Spoilers for The Last Jedi below
Let me start by saying I really liked this movie- Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher put on amazing performances and I liked the double twist with Kylo Ren. The catdog racing sequence felt a little out of place but it wasn’t bad- The Last Jedi had some rough edges but it felt fresh while still being Star Wars.
What I do not like is that everything achieved in episodes 4, 5, and 6 has been turned to ash. Luke’s sole surviving student is someone he knew for a few days, the Republic and Resistance Leia worked so hard for have been crushed, and both the Solo and Skywalker families will likely be extinguished with Ben Solo’s death since I don’t see him getting a 3rd shot at redemption.
Everything was not going to be ok after the original trilogy, or what would the plot of the new trilogy be? But I find it harder to like Star Wars when all the characters I cared about have been purged from the universe. It’s too much to the point of being grimdark when you stop and think about it. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and while I will stick it out for the rest of the trilogy it has really dampened my enthusiasm for the whole expanded movie universe.
Disney and Rian Johnson have succeeded in making that universe their own, and some very good movies, but they have done this by killing what I, and judging by the very polarized audience ratings, many of the fans were anchored to the franchise by. I like Finn, Rey, and Poe, but I don’t care about them the way I did about the original trio. I went into Episode 8 wanting to know what Luke was going to do, not whether Finn would recover from his wounds. This isn’t a fair comparison, the new leads have had to share the spotlight with the previous cast. We haven’t had the same chance to get attached. It doesn’t change the fact that I won’t go see a new trilogy to find out what happened to them unless Episode 9 really steps it up.
Kylo Ren is probably the character with the most development, and I’ll go see Episode 9 to see how his arc turns out. But I’m less sure about episode 10. Maybe he’ll live through this trilogy and go on to be the villain of the next as well, betrayed by his own children in turn. That might keep me around but I don’t think it will happen. It wouldn’t have been hard to let the original characters pass something on, maybe just a montage scene of Luke and Rey training for more than a few hours so that he would have some connection with the new Jedi going forward; but that isn’t what happened, they went for the clean break intentionally.
Feeling dissatisfied, I started looking into some of the original expanded universe books. The Thrawn Trilogy was nothing special in my opinion, I read it over a weekend on a library app- Thrawn himself was interesting and there were some good moments, especially in the 3rd book, but it was a continuation of the story that was not as well executed as Episode 7 and not as interesting as Episode 8. Yet Han, Leia, and Luke hadn’t had their lives ruined off screen. So while it’s not as will written I’m planning on reading the next trilogy of books as well. Disney may have kept up the quality of the Star Wars movies but the original Star Wars was something special, a hopeful movie in a time of bleak sci-fi, a hit that everyone saw, the kind of shared cultural moment that is happening less and less frequently in the United States as media fragments. Luke, Leia, and Han were a connection to that moment, and I fear in losing them we have lost what made Star Wars special.