and seeking vengeance against Kylo who may/may not be redeemed later.

  • Bifferspice

    i think there’s some truth in this post, even if it is kind of angry

    • -n8-

      There’s a lot of truth to it. But way too angry.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    The way I play along is to work on the villains.

    Know the villain. Know the story. As the villain drives the story forward and makes the hero take action.

    Going forward the BIGGEST issue that the “Star Wars” series has is building up the villain, General Hux. In the first two movies General Hux was a real one-note character, constantly angry and contending against Kylo Ren for Supreame Leader Snoke’s endorsement. BUT now that Snoke’s killed off, his relationship to Kylo Ren really needs to a dark turn.

    Lots to play with here. What I would do is have General Hux side with the the very dark elements that brought Darth Mull into the frey, AND were all around Palpatine when he was consolidating his power. You GOTTA expand this character. He is begging to be real and have ambitions of his own. General Hux needs to have an agenda of his own. I say he usurps Kylo Ren and puts him in the crosshairs of his wrath. Yeah, you heard me right set the dark side against Kylo Ren and force him to be a good guy.

    Think about “Star Wars” from the villain’s perspective. Kylo Ren has “Skywalker blood”, he can NEVER be trusted. Anakin betrayed the Emporer, Ren betrayed Snoke. Kylo Ren is a wanted man by the people pulling the strings.

    I say, bring in the inquisitors, have them all dress up like Kylo Ren, but when they’re unmasked they are seen to be the demon species that Darth Mull was. The Inquitors are the New Orders new way of going after the Rebellion. They are cloned, Sith warriors under the control of General Hux.

    Whaddya think?

  • -n8-

    I feel like the audience only wants choices that makes them lean into the story. It’s not about fan service. It’s only about the ride. So what if it’s the most dramatically interesting choice if it doesn’t take the viewer on an amazing roller coaster experience?!?!

    Then it just becomes a bold but boring choice. And no matter how you cut that equation, boring is boring. Plain and simple.

    A boring ride for the audience will always be what we remember– no matter all the bold bells and whistles thrown on the X-wing transporting us.

    But again, just my opinion.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Was sure Luke was her father.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Been six hours. When’s the next newscast, brainiac?

  • Radu Huciu

    Wait, what happened to the whole “he fucked up because he didn’t deliver on the set up in FTA” conversation? I mean sure, Carson’s post has merit in that it’s a screenwriting lesson, but why do I get the feeling we’re now defending them / him for what they did? As opposed to simply calling them / him out. Dude, you set us up in TFA and literally all you had to do was conceive SOME SORT of explanation. Anything. Like we would have taken anything. But no, you had to give us the finger.

    It’s like me going “hey baby, I’m gonna take you home and lather you in honey and give you pleasures you only read about in Cosmo” and then my lady comes home and I’m sleeping next to my Doritos and three empty beer cans.

    Why give me all that foreplay and no actual sex, never mind a nut?!

    Let me say that again: Carson’s post does have merit, but why are we not talking about the shafting the audience got? The way they handled both Snoke and Rey’s parentage was absolutely unprofessional and disrespectful, period. And by the way I’m not even a Star Wars fan, all this is coming from a casual who saw TFA and just wanted either closure on those story threads or further development.

    • Omoizele Okoawo

      It feels less like a planned trilogy and more like no one had a plan at all. They should have just taken the game Knights Of The Old Republic and made movies out of that.

      • Radu Huciu

        Welcome to the JJ show where all we care about is setting them up / hooking them then not giving a fuck. It’s the screenwriting equivalent of what the studios are doing: did you pay for your ticket? Yes. Aight, fuck you, see you later then.

        JJ and his friend Lindelof started this “trend” way back when with Lost. Oh look here’s a polar bear, you wanna know about it? Fuck you, we’re not telling you. Oh look, sentient smoke, you wanna know about that? Go fuck yourself.

        Name ONE TIME either JJ or Lindelof (Prometheus by the way) ever paid off their set ups. I dare you. I double dare you. They don’t have the mental fortitude to think beyond “how do I hook them?”

        JJ was involved in both this and TFA so it comes as no surprise that no satisfying answers were given.

        And I’ve never said this but the fact Carson loves him some JJ so much worries me more than just a little bit.

        • Oscar

          JJ Abrams = the PT Barnam of cinema.

          Or the highest-paid fanfic writer in history.

  • Radu Huciu

    I think I just found an online friend. I’m with you all the way, Frank buddy.

  • Omoizele Okoawo

    I think that you need to take that question of what is the most interesting dramatic thing I can have happen right now and work it throughout the entire story because I don’t think that they’ve done that on film since the original trilogy.

    For instance, the idea that the empire and the rebellion are still fighting after all these years was a dramatically lazy set up. What if instead the citizens of the galactic empire realised the truth? What if they figured out that all along they’d been nothing but pawns in the Sith and the Jedi struggling with each other? What if they figured out that the only reason why Palpatine became emperor was because he wanted to take what he perceived the Jedis owned: The Republic itself? What if they got sick of the Jedi going darkside and committing mass murder just because their girlfriend broke up with them and so they exiled all force sensitives? Now because the world is so different they HAVE to tell a story that’s more than a rehash of the original trilogy. Now maybe Ben Solo is fighting for force sensitive rights. Now maybe Rey got abandoned by her parents because they realized she was a force sensitive and they were ashamed. Now maybe Luke feels betrayed by his sister and Han who sided with the galactic citizens and that’s why he left.

    • ShiroKabocha

      This.

      “the idea that the empire and the rebellion are still fighting after all these years was a dramatically lazy set up”. Not only the laziest but the most boring, least dramatically interesting venue possible for a sequel to explore. That’s why TFA failed for me. Nothing new, very little to be excited / surprised about because it was too similar to A New Hope.

      • RS

        Yes, I have to agree. When I saw the opening scrawl for TFA, I knew the film was in trouble. Luke ran away? After everything he went through and experienced and learned –and the huge defeat of the Empire– he hits a speed bump and goes into hiding. And on top of that the Empire (First Order) seems as powerful as ever. Just struck the wrong dramatic chord from the get go and could never recover in my opinion.

    • Radu Huciu

      Holy crap Disney, hire this man! Hire this man right now! Yo for real, this whole ostracize force sensitive people is too good, son. Think about the themes you could explore, so timely, weaving in sexual themes like transgender and homosexuality, themes like racism (of all kinds, not just black and white). This choice alone is not only original, not only does it build NEW STORIES for SW to explore, but it would also speak to the zeitgeist today.

      Give this man a cookie RIGHT NOW!

    • RO

      It’s kind of like taking the plot to the book The Chrysalis. Telepaths and mutants trying to hide from the rest of society and live in the shadows after a horrible war. Some are exiled to the fringes, but there is strong fear and hate from them for being different and having caused a galaxy of problems.

      You could play with the theme of discarding problems instead of trying to solve them. How do you solve a problem like the Jedi?

  • sen9am

    I would have played the scene exactly as it went but Kylo fails to kill Snoke, instead badly maiming him, leaving him temporarily incapacitated. Now the fight against the guards has the desperate goal of not only preserving their own lives but finishing off what will become an extremely vengeful Snoke.

    In terms of Rey’s parentage, I haven’t seen any interviews with Rian Johnson but I don’t know why Kylo Ren’s reveal that they were anonymous drunks is now taken as definite fact. As far as I’m concerned there should still be the possibility of a further twist in episode 9. Wouldn’t he be perfectly capable of lying to her?

    I would have liked to have seen him tease the possibility of a reveal for a little longer, a sort of join me and I will tell all scenario. Rey then has the choice to succumb to her flaw and join him, or, somewhat ironically given it’s Kylo’s maxim, ‘kill her past’ by burying her curiosity and remaining with the light.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      #funrewrite

  • brenkilco

    It isn’t about, or at least should seldom be about, what you think the audience wants to see. It is always about what they will accept, what they will find dramatically satisfying. And that’s a complicated business.

    In general, if you set up a narrative to answer a question and the answer is either A or B, then that is simply bad storytelling. Whichever choice you make is going to generate a big deal reaction. Recall that in Empire-God, do I hate using Star Wars for dramatrugical lessons- it is not a matter of whether Luke is or isn’t Vader’s son. We simply know he has lost his father. He has been told his father is dead but has been given few details other than that Vader is allegedly the killer. So the big reveal is a thunderclap. Well for the young and susceptible. A reveal, a decision, a big dramatic development must be properly set up and prepared for- a complex area for a future Carson post perhaps. But ideally it must be both accountable and surprising. And a binary choice can never surprise.

    My go to example for this problem is K-Pax, starring the Oscar winner who may no longer be named. The premise involves a guy who claims to be an alien. Either he is or he isnt. And at some point we’ll find out and so what. The screenwriters realized the problem, that they’d painted themselves into a dramatic corner. And they did their damndest to wriggle out with what they hoped would be an unexpected ending. It didn’t work and the movie tanked. But credit to them for knowing that they needed something more than A or B.

    • Poe_Serling

      If I have a movie watching pet-peeve, it’s probably this:

      Any fictional film that presents a really tantalizing puzzle to kick things into high
      gear, but by the end the viewers are still scratching their noggins on what is
      actually going on here.

      Often times it’s just a bunch of mystery boxes to pull the audience along without
      any real intention of providing some sort answer (or at least a hint) to all the
      questions posed during the course of the running time.

      For me – kind of a cheat by the filmmakers and a bit frustrating.

      On the flip side…

      Flicks based on real-life mysteries are naturally going to be somewhat open-
      ended once the credits roll.

      But here most viewers already know this once they step into the theater
      or plop down on their couch at home.

      ;-)

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        Hey! Couple years late, but you just described Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”.

      • brenkilco

        Or in a similar vein movies that pretend like the mystery has been properly solved but actually completely leave the audience hanging. Even really good movies.

        In The Heat of The Night has lots of great stuff in it. But as a mystery it sucks big time. I defy anybody to tell me just how Sidney Poitier figures out who the murderer is , or what makes him think for a single minute that the case hinges on a minor character seeking an abortion. Lots of Oscars and really lousy plotting.

        Three Days of The Condor. Lots of good paranoid conspiracy cloak and dagger. But all the CIA engineered homicide hinges on researcher Redford discovering a book that somehow is integral to the conspiracy. What’s so special about the book? Damned if the movie ever tells you. A code key, concealed instructions, a secret list of agents? Your guess is as good as mine and I’ve seen the movie multiple times.

        • BMCHB

          It’s an interesting one as the reality is that “plots” or the resolving of “plots” are mostly an artificial cinematic construct and damn hard to see through convincingly.

          The reality is usually mundane, boring repetitive – “uncinematic” – work or literal deus ex machinas.

          There was a missing woman in my city a few years ago. Some time later her body, or part of it, was found by a dog being walked in the local mountains. The cops announced the next day that they were still looking for her mobile phone.

          The day following this, a man was walking along the edge of a reservoir a few miles away – the city was in middle of unusual heatwave and water level had dropped – and saw a phone below. Having seen the news report he notified the cops and the phone was the victim’s. They solved the crime. Would not have been able to without the phone.

          That’s coincidence and a fluke that the crime was ever solved and I don’t think would work as a plot resolution in a film.

          I always liked the ending of The Pledge with Jack Nicholson. Unsatisfying for most but closer to reality with regards to plot resolution, or lack thereof, IMO.

          • brenkilco

            In Adventures in the Screen Trade, Goldman talks about what was then a fairly recent news story. A guy walks onto the grounds of Buckingham Palace and nobody stops him. He walks in the front door and nobody stops him. Walks upstairs, finds the Queen’s bedroom, enters, without encountering a soul. Liz wakes up to find this guy sitting on the edge of her bed and has to engage him in several nervous moments of conversation before security arrives. Goldman points out that while this made for an interesting news story, any screenwriter including such an incident in a script would be condemned as an idiot. Believable for movie purposes is often a long way from real world truth.

            And while ambiguity and open ended conclusions can work just fine for indies and examinations of the human condition, they are a big risk in genre films. Isn’t the shapliness of drama, the promise of a story well told, one of the big reasons we go to the movies. Lose ends, unresolved problems and confusion we can get all day long.

          • Malibo Jackk

            In the French Connection they never catch the (French) drug kingpin.
            And nobody cares.

          • brenkilco

            Ah, the seventies. Where John Huston gets away with everything in Chinatown and even stars as big as Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds could get blown away at the end of The Parallax View and Hustle respectively. Different time.

    • PQOTD

      *whispers… Spoldemort?*

    • Malibo Jackk

      (Sometimes referred to as – door #3.)

  • Levres de Sang

    Rodney & Sheryl surprised me. I was on p.77 before I knew it — despite all the time-shifting flashbacks and flashforwards. In fact, it’s even made me reconsider my own aversion to this kind of thing. That being said, it’s the work of a very accomplished / skilled writer. For me, this script has become a kind of benchmark of the skill level required to make the Black List.

    ** If Fincher directs it would be great — somewhere between Quiz Show and Zodiac.

  • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

    Everyone is forgetting Rey’s parents’ orgins aren’t important to Rey the character – it’s only important to the fanfic writers and plot. Honest question. Give me the scenes where Rey was emotionally and physically handicapped because of this question. I repeat, Rey is not a character nor are most of the other people in TFA and TLJ.

    • Cuesta

      In TFA, where they arrive in the Falcon to the planet with the castle, she has two scenes, one with Solo, and another with Maz Kanata. She wanted to abandon everything and go back to the sand planet cuz of that.

      • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

        Yes, but this doesn’t affect her or anyone. Wanting to go home is not a flaw. It’s hard to see. It’s easy to fill in the blanks the story leaves. So, OK, why does she want to go back home?

        • Cuesta

          Cause she has an emotional hole that she needs to fill with the hope that one day her parents will come back for her.
          Later, she substitutes this with actual people who care for her, Finn and Han, coming to rescue her.
          Affects Finn and her, creating their bond and therefore moving the plot. Simple, textbook Disney.

          • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

            Let’s try to get more specific. This emotional hole – Is it fear that no one loves her? Is it fear of being alone in the galaxy? Is it fear of not being important? Is it fear of having no direction? Is it losing faith in other people’s promises? Is it fear of being destined to be a bad person like her parents? Is it fear of the unknown?

            Please tell me which one or if it’s a combination or if you have your own.

          • Cuesta

            Fear that she is unimportant to no one. It is handled without subtlety when Finn, Han and Chewie find her in the snowyland base and is even overtly stated in the script:

            “FINN: We came back for you.

            She is speechless — this is all she’s ever wanted anyone to do. Chewie TALKS — and Rey’s eyes nearly tear up.

            FINN (CONT’D): What’d he say?

            REY (shrugs, smiles, though nearly in tears): … That it was your idea.”

          • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

            You’re exactly right, but my point is it doesn’t get in her or anyone else’s way (so to speak) which is what a flaw is. If she’s afraid that she isn’t important to anyone we need to see her act like she’s not important to anyone. She needs to be meek or shy or cold or she needs to overcompensate by being overly attached or self-absorbed or to volunteer for a suicidal mission because she believes no one will miss her – then she can get over it with the help of friends and act differently or make a decision that she wouldn’t have made before finding friends who care.

            In short, she needed to grow as a character. And by grow I don’t mean grow stronger physically (which everyone is talking about).

            I saw Jumanji this weekend, it was subpar but it had the basics of a character. The Rock’s character lacked confidence, he couldn’t talk honestly with his friend and he couldn’t tell a girl that he liked her. By the end he has a heart to heart with his friend and confesses everything to the girl. He grows.

            Maybe this is all summed up in that there’s nothing Rey can’t do emotionally at the start that she can do at the end.

            And she could be flawless, that’s fine, but then she would have to be in some way beat up by the outside world but remain steadfast to the point that the world changes instead of her. But they haven’t set this up either.

            This is “the thing” that’s wrong but people can’t put their finger on it, so they say words like “Mary Sue” and “she needs to struggle and train more”. They see she is flawless yet they don’t see her beat down by the outside world (train, struggle) so they’re left floating without a main character to anchor them.

          • Cuesta

            We do see her acting different, like when she rejects a job offer from Han Solo, when Finn abandons her, or when Maz Kanata tells her that she has to realize her parents aren’t coming back. She runs away, gets her captured, then gets over it, with the help of her friends when they face Kylo Ren.

            However subtle, it is all there- from alone, and purposeless; to having a true friend and a mission; from running away from her problems, to face them lightsaber in hand. Growth, decay, transformation.

            Besides, I do understand you’d like to see a more clear cut character with a more visible flaw, but you can’t do that with Rey, she is market proof, and that’s truly the most important thing.
            Much like Elsa, Katniss, Daenerys or Wonder Woman. All of them with little virtue signaling flaws. All of them super popular. The Disney princesses of the millenial generation. You just can’t change the recipe.

          • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

            Yes, she rejects a job from some man she just met. Finn is by no means obligated to stay with her. Maz Kanata is trying to help her. If I remember correctly it’s not because she ran away that she gets captured, the First Order were coming anyway. But even these are acceptable as displays of her flaw – it’s all within a few minutes which could be dismissed as a bad mood. (These encounters with the flaw are what separate Acts, which may be why I feel the way I do, and why I feel like the entire movie is a First Act instead of a movie.)

            I agree about being market proof, but Elsa, Katniss and Wonder Woman are all stronger/actual characters in my view. They constantly argue with other characters, have realizations that change them/the world, and relationships that change other characters.

            But I’ll rewatch The Force Awakens and try to see if I see any more. Thank you for this discussion, Cuesta, you brought up great points that I’ll mull over.

  • Kane

    1. Rey’s parents are midichlorins. You know how Vader was immaculately conceived. Well Rey one uped both Vader and Jesus by being conceived without a father… or a MOTHER :o!
    2. Rey is a clone manufactured from the DNA of several great Jedi. When the scientist’s who created her realized she had enough raw power to do chores with the force, they hid her away from the first order along with broom boy.
    3. Rey doesn’t have parents because she is actually Ferris Bueller and thus a figment of Camron’s imagination.
    4. Rey’s daddy is Snoke. He wiped her memory and planted her to infiltrate the rebels and destroy the franchise from the inside. Also, Snoke is not dead he will return to reveal his true identity as either Jules or Voldemort.
    5. She is the product of a torrid cross species affair between Chewbacca and Leia. That explains the icy reception Chewbacca gets from everyone. Kylo Ren was sent to the dark side after walking in on the two, this is why he killed Han, he was like, it’s better to die not knowing about this one Dad.

    Ok, I’m only serious about the clone thing. I thought that was where we were headed as it would have been a good foil to Finn’s background. Being manufactured would also explain her perfection. But being manufactured as a weapon by the First Order could have opened some dramatic choices in the next film. I never understood why the Empire only cloned cannon fodder in the first place.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Kane, you are an intellectual badass. Keep those ideas flowin’.

  • Radu Huciu

    Ok serious question time: in these comments alone there have been better suggestions to what the entire new trilogy should have been like / about than what we’ve been given thus far, i.e. TFA and TLJ.

    So my question is — HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

    Not angry, just curious. How do a bunch of nameless amateurs come up with better things than the people we look up to and want to be, or at least want to be in business with?

    How does that happen?

    Seriously. This is not coming from a place of hate, I’m just trying to understand so I can become a better person / writer.

    Were their fearful that exploring new stories would alienate the hardcore OT fans?

    Was it that they only cared about money over quality and as long as we paid for those tickets they didn’t care?

    Was it too many chefs in the kitchen?

    What the hell happened?

    How do WE, for all intents and purposes a bunch of nobodies, come up with better stuff?

    And don’t gimme that “time constraints” bullshit, they had enough time and enough people on this to craft something better than ctrl+c, ctrl+v.

    • wlubake

      We don’t have to deal with the consequences of our suggestions. We can throw shit out there, but don’t have to fit it into a 6-hour narrative involving these characters. I can promise you 75% of the “better” ideas thrown around here would also be torn to shreds by the populace had they been used in the movie.

      • Radu Huciu

        Agreed, but here’s my thing: all things being equal, I’d rather see something bad that is TRYING than something bad that is not.

        TFA and TLJ, beyond the details of why they turned out to be the way they did, in my mind failed for one reason — giving me exactly the same thing again. As in literally, especially TFA. They weren’t even trying and I remember feeling insulted watching it, as an audience member.

        And I’m going to say something messed up here for a lot of you and please note I’m not a SW fan, I’m your average SW casual dude, but at the very least the prequels gave me new things. Sure they were horribly bad new things, but at least they were new. With TFA and TLJ I got nothing new.

        Like literally walking out of the theatre I felt nothing. The story hadn’t been pushed forward. The character were more or less in the same spot. And worst of all I’d seen all those things before in Hope and Empire. And some even in Jedi.

        • wlubake

          I would disagree that there is nothing new. Here’s broadly how I’d classify each of the three sets of trilogies:

          1. Prequels – The fall of a hero into darkness.
          2. Original – The rise of a hero to battle evil.
          3. New – The struggle of two people between the light and the dark.

          So the least compelling of those summaries above is the Original trilogy, thought to be the best of the bunch (I share this thought). We see that ALL. THE. TIME. Now it’s timing secured it’s place as one of the best hero’s journeys, but summed up, that is all it is. A three-movie version of a superhero origin story.

          The prequels had a great theme, but terrible execution to show it. Bad story, bad acting, just bad.

          The new group really differentiates itself by focusing on two people, rather than one. And they are counterparts. Their contrast and connection drive the narrative. This is a bold choice, and something new for these films that had previously focused on single protags (Luke in the Original and Anikan in the Prequels). And I’d say that TLJ really builds on that more than TFA to really set the tone of the trilogy. Episode IX will have to develop Kylo and Rey both after the stage set by TLJ. It isn’t perfect, but it definitely feels like a step outside of prior Star Wars fare.

    • Justin

      It’s easier to come up with better fixes/suggestions when the product is already out there. If we were coming up with ideas for TFA or TLJ from scratch, I doubt most of us would be able to do better than the studios have done.

      Plus, like wlubake mentioned, there’s no consequences or pressure with our suggestions.

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        No, some of us would do better. Some of us ROCK and can world and plot build. Don’t sell this place short. Scirptshadow is a place where great minds meet. Don’t let that intimidate you, young Justin. You have so much potential.

        • Justin

          True, but notice I said most of us. I’m very much aware that some Scriptshadowers (and other non-produced writers) have more potential and insight and skill than some industry professionals.

          • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

            Yay! We’re winners! (I needed that, in the absence of “FIRST” validation for living was fading, now my hope in mankind is restored–all thanks to Justin)

      • Radu Huciu

        Agreed with the no consequences or pressure thing, I actually replied to wlubake saying that.

        Couldn’t disagree more with your first part of the argument though. It actually pains me to see you hold the studios up to such high regard. Couldn’t do better than the studios? For real? That’s your bar? The same people who couldn’t care less about story and character if it comes at the expanse of money?

        It’s true, the world is full of people that will never make it in any industry and are only clogging the system thinking they can. It’s also true most of them are here on this site right now.

        But nothing is more true than the fact that among them are the next generation of writers who have already outdone the current one. The only thing missing? A chance.

        And any writer who thinks isn’t good enough for the studios is a writer not worthy of that badge. Not good enough? Boy I write studio movies for breakfast. I have a freaking stencil for it. I can do two per month. It’s them who aren’t worthy of me. Of my vision. Of my courage. Of my power.

        • Justin

          I’m being reasonable. It’s not that I don’t think I or any other writer couldn’t do better than the studio, but there’s so much more things to consider. Nowadays, studios are pumping out these tentpole films without any careful attention to the story. The scripts seem to be rushed (look at Suicide Squad and the Inhumans TV series, and possibly the new Jurassic World sequel), and they’re more interested in turning a profit than actually building a well-crafted script.

          Christopher Nolan said as much in an interview (if I recall correctly). The reason why DC films have lagged is due to the fact that they don’t have the luxury of time. Nolan wanted to make a great Batman film without worrying about the possibility of sequels, even though it was discussed. He focused on creating a great Batman film first, then worried about TDK and TDKR when the time came after. He held nothing back and didn’t try to save anything for later sequels — he went all-out with the film he was directing right then.

          I’m not saying you’re wrong about your last comment, but try keeping to a studio’s ridiculous tight schedule in coming up with a hundred million dollar script, all the while having the head honchos breathing down your neck and interfering with the script/project throughout the entire thing.

  • MrMcGuffin

    What if Rey’s parents (or one of them at least) had been one of the Jedi’s training under Luke? It would establish her connection to the Force, and would mean that he/she was murdered by Kylo Ren. It would also mean that Luke had failed Rey.

  • Thaddeus Arnold

    The best dramatic choice for Rey’s parents might have been that she’s Kylo’s sister. Her having to confront both her long lost brother and the mother who abandoned her would make for good drama while satisfying the audience’s expectations regarding her Jedi lineage. But honestly, the poor way they set up her being abandoned in TFA makes that too big of a leap for people to believe. She’d surely remember everyone seeing she was left on Jakku at around 9 or 10.

    • lonestarr357

      But then people would be bitching this out as ‘fanfiction nonsense’…and they wouldn’t be incorrect.

      • Thaddeus Arnold

        Wow. Didn’t expect an insult but okay.

        • lonestarr357

          Wasn’t going for ‘insult’ as much as ‘you can’t please all the people all the time’.

          I don’t even care for Star Wars much, but I have seen my share of fanfiction nonsense.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Fuck it! All this talk about Rey’s parents, what if momma Rey is Meddi. And poppa Rey is Clorian. She was little born from a Middi/Clorian union. Too bad this encompassing force turned out to be dead-beat parents. Who knew? That’s the “big reveal” of the franchise.

  • wlubake

    Rey’s parentage: How do you train the next generation of Jedi? Why a Jedi sperm bank, of course. That’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but I could imagine that Luke was the “father” to a whole generation of new Jedi, with Ben Solo being the only one he was training who wasn’t Luke’s. Thus, it hurts that much more when Ben slaughters the bunch. Rey was part of that group, but Luke saved her, hid her away, and blocked her memory using the force. All to protect his last “child”.

    Snoke: I really liked what they did there, so I wouldn’t make any changes. Snoke was just backdrop. There’s nothing compelling about him. Make more room for Kylo to claim his place. That’s how Kylo surpasses his grandfather – by doing what the loyal servant Vader never could. He takes control himself, rather than cowering to a supreme leader/emperor.

    Now for what I really wanted to see with this trilogy:

    Luke’s brush with Vader and the Emperor showed him how much of his father is in him. The dark side is there. He took that light saber and tried to strike down the Emperor. He has hate in him. After ROTJ, he tries to focus on the light and is training a new generation of Jedi. But the dark side keeps creeping out of him, and it is seeping into his students – most notably his nephew, Ben Solo. So he shuts down his school. But several of the students, led by Ben, are too hungry for knowledge in the force. Ben turns to Snoke, and recruits like-minded classmates to form the Knights of Ren. They descend on the rest of their class and slaughter them to prevent a possible foe. Luke escapes, but goes into exile, seeing what his tendencies toward the dark side have done. With the Knights of Ren at his disposal, Snoke’s rise to power is swift. The rebellion is young, led by one of the few people experienced with this sort of thing – Leia. They are completely disorganized and desperate. Leia pins her hope on the only person she trusts to lead them – Luke. Hence the search for Luke in Episode VII.

    As for Han, well he and Leia were always in trouble as a couple. Their tumultuous relationship played no small part in Kylo’s tendencies toward darkness. When Han finally left, Ben began to hate him.

    As for Rey, she’s been on Luke’s radar for some time. A potential student in the new Jedi order, her abandonment on Jakku left her too prone to darkness. Too emotionally unstable. But it is no mistake that Lor San Tekka was on Jakku. He’s there to help keep an eye on one of the potentially most powerful force-sensitive people in the galaxy – Rey. And when BB-8 has that map, he makes sure BB-8 can find the one person on Jakku capable of helping them carry out this mission.

    Honestly, Finn and Poe are reasonably well handled, IMO. They are supporting characters in Kylo and Rey’s story. We could use more from them, but they serve the purpose of moving the plot forward.

    I think that is the key to this trilogy versus the prior two. One of our key figures is Kylo Ren. What if the original trilogy spent as much time getting to know Vader as it did Luke? We don’t need a Han Solo here, as we are focusing much more on our bad guy.

    • jbird669

      I’m wondering if Kylo told her a half truth. In the flashback scene in TFA, you hear someone tell young Rey they’ll come back for her. Maybe they were Resistance/Republic people in danger and had to make a hasty retreat. They weren’t Jedi, just average folk, so from that aspect, Kylo told the truth, but added the lie of being drunks to spur her into joining him?

  • ChadStuart

    Often, when you have a second or third act problem, its root cause is way back in the first act. That’s the problem with Snoke. It’s not that he was killed so soon that’s the problem, it’s that he was a) set-up so poorly in the last film, and b) Kylo Ren is such a weak character that you don’t believe he can carry on the First Order, so Snoke dying lets all of the dramatic pressure out of the room. So many of the issues with The Last Jedi trace right back to The Force Awakens. That’s the albatross no one wants to talk about.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Come up with solutions, sunny boy. That’s what we’re about here.

  • Stephjones

    Can we set aside Star Wars for the moment and discuss Pitch perfect 3? I just know there’s some other “Pitches” out there as excited as I am to see Fat Amy and the gang, back together again, singing as if their life depended on it? Or, if you’re not into that, let’s discuss A Bad Mom’s Christmas? Wouldn’t it be brilliant if they could somehow combine the two? They can impregnate and domesticate all of the Pitches for Pitch perfect 4 then, what fun it’ll be to watch them sing off some real steam ala Bad Mom style during their wildly dysfunctional but heartfelt journey into…uh…whatever it is they arc into?
    Sign me up for that sunday matinee with a senior discount right now!

    • wlubake

      I’ll say this about the Pitch Perfect franchise – they are out of good ideas for plot. PP2 was horrendous from a plotting standpoint. Just silly. BUT…it was still really fun. Good comedy writing and gags. The cast seems to work well together. Good job with new supporting characters like the German group and Keegan.

      The biggest problem they have in that franchise is that all of the relationships are so resolved at the end of PP1, that nothing feels compelling. All the girls are buddies. Boyfriend just adores her. It is all external conflict, and PP3 looks like more of the same with the “cool rock group” rivals. I can’t get excited for it, but if it is as funny as the last two, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it whenever I get around to watching.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      It’s a little early for sarcasm, but I get it.

    • Citizen M

      Forget Star Wars.

      First, Pitches!
       

  • Justin

    It would’ve been badass to see the lineage from Vadar and Obi-Wan fight it out.

    • AstralAmerican

      Interesting… and agreed.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    I still can’t believe that “The Last Jedi” is a Disney movie. Gotta give those guys some props. They delivered something different than what they’re known for.

  • RS

    Yeah, the set up never made sense to me, and if you open with a scrawl that seems to promise the discovery of Luke is the key to the episode, but then in the end has very little to do with the actual events it’s all the more confusing. It would have made more sense if they found him and he held the key to blowing up the star killer or came back to assist them or united factions within the alliance. Anyway, I thought TFA was a fail almost all the way around. I hope Jedi will be better but probably won’t get to it for a few weeks.

    • RO

      I thought a few times that it would be more dramatic if Luke was captured and placed in a prison that suppressed his connection to the force. Because the crawl states: Luke Skywalker has vanished. It doesn’t say he ran away. I think it would have been great that in his quest for saving Ben he wound up being captured and needed rescuing. And because the place he’s on prevents him from using the force, his options for escaping are dramatically reduced. Haven’t given any more though to this idea yet, but I feel a reversal of the princess saving the Jedi would be fun for a film.

      • RS

        None of it felt natural or the right way to continue the story. It felt like they were checking other boxes first, female lead, minority character, original series character, big bad guy, death star….and then after that they wrote a story around it. I’m not sure it’s possible to “write” a good SW movie anymore because there are too many other factors that go into it before words are scribbled on a page. We can nit pick on story points, but the larger issue is story, character development, plot, and so on are all taking a back seat in the SW product that we’ve been seeing since the prequels. Maybe even with Jedi. I still think the Ewoks were thrown in to be cute for kids.

        • RO

          Ewoks were used in place of the wookies. It was cheaper and faster to find hundreds of short people than hundreds of 7 foot tall actors. Plus the pragmatic nature of the story allowed Lucas to use his Vietnam analogy that he didn’t get to pay with during production of Apocalypse Now.

  • Scott Serradell

    *(I’m just spitballing here, but here’s now I would wrap of the trilogy. Enjoy.)

    EPISODE IX: REBIRTH OF THE REPUBLIC

    Several months after the battle at Crait, General Leia Organa has died. A funeral is held on Helex, home of the new Resistance base. Support for their cause has grown considerably.

    Finn is elected the new leader of the Resistance. He and Rose have married, and she informs him that she is expecting their child.

    Rey is having troubling visions, of “a world I’ve never been…but seems so familiar.” She communicates with Kylo Ren, via telepathy, to inform him of Leia’s death.

    Kylo is descending into madness, haunted by visions of Han, Luke, and Snoke. He asks her once again to join him, to rule the galaxy together. She refuses. He tells her she will die with her friends, and they will no longer communicate this way.

    Poe learns of a secret weapon that will “bring the First Order to its knees.” He informs Finn, who is hesitant to pursue this lead, thinking it’s a trap. Poe disobeys him and takes a squadron of fighters to the planet Tyrnavos, where the weapon is supposedly kept.

    General Hux, fearing Kylo’s erratic behavior will doom the First Order, contacts the surviving members of the Knights of Ren, who feel betrayed by Kylo. Hux wants them to kill Kylo so he can become Supreme Leader.

    Rey takes the Falcon and goes to Aggo, the planet she’d seen in her dreams. There she finds an ancient Force temple called the Nada, and meets the caretaker, Jorga. Rey tells him that this place “feels like home.” Jorga informs her that this is where she was born; her parents were once Jedi who had escaped the Emperor’s plan 66. They had left her on Jakku because they were being hunted. They died shortly thereafter.

    *(So what Kylo said was true; they were nobody. But from a certain point of view ;)

    Jorga explains that both the Jedi and the Sith can no longer use the Force, but since the Force cannot die it will find new ways of manifesting itself. He implies that Rey may one day discover that way. That night she has a vision of Kylo dying at the hands of the Knights of Ren. She takes the Falcon to stop them.

    On Tyrnavos Poe meets with the keeper of the secret weapon, only to find out it was a trap laid by Kylo Ren and the First Order. Finn learns of this and sends the rest of the Resistance. But in saving Poe Finn left his own ship vulnerable and it was destroyed; Rose was killed. Feeling responsible Poe leaves the Resistance.

    The Knights of Ren ambush Kylo and a massive fight ensues. Rey arrives and defeats the Knights of Ren but Kylo is badly hurt. She takes him to a remote planet and nurses him back to health. They fall in love.

    Believing Kylo dead, Hux assumes the role of Supreme Leader and plans his inauguration on Coruscant. Finn plans for the Resistance to overtake the inauguration so they can get their message to all the system leaders, who will be in attendance. In doing so, they hope to sway everyone to their cause and stop the First Order once and for all.

    Rey learns of this plan and convinces Kylo to help the Resistance. They go to Coruscant.

    At the inauguration, a massive battle ensues.

    Kylo and Rey corner Hux. Rey wants to bring him to justice but Kylo kills him. Kylo’s madness, provoked by ghost of Snoke, returns. Kylo wants Rey to rule the galaxy with him. She refuses. He attempts to kill her and their fight goes into the old Jedi Temple. Kylo, in his anger, brings the temple on top of them, but saves Rey at the last minute. “Remember me as Ben Solo” he tells her before he is crushed to death.

    Finn and the Resistance are outnumbered and outgunned. The tables are turned when a squadron of fighters sympathetic to the Resistance, led by Poe, drive the First Order back. The Resistance has won. Finn makes an announcement to all the systems that a New Republic will be formed. He is elected the First New Chancellor.

    Years later, Rey is on a peaceful planet with her young twin sons. They ask about their father, and Rey tells them that she loved him and he watches over them. She looks up and sees Ben Solo smiling back at her. Then around him the ghosts of Han, Luke, and Leia appear. Rey smiles back at them.

    The End.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      #hiredbyDisneyonthespot Yeah, baby!

    • BMCHB

      Great pitch, Scott! Really enjoyed it :-)

      One note: Maybe have Kylo in Vadar’s castle on Mustafar when the KOR attack him? Might be an awesome backdrop for the ultimate laser sword showdown! Kylo and Rey versus the Knights of Ren.

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        Yeah, Scott really did a good job on nailing down some solid plot points in short order. I second, BMCHB. Good job, Scott.

    • jbird669

      I enjoyed your pitch, but I don’t see Finn as a leader. Poe, yes, but not Finn. My only critique.

    • AstralAmerican

      I actually enjoyed this too, except for one major change: Finn and Rey — not Finn and Rose! You (in general) want to take risks…? Try that one on for size in a major franchise.

  • JasonTremblay

    I like that her parents were nobodies, but I really react negatively to them giving her up. What if she thinks they did that, but really she was taken…for a very good reason, though. Perhaps to thwart a prophecy?

    To make it an audience pleaser, reveal that when she was taken…wait for it…Lando Calrissian was involved.

    Please send me my cheque now.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Damn straight!

  • BMCHB

    … and they all lived wealthily ever after.

    THE END

  • carsonreeves1

    My favorite meme to come out of The Last Jedi is the creepy look Luke gives Rey while milking a sea-walrus. The internet is going to town with it and I can’t stop laughing.

  • carsonreeves1

    Question only super Star Wars nerds will be able to answer.

    It’s stated that Rey’s parents were nobodies who sold her off for beer money. But who did they sell her to? Rey doesn’t have a foster family on Jakku. Nor does anybody own her. Why would you pay for a little girl if you don’t actually get the girl?

    I’m not trolling. I’m genuinely curious.

    • RO

      Great question. One that I guess JJ will have to answer. But he’s never answered any questions to his mystery boxes before so, I doubt anything will come of it.

    • Erica

      My guess is that Kylo was lying, he may not know the parents or he doesn’t want to tell her, he wants her to join with him. After all he was lying to her about what happened with Luke so there no reason to believe he see’s things a different way.

      Most likely who was looking after her has passed, leaving her all alone.

    • klmn

      They sold her to Harvey Weinstein.

      Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  • carsonreeves1

    But if he bought her from her parents, why doesn’t he own her? She lives on her own.

    • Reality Check

      Per Wookieepedia, “Roughly sixteen years after the Battle of Endor, a youngling who called herself Rey was left with him on Jakku.[6] Rey worked for Unkar directly until she began coordinating with other scavengers. The young teen eventually struck out on her own, becoming one of the best scavengers on Jakku. Because of that, Unkar’s thugs had orders to make sure she was left alone.” This is all from some EU material, I guess.

      • carsonreeves1

        Ah ha. I see. He bought her then let her do her own thing.

  • Erica

    OT: Just to break things up a bit, it’s an older video but still funny as hell.

    • Malibo Jackk

      As a part time doctor and airline pilot, I approve this message.

    • klmn

      Now that’s comedy. Just goes to show we need more violence in our comedies.

  • g r e n d l

    At 5:40 the Red Letter Media guys mention how the decisions in this film felt like reactions to fan complaints about the previous films.

    It’s a new form of creativity, subverting expectation just to shut the pundits up.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Which guy is Carson??

    • Zapotage

      Lucas did this with the prequels. People complained of wooden acting in The Phantom Menace. In Attack of the Clones Obi Wan was quipping one liners while Anakin and Padme got romantic. People complained Jar Jar sucked. In Clones there was barely any Jar Jar. People wanted more action instead of Senate hearings. In Clones Lucas brought out like 100 Jedi battling CGI Droids.

      Lucas tried to give the fans what they wanted, but was so out of touch. However, he succeeded a little because most fans will say the prequels were weak, but the third one was pretty good. So he course corrected the best he could and made some progress through practice by Revenge of the Sith.

      I liked many elements of Last Jedi, but it was overstuffed. Part of it was JJ’s fault, but I believe with more creativity Rian Johnson could’ve delivered a more balanced, tight film with at least 30 minutes cut out. He also needed to give Finn and Poe better things to do, instead of wasting time on unnecessary characters.

      Keep it to the core: Rey, Kylo, Luke, Leia, Finn and Poe. The rest probably don’t need to be there or don’t need as much time. Except for Benicio Del Toro, because he should be in every movie….what da fuuuuuck….

  • Reality Check

    I don’t find your ad hominem attack persuasive (or accurate), and your insinuation that only “nerds” who need to “date more” would be discussing the biggest film in the world is bizarre — particularly in a thread about discussing said film.

    Your proposition that the choice was made simply in a contrarian response to “online pundits” is your supposition, and doesn’t seem to have any basis in anything we’ve been told. But, even if we grant that this is the origin of the story choice, that doesn’t mean it’s not organic to the story. How would it be “organic” for any of Luke/Leia/Han to abandon a child? How would it be “organic” for Obi-Wan to have some heretofore unknown family from which she descended? I’d be happy to consider any such explanation, particularly if they were offered in a spirit of conversation and discussion rather than ignorant personal insult.

  • Shadowstrife

    This whole Disney adventure smacks of a rushed-to-production cash grab.

    Why couldn’t all involved in this, sit down in a conference room beforehand and Kevin Feige the heck out of it?

    Would it not make more sense to hash out a loose plan for each new Episode and get directors to stick to it?

  • -n8-

    Yup– the exact reaction I had with the reveal in blade runner 2049

  • HRV

    And what happened to Mark Hamill for being the only one to stand up to Johnson? His character gets killed off. (seems he might have had no idea this was done until the premier showed — check out his look on YouTube)

    • BMCHB

      I really liked TLJ… BUT… there was obviously problems on set.

      Check out this local (to me) interview with Daisy from 00.30 . Strangest response I’ve ever heard on a promo tour…

  • BMCHB

    Again, I really enjoyed The Last Jedi.

    Bemused by those COMPLAINING that they did not. They pays their money and takes their chance.

    Let’s be really honest. If their father, their mother, their sister, their brother; if their dead grandparents’ ghosts came back to tell them that they wouldn’t like this movie, they would still go. Why?

    I’ve been around this planet, from sub-Saharan Africa to the far east of China. Heard a lot of stories. Most of them I don’t believe. But I have discovered that there is something stronger than the Force in this Galaxy.

    It’s called marketing. Disney do it better than anyone else.

  • Reality Check

    I meant the “get out more” jokingly but will happily retract it if it means so much to you and is the source of your aggression.

    My argument against Luke sending his daughter off to be protected by Unkar Plutt (and it is established in TFA that she is left with Plutt) is that it is evident that Plutt is an unsavory and untrustworthy figure, and she is consigned to a difficult and dangerous life in order to get by. She may be “hidden” in this scenario, but doesn’t seem “protected” in any real sense.

    The choice would be even more curious in that we know there’s a Jedi-friendly figure in Max Von Sydow’s character, who at the time of TFA is also on Jakku. Of course, we don’t know if he and his group was on Jakku at the time Rey was left there, but he was certainly somehwere. At the very least, Luke would have left her with someone he could truly trust (much in the way Obi-Wan left Luke and Leia with people he could trust).

    Now, I suppose you could concoct a backstory wherein Plutt used to be good but turned corrupt … but you still have Luke leaving her in a junkyard for “protection”. I would find that clumsy and just don’t think it works very well.

  • Erica

    “Well here’s where Johnson gets it wrong. He forgot that there are two sides to every screenwriting choice. There’s the character you’re making the choice for. And then there’s the audience you’re forcing the choice upon”

    This just came to me as it’s been on my mind all day after reading this.

    Do/should the writer make choice’s to better serve the audience? It seems that the way TV Drama’s have been going these days, I would say no. Look at The Walking Dead. As a fan I still don’t like the fact that the writer’s killed of Glenn or Beth for that matter. But did that impact the story, yes. It tells the audience that the old TV or Movie’s your parents watched are over. It’s no longer safe to go back in the water…

  • RO

    This just came to me, but the motivation for Luke exiling himself is similar to what Jeff Bridges did in Tron Legacy. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some similar beats repeated in TLJ that you can find in Tron Legacy.

  • Poe_Serling

    ESCAPE FROM THE NORTH POLE

    Wonder if it’s the Black List project that HQ is planning to review tomorrow before
    “updates [become] sporadic” over the next couple of weeks.

    ;-)

  • Midnight Luck

    Still haven’t seen it.

    I guess it’ll be a long, long while, and maybe another galaxy, until I can read the article or comments.

  • D.C. Purk

    I think Rian Johnson is just not a good writer. Some of the best directors admit to their inability to write good screenplays (Spielberg). They only excel at translating them. But give them a good screenplay, and they’ll own it. They’ll elevate it beyond your wildest expectations. I can’t think of ONE good movie Rian Johnson made that had an exceptional screenplay. It’s just his “vision” and “theme” peppered over a flawed story. And that can actually work sometimes, but usually it doesn’t. The problem is when someone becomes successful too soon. Then he/she has no incentive to get better. He/she just continues to believe their own crap, for better or worse. That’s basically what we’re seeing here.

  • brenkilco

    Yes there are a few other things going on. So much that the revenge question seems to be forgotten for acts at a time. And the fact is, that extraordinary as the Bard’s gifts were, he couldn’t plot worth a damn.

  • brenkilco

    Well, if you’re Hawks and Bogart and William Faulkner and you’ve got Chandler’s dialogue to work with then you can make a classic out of pretty incoherent mystery plot, but mere mortals beware.

    Have made a small study of the reasons for all the confusion in this movie. Which I love, by the way. Some of it stems from Chandler who created the novel by combining several unconnected short stories. And some of it rests with the production code which forced the filmmakers to seriously fuzz up just who had killed Sean Regan. Since murderers back then weren’t allowed to get away with it.

    The original version of the movie, never released, contains a scene where Bogart tries to explain what’s going on to the DA. Pretty funny. It lasts forever and doesn’t make things one bit clearer.

  • malpuesto

    My Two Cents even though I know I’m new (lurker) and a couple of days late:

    I think the Last Jedi could’ve been a great film if it was rewritten.

    Here’s what I would’ve done with Rian Johnson’s script.

    I would’ve looked to another great sequel for inspiration: the Godfather Part II. One of the things I love about the film is that it shows the rise of Don Corleone interspersed between Michael’s journey in trying to legitimize his family business despite the setbacks and betrayals. I think the new trilogy desperately needs to fill in the blanks on what happened between the original trilogy and this one. I don’t think the revelation that Luke thought about murdering Ben Solo was strong enough. There needs to be more to his arc. My idea would remedy that. And it would get rid of the Canto Bight subplot since it didn’t add much to the story or Finn’s character.

    The flashbacks could be done with Rey as she trains with Luke. Rey sneaks into the temple and learns a few things from the books on her own time, including how to look into people’s minds like Kylo did to her. So she starts probing Luke while he sleeps and sees his tragic backstory of how he built and lost his Jedi temple.

    The flashbacks would be as follows: Luke is the only Jedi left and he has a vision to open a school to revive the Jedi Order. Even though he is a war hero and brother to Leia, he wants this to be the will of the the Republic, so he asks people donate galactic credits to help build the school. Because of his stature, word gets out and people start donating. One day, Luke gets a huge sum of money from a donor. A mysterious old tycoon named Snoke. He made his fortune making spaceships for the Republic. Snoke comes off as affable and says he got his scars during the Great Rebellion due to the Empire setting up a base on his planet which was rich in materials for making weapons.

    Luke takes Snoke’s generosity at face value and builds the school and eventually starts to recruit force sensitive kids and teenagers, including his young nephew, Ben, who has always been strong with the Force. Little does Luke know, Snoke has been wanting an apprentice and is using Luke to find the most powerful Force user, which turns out to be Ben. As the students become more powerful, Snoke takes a greater interest in the school, even offering to pay for “field trips” away to other planets so the Padawans can be more cultured on matters in the galaxy. This is convenient for Luke because he’s also on a mission to find the original Jedi temple. He’s scouted different parts of the galaxy using a compass he found in Palpatine’s fortress, but hasn’t had any luck. While Luke goes on his search, Snoke uses the field trips to get close to Ben and probe into his estranged relationship with his father, Han, who has left the family and his tumultuous relationship with his mother, who he blames for making Han leave.

    Eventually Snoke shows Ben his true powers with the Force, never saying it’s the Dark Side. Instead he lies and says that Luke is intentionally holding Ben back because Luke wants to remain the most powerful Jedi. Ben learns these secret techniques from Snoke and accidentally uses one of them in anger while training under Luke, which makes Luke get suspicious of Ben and wonders where he learned how to probe people’s minds. It’s not something he taught people yet. And when he tries to probe Ben’s mind, he’s blocked. He knows somebody or something is teaching Ben, but he doesn’t know who.

    Luke fears there maybe another Sith alive. He has a vision of Ach-To while meditating with the Force. He believes that the key to finding and defeating the Sith lies there. He closes the school down temporarily and takes aways his students’ lightsabers. Everyone is disappointed by his action, but Luke tells them he will return. Ben is especially angry and feels betrayed by his uncle. He goes to Snoke to tell him the news including the fact that Luke took away his lightsaber. Snoke smiles and takes him to his “workshop” where he shows him his collection. Ben takes a liking to one lightsaber that has a crossguard on it. “You made these?” “Of course. A real Jedi should be able to make their own lightsaber.” “Show me.” Snoke smiles, knowing he has Ben in the palm of his hand now.

    Luke finally finds the coordinates to Ach-To and arrives, finding the ancient temples and the indigenous population and the Holy Tree. Inside, he finds what he was always looking for: the first Jedi texts and scrolls. As he reads, he finds one text that is from the biographer of the first Jedi. In it, Luke stumbles upon the writer describing a Jedi who became obsessed with prolonging his life to obtain immortality. The Jedi was named Ken-So. He was the Jedi who invented the lightsaber. He built them from the crystals found inside the core of the island. He was eventually banished from the Jedi Order. Believing himself to be powerful enough, he took on the original Jedis and fought them, but he was no match for all of them and was defeated, leaving him horribly scarred. The Jedi in their earliest form were against murder, so they left Ken-So alive and used their power collectively to wipe his memory of the Force and the temple. They exiled him and left him on another planet and they never heard from him again. That’s when Luke sees a sketch of the original Jedi order standing at the Holy Tree and sees that Ken-So is Snoke. Luke immediately takes off from Ach-To.

    He arrives back to Coruscant to inform Leia about Snoke and tells her they need to get Ben but she says he is at the Jedi Academy with Snoke and the others. Luke tells Leia to stay behind and that he’ll bring Ben back to her. Snoke and Ben are there to recruit the rest of the academy to join them and “continue their teaching.” Half are intrigued once they see Snoke use the Force and offers them his lightsabers. They’re like kids in a candy store. A small sect know something is rotten in Dagaboh that Master Skywalker isn’t there and refuse. Snoke says, “Then will be your final lesson.” He smiles and looks at Ben who turns on his newly built lightsaber. Ben engages the loyal Padawans with his lightsaber and takes them on all at once. Most of the people intrigued by Snoke’s power just watch except for a couple that join Ben and they start killing off the Padawans.

    That’s when Luke finally makes it to the school and sees Ben massacring his pupils with his own eyes. Only one is left when he’s stabbed from behind. He looks at Luke and gasps, “Master…” just before he dies. Luke is mortified. He calls out Snoke by his true name, “Ken-So.” Snoke smiles, “That is the first time in a millennia since I have heard that name. And it will be the last.” But instead of attacking Luke, Snoke orders Ben to kill his uncle. Ben hesitates. Luke tries to reason with him, claiming Snoke is a Sith. Snoke laughs at the notion, “I am no Sith. I am the First Jedi.”

    Ben attacks Luke and they engage in a lightsaber duel. It’s competitive, but Luke is never trying to hurt Ben. He gets the upper hand and disables Ben and takes his lightsaber away from him. Then we get a moment similar to the Last Jedi wear Luke holds the lightsaber to Ben’s throat and thinks about killing him… He looks in his eyes and sees a scared boy. Before Luke can turn off his lightsaber, Snoke uses his powers to bring part of the ceiling down on Luke. Luke dodges it and the piece floats above Ben long enough for him to move out of the way. Snoke burns the temple conjuring lightning and continues to destroy the temple, bringing it down on Luke who is too distraught to focus on fighting Snoke. He runs away as his Academy as it catches on fire. By the time he escapes, his ship has been disabled and Snoke and Ben and the disciples who eventually become the Knights of Ren leave on their ship.

    R2D2 comes out of Luke’s ship and finds him devastated as he watches his school burn to the ground. And this is why Luke is so distraught. Not because he thought about killing his nephew, but because he allowed Snoke to gain power right under his nose just like Yoda and the others did with Emperor Palpatine and on top of that, he lost his nephew to the Dark Side. He informs Leia about what happened and decides to go back to Ach-To to see if he can learn more about Snoke since it appears he might be immortal. And this is why Luke has “exiled” himself. He’s trying to learn about how to defeat Snoke aka Ken-So. And the reason why Snoke hasn’t been able to find the Ach-To is because the Holy Tree/planet has cloaked itself in order to protect itself. The location of the planet is the only memory Snoke hasn’t been able to remember and this is why he wants the map in the Force Awakens. He doesn’t only want to kill Luke, he wants the Ancient Jedi Texts so he can learn to how become a God.

    Well, I know that was a lot to read, but that’s what I would’ve replaced the Canto Bight subplot with and also make Snoke a more interesting character other than “mysterious bad guy.” This sets up a nice battle between the First and the Last Jedi with Ben and Rey being their “knights.” Not sure if killing Snoke off would still be in the film, but it would definitely have been saved for later in the climax. Maybe Luke does find out how to kill Snoke or knows of his weakness. Rey eventually leaves in the same manner, thinking she can reach Ben. Except when Yoda burns the Holy Tree, Luke goes inside to save the books and realizes they’re gone: Rey took them and is heading straight for Snoke, falling right into his plan. Everything happens similar in the film except Snoke is amazed to see the Ancient Texts. He tortures Rey and as this happens Luke “connects” with Kylo and shows him how to defeat Snoke. We get a similar scene where Kylo kills Snoke and Luke thinks he got through to his nephew but Kylo still only wants power and goes after the Ancient Texts. Rey fights Kylo to protect the books from him and yadda, yadda…

    As for Finn, my big issue is that the filmmakers haven’t figured him out yet. He’s a great actor with a wishy-washy part and I think the solution would be to have made Finn either a strategist for the Resistance, since he knows the most about the First Order and defenses, or be the Face of the Resistance, since he left the First Order and joined them. This would give him more to do than just run around with a “Oh Gosh” expression half the time. He could’ve had a shorter mission to convince a fleet of pilots to join the Resistance and help them. The head of these pilots could’ve still been played by Benicio Del Toro or hell, a surprise cameo by Lando. That part is murkier, but I think showing us what came before the new trilogy would’ve helped give this film and the Force Awakens more weight. If you got this far, thanks for reading! I’m out.