Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Five: The Stuttering Codebreaker (Or: The Night Ben Solo Flipped Out, Told Rashomon-Style)

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01:00:01 – 01:15:00

We begin Chapter Five of The Last Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force wishing we could wash the taste of the previous chapter out of our mouths.

I don’t hate this movie. I feel it’s important to say that again. I didn’t love it the way I did The Force Awakens, but I left the theater the first time thinking it was okay. Confusing, but okay. And, it’s this big block of stuff in Act Two that makes the movie seem unfocused and meandering.

Chapter Five begins with a continuation of Luke’s history lesson. Luke admits to Rey that he became a legend, and that for many years there was balance in the Force. Then, he thought he could train Ben Solo. Luke took Ben and a dozen other students and began a training temple. He realized that there was a darkness rising in Ben. When he went to confront his nephew, Ben turned on him. After Ben struck out, he must have thought Luke was dead. When Luke came to, the temple was burning. Ben had vanished with a handful of students and slaughtered the rest. 

This is something that I don’t think is fully addressed in this movie—something that I missed the first time:  Kylo Ren didn’t kill all of the younglings, which leads to the question, “Where are they?”  Hmm.  

Leia blamed Snoke for what happened to her son, but Luke knows that it was because of him. Luke failed. The Jedi Master. The legend.

Rey shows more of her innate pluck when she delivers the next line. “The galaxy may need a legend. I need someone to show me my place in all this. And you didn’t fail Kylo. Kylo failed you. I won’t.”

Back to the Resistance fleet. You remember them, don’t you? They are rapidly running out of fuel and the First Order is trying to wipe them out while Rey is playing around with Luke Skywalker and Finn and Rose are vacationing in Canto Bight.

In this quick scene, the medical frigate has been evacuated. Now it’s out of fuel and its shields are down. General Hux easily destroys it.

Someone informs Admiral Holdo, she of the purple hair, that their fuel reserves are down to six hours. The dramatic chronometer continues to tick.  Holdo orders them to maintain their current course.

While locked in a jail cell in Canto Bight for traffic violations, Finn and Rose meet up with a stuttering Benecio del Toro, whose character is named DJ, I think, although I’m not sure where we learn that in the movie. He overhears Finn and Rose saying that they need a thief and a codebreaker, and he claims that he can do it. He says that he has a lot of experience with First Order codeage. He demonstrates some of his skills by breaking them out of the cell. BB-8, in the meantime, has disabled the guards outside.

They head for the fathier stables. Since these space horses were mentioned earlier, we knew they’d figure into the plot somehow. Our side mission heroes manage to convince the stable children to help them escape. Rose gives one of the children a Resistance ring. The children release the fathiers, creating a stampede. Rose and Finn are mounted on one of the fathiers in the stampede, which creates havoc and destruction while running through the streets and the casino. After running along a moonlit beach cliff, Rose and Finn release the fathiers, and then they are rescued in the nick of time by a ship that appears at the cliff. It’s their new codebreaker friend and BB-8.

That’s it for the Canto Bight sequence. Rose and Finn have managed to find a codebreaker, a character right out of The Usual Suspects, and as I recall they intend to use his skills to break into that bigass Star Destroyer and disable that tracker thing the First Order has been using to track the Resistance fleet through hyperspace.

By watching this movie fifteen minutes at a time, I’m able to follow its internal logic a letter better than I could during my first viewing. Rey’s mission is to get Luke to come back and help the Resistance, which she’s doing by having him tell her the story of Ben Solo becoming Kylo Ren. Finn and Rose’s mission is to disable the tracker to allow the Resistance fleet to escape, which they are doing by riding racing beasts and stealing a spaceship with Benicio del Toro.

Back on Jedi Island, Luke briefly connects with Leia through the Force as he opens himself up to it again.

Rey and Kylo Ren continue their long-distance love affair, which is exactly what this is beginning to feel like. Rey wants to know why Kylo killed his father. Why did he hate him? Kylo claims that he didn’t hate him, but he deflects the conversation by reminding Rey that her parents discarded her like garbage.

They didn’t!” Rey says.

They did. But you can’t stop needing them. It’s your greatest weakness. Looking for them everywhere . . . in Han Solo . . . now in Skywalker. Did he tell you what happened that night?”

Kylo Ren is suggesting that Rey has Daddy issues. It’s a wonder that she wasn’t stripping at that outpost on Jakku.

Okay, now we’re getting Kylo Ren’s side of the Great Backstory. Kylo claims that Luke sensed his power, the same way he senses Rey’s, and he feared it. It was Luke who tried to kill Ben Solo, not the other way around.

Whatever. I know that this long, tortuously slow and verbose history lesson about the creation of Kylo Ren is supposed to feel like a major plot point. But, it really isn’t. And we’ve already spent too much time on it. We’re not done yet.

Rey leaves her conversation with Kylo and goes to that Big Hole underground. And this is where she discovers the Mirror Cave. As this chapter comes to a merciful close, Rey is seeing her image reflected back and forth and curving on into infinity. This feels very much like a fantasy story at this point. Along with the space horse stampede escape made possible by little space urchins, we’ve temporarily abandoned our main space opera elements in favor of the fantasy ones. Now a magic mirror.

Maybe that’s part of the reason this second act bothers me so much. Star Wars has always been more science-fantasy than science-fiction. I knew that coming into this movie. But, more weight has always been given to the sci-fi elements. As we reach the 1:15:00 mark, it’s felt like we’ve spent the last 30 minutes—a full 20% of the movie so far—dragging our feet. We keep coming back to talk about the night Ben Solo burned down the Jedi temple and killed a bunch of people. Rey and Kylo keep contacting each other like a couple of horny teenagers. The Resistance fleet keeps running out of fuel.

It’s possible that my opinion of this movie has lowered during this rewatch. I think it begins to get better, though. At least it does in my memory. Try to hang in there with me.

Until next time . . . Remember: If the Price is Right, I Could Break You into Old Man S-S-S-Snoke’s Boudoir . . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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