“We are what they grow beyond”: Some Thoughts on The Last Jedi
SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “THE LAST JEDI.” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head since I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Trying to distill them enough to write about has been tough, to say the least.
For the record, I liked the movie a lot. I was worried we’d be getting a beat-for-beat “The Empire Strikes Back” remake with an emphasis on the nostalgia factor like in “The Force Awakens.” “The Last Jedi” certainly fills the role of a dark chapter in the trilogy, it stepped outside the established boundaries of the franchise, and I loved it.
(Many people did not love that, and that’s totally cool! I can see why it wouldn’t be everyone’s jam, and those feelings are perfectly valid. It doesn’t make someone a bad Star Wars fan if they don’t love every bit of media associated with the intellectual property. I mean, look at the prequels. Ugh.)
As much as I loved it, “The Last Jedi” is not a perfect film. There are some pacing issues and some elements that are really cool, but don’t necessarily gel as smoothly with the overarching story. This is something I’d argue “The Force Awakens” also suffered from. The films also share the problem of too many characters fighting for screen time. This leads me to an unpopular opinion: I think both movies in this new trilogy have both been held back by having to tie up the stories of Leia, Han, and Luke.
I would be lying if I said I haven’t loved seeing the older incarnations of my beloved childhood heroes. Seeing Han and Chewie step onto the Millennium Falcon again? Magical. Watching Leia quip and give shit to hot-headed pilots? Perfect Leia. And seeing grumpy old Luke—that once annoying farmboy— shake off his doubt and insecurity for one triumphant moment to rekindle hope among the Resistance when it was needed most? Amazing.
As much as I enjoyed it, the focus on these story elements prevented us going deeper with the newer characters. Rey, who still gets to be awesome, doesn’t get a lot of time to learn about herself or her powers in her time with Luke because the movie is too busy explaining what’s been going on with the crusty old Jedi Master. This explanation is critical for the development of Kylo Ren, of course, but it comes at the expense of Rey. I was hoping to see more of her story and how she’s coming to terms with who she is becoming.
Poe fairs a bit better in his conflict with Vice Admiral Holdo, learning lessons about leadership and failure. While Leia plays a role in that, but, considering how Leia’s sidelined pretty quickly by being rendered unconscious, one must ask—did she need to be there at all? While Holdo had the biggest, most badass, Star Wars exit ever, taking down numerous First Order ships with her lightspeed jump, I wish she’d gotten to stick around for another film. She was fucking amazing. Holdo showed how much a new character can shine when given the opportunity.
Why am I picking on the old characters instead of all the new ones? Why aren’t I blaming Hux, Phasma, and Maz for slowing down the plot? Because I want new Star Wars stories. I made my peace with Luke, Leia, and Han years ago. They got to live “happily ever after, for the moment.” I want to see what other possibilities are out there for storytelling in this franchise.
I do understand why closure was needed for these characters. Audiences needed to be eased into a world where Star Wars is no longer about the three characters we’ve known and loved since childhood. However, nostalgia won’t keep the franchise alive for a new generation. We need new takes on the universe we love, which means moving beyond the familiar and established stories.
While I am devastated that Leia won’t get the powerful send off Han and Luke did, (you are so desperately missed, Carrie Fisher,) I also think that the final film in this trilogy will finally give our new characters the breathing room they need. What will Rey do now that she’s the last of the Jedi? A couple friends pointed out to me she’d stolen the texts Luke had (which I had missed in my initial viewing). Will she pass on what she’s learned? What exactly has she learned?
Will Poe learn to channel his fire and lead without tripping over his own ego? Will Finn step up and finally embrace his new family in the Resistance? Is Kylo finally going to get his ass handed to him? I really hate that manipulative asshole.
It’s hard saying goodbye to the things we love. There are so many memories—ones we’ve shared with family and friends—associated with this franchise, but moving on from the original trilogy opens a multitude of possibilities. Star Wars is a big, big, universe; instead of looking back and clinging to what was, let’s look ahead to what could be. We don’t need to burn it all down like Yoda did (I gasped when he showed up), I think Star Wars will benefit from letting go of the past. Besides, like the Force, they will be with us, always.
- Phasma was robbed. WHY DID THIS MOVIE NOT HAVE MORE GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE?! How dare.
- Semi-related, Finn and Rose were robbed. I really loved the idea of their excursion, but the execution was lacking for me.
- Fuck, yes. Rey is not related to anyone and why that’s great.
- Snoke was no one, which was also great.
- Some good points about epilogues: https://www.avclub.com/this-is-not-going-to-go-the-way-you-think-the-last-jed-1821472840