June 7, 2018
Screenwriting

Watch: Don't Blame Rose for 'The Last Jedi', Blame Finn

The weakest character in 'The Last Jedi'  is its greatest flaw.

It's been six months since the release of Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and fans are still arguing over whether the film is "good." This week, the debate was thrust forth into the spotlight once again after actress Kelly Marie Tran removed herself from social media following relentless bullying from some of the series' more intense followers. They claim, rightfully or not, that her character, Rose, is the weakest character to appear in the franchise since Jar-Jar Binks.

But how can these "fans" be so critical of her performance (neglecting those particular idiots who place a special focus on her appearance) when the real blame lies with the screenwriters? It's no secret that the character of Rose is a key member of one of the most brutally drawn out MacGuffins in cinematic history. Perhaps we should go back and evaluate where the roots of dissent from The Last Jedi really stem from.

There's no better person to investigate the flaws (or strengths) of The Last Jedi than Lessons From The Screenplay. "Occasionally, I make a video as a way of forcing myself to figure out how I feel about a film or technique, and this is exactly such a case," he explains. The video essay below is a deep dive into two of the most important character arcs in the film. One happens to be great, and the other, well, is the subject of ire.

Let's start with the obvious. Finn and Rose's journey (in contrast to the Jedi plotline), is, well, bad. LFTS makes special note of the similarities between  The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back, so if Rey's training with Luke is akin to Luke's training with Yoda, then Finn and Rose's relationship should've had the chemistry of Han and Leia. "Part of the reason is the lack of conflict between them," he explains. The real problem doesn't come from a lack of conflict with Rose, however, but from a lack of internal conflict within Finn himself.

Finn's hesitancy is perhaps only shown once in the first third of the film, and then quickly brushed aside as he makes a plan to, well, join the resistance.

A good screenwriter knows that the main character must go through a journey from the beginning to the end of the film, and as a result, grow or change in some way. At the beginning of the film, Finn was supposedly hesitant about joining the Resistance, while at the end, he puts aside his reservations and joins the Resistance. 

Did any of us really think that Finn wouldn't end up doing this? Where are the stakes? Why do we care? Finn's hesitancy is perhaps only shown once in the first third of the film, and then quickly brushed aside as he makes a plan to, well, join the resistance. As a result we, the audience, aren't emotionally involved with following this plotline at all. And it takes up about half of the movie!

LTFS cites Robert McKee's story in support of this argument, "True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure. The greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature."

A shirtless Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

Part of the reason why The Last Jedi may be so divisive among fans may be due to the fact that parallel to Finn's really weak storyline runs Kylo Ren's incredibly well-crafted storyline. "Unlike with Finn's arc," LTFS argues, "we get to see Kylo make decisions that externalize his inner struggle." If you can't appreciate the film for its mythology, then perhaps give it watch as a case study for both poor and strong character writing.

"Kylo's arc demonstrates the emotional power choices can have when the plot continually pushes characters to confront their emotional struggle," he explains. In contrast, Finn's arc is a pretty solid example of what can happen when a plot doesn't force a character to make any emotional decision whatsoever. Boredom, pure and utter boredom.      

Your Comment

13 Comments

Yes, don't blame the Asian girl, blame the black guy. That will keep the toxic racists on social media in line.

June 7, 2018 at 1:59PM

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Batutta
209

As long as you continue to create that narrative from what is pretty clearly an article based on character writing, I'm sure everything will be fine.

June 7, 2018 at 2:26PM, Edited June 7, 2:26PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

The opening paragraph mentions the relentless bullying she's faced online, so it's not a misplaced comment...I do agree Finn is not a well used character. I found it odd they continue to separate Finn and Poe when in their brief time together in Force Awakens they had great chemistry, and a clear character conflict. One wants to fight, one wants to run, but they are stuck together. In Last Jedi, again, they separated the two characters for some reason.

June 7, 2018 at 3:08PM

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Batutta
209

Blaming the actress (or even Finn) is misplaced, certainly. Everyone's vitriol should be directed squarely at Rian Johnson. I don't think there's much disagreement that he is simply a very, very, bad writer, and was not talented enough to be a part of the Star Wars universe. The script for "The Last Jedi" would have received a D- at any film school, or community college script-writing course. He is just very, very, very bad at his job.
But the blame can also be put on Disney and Kathleen Kennedy (who also does not seem to know what she's doing). How Johnson's script was approved by Disney just shows how very little talent and creativity (and basic understanding of plot and character) exists within those executives.
I believe The Last Jedi is the primary reason Solo is tanking so hard. I LOVE Star Wars, but Last Jedi has pretty much killed that love.
It's truly tragic that somehow Disney managed to find people so completely unskilled to make these movies. A random fan literally could have written a better script. You sitting there reading this. Yes you. You could have written a much better script.

June 7, 2018 at 2:17PM, Edited June 7, 2:21PM

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Bingo. We're done here.

June 7, 2018 at 4:19PM

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Jeff Cloud
Producer / Director of Photography / Photog
81

"Finn's arc is a pretty solid example of what can happen when a plot doesn't force a character to make any emotional decision whatsoever."

Because the suicide run to save his friends and fellow Resistance means nothing? If you're really looking for examples of terrible writing, just read any article posted on NoFilmSchool.

June 7, 2018 at 6:59PM, Edited June 7, 6:59PM

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Yes his suicide run means nothing because he didn’t make the choice to stop it. Rose could’ve delivered her (awful) speech about love over comms and actually make him wrestle with the choice for a moment before pulling out. But instead the choice is literally forced on him by Rose, robbing him of any arc or self-realisation.

Add to the fact that literally nothing is done with his ex-stormtrooper past across two whole films (aside from conveniently giving him exposition) when instead it could be fertile ground for conflict, inner turmoil and suspicion amongst other characters, he is a total waste of an interesting character premise.

June 7, 2018 at 11:08PM

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Mike
28

They use his Stormtrooper past as a way of framing his fear of the First Order and to show . He's set up as a soldier who refuses to slaughter innocents and subsequently flees his base. He of course gets mixed up with Rey and BB-8, but then tries to flee yet again before being drawn into the fight when Kylo abducts Rey. Finn even puts his life on the line when he faces Kylo Ren alone with a lightsaber.

He's introduced in The Last Jedi yet again as a coward who tries to flee on his own in the escape pod before realizing that the Resistance fighters (in this case, Rose's sister) have sacrificed their lives for something bigger than themselves.

He is compelled into the suicide run because he's trying to save his friends before he's stopped by Rose. His self-realization is that the suicide run is just another form of cowardly escape, and that to truly resist the evil of the First Order, he must love.

I agree that Finn's adventure is not as compelling as it could be. I really would have liked to see Poe join Finn and Rose because it would have given a little more weight to that plot line and given Poe more to do than stand around being insubordinate and cocky. But, that's part of his arc as a responsible leader, I suppose. But Finn's potential as "character premise" is irreverent because movie characters aren't real.

June 8, 2018 at 6:23PM

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June 8, 2018 at 5:45AM, Edited June 8, 5:45AM

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There are so may problems with the script I think it's totally unfair to point at any one character. The whole concept for this film is a joke.

The star wars franchise is at its best when it's framed as an adventure film, full of discovery, stories of legend and desperate survival against incredible odds. This film was a car chase with some side hijinks that cheaply made homage to earlier films. There are so many missed opportunities for character development and drama it's laughable.

It's more tragic that anyone would blame the actors for of this. It's not Boyega or Tran at fault. It's Rian and Abrams. I see Abrams's fingers are all over this.

June 8, 2018 at 11:42AM, Edited June 8, 11:54AM

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Toll
Production Manager / Producer
44

Don't forget to blame the terrible cgi puffins, the awful moments where Luke Skywalker sits on some rocks, the dreadful scenes where good girl and the bad guy Skype with their brains, and definitely don't forget to blame the fucking ice diamond fox-dogs.

It is a rubbish film, the only thing that could make it worse is Hayden Christian's frown.

June 9, 2018 at 4:13AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
741

So many critics and not enough time. I sometimes wonder about what the dialogue between commenters would be if say another world war broke out. Obviously these are good times if this is what people argue about.

June 10, 2018 at 5:18PM

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Aaron Harper
Rental House Manager
18