‘The Last Jedi’ Chooses New Possibilities and Asks New Questions of A Tale We Know and Love

The Last Jedi
8.1 Overall Score

2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and 2016’s Rogue One brought the Star Wars lore back into the forefront for a newer generation. Both movies were able to push story lines forward both from the past and present. One of the criticisms of The Force Awakens is that in some aspects, it played too close to the heartbeat of 1977’s A New Hope. Within Lucasfilm, there has been a well chronicled aesthetic that they are looking for when it comes to Star Wars movies. Rogue One, where Gareth Edwards may have had a darker tone to it, Disney stepped in and tightened it to be more of a “Star Wars” movie.

Some speculation was that The Last Jedi was going to go a similar path of 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. All of our heroes end up dejected, broken, and beaten. It would seem like the bad guys had the upper hand with a cliffhanger-type reveal. Disney/Lucasfilm and director Rian Johnson could have easily went this route. After many months of fans coming together to piece whatever bread crumb that was left throughout the year, The Last Jedi did anything but fortify those theories. If anything, the movie opens up more questions and possibilities of where the Star Wars universe can go.

Kylo Ren states this to Rey during the movie. “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.” The Force Awakens was that home cooked meal that you were familiar with. You had been primed for that taste because many fans had grown up with the original trilogy and later, the prequels. It introduced old favorites while introducing new characters in a similar beat as episode four. The Last Jedi not only shakes up the foundation, it answers questions, sometimes, not in the way that you would expect or want them to. It challenges you, both for the good and the bad. In a ecosystem that is so guarded and so tailored to the past, Rian Johnson was able to take use relationships as lessons to the new characters.

Look no further than the tale of one Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). When we meet up with Skywalker, he’s a dejected hermit that is poisoned by the “betrayal” of one Ben Solo. Even throughout his brief training with Rey (Daisy Ridley), it was more so to disprove the status of his legend. A visit from an old friend further states that the force is not bound to books – it’s what
Perhaps, the Jedi were not the valiant heroes that many have thought. In some cases, the indecision of the Jedi Order led to the original Empire taking over. However, it’s the endurance of this legend that gives people hope. There’s two sides to every story – here, you get to see the fall of Ben Solo from two different points of view. You can see that there might be a justification from both characters on how they turned out. Everything isn’t just black and white.

General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) relationship has a mentor-ship to it as well. While Poe Dameron likes to go into situations guns a-blazing, Leia teaches him a responsibility to be a leader. A leader makes a decision that better serves a whole. A calculated risk in order to save as many people as you can. This is even further reinforced by Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern). The caveat here is that some decisions by the old guard got the republic in trouble. New situations are going to take new ideas. A New zest that adjusts lessons from the past.

Kylo Ren’s relationship with the past in idolizing his grandfather, Darth Vader comes to an end as well. He destroys the helmet after being reprimanded from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and thus, starts to go down his own path to the dark side. The “rule of two” is temporarily in doubt as both mentors meet their collective demise. Both Rey and Kylo have this strong connection together. In how powerful they are, their fates are both in opposition and tied to one another. It will be interesting to see as both utilize both the light and dark sides of the force, where they will end up. Like The Force Awakens, you only really get to see a taste of how powerful Rey can be. Kylo, while assuming a position of power, is still insecure within his place.

The very fabric of what we understand about the force is tested. Many were wondering if Leia had force abilities. The choice to make that known was rather..interesting. Superman-esque if you will. There are force links and force ghosts are more powerful than we initially thought. In a juxtaposition to the reveal of The Empire Strikes Back, Rey’s parents weren’t of a particular lineage. For as powerful as Snoke is shown to be, he goes out with a whimper. It was almost like he was a placeholder. Interesting choices that will for sure be the point of contention for years to come.

One weak point of the movie would have to be the plot of Canto Bight and searching for the code breaker. Finn (John Boyega) was a major component of The Force Awakens. It’s hard to not think that he along with new character Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) got relegated to the secondary role. In a plot that ultimately ending up failing, nevertheless. Kelly Marie Tran’s performance is particularly strong in the moments were Rose is able to draw strength from losing her sister in the beginning of the movie. You would have loved to have seen both Finn and Rose have a more prominent role going forward, not so much steering into a love-triangle with Rey.

The basis of The Last Jedi is the deconstruction of the legend. However, it also uses this same legend to give hope to the new generation. The last scene shows a force-sensitive kid look out into the stars with the resistance ring. It’s Rian Johnson’s way of saying, “we may have gotten here with some turbulence, but the destination is the same.” Luke’s journey has taken some turns, but in the end, he’s still the vision of hope. The Last Jedi will be a movie that will test even the most passionate Star Wars fan. It’s still a very beautiful, action-packed, Star Wars movie at heart. It just depends on how you interpret the way you want your idols to be.

Main Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Writer | Photographer | Beast

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