SPOILER ALERT: the following entry contains key plot points! If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to refrain from reading!
Yep, it’s true. I sat in the theater for my third viewing of The Last Jedi last night and as things have begun to sink in, they are really making more and more sense. I know this movie has been very divisive, especially among hardcore fans. I’m not going to lie, the first time I saw this movie I had no idea what to think and I could not definitively say whether or not I liked it. It took a while to process all the changes and topics with which I was challenged. In response to all the talk out there, I wanted to give my review of it and just as importantly: why I can say now not only that I like it, but that it may be my favorite Star Wars movie. Many of these reasons consist of a relatability factor.
- It challenged me and caused me to grow as a fan
This was the reaction of many fans to The Last Jedi. When The Force Awakens came out, there were a lot of fans who loved it, but just as equally there seemed to be a large group of fans who felt as if it was just a rehash of A New Hope (crash landing on a desert planet, discovering a nobody who begins to rise to prominence, blowing up a BIG Death Star, etc.). Personally I loved it, but it was also safe and for the most part, conventional. To the fans who wanted more and wanted to be challenged, you certainly got your wish in The Last Jedi, but the problem is…many of the fans who clamored for more seem to be the same fans who said this movie was too different. For me, when I first watched The Last Jedi, it was a lot to process and I felt like my brain had been turned into mush, but somewhere beyond all of the noise, craziness, and unlikely plot turns, I liked it. It was such a roller coaster ride because it essentially went against nearly every expectation that I had. After a couple more viewings, I like it even more. Sometimes being a flexible fan helps you enjoy the movies belonging to your fandom even more!
- If Kylo Ren was telling the truth, it looks like Rey really is “nobody”.
Part of my change in thinking was that, originally I had wanted Rey to have some sort of lineage linked to one of the well known characters…whether it be Luke’s daughter, Obi-Wan’s granddaughter, etc. Stepping back and considering that the Force really has experienced some kind of “awakening”, it makes sense that many people are realizing for the first time who they are and what their abilities are in the Force. At first I wanted her to be someone related, but now that I consider what her being a “nobody” symbolizes and how pretty much anyone could possibly contain Force powers, I love the message that that sends.
- Luke learns a lesson that we all can join in learning: humility
One interesting story line in The Last Jedi is that of Luke’s failure. Sure, we’ve seen Luke fail in the original trilogy many times on his way to becoming a Jedi, but usually it was simply due to his inexperience, not really due to pride. This film shows him failing on multiple levels. First and foremost, his pride (or “hubris” as he calls it) which sets up the subsequent failures. In the movie, Luke divulges that he fell victim to his own legend and took it upon himself to train a new group of young Jedi hopefuls including his own nephew, Ben Solo. Although we still don’t really know much backstory in terms of Ben’s seduction towards the dark side, during his training, Luke senses the darkness within Ben and all that he was capable of destroying. In this moment, Luke ignites his lightsaber to kill Ben, only to feel guilty that he let his thoughts take him that far. By that point it is too late, however, and young Ben goes on a rampage, destroying the temple and killing many of the students. Luke feels like this failure is too much, and decides to exile himself on Ahch-To…to the point where he has decided that his only mission left is to die there. Fortunately we are left with a little more of a positive picture of Luke before the movie ends, but the lesson here is a good one: even successes can become a path to failure if pride blinds you.
Luke’s shift at the end is a prelude to my fifth point.
- Not placing importance on physical things
One thing that helped to release the old way of thinking was the whole sequence with Yoda burning down the Force Tree. Luke seems to understand why this needs to be done, as he sets out to do it himself, but after he can’t bring himself to do it Yoda calls down lightning on the Tree, setting it ablaze and destroying it. Even though Luke knows it has to be done, he still seems appalled at the destruction of this and the ancient Jedi texts it contains (though we see later that Rey has preserved them in a drawer in the Millenium Falcon). Yoda gives him another lesson, conveying the message that their hope is not in books or trees or any other artifacts. Instead he puts more emphasis on the knowledge that Rey contains and the application of truth rather than simply having evidence of it lying around. In today’s materialistic world, I think this lesson is amazing.
- The message of Hope
* For all of the death, anger, and sadness that is portrayed on screen during much of the film, I love the way the film concludes…with hope, and what better narrator to deliver that message of hope than Luke Skywalker himself! During his showdown with Kylo Ren on Crait, he delivers the most hopeful message of the entire movie when Kylo basically has just told him that he’s going to destroy everything.
Luke: “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war – is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.”
After seeing Luke’s bleak outlook on the future of the Jedi previously in the movie, this is an incredible change of heart and one that certainly energizes the audience for the close of the movie. Even the resilient Leia seems to have lost hope, but his selfless act provides hope for her too.
* Rey’s steadfastness: Rey is an incredibly strong character, and although sometimes it seems like she is a little too eager at times to explore even the Dark Side of the Force, her resolve to remain good is unwavering, telling Snoke he is wrong in his own throne room much like Luke did to the Emperor on Death Star II. After Snoke meets his demise in the same throne room (my jaw dropped to the floor when Kylo decided he had been bullied enough and turned on his master, cut him in half, and then the lightsaber glides right into Rey’s hand….HOLY COW what a sequence), she has the opportunity to join Kylo Ren and rule the galaxy…possibly having the power to make things the way she wants them to be (much like part of Anakin’s downfall in Episode III). Her ability to say no to this is a message of hope in and of itself, that in this era of darkness and domination by The First Order, she is a shining beacon of purity, as she will not allow herself to stoop to their level of lust for power in order to get what she wants.
* When Poe realizes what Luke is doing at Crait, providing a distraction so they can escape, the message of hope gets to him as well. He realizes that they are “the spark that will light the fire that will burn The First Order down”. His energy is contagious with the rest of the Resistance fighters and provides momentum heading into the next movie.
* The kid on Canto Bight using the Force to pick up the broom and wielding it as an imaginary lightsaber is a pretty cool sequence. The symbolism of more people beginning to awaken to the Force is very hopeful and who knows what this means for the future of Star Wars!
Honestly I could go on and on about more things that stood out about this movie. The cinematography, sound design, and music of the movie (which we haven’t discussed at all in this entry) were simply amazing. Suffice it to say that while the very different feel of the movie made me hesitant at first, after letting it sink in and seeing it a few more times I really like the direction that Star Wars is headed and The Last Jedi will undoubtedly be known as the movie that changed the course of Star Wars lore forever!