The Last Jedi is a great flick, so go and see it. I was initially worried that it might try to be political or do something distinctly un-Star Wars-ish, but it stuck to what makes the franchise great while taking a new twist on a lot of things. Go see it, and my only recommendation is that you remember it is over 2 hours long, so don’t drink a lot of water before you go!
This review is from a purely military strategy and tactics perspective. It contains spoilers, so don’t read if you want to be spoiler free.
Spoilers ahead….don’t say you weren’t warned!
From a military perspective, there was a lot to like, and plenty to dislike, about The Last Jedi. We’ll alternate good with bad.
Finn learns the Resistance is buying black market weapons. Finn and Rose (a new mechanic character) head to Canto Bight to find a slicer, and there they see the dark side of gambling. Rose has plenty to say about how the evil weapons manufacturers that gamble there fund the First Order. I sort of rolled my eyes, thinking that next we’ll see a Lockheed Martin logo pop up. But later the slicer they find shows Finn that the same people selling weapons to the First Order are also selling X-Wings to the Resistance!
The movie sadly then continues on, but the point is made: the Resistance isn’t entirely clean. I loved this point, which was also made in Rogue One when Saw Gerrera was compared to a terrorist. The fact that good and evil sometimes appear different from a different perspective is great, just like Episode IV resembles an ISIS recruitment effort. In real life, weapon sales to both sides isn’t exactly a new phenomenon (thanks Boeing!).
My only criticism of this point is we didn’t get more. Maybe Finn could have learned that Vice Admiral Holdo ordered those X-Wings? Maybe we could have had a confrontation with one of the arms dealers? I think the movie missed a chance to make the Resistance’s supply chain a bit more murky.
General Hux shows some smarts. In the sub-light speed pursuit, he shows patience in killing the Resistance fleet without taking huge risks. He stays focused on destroying the Rebel Transports, and he wants to continue the ground assault while Kylo Ren fights (hologram) Luke. I liked his character a bit more because he actually seemed half-way smart. We seem to always get an evil Empire force that takes attrition tactics to an extreme. Maybe this reflects declining standards in the Imperial Academy? Or maybe it reflects a lack of strategy and a focus on tactics? Sadly, this isn’t limited to Star Wars (see lack of strategy in Libya, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and a host of other conflicts).
The movie missed a chance to add one last piece of suspense with Hux. At 2 hours 33 minutes long, the movie is long, and at the end it drags a little bit. What if Hux had continued the ground assault? We could have Kylo fighting Luke with a backdrop of surging First Order troopers, running down the cave in hot pursuit. The ending could stay the same, but you’re kept in suspense. Will Leia make an Alamo-like last stand? Will Finn possibly die? Up until that point, I hadn’t noticed the time, and a ground pursuit would have been a fitting ending for the movie.
Sadly, Hux shows that he still falls for the some old problems. Like, how do you NOT deploy scores of TIE Fighters before attacking Dakar? With all your firepower, how do you not destroy the Resistance Cruiser while still targeting transports? Is everyone waiting for your personal command? Come on man, delegate some leadership down!
And seriously, who the hell is performing Operational Test and Evaluation for the First Order? Like, TIE Fighters just explode with a few laser blasts? The turrets on their dreadnought get taken out with ONE X-WING!!! How is the armor manufacturer not lose his contract over that? Tacked on top of the damage to the Supremacy and the loss of Starkiller base, the First Order needs to seriously look at its acquisition process and tighten up some holes. Hmmm, where have we seen that before?
But it’s not all bad. Even though somehow a single X-Wing blows up multiple turrets, the First Order makes short work of a number of Resistance bombers. I absolutely love the World War 2 bomber references, complete with oxygen masks and bomb bay doors. The fact that you get a lone bomber barely scraping by is fitting, and the fact that Leia is absolutely pissed with Poe over the losses incurred. Leia plays the long game, and she knows that tactical success doesn’t equal winning the war. That dynamic plays out over and over again with Poe, and it’s done perfectly.
And for my last point, let’s talk about the coup and Vice Admiral Holdo. The spoiler reviews are angry over the fact that she doesn’t reveal the plan to Poe. Like, why didn’t she just do that, then obviously Poe would have backed down.
Guess what? Vice Admiral Holdo is right.
Poe is an O-4…wait, O-3, in the Resistance. Holdo is an O-9. Poe’s job is to execute tasking, plain and simple. Yes, he has a close relationship with General Leia, but he attempts to abuse that multiple times in the film, and both Leia and Holdo rightly put him in his place. Guess what fly boy? The admiral doesn’t have to explain things to you! Seriously. Now, maybe in a formal PowerPoint briefing, with some preparation and under less dire circumstances, he would have plenty of time to ask questions and understand the strategic end state of Admiral Holdo’s plan. But we’re not in that circumstance, and Poe earlier showed he doesn’t understand strategy. I see nothing wrong with Holdo not sharing that information with Poe.
Plus, from an intelligence point, Admiral Holdo just got tracked through hyperspace. She should be worried that there is a traitor in their midst (oh wait, there is). She has crew members trying to abandon ship. So if her plans leak, the First Order might change strategy. In fact, the plan would have worked except for the capture of the cloaking device (which, did Finn do that on purpose? Maybe he really is a deeply placed spy? Ooooo…another deep fan theory!!). Holdo has a duty to keep that plan close hold. Stupid flyboy antics would doom the Resistance, and Poe rightly gets slapped and stunned for his actions. Next thing you know, Poe will be using a ski speeder to make phallus drawings on the surface of Crait.
Overall, the movie was great, and from a military standpoint, I liked the military pieces. While some parts could have been done better, they were done well and they flowed. Rian Johnson deserves a lot of credit for turning out a great movie.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, First Order, The Resistance, The Boeing Corporation, or any other entity. Links and images are provided under the fair use clause.
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