Monday, April 22, 2019

Get A Holdo Yourself

I think it's fair to say that Star Wars Episode VIII, The Last Jedi is quite the divisive film. While I myself love it and consider it to be one of the best movies in the franchise, there are a lot of people out there who flat our hate it. Now it doesn’t matter whether I think their reasons are valid or not, everyone’s got different tastes and are entitled to their own opinion. But I do want to talk about a specific character introduced in the Episode VIII who just like the movie has her share of detractors as well.

Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by actress Laura Dern is quite the polarizing character. On the negative side, she is not liked for many reasons from something as basic as her physical appearance (pink hair….yuck) to her treatment of Poe Dameron and being seen as a symbol of extreme misguided feminism made to hold down “the man”. I’ve even heard her referred to by someone as a “feminazi”....whatever that is.

On the positive side though I would argue that it’s those precise reasons that make her such an interesting and appealing character to me.

Let’s start with her appearance. Her pink hair and elegant evening gown wardrobe would seem rather out of character for a supposedly battle hardened vice admiral. But honestly, I like it. I have no problem with her pink hair, in fact one of the most popular characters from the series Rebels, Sabine Wren had hair that change colors constantly.

And given that she exists in a galaxy populated by numerous visually unique alien races, pink hair would seem rather ordinary. And as for her choice of dress, I don’t seem to remember people being upset with Mon Mothma or even Princess Leia herself who wore similar gowns.

Anyway with all that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the matter. I think it’s safe to say that a good number of people who didn’t like the Last Jedi didn’t like it because it told a story that they weren’t expecting see or one that they were hoping for. People who wanted to see a kick-ass Luke Skywalker returning with a vengeance, a grand reveal of Rey’s parentage or a complete backstory explaining who the hell Snoke was were definitely disappointed. Instead of answering all their questions and fulfilling their fantasies, all they got a disillusioned old man, and child of “nobodies” and Snoke...sliced. And that is exactly why I loved The Last Jedi, it didn’t give us all that, it gave us something...different. And for me, Holdo is an extension of that.

When she’s first introduced through Poe Dameron’s perspective, she’s already bucking convention of what he originally envisioned her to be.

“That’s Admiral Holdo? Battle of Chyron Belt Admiral Holdo?"...not what I expected…”

And almost immediately she is set up as a sort of antagonist for Dameron when she talks down to him and keeps him out of the loop of her plans. She is basically set up to be that cliche narrow minded figure of authority placed to be in the way of our hotshot hero who apparently knows better. And when Poe accuses her of being a traitor and starts a mutiny, we can’t help but side with him.

So yeah, while even I admit that Holdo isn’t the perfect leader and isn’t completely in the right on certain things, on a whole I do support her broad stroke decisions. Did she have to be so antagonistic and condescending to Poe? Of course not, but on that, here’s where I think she may be coming from.

Prior to taking control of the entire Resistance fleet (all 400 of them), Holdo was the commander of the cruiser Ninka, which housed the bomber fleet of the Resistance, the same bomber fleet that was completely destroyed, during the attack on the First Order Dreadnaught led by Poe.

While losing an entire squadron is already a costly and devastating blow to the Resistance, I don’t think that it would be a far stretch to assume that Holdo probably knew many of the men and women who piloted those bombers more than others in the fleet so their loss would affect her even more. As per their initial conversation, it’s obvious that Holdo doesn’t know Poe personality, but is aware of his reputation. And as far as she’s concerned, Poe is just that “trigger happy flyboy” who basically disregarded a direct order from General Leia and led numerous resistance pilots to their deaths. So yeah...put in Holdo’s shoes, I wouldn’t be very high on Poe either. Ultimately this is just speculation on my part so if people insist, yes I’ll concede, she *could* have dealt with Poe better.

What I won’t concede though is that she didn’t have to let everyone in on her plan. When the First Order followed the Resistance Fleet through hyperspace, something that had never been done before, the natural conclusion would be that there must be a mole giving away their location (and no I didn’t need that to be spelled out in the dialogue). Given that assumption, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold whatever plans you had close to the vest, or at least within your inner circle of people you trust...something Poe obviously wasn’t a part of. And this isn’t a knock on Poe’s integrity or loyalty, but her impression of him as “impulsive...dangerous” isn’t far from the truth and is a legitimate cause of concern for her.

Anyway, we all know how the story goes. Frustrated Poe comes up with an elaborate plan behind Holdo’s back for Finn and Rose to travel to the casino planet Canto Bight to find the “master codebreaker” in order to sneak into the lead Destroyer and disable a hyperspace tracker….And it fails miserably. As a result, Holdo’s secret evacuation plan is exposed and even more Resistance soldiers are blasted into space dust. All because Poe once again decided he knew better and went against Holdo.

Honestly I didn't think his plan was half bad and had he presented it to Holdo and she rejected it, I might have even sided with him even more. But he didn't even give his commanding officer the benefit of the doubt. After their less than amicable first encounter, he immediately wrote her off as incompetent and close minded.

So surprise!  Going against convention, it turns out that the “hotshot” hero was wrong, and the “narrow minded” authority figure was right. Turns out she did have a plan, and while not as exciting as Poe’s, it was a sound plan.  And it would've worked.

Again, aside from her initial treatment of Poe, I think Holdo’s decisions were correct. More importantly though, what she ultimately did to save the remnants of the escaping Resistance fleet after Poe’s failure should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to where her heart and true loyalties were. She lived and died for the Resistance.

In my opinion, “The Holdo Maneuver” sequence will go down in Star Wars lore as one of the most iconic and visually stunning scenes in the entire franchise’s film history. And no I won’t go into arguing against nitpicks about how implausible it was, or how its success threatens to ruin the way Star Wars space combat works...what matters to me is that it worked for me, and for a lot of others as well. It gave me something new, unexpected and spectacular that I and many others had never seen in a Star Wars movie. And for that act alone, Holdo will always be a very memorable character for me in a positive way.

And please let’s not get into how it should’ve been Admiral Ackbar instead of Holdo piloting the Raddus into the Supremacy. Now THAT is something I will talk about in my next post.