Reconciling the Past: Thoughts on the Last Jedi (MAJOR SPOILERS)

 

If Star Wars: The Last Jedi is about anything, it’s about the past and our relationship to it. This especially plays out through the story lines of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who spends a majority of the film broken, analyzing his past actions and the legacy of his character. It is only in the third act that Luke wises up, after a visit from Yoda’s force ghost, and decides to join the Resistance as they make a desperate, final stand against the First Order on the planet of Crait.

Kylo Ren, meanwhile, son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who he killed in The Force Awakens, and Leia Oragana (Carrie Fisher), has more than one string of dialogue in which he renounces the past, saying, at one point, “Let the past die. Bury it if you have to.” When he tries to lure Rey to the dark side, almost echoing word for word Vader’s pitch to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, he tells her to let go of her past in order to become who she’s meant to be. Ultimately, she refuses his offer and stays with the Resistance. It’s clear, however, that Kylo is going to be a different villain than Vader. Fairly early in the film, he even smashes the Vader-like mask he wore throughout The Force Awakens.

As I already noted,  Luke spends much of the film deconstructing the hero mythos of Luke Skywalker, even asking Rey when she first asks for his help if she really thinks it possible that he and his lightsaber can take down the entire First Order. The Luke Skywalker of this film is not the hero from the original films. Furthermore, his action scenes are few. In the last act, Luke, well a hologram/Force projection of Luke, battles Kylo Ren on Crait in order to save his friends and what remains of the Resistance, but that scene is pretty short and not that action packed compared to other lightsaber battles.

Luke and Kylo’s stories serve as a statement that it is time to allow the franchise to grow and stray from the original films. At this point, Han Solo is dead, Luke sacrifices himself at the end of The Last Jedi, and though Leia was set to have a large role in the third and final film of this trilogy, that is impossible now, due to Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016. Even Admiral Akbar  (the It’s a trap guy from Return of the Jedi) dies early in The Last Jedi, during a Resistance attack/space fight gone horribly wrong.

Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, who has been tapped to direct a completely new trilogy in the Star Wars universe, has made it clear that we can’t hold onto the past forever and there are plans to expand the universe. That said, there are plenty of nods to the original films in The Last Jedi. The battle of Crait, for instance, very much resembles the battle of Hoth at the beginning of Empire. There is snow and even bigger imperial walkers. The rebels are drastically out manned and outgunned and forced to escape. Some of the dialogue even overlaps dialogue from the originals films.  But as Luke and Leia acknowledge at the end of The Last Jedi, the Resistance will live on, but with new faces. Cue the close-up of Rey, Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), and Finn’s (John Boyega) faces. This film very much serves as the passing of the baton to a younger cast and new characters.

The original films will always be there for us to watch and re-watch, but it is clear that Disney plans to take the franchise in new directions. We’ll see where they go after The Last Jedi. Here is a general list of what I liked and disliked about the film.

Likes:

  • The character development! Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke were all multi-layered characters in this film, and to some extent, so was Poe and new Resistance fighter Rose (Kelly Marie Tan).
  • The humor! There are a lot of well-crafted jokes in this film, despite how dark it is at times. I laughed out loud more than once.
  • The porgs and snow wolves. They are cute, but they are not overly cutesy. The new creatures/animals also show the connection between nature/the Resistance and preserving the galaxy for all creatures.
  • The battle of Crait. This was my favorite battle in the film, and there are A LOT of battles. The battle between Kyle Ren and Luke is well worth the wait.
  • Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher on screen for the last time together. What else do I have to say about this?
  • The fact that the major Resistance fighters are all ordinary people, not princesses or folks with Skywalker blood. Kylo even admits to Rey that her parents were nobodies, willing to sell her to a junkyard for cash. Finn was a Stormtrooper janitor before joining the Resistance. Rose also comes from an incredibly humble background. The new films are very much the 99 percent against the elite.
  • The number of women in the Resistance. 2017 was the year of the woman/the women’s march/the silence breakers, and women occupy top leadership roles in the Resistance. That’s great to see. Luke also tells Kylo near the end of the film that the Jedi will live on, through Rey.

Dislikes:

  • Some of the plot holes. If Supreme Leader Snoke is so powerful, how did Kylo Ren kill him so easily? What IS Snoke’s story anyways? Now that he is dead, we shall never know. He was quite the big bad in The Force Awakens, only to be sliced in half fairly easily in The Last Jedi.
  • Luke’s sacrifice. I get why this had to be done, but the way it was done still has me scratching my head. Luke does not actually fight Kylo. He projects a hologram and meditates during the projection. Yet, he is killed? How is this possible? How can you kill a hologram? Does he decide to just sacrifice himself to the Force? Will he be a Force ghost in the next film like Yoda? I have no idea.
  • The pace at which Disney is releasing these movies. One Star Wars movie per year is a lot! At one point will there be burnout?

If you saw The Last Jedi and want to comment, feel free!

 

 

 

 

 

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About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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2 Responses to Reconciling the Past: Thoughts on the Last Jedi (MAJOR SPOILERS)

  1. I felt the Luke hologram was a complete cop out. I HATED that part, and I felt totally cheated. Enjoyed reading your review.

    • Thanks for reading my review. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way about Luke’s fate. I assume he’ll show up as a Force ghost in the next film with a limited role.

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