(Welcome to The Galaxy-Wide Star Wars Character Guide, where we give proper due to the smaller figures in Star Wars history.)
Great news! This article does not intend to re-litigate Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No one needs that in their lives at the moment, and my views on the film are too down-the-middle to please anyone anyway. Instead, we’re here to take a closer look at one of its stand-out characters, DJ – a gloriously strange character played by the gloriously strange Benicio del Toro.
Who is This Character Again?
To remember DJ, you have to remember Canto Bight, which means recalling Finn and Rose’s doomed mission to get rid of a pesky tracking device the First Order is using to stay on top of the Resistance as they make their way to Crait. As I said above, I do not wish to make a case for or against The Last Jedi here, but I will say it is one of the more thematically-probing Star Wars films and Canto Bight is where a whole lot of that probing takes place.
In a galaxy where every planet is defined by one thing (usually a climate feature) it’s pretty hilarious we eventually got one known for big-money gambling. It honestly does not feel very Star Wars – class and money seem a bit beyond this series – but perhaps that is the point Rian Johnson meant to inject into our big space opera. Canto Bight is just one city on the planet Cantonica. Maybe they don’t gamble on the entire desert planet, but it is fancy enough worldwide to have its own artificial ocean. And it’s classified as a part of Star Wars’ “Corporate Sector” of planets, so let’s just assume it’s a money-driven place pole-to-pole.
Rose and Finn visit Canto Bight in search of a legendary code breaker/slicer. They do not find this person. Instead they find DJ, locked up in a jail cell. They strike a deal: in exchange for his freedom, he’ll help them out with their tracking device issue.
First they have to get off-planet, which they do in a stolen ship (unknown to Finn and Rose, but also were they going to buy one or something?) which they discover used to belong to an arms dealer. It is here we learn a lot about DJ and how his philosophy fits into the Star Wars Galaxy.
Essentially, DJ (which is actually just stands for for “Don’t Join”) does not believe in good or evil or anything so refreshingly childish as that. It’s quite a departure from the black and white morality of Star Wars, but we also live in complicated times where such a lesson could be appreciated. Through DJ and Canto Bight, we see a side of Star Wars never considered: commerce. The same arms dealer sells weapons to both the First Order and the Resistance. This person does not have a moral stake in the outcome, just the money to be made or lost, which is probably what’s driving the 99.99% of the galaxy not involved in the war.
So maybe not joining is the ultimate smart side to take? As this new trilogy makes apparent, war between good and evil will remain eternal. Unlike with the Empire and the Rebellion, we never had much understanding of the strife between the First Order and the Resistance. They seem to be at odds arbitrarily. So why not make a buck? Sure, Rose and Finn have good hearts and believe in something bigger than themselves, but DJ does make viewers wonder if maybe they’re suckers.
The film doesn’t really give us an optimistic answer, either. DJ helps the heroes and does seem to like them. Then when it’s convenient, he sells them out. But, in perhaps the film’s boldest statement on the matter, he walks away from the whole deal without consequence. He even gets paid.
Does This Character Warrant a Toy?
Not really. While there are probably a million DJ toys out there, and also while Benicio del Toro is a very good looking guy, DJ’s design is too pedestrian to make an interesting Star Wars toy. He’s just a humanoid, and a mildly bland one at that. The character’s most prominent feature – his interesting stutter – isn’t something that comes across in toy form. Unless one has a voice box or something, but that feels a bit far-fetched in this case.
How Important is this Character?
So the idea is Rose and Finn need someone to knock out the First Order’s tracking system, which DJ does. But they all end up on Crait anyway because DJ snitches, so the mission kind of feels like a failure top to bottom that nearly gets Rose and Finn executed. Again, though, this seems in keeping with The Last Jedi’s entire mission statement to subvert normal heroics. And you know what? We learned some interesting things along the way. But just in regards to plot, he might not have been the most necessary character.
Is This a Secretly Great Character?
That’s the real question, the one that will start arguments amongst the Last Jedi haters and defenders. Do you want this type of probing and possibly accurate cynicism in your Star Wars film? Is the Galaxy big enough for such questions, or should it all be a straightforward battle between good and evil?
I like DJ. And I like that he raises these issues, betrays our heroes, and manages to get away totally free from comeuppance. There is no other Star Wars film like The Last Jedi, and I believe there is room for one of these to take a more complicated look at the story we love so much. So if you’re asking me (okay, I’m actually asking myself), I do think he’s pretty great. Others, however, probably hate his guts. But they, that’s The Last Jedi!
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