There’s been a lot of criticisms leveled at Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s story since its release, with one of the biggest being that its timeline simply doesn’t make sense. The common complaints are that the movie happens over simply too short a period for its big story to reasonably take place, and that the various galaxy-spanning subplots don’t line up.
When you break down what’s said in the movie, however, these complaints come more from a misunderstanding of sequencing and pacing than they do anything intrinsically wrong with the plot. Let’s take a deeper look.
The Last Jedi’s Timeline Problems: Debunked
The main contention comes from the Resistance ship chase. Here we get an explicit time measurement for much of the second act by the fuel levels of the Raddus: the cruiser has approximately eighteen hours left when Finn and Rose leave for Canto Bight, and about six when they make the journey back to take down the Supremacy. This has led to many assuming that the entire film takes place over a single day or less, which is not entirely accurate; looking at when these measurements are given, they only restrict a rather short period: Canto Bight takes place over a single night, so easily the defined 12 hours.
Of course, there’s also how this relates to Rey’s parallel story. How can she train with Luke for just one day, even though we see multiple night cycles? Well, plainly, that’s not what she does. Up until Finn and Rose leave, there’s no defined time period; the hyperspace jump and start of the First Order chase could happen from the space of an hour to a couple of days, leaning towards the latter (it’s also worth considering that the film doesn’t necessarily start immediately after The Force Awakens due to travel time to Ahch-to and Resistance clear-up, meaning to some further potential dilation). As for that locked twelve-hour sequence, it’s easy enough to fit Rey’s actions in that time: all we have is Rey’s second lesson, later conversations with Kylo, experience in the cave and fight with Luke. Assuming Ahch-to has a somewhat standardized day (like most Star Wars planets do) the fact the sun is setting during the former lesson, we can likewise assume all this takes place over the same evening/night – i.e. about twelve hours.
The question of whether she learned all she had to in that still short period or spent enough time talking with Kylo to truly connect with Ben Solo is open for discussion, but that’s an entirely different topic; nothing in the film’s framing actively suggests it can’t slot into place.
Travel time is the final question mark, but another one with sound in-universe logic. The speed of the Falcon and/or the crafts Finn and Rose use to get back and forth from Cantonica are variable as is, but from the galaxy map provided by The Visual Dictionary, we know Canto is further from the fleet than Ahch-to, making both “within reach“.
The Empire Strikes Back Timeline Issue Is Worse
After this discussion, it’s perhaps worth highlighting that, even if you can’t quite buy the admittedly short in-universe period The Last Jedi‘s set over, it’s still not the most confusing Star Wars film in this regard. That dishonor goes to The Empire Strikes Back; it’s well documented that Luke trains to become a Vader-worthy adversary in the same time Han navigated an asteroid field and flew to the nearby Bespin. Like Episode VIII, nothing really contradicts, but it’s still unclear where the time leap comes: is Luke a quick learner or does the Falcon take an unusually long time to get to Cloud City?
It ultimately doesn’t bother most people because the story that’s being told is so good it transcends standard illogicies. We’d argue the same is true of The Last Jedi: if a timeline flub really is the main takeaway for a viewer, there’s something more wrong underneath.
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