‘The Last Jedi’ failed its Black and Asian characters, reducing them to comic relief and Canto Bight
By Erin White
December 19, 2017
Spoilers in abundance.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a huge, dense movie with plenty to love and a good bit to hate. And if you’re a fan of cinema and know a thing or two about history, it won’t come as a surprise to you that in this film, the most suck-ass sequences and storylines are passed off onto our two of our three main leads of Color, the lovable Finn, and Resistance mechanic, newcomer Rose Tico.
The film picks off right where we left our heroes in The Force Awakens. Finn is being treated from the injuries he sustained during the forest battle with Kylo Ren and Rey. During the first 3/4ths of the film, Finn’s character arc revolves around a white woman who’s not even thinking about him. Rey, a character with a purpose, is very busy convincing Luke Skywalker to train her in the ways of the force and fighting the most epic battle in Star Wars history. In fact, I can only remember two scenes where Rey mentions Finn. Which is fine, but such a departure from Finn’s need to be with her.
And from the jump, it’s pretty bad.
When not asking where Rey is, Finn’s purpose is as funnyman. Cut to Finn—here’s a joke. Many jokes. Too many jokes. Sometimes speaking only in punchlines, Finn’s screentime too often only served as a vehicle for someone else’s development or Rian Johnson’s personal
Where Finn’s humor was perfect and limited in The Force Awakens, in The Last Jedi, the writing ends up turning him into an overplayed joke.
On the flip side, Finn’s partner-in-crime in this film is the well-intentioned, but idealistic Rose. Who I loved! Until I didn’t. In comes that godforsaken Canto Bight. To be fair, the way Canto Bight goes down, the heavy-handed political metaphors, and the Fantastic Beast scene, isn’t Roses fault, or actress Kelly Marie Tran, who is a welcome addition to the trilogy. Not only is this the WORST sequence in the film, it’s also one of the most pointless.
But what bothered me the most about Finn (and Rose) was their third act. On Crait, facing off against the First Order, our heroes brave a valiant final attempt to save the Resistance. When the mission seems lost and the remaining Rebels fall back, Finn—filled with the spirit of a kamikaze—tries to sacrifice himself by flying into General Hux gigantic blaster.
But, like, why? On what planet did Rian Johnson earn that? It’s like Finn just wanted to die. And, hey, sometimes you just wanna die. But this is the same character who, up until this very moment, has been actively running away from this possibility and now he has a death wish? “What about Rey?!?” He don’t care no ‘mo.
Where we leave Rose in this film is just as bad, wtf. After saving Finn from himself, Rose professes her love to Finn, utters some self-righteous cliches, kisses him without permission, and passes out. The worst on-screen kiss maybe ever, at that. Now, Rose’s character development throughout the film is pretty good. And by this point, she’s not so starry-eyed and she’s learned a greater lesson about resisting smarter and self-care, interestingly enough. But not before crumbling into a silly little girl with a crush. To which Finn responds with a blank face as if without a joke break, he’s got nothing to do or say.
It’s not that these characters sucked ass. And both actors did a great job! The problem is once again where there was an organic sense of and the possibility to create groundbreaking representational characters was right there to take off with and, instead, we got Canto Bight. Which was trash and served mainly to set up Rian Johnson’s Star Wars spin-off staring Broom Kid (probably).
Non-white characters can exist and be complicated without centering white protagonists and providing comic relief.