written by George Hatch
It’s been a bit over a week since I saw The Last Jedi, and I’m…well, not speechless, but close. It was a great film that I very much enjoyed, with tons of awesome moments that made me either geek out, gasp in awe, or weep.
SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT.
If The Force Awakens‘ major theme was “everything old can be new again”, then The Last Jedi‘s moral is “don’t deify those old things”. This is very much a movie where context is key. Look no further than Kylo Ren, and by the way, this is where I really get into spoilers. (In case you haven’t seen the movie, I can only say go see the movie. Then come back and read the review.)
Kylo never lies, but he never tells the whole truth, either. He awoke to Luke Skywalker, his own uncle, holding a lightsaber to his face. His uncle had just had a complete moral failing and was ashamed of himself and was going to put the lightsaber away, but that doesn’t work for Kylo’s narrative so he doesn’t mention it. Snoke is so desperately trying to be the Emperor, but Kylo grew up around politics and knows very well when he’s being manipulated. So Kylo manipulates him back, cloaking his intent underneath Snoke’s desires until he can finally turn the blade on Snoke, so to speak. It makes Kylo Ren’s character far more nuanced than I ever thought possible, making him not just Ben Solo playing at Darth Vader, but a new evil, one the Star Wars films may not have dealt with before.
It’s funny, though, that both Kylo’s and Luke’s views on the past are identical until just before the end. While Rey spends time deifying the past, waiting for Luke to come around and lead the Resistance like the Jedi Master of myth, Luke wants to bury himself along with the Jedi in the annals of history as one big mistake. He never learned that failure is one of the greatest teachers you can have, and that passing on your own personal failures can help others avoid the same mistakes. No, Luke and Kylo both want the past to die, although Kylo is more a “kill it with fire” type.
Of the old cast, Mark Hamill shines as Luke now that he’s finally allowed to let Luke Skywalker be something more than a white meat babyface. Cranky and morose, he still has the spark of the farmboy-turned-fighter-pilot-turned-Jedi-Knight deep down in his bones, but he buries it until almost the very end. His is the tale of what happens when a legend fails because of his hubris, and why heroes should never be placed upon pedestals. Luke never learned how to handle failure, and ran. In contrast, Leia stayed and was forced to clean up the mess he made. Speaking of Leia, I teared up every time she was on screen. Knowing it was her last performance, I was awed every time she was featured, and especially That One Moment In Space. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the one.
Her relationship with Poe Dameron, trying to get him to realize that dead heroes matter less than live leaders, is one of the more frustratingly correct themes of the movie. His arc of becoming a leader instead of becoming a dead hero is one that resonates more and more when I think about how the United States usually treats our troops. But that’s a whole different tangent. Poe’s story ties in with Finn and Rose, who are both the least and most important members of the Alliance. A janitor and a maintenance worker, on a secret mission to save the Rebellion. What more can I say?
I haven’t really gotten into to Rey’s story, and that’s because I’m conflicted about it. On one hand, it was incredibly disappointing that after the events of The Force Awakens, she’s still just as passive a character as she was then. But people don’t change overnight, and being confronted with heroes you only hear about in legends is bound to make anyone reverential. It just hit me while writing this that they used Luke’s arc from The Empire Strikes Back/Return Of the Jedi for Rey to learn the lesson Luke couldn’t teach her about failure. In a movie with themes about taking heroes and making them leaders, it doesn’t quite work, but I’ll give it a pass since she has the least amount of mentorship in the movie. Still, while I didn’t find her arc all that satisfying, I thought Daisy Ridley was fantastic and I believe the next film will truly be hers.
All in all, this is a fantastic movie and a necessary Star Wars film. It takes chances while beautifully closing chapters from the previous trilogy and allows the new cast to continue unhindered into the future.
Like this movie, George Hatch did. Tell him on Twitter @Raeseti how you liked this review, you will.