War Is a Racket in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’
The movie’s most hated scene is its most important
This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Audiences don’t normally see daily life in the Star Wars galaxy.
True, the prequels show the bustling life on various planets but those movies are all about the build-up to conflict. They never really show the way that conflict affects the normal people living in the war zone. A New Hope opens on the remote planet of Tatooine, but after the heroes assemble and flee the desert the audience spends most of the next three movies in the middle of the wars.
Until The Last Jedi. When Rose and Finn descend on the Monte Carlo-style planet of Canto Bight, they entered a world both untouched by the galactic civil war … and only possible because of it. Their mission to recruit a code-breaker is one of the most hated parts of the new Star Wars movie, but it’s also the most important.
Rose and Finn’s adventure in Canto Bright and their subsequent journey with scummy slicer D.J. highlights an aspect of conflict that’s rarely discussed — all the assholes who make money from it. Smedley Butler wrote War Is a Racket in 1935. D.J. echoes Butler’s thinking when he and our heroes are flying back to Snoke’s flagship.
D.J. ransacks the ship for hidden valuables, tipping off Finn that, in fact, D.J. stole the vessel. Finn’s angry. D.J. just smirks. Canto Bight is a haven for the rich and both D.J. and Rose know that the only way to get super-wealthy in this galaxy is to sell weapons. D.J. digs through the ship’s logs and reveals that its previous owner peddled arms to both sides.
At top — the richest scum in the galaxy. Above — an opportunist. Disney screengrabs
“Good guys, bad guys, made-up words,” D.J. says. “Let me learn you something big. It’s all a machine … Live free. Don’t join.”
D.J. doubles down on this moral ambiguity later in the film when he betrays the Resistance to save his own ass and make a quick buck. He shrugs, tells Finn’s it’s just business and assures him they’ll win next time … maybe. Either way, he doesn’t seem to care. He’s just there to make money.
D.J. and the denizens of Canto Bight are mature characters for the typically escapist universe of Star Wars. But it’s good they’re included. Through D.J. and Canto Bight, the franchise finally explores a complex and uncomfortable truth.
During World War I, Fortune estimated “it cost about $25,000 to kill a soldier.” In 1934 the magazine published ‘Arms and Men of Fortune,’ an expose of war-profiteers for whom the Great War was a financial boon. All the while, another global conflict was brewing. For some, it would be highly lucrative.
The racket continues. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have poured billions of dollars into corporate coffers. Meanwhile the United States has continued its run as the number-one arms-supplier on the planet. No other country even comes close.
That’s why Canto Bight and D.J. are so important. War makes for great science fiction. It can be exciting, emotionally moving, inspiring, even funny. But never forget. It’s still a racket.