The events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi are a mixture of Rey's training with Luke on Ahch-To and the First Order's pursuit of the Resistance's fleet, with a short jaunt to Canto Bight added in for good measure (or bad measure, opinions on the subplot do vary). And while the merits of these plots have certainly received their fair share of criticism, it's the timeline of events which often comes under the most scrutiny.
The Last Jedi's timeline seemingly suggests that the film's story takes place over a couple days, but when considering just how much happens in the film, this seems like too little time for such a massive story. The confusion stems from the fact that the film provides a clearly defined timeline for some plots while keeping others more vague. For example, the fleeing Resistance ships are said to have only 18 hours of fuel remaining by the time Finn and Rose leave for Canto Bight, and when they return, only six hours remain; this clocks the Canto Bight adventure in at 12 hours. Meanwhile, these scenes are inter-cut with Luke's training of Rey, creating an assumption that the two plots are happening over roughly the same amount of time - a ludicrous suggestion given just how much happens on Ahch-To.
The Last Jedi is certainly not the first film (or even the first Star Wars film) to fudge with its timeline for the sake of building tension or combining characters' arcs for a bigger climax, but with the film already coming under fire from fans, picking apart the improbability of The Last Jedi's timeline becomes an easy target. However, though the film may have done a poor job at communicating the actual length of time for each of its plots, The Last Jedi novelization clears up this confusion by providing more detail about the story's sequence of events.
The Last Jedi begins with the Resistance abandoning their base on D'Qar and fleeing into space while Poe leads an assault on the First Order's Dreadnaught to buy them more time to escape. It's an exhilarating opening scene that brings audiences in during the heat of battle, but it doesn't offer much context for how long it's actually been since the end of The Force Awakens. The novel, however, begins a tad more slowly with additional scenes like Han's funeral and an exchange between Finn and Poe in which the latter reveals he's (rather poorly) sewn up the gash Kylo Ren left in Finn's jacket. These scenes take place on D'Qar before the First Order sends the Resistance running and they help to relay to readers that more time has passed since Rey left for Ahch-To.
Speaking of Ahch-To, the time Rey spends on the island is specified to be closer to a week, not the day or two it seemed like in the movie. The sequence in the film which depicts Rey following Luke around as he tends to his daily routine (like spear fishing or milking Thala Sirens) gives the impression it happens in an afternoon, while the book more fully explains that this sequence is set across days not hours. This revelation along with some of The Last Jedi's deleted scenes do a much better job at depicting Rey's time on Ahch-To as being a lengthier stay than only a couple days. And when she decides to leave and meet Kylo, the First Order's pursuit of the Resistance fleet has only been happening for a day at most and not for the entirety of her stay on Ahch-To.
Even the much derided Canto Bight sequence is given more time to breath in The Last Jedi novelization, with Finn and Rose sharing more substantial conversations while traveling in hyperspace to and from the casino. This better illustrates the passage of time during their travels and makes the mission more risky, increasing the anxiety over whether or not they'll return in time to help the Resistance.
While watching the film, it is possible to extrapolate a timeline that fits the sequence events and doesn't break with logic, but that can also get lost in the editing. The Last Jedi novelization, however, isn't restricted in the same ways as a film and can therefore dive more fully into character moments and story beats, better explaining the timeline in a way that should clear up any lingering confusion.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018