May the farce be with you


If a Star Wars movie was reviewed like a scientific paper, how would it fare? Bill Sullivan finds out.


Star Wars droid BB-8. Like most movie actors, it never reads peer reviews.
Star Wars droid BB-8. Like most movie actors, it never reads peer reviews.
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images

In celebration of the home release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I thought it would be interesting to portray how the movie would be critiqued if subjected to the scientific peer-review process. The peer-review process involves a journal editor sending your manuscript to two or three expert reviewers for feedback. As most scientists are acutely aware, their work is often perceived differently through different lenses, much like the reception of Rian Johnson’s addition to the Star Wars canon. Let it serve as a sci-comm reminder that no matter how carefully you communicate your work, its beauty will be in the eye of the beholder.

Reviewer #1

This script by Johnson et al is well-written with some elegant scenes, but there are several major issues that need to be addressed before publication. Importantly, there are also numerous parallels with a previous script by Lucas et al. (1980) that editors may wish to review for possible plagiarism.

Major concerns

1) The handling of Snoke is rather lazy. The authors have surprisingly ignored many theories that have been postulated regarding the identity of this character. The script should not be published without discussion of his origin, motives, and role in the creation of the First Order.

2) The entire Canto Bight casino scene is distracting and adds nothing to the plot. Recommend moving this scene to the Director’s Cut.

3) The primary plot driver has the First Order chasing the Resistance through space. The First Order is able to do this because of a new device they installed on the Resistance flagship, The Raddus, that allows them to track it during hyperspace. There are three significant problems with this idea:

Previously, Star Wars ships could not be tracked after going into hyperspace, so how can it be done now? The authors cite hyperspace-tracking as “data not shown,” which is insufficient for such an important method.

Two, why don’t the rebels on The Raddus simply take shuttles to the ships that can’t be tracked, then go into hyperspace?

Three, why is there a chase at all? The First Order can simply warp ahead of the resistance and trap them.

4) Rey’s parents being “nobodies” is an unexpected finding that requires additional experimentation to prove its validity. The scene is not well-controlled.

5) Luke Skywalker is profoundly out of character. It’s as if the authors didn’t bother to read the previous literature describing him as a loyal Jedi who was always willing to serve the rebellion and fight evil and oppression. In addition, when Luke shuffles off this mortal coil, why do his robes stay behind but his prosthetic hand does not?

6) The authors have time to insert a scene featuring Kylo Ren without his shirt but no time to honour the legendary Han Solo with a funeral? Time to show us the demise of Admiral Ackbar but no time to mention whatever became of Lando?

7) The script is overly long yet answers virtually none of the key questions in the field to any degree of satisfaction. I rarely review a script that uses this many words to say so little.

8) It is irresponsible of the authors to encourage the consumption of raw milk, as Luke gleefully did on Ahch-To.

Minor concerns

1) The title needs to be reworded as it is unclear whether Jedi refers to an individual or group.

2) There is no IACUC animal protocol number listed for the porgs used in this script.

3) There is an extended silence when Vice Admiral Holdo rams The Raddus into The Supremacy. It would be useful to insert a subtitle mentioning that the silence is purposeful so viewers do not think that it is an audio malfunction. The authors also failed to cite Star Trek: Nemesis for this scene.

4) There are new ways that The Force is employed that are not explained in the Methods section, such as the interstellar telecommunication between Kylo and Rey, and the ability of Luke to project himself as a hologram.

Reviewer #2

This new script by the Johnson team is a tour de force and will take the field in new directions for years to come. Through bold experimentation, the team has upended dogma that has persisted for over 30 years. The authors conducted an objective review of Jedi history and pointed out numerous inconsistencies and failures that call the fidelity of this traditional practice into question. The casino scene is a welcome diversion and the revelation that Rey’s parents are unrelated to current characters is brilliant. And kudos for avoiding the tired use of yet another Death Star or Death Star-like weapon.

I only have one minor concern: the tactic of using a starship to destroy another starship sets a dangerous precedent. Now it seems all the First Order has to do is program droids to pilot starships on a collision course with Rebel ships. Also, this approach was originally used in Star Trek: Nemesis and thus it should be cited here.

Reviewer #3

I have no helpful comments to offer, but I’m going to reject the script.


Bill Sullivan is a journalist who writes for the PLOS Blogs Network. Reprinted by kind permission. The original may be found here.

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  1. http://blogs.plos.org/
  2. http://blogs.plos.org/blog/2018/03/13/if-the-script-for-star-wars-the-last-jedi-was-peer-reviewed/
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