Supreme Leader Snoke is little more than a wasted opportunity
In The Last Jedi Snoke is a nothing character — he’s a joke. Like a spoof of The Emperor, he’s a scarred, wrinkly old man on a throne in command of the true, dynamic villain. However, unlike The Emperor, he has no backstory, he’s unthreatening and uninteresting, and he’s lopped in half to get him out of the way so Johnson can focus on the character he’s actually interested in: Ben Solo.
However, the true value of Snoke is not as a character in his own right, but as the lynchpin between Luke and Ben. Somehow Ben met Snoke, turned away from Luke and became Kylo Ren. That bit of the story is fascinating, at least to me, and we get none of it. Johnson has said there was nowhere to insert an expository bit of dialogue explaining Snoke’s backstory… which is a worrying comment.
Because this history is left untold, we don’t know how Ben diverged from the light side of the Force, so, to fill the gap a second, unnecessary ‘inciting incident’ is inserted — that of Luke contemplating slicing up his nephew in his sleep. It was at this point someone should have realised just how badly Johnson had gone off course.
Jettison the entire wrong-headed idea of Luke unravelling his character arc of the original trilogy to the point where he would consider murdering a child. Good lord.
Instead, invert expectations by having Snoke as a shadowy, predatory, revolting old creature who lingered at the gates of Luke’s Jedi temple, and who crucially does not have any Force powers [little in The Force Awakens proves he does]. Rather, he is a reptilian individual who craves the company of young Force-sensitive children, and succeeds in grooming young Ben.
Luke, following his Jedi oath — and showing the flip side of his refusal to fight in Return of the Jedi — can not just attack Snoke and is somewhat powerless to get rid of him and his influence. Ben later feels betrayed by Luke for not defending him, and putting his Jedi principles above his nephew’s wellbeing.
When Luke witnessed Ben Solo’s return to the school as “Kylo Ren” and how he butchered his former classmates, Luke was paralysed by guilt and hopelessness. He told Leia that he failed as a Jedi teacher, and went looking for the first Jedi temple and original texts, but also let Leia and Han believe that Snoke was entirely to blame.
Snoke taught Ben what he knew of Sith-lore and set him free to indulge himself and build the First Order from nothing into a grand army.
Meanwhile, Luke just wanted to run away and hide his shame — just as Yoda and Obi-Wan had done.
This brings us to the film’s biggest issue, which I’ll cover in Point 10.