Opinion: STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE LAST JEDI
>> SPOILER WARNING! <<
Don’t venture any further if you have’t seen The Last Jedi, because it will, in all aspects, be spoiled for you. Trust me. No holds barred, cage match style.
You’ve been warned. Spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead!
First and foremost, I loved this movie. I’m presently sitting at my laptop, listening to The Last Jedi soundtrack on Apple Music after seeing the film for a third time. I’m not saying those who hated it are necessarily wrong; some of the hate is outlandish and backed by factors beyond the movie itself or the Star Wars universe at large. Rather, it comes across like Hux spewing at the mouth in The Force Awakens during his not-so-subtle fascist tirade, across multiple social media platforms. Those people are unreachable, sorry Luke. This is more for people who are conflicted, but can still back it up with intelligent and civil conversation. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?
Who is Snoke?
At the end of the day, I guess the answer for now is, “Who cares?” Director and writer Rian Johnson said that because Snoke’s backstory is not important to Rey, it’s therefore not important to the audience. I get that. Trying to explain Snoke in a few sentences or some boring monologue in his fancy thrown room would feel forced–no pun intended–and undermine the strength of the scene. So, instead of explaining it, Rian Johnson decided to cut Snoke in half. What other logical choice is there? Get rid of him and let the far more interesting Kylo Ren become the Supreme Leader and run the show. That’s his ultimate purpose, right?
The Del Rey books have, for the most part, been great. A book on Snoke and the beginning of the First Order seems like a logical choice, as opposed to trying to jam it in an already long movie. But for The Last Jedi, it was irrelevant. Think about the original trilogy for a moment: what did we really know about the Emperor? Not a whole hell of a lot. He was a Sith Lord, a bad guy, and he ruled the entire galaxy. Other than that, what do we really find out about him? That story isn’t available until his rise to power in the prequel trilogy. Hell, it takes that long to even learn his real name.
This Star Wars is so different from the originals and all that, you say? Well, that seems pretty spot on to me. The Emperor’s backstory really didn’t matter to Luke, and Snoke’s doesn’t matter to Rey. [Additionally, Palpatine isn’t even even a big deal until Return of the Jedi, when he delivers a couple of orders to Vader, and that’s it. Snoke is more present than Palpatine. Food for thought.]
Who is Rey?
Another consistent gripe about The Last Jedi is the reveal that Rey is, well, nobody. Her parents sold her to Unkar Plutt for drinking money and died in a pauper’s grave. Boom. That’s the end of that speculation and constant headache of trying to figure out if she’s a Skywalker or a Palpatine or, I dunno, a Binks. It makes sense that she’s nobody. Think about it: the first movie of this new trilogy is called The Force Awakens. It’s not called “Skywalker had an illegitimate kid and then dumped her ass on a hellhole worse than Tattooine.” For one, that’s a mouthful, and for two, Luke Skywalker just doesn’t seem like the guy to do this.
Even if a large part of the audience comes out of the theater believing he’s not the Luke they remember, and he’s all wrong and an asshole now–hold on, we’ll get to ol’ Luke–he’s just not that guy. It doesn’t fit together with anything. And Palpatine’s offspring? Stretch. Also, uninteresting.
It’s hard to imagine what purpose Kylo would have for lying to Rey about her parents. This is a pivotal to Rey and if he wanted to string her along with different information, he could have. Instead he wanted her to join him, so he told her the truth. The truth that, in his own words, she has known all along.
The Force is awake, right? I’m under the assumption that it’s awake as the name of the previous movie implies. Because of this, we’re going to see new Force powers. Powers like Space Leia, where she gets blown into space, and uses the Force to pull her self back into the damaged cruiser and get back to safety, a previously unseen ability. (I’m sure near everybody thought this was them writing her out early, myself included). Powers like Luke projecting himself onto Crait to fight Kylo Ren and give the Resistance time to escape.
People seem to have had issues with both of these instances of mega Force power, but let’s think about it for a second. Leia is a Skywalke at the end of the day, so she’s had that power inside her this entire time. The difference now? The Force is awake and she’s able to tap into it easier than ever before. The same thing can be said for Luke. If the Force woke up after he shut himself off from the Force, Luke might not have ever felt this strong of a connection, allowing him to pull off something crazy like projecting himself an insane distance to confront Kylo Ren.
Anybody Can Be Strong in the Force
The Force literally woke up from a dormant sleep, maybe for the first time ever, or at least the first time in a long time. Instead of the Jedi being so interested in a scientific explanation–lest we forget midichlorians–The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens seem more interested in getting back to an almost magical (for want of a better term) and mythical Force that surrounds us and everything else in the galaxy.
Anybody can be a Jedi; anybody can be strong with the Force again. Bloodlines don’t matter. I think that is the real message here from this reveal. Rey’s parents don’t matter, and that fact doesn’t matter. Rey has to forge her own path, using her growing abilities, and forget the past. Kill it, even, if she were to listen to Kylo. [Darth Vader did lead a Jedi-killing expedition across the galaxy, reducing the number of active force users to like zero. Is it possible these new measures of power is the way the Force is balancing itself? It’s been 3o-40 years since there was a substantial amount of active Force users…]
Through my first viewing, I probably sat with a lot of people (figuratively, of course) who didn’t like the entire casino planet sequence and thought it was fluff lacking in story progression. For instance, Finn and Rose lose. They don’t take out the hyperspace tracking device, they don’t save the day and nobody, at this point, flies off happily ever after. But, again I say, maybe that was the point. Rian Johnson is no dummy, he clearly loves Star Wars and has a great deal of talent. This wasn’t some half-hearted scene to drag the movie on. After my second viewing, and some more time to digest, the scene made more sense. Is it the best sequence in the movie? No. But it serves a purpose.
First and foremost, the supposed “good guys” don’t always win, especially against all odds and in a last ditch effort. Paraphrasing a wise, green, Jedi Master, in this movie no less, learning from failure is important. Failure is a common theme throughout this movie. Learn from your mistakes and better yourself. Poe learned. Luke, in a sense, seemed to learn. Finn needed to learn it too. He was a hero after the Starkiller base, after all. Against all odds! It’s not always like that, FN-2187.
Finn and DJ
More importantly, I think it was to open Finn’s eyes and give Finn a ultimate choice. DJ tells him straight up that war is hell, don’t join–by the way, his little hat says “Don’t Join” on it. Pretty sure that’s why he’s then called “DJ”. It’s not just some stupid, boring attempt at a name–and Finn still seemed to be naive to that. He was naive to the plight of the folks living on Canto Bight, blinded by the all wealth and opulence. He was also seeming things in black and white, much like a lot of the outfits the patrons of Canto Bight’s Casino were wearing.
I doubt very much that’s a coincidence. He was living on the assumption that they’re filthy rich because they sold weapons to the First Order. DJ, with a twinkle in his eye, shows him otherwise. The ship they steal shows weapons that the First Order has, but he also pulls up an image of an X-Wing that the former owner of the stolen ship had sold.
Canto Bight was a way to get Finn, I believe, to buy into the Rebellion fully and completely. He does, after all, refer to himself, almost gleefully, as “Rebel scum” when poor Phasma tries to hurt his feelings by simply calling him scum. Finn needed to see that the world isn’t as simple as good and evil, black and white. There are grey areas as well. He needed to learn failure and, I suppose, at the end of the day he needed to wrap up his arc as the ex-Stormtrooper by finishing off Captain Phasma. We assume she’s gone, anyway, who knows sometimes with Star Wars. It’s one of those scenes that can’t be taken at face value, because there is a lot more at play than you see at first glance.
FailureYou can only be so nice to somebody that won't get the hell off your lawn, after all.Click To Tweet
Luke Skywalker, if nothing else, in his own mind, believes he failed young, Ben Solo. This lead to the deaths of some of his students, the loss of others, and letting Kylo Ren fall to the Dark Side under Snoke. Not only did he do what two of his masters before him did, by running off to secluded place to die (his own words) he spent years stewing on the loss of Kylo to the Dark Side. He lost his faith in the Force. Going so far as to cut himself off from it completely. He sent away his buddy, R2-D2, because, one can assume, he would have reminded him of his failure as Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. The Legend. He was alone with his thoughts, outside of the Force.
Luke is an asshole
Well, okay, that’s a stretch, but it’s been said. It’s more that people feel that Old Man Luke is not the character they remember and love from the original trilogy or that he’s somehow done something completely out of the ordinary for a Jedi Master, like running and away and going into hiding.
Let’s start with the second half of that. Yoda failed to see Palpatine’s ultimate plans, he failed to stop it and hundreds, if not more, of Jedi died because of it. So what does Yoda do? He runs off to a swamp planet in the middle of nowhere to, essentially, live out his last days. Hm.
Obi-Wan Kenobi failed to see the changes in young Anakin Skywalker and he failed to bring him back to the light. Hell, he failed at leaving him in one piece after their little… discussion on Mustafar. So, Obi-Wan takes on the name Ben and runs off to Tattooine to, well, live out the rest of his days. Now sure, he went there, at least in part, to protect Luke and keep him safe from the growing reach of the Empire, but I digress. [Luke didn’t just fail Ben Solo, he failed the entire galaxy. After saving the universe from the tyranny of Darth Vader and the Empire, Luke becomes this infallible hero. Until he fails, leading to the resurrection of an even worse empire. Because this is such an important component of the movie, you might consider expanding this section a bit.]
Luke is not going to be particularly thrilled to see another person on Ahch-To, much less a person that has his old lightsaber and wants to be trained in the ways of the Force. That, and a person that wants to drag him back into the galactic struggle for power. He sees the lightsaber Rey hands him and what does he do? He tosses it behind his back as if it was nothing. Big “NOOOOPE” from Luke. Luke literally wants nothing to do with the Force, the galaxy, any of it. He’s going to be a little salty and his people skills probably aren’t as up to date as they should be.
It felt natural in The Last Jedi, partly due to Mark Hamill’s exceptional acting, that Luke digressed into this disgruntled, angry man that just wants to die in peace. He felt he couldn’t live up to the Legend of Luke Skywalker and didn’t want to risk failing again. You can only be so nice to somebody that won’t get the hell off your lawn, after all.
The Last Jedi gives us an older, wiser Luke. A man that can do things with the Force that nobody has really seen before. But it also gives us a Luke that has been rocked by failure after becoming a legend for turning Vader and defeating the Empire. The entire galaxy knew (knows?) his name. That is going to weigh on a person, even if it is Luke Skywalker. This was a simply moister farm boy that rose from dust, literally, to help topple an Empire that ruled for decades.
Foreshadowing the end
But he didn’t come up with the on his own, now did he? First, he sees Kylo and Rey holding hands in that hut and, as mad as he is, he knows that Kylo isn’t truly there. Rey tells Luke that she touched Kylo’s hand and saw a vision of him turning back to the light. Hm. Then, Master Yoda appears as a Force ghost to Luke as Luke’s resolve to burn down the Jedi tree with the sacred texts are store. Now, seeing a Force ghost is not new for Luke. But Yoda being able to use the Force to call down lightning and burn the tree down was new. (Also, how great was it to see puppet Yoda back and hear Frank Oz cackle gleefully as the tree burns?)
The next part, and maybe reinforcing what happened between Kylo and Rey, Yoda knocks Luke on the head with his cane. A Force ghost hit somebody on the head with their Force ghost cane. Interesting. It’s foreshadowing, to be sure, as astral projection Luke touches Leia and kisses her forehead. But you have to believe it was more than that. Luke reconnects to the Force; he would clearly feel a difference, a strength, in the Force especially being at a place already that’s already a beacon of Force strength.
Death of Luke
This new power was awesome; we got to see Jedi Master Luke in action, using what he’s learned to at least delay the end of the resistance and reignite the fire of hope in the Galaxy that will one day defeat the First Order. It was the ultimate sacrifice. You had to know, at least on some level, that Luke knew what he was doing and knew the consequences of projecting himself to Crait.See you around, kid. - Luke Skywalker Click To Tweet
The movie even seems to foreshadow this, with Kylo telling Rey, during their first Force-time (see what I did there?) encounter Kylo says something along the lines of, “You can’t be doing this. The effort would kill you.” So if Kylo knows that, surely Luke would know this too, right? Luke is the Master, after all. Even with all his strength and the strength of the Force, this type of projection was always going to kill Luke.
It’s what he wanted, thought, right? He came to the island to die and he got his wish. But not before taking the Legend of Luke Skywalker to the next level and inspiring generations to come.
The Last Jedi – Other
There are a few more, smaller things I wanted to touch on. Things you may have missed upon first viewing. Things that are cool and that I just wanted to share.
Did you notice that when Yoda told Luke, in front of the burning tree that supposedly held the sacred Jedi texts, that Rey already had everything she needed? You think he meant that in some deeper way? Rey had the books, and in one of the last shots on the Falcon you get a glimpse of them in a drawer under a recovering Rose.
The Slave Kid
The Force is awake. It magic of Star Wars is back and anybody can be a Jedi, right? At the end, as the kids on Canto Bight play with homemade Luke Skywalker figure–the Legend continues!–they get scare off by that monster-thing that likely owns them. The kid that Rose gave her Rebellion ring to goes outside to continue his chores. He reaches for the broom and uses the Force to call the broom to his hand, before striking a pose with the broom, clearly pretending it’s a light sabre.
Did you notice that as Kylo and Luke fought it out on Crait that Luke left no footprints in the salt, revealing the red beneath it? Kylo did. There was your big hint that he wasn’t actually there. That and, well the Just For Men dye job and hair cut he had.
Now, these are just some of the gripes that I’ve seen across Social Media and websites against The Last Jedi. There are more, but probably less significant than the ones covered above.
This is not to say that people that hated it are wrong. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. But maybe, just maybe, the whirlwind that is this movie may have caused you to miss something. Or maybe the 3000 words above will open your eyes to a different way to look at it, or connect dots that you hadn’t connected before.
Either way, it’s safe to say that The Last Jedi is a two viewing movie, at least. It can be so much to handle on the first go. I know I was overwhelmed and really needed time to digest and think about the implications of this movie.
Kylo says it, a few times, that Rey needs to let the past die. And maybe, just maybe, that message was for the audience as well. The movie opens up Star Wars like never before; it gives us more possibilities with Rain Johnson’s announced trilogy in the future that is going to be steerage from the Skywalker trilogy. It gives JJ Abrams more freedom, in my opinion, with Episode IX and is the first step into an even larger world.
I’m excited. I can’t wait to watch The Last Jedi again. Either in theatres or at home. I can’t wait to marathon all of the movies–which may start today, if Amazon ever delivers the prequel set I just bought. The books and the comics are excellent additions to the universe, too, so let’s bring on more of them. It’s never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan.