Editorial: Who is responsible for Finn's failed story
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
The list of critiques for the Sequel Trilogy is long and merited (to be fair, so is the list for the Prequels & Original). Star Wars fans have a cruel dichotomy of loving something so much that they ruin it for themselves. The amount of excitement and “expectation” for episodes VIII & IX were never going to be met. Inevitably, a portion fans weren’t going to like the choices of story direction in each of the three movies and much of that surrounded character development (or lack of). Rarely do we see the actors come out against the vision of the role they played, but we have seen it twice now: once with Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker and the other being John Boyega/Finn.
It’s been out for a long time that Mark Hamill would have “gone a different direction in Luke’s arc” in The Last Jedi (TLJ). Whether or not you agree with him is up to you, but he acknowledges that he’s there to play the role as the writer / director sees fit – and he did.
Over a month ago, John Boyega came out with some harsh statements about his Star Wars experience. He felt that Finn’s story was ultimately disappointing for a number of reasons and left much to be told. In fact many were disappointed in how Finn’s story concluded in The Rise of Skywalker. Finn’s story, and others, were going to suffer as a result of how Disney handled the trilogy more like 3 movies, than a pre-planned multi-film story. This is NOT a Rian Johnson hate-piece. What I propose is that Finn’s story wasn’t properly told because of the nature in how the story was handed off from one director to the next.
When JJ Abrams finished The Force Awakens (TFA), he had set up the trilogy successfully. It was generally well-received and he mixed in new characters smoothly with the remaining characters from the Original Trilogy (OT). When Disney handed the next movie over to Rian Johnson, they gave him carte blanche to take (or not take) JJ’s story in whatever direction he wanted. Personally, I think this is a good idea if you have movies from a series that stand alone (Mission Impossible, James Bond, Fast and the Furious), but it’s a terrible idea if you’re building a trilogy.
Finn’s story was pushed aside. His story is important. Don't forget that he was marketed as a "big deal" in TFA. In fact, many character’s stories were pushed aside.
Finn was set up very well in The Force Awakens. In trailers he was the first to be seen AND the first to be seen with a light saber. We have never seen a Stormtrooper defect, let alone have a conflict of conscience. He was a stolen child with a number and no name, not a clone who was bred to follow orders. His arc in episode VII went from escaping the First Order, connecting with Rey, to fighting with the Resistance - and was I the only one that felt a little heat between him and Rey? TFA ends with him seriously injured, and not knowing if he’d be the same. He was compelling from the jump, and it’s because JJ Abrams had a plan/vision for Finn’s character. The fact that there is this Funko Pop tells me everything I need to know about Abrams’s vision for Finn:
Unfortunately Abrams’s vision for Finn was not the same as Johnson’s. In TLJ, Finn is regulated to a secondary character along with everyone not named Rey, Kylo or Luke. Rian Johnson made a great story for those three, but what did the others do really? The characters JJ introduced had limited impact (outside of Rey). Poe was rash and mutinous and got people killed twice, and for what? BB-8 is barely noticeable. Snoke is killed in the second act of the movie, along with Phasma. And Maz is altogether absent. I’m not suggesting that every one of JJ’s characters needed to see the end of the trilogy, but what was the plan? It’s not that RJ treated his new characters any better though. Holdo played a brief role. DJ was here and done fairly quickly. Even Rose, who helped move Finn’s story along, seemed to be there only to deliver the “saving what we love” line. It seems pretty evident that the story RJ wanted to tell was the relationship between Luke, Rey and Kylo.
You can’t be bummed about Finn’s arc AND claim to love The Last Jedi without truly understanding that this was bound to happen. All of the great moments in TLJ came at the expense of character arc’s like Finn’s and Poe’s, because all the best moments involved Kylo, Rey and Luke. This is what happens when an entity like Disney allows directors full creative license to take stories in whatever directions they want. It’s actually very trusting of Disney to do that – and some of it worked. But some didn’t. I hope lessons were learned.
You can argue that Rian Johnson made a great “stand-alone” movie in The Last Jedi. But through the lens of a trilogy, it seems choppy when it comes to the arcs of major and minor characters. Boyega is right, there is more of Finn’s story to tell. The story of an orphaned, Force-sensitive ex-Stormtrooper is one that we need more of. I hold hope in that whenever Star Wars has had a compelling character, we have been enriched with more of their content in comics, books, & animated series. Characters like Qui-Gon, Maul, Ahsoka, Thrawn, Cassian & Dooku all had more of their story to tell too – and we got it!
It's fitting that in The Rise of Skywalker, Finn had something important to say to Rey, but never
got the chance. It was as if JJ Abrams was telling us that there was more to Finn that he couldn't get to. The time is right. We need more of Finn.
Do you think we need more of Finn's story? Keep the conversation going on Twitter @BTBDNet and let us know!