Thoughts On The Last Jedi

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I’m going to say at the outset that I really enjoyed The Last Jedi. I was literally on the edge of my seat all through the movie and thought it was immensely better than it’s predecessor The Force Awakens which at the time I had nothing but a cold reaction to (I like it more now). However it is quite obvious not all Star Wars fans are particularly happy with this film. I shouldn’t be surprised really, even though I consider myself a true Star Wars fan, I always seem to be out of step with a chunk of the Star Wars fandom. Hell I liked the Prequels and didn’t think much of The Force Awakens which I thought was a rehash A New Hope. Oh well. The fanboys loved The Force Awakens, however, because let’s be honest here, all they really want is a rehash of the Original Trilogy repeated ad infinitum (for a further look at my thoughts about The Force Awakens check out my article Rey and The Force Awakens). And this is why they have a problem with The Last Jedi, as it is a film that treads new ground in the Star Wars universe and the fanboys certainly don’t want that. I thought I would discuss elements of The Last Jedi, such as character development of the main characters: namely Rey, Kylo Ren, and to a lesser extent Luke Skywalker and some of the others. I will also be looking at where I think the next movie might go for the characters. Please bear in mind this is just my opinion. I’m noticing on Facebook that discussion on The Last Jedi can be quite heated between the people who love the film and ones who don’t. Looking at it positively the good thing about this is that it is showing there is a lot of passion for Star Wars no matter which side of the divide you sit. People care about what happened, or didn’t happen, in the film showing there is a lot of life still in the Star Wars franchise.

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When I was at University I studied the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is divided into four parts. Parts I and IV are the outer action, while parts II and III are the inner action. What happens in the inner action determines the outcome of what happens in the outer action. In Gawain’s case refusing the advances of the Lady of the Keep means he doesn’t betray the Lord of the Keep who has given him hospitality (there is more to this but I need to be brief here) and because of this it means he doesn’t get his head chopped off by the Green Knight in the outer action. This has been simplified for the purposes of this article. I bring this up because I sometimes look at Star Wars the same way, meaning that it has an outer and inner action. What happens in the inner action ends up determining the fate of the outer action. For me the inner action is what is going on between the Force users who are the protagonists in the story, whether it be Jedi versus Sith, or Rey versus Kylo Ren, while the outer action is the Rebels or the other heroes versus The Empire, or the Resistance versus The First Order. If you look at the inner action in The Revenge of the Sith, it is first of all Anakin turning to the Dark Side and then it becomes Anakin/Darth Vader and Darth Sidious versus Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. While Kenobi defeats Vader, Yoda fails to defeat Vader’s master, Darth Sidious and the outcome of that is the galaxy is under control of The Empire for over twenty years. Irrespective of the actions of anyone else. In Return of the Jedi the inner action takes place in the Emperor’s throne room on the uncompleted second Death Star. In that instance it is Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader and The Emperor (Darth Sidious). In the end Luke defeats Vader, but it is the defeated Vader that kills The Emperor, having turned back to the Light Side, by saving Luke from being killed. The result is The Empire is destroyed and The New Republic begins. Here you might say: but the heroes and the Ewoks defeated the Imperial forces on the ground and that allowed the Rebel Alliance to fly starfighers into the superstructure of the Death Star to destroy it, so it didn’t matter what happened in the Throne Room as they would have been dead anyway. Here I counter: but the Emperor, who was really controlling the Imperial Forces in the battle, lost focus on what was happening outside of the Throne Room when he began dealing with what was going on between Luke and Vader. Thus the Rebels gained the advantage. It’s the inner action controlling what happens in the outer action again. The inner action of the Force users will always determine the result of the outer action of the galactic conflict. The primary focus in The Last Jedi is what’s going on between Rey and Kylo Ren. All the other things, such as the plight of the Resistance or the Canto Bight subplot are all just secondary to this main focus. In Star Wars it’s the Force that is important. The outcome of the fight between darkness and light is what determines the outcome of everything else. Ultimately what happens between Rey and Kylo, in this film and the next, will determine the fate of the Resistance, the First Order, and indeed the galaxy itself.

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Snoke’s Throne Room is where the most important action occurs in the film. What happens in this room sets it all up for the next episode. Kylo Ren saves Rey by slicing Supreme Leader Snoke in half with Rey’s lightsaber. There are a lot of fans who were upset about this. For the last two years there have been many fan theories about Snoke, such as he was in reality Darth Plagueis, or he was Ezra Bridger from the Rebels series, or that he was originally from the Unknown Regions. I didn’t really care. In fact I laughed when he was cut in two. Snoke’s death was something that no one predicted. I knew fans who had come up with all these theories about him would be really annoyed about him being killed, without any explanation about who he was. I always thought about him as a minor character, not really important. Ultimately the story is about Rey and Kylo Ren, not Snoke. With one more installment to go the stripping away of minor characters is essential, otherwise there will just be more clutter as the story resolves. What follows is an impressive lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo against Snoke’s Praetorian Guard. With them fighting together for their very survival. They made a great team, and you wonder what’s going to happen next, can Rey actually pull Kylo back towards the light? But no, Kylo is not interested in fighting the First Order. Now that Snoke is dead it means ha can take it over. He is too enmeshed in the Dark Side to let go, ultimately he wants to be the galaxy’s dictator, not saviour. He even tries to convert Rey to the Dark, trying to get her angry about the revelation about how her parents sold her for drinking money (whether this is true or not remains to be seen). The Skywalkers seem to stick to the same script. He offers for her to rule the galaxy with him by his side, which echoes Anakin/Darth Vader’s attempts to do the same first with Padmé in Revenge of the Sith, and then with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back: “With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.” Seriously what is it with Skywalkers and their desire to control the entire galaxy? Maybe the galaxy is better off without them? Anyway… this scene between Rey and Kylo Ren is pivotal because in it both of them had a clear choice to make for their future direction. Kylo Ren had a choice to walk away from it all, just as Anakin had in Revenge of the Sith when Padmé made the offer, but like his grandfather he refuses to give up on the idea of galactic domination. Rey too had a choice to follow Kylo Ren into the darkness, but she refused. Now we wait to see what happens between them in the next film.

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One thing I liked about Rian Johnson’s directing is that he was always pulling out the rug from under your feet. Everyone went in to The Last Jedi with a of preconceptions and ideas about what was going to happen and Johnson seemed to take great delight in showing that nothing is what it seems or what you expect. And I liked that as it kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat, as you had no idea what was going to happen. When Rey hands what was Anakin’s lightsaber over to Luke the last thing you expected him to do was to throw it away, and that’s what he does, and then he walks away. Over the last two years people had been guessing what Luke was going to say to Rey on their meeting, and no one came up with that. The trouble for Rey is that Luke is not interested in training her and he has lost faith in the Jedi itself. As he points out it was under the Jedi that Darth Sidious grabbed power and they were powerless to do anything about it, and indeed one of their own, trained by Luke’s former master nonetheless, joined him and brought about a galactic tyranny. All this was done under the watch of the Jedi. They failed to stop the Sith taking over and The Empire was born. So why should anyone follow the Jedi anymore? They have proven by their track record they were failures. And indeed he does have a good point. This a major theme of the movie: why follow the past when you’ll just be repeating the same mistakes that happened in the past, why not start something new? With only one one film left in this particular saga it does seem to be heading to an interesting conclusion. Maybe the next film is pointing to the end of the Jedi and the Sith, and the creation of something new, or maybe not…

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Yet another gripe about the film from some of the fan base is the character of Luke Skywalker in this film. At the end of Return of the Jedi he had helped defeat the Emperor, brought his father back to the Light Side, and was a Hero of the Rebellion. Forty years later he is in hiding, and is rather cynical, disillusioned, and bitter about things. I was disappointed in The Force Awakens that he hadn’t successfully trained a new generation of Jedi, but he did try, it’s just that he failed. If he had been the same character he was in Return of the Jedi, then there wouldn’t have been much character development. He would have been two-dimensional. Time hasn’t been good to any of the main characters from the Original Trilogy. No glorious futures for any of them, but that’s the difference between being a hero and actually having to live your life with all the failures and disappointments it brings. Yes we have our successes and our achievements, but those are fleeting moments, the rest is just trying to live with yourself. These fans are angry that The First Order has arisen and instead of Luke fighting them he’s elected to hide away from it all. “That’s not how Luke Skywalker would react!” they cry. What about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda once The Empire arose? What did they do? They both ran away and hid. They both knew they were outclassed by The Emperor, and there was nothing they could really do about it. Maybe Luke also knew that he couldn’t defeat Snoke, or maybe his failure trying to train Jedi haunted him too much? Whatever the reason, I think his character had a lot more depth to it because of this. How dare he be so human.

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I thought I would touch on some of the other characters in the film. Firstly Poe Dameron. In The Force Awakens he portrayed a typical fighter jock, a hero of the Resistance. In this film he makes a series of mistakes, which I think added some depth to his character. Yes he’s one hell of a starfighter pilot, but that can’t always save you from everything, no matter how good you are and this is a lesson he learns eventually in the film. At the beginning of the film they are trying to evacuate the Resistance base when The First Order appears. Several star destroyers come out of hyperspace, and then comes the dreadnought with weaponry that can destroy the base in a matter of moments. It’s up to Poe to buy some time for the Resistance, so he firstly causes a delay and then unexpectedly attacks the dreadnought in his sole x-wing. In the confusion he manages to wipe out a lot of the anti-starship laser cannons and then calls up the Resistance bombers and other starfighters. He so obsessed about taking out the dreadnought that he ignores the order to disengage. The evacuation is over, it’s time for them to go. Instead he puts everyone in the Resistance in danger by continuing to attack the dreadnought. You see the bombers get taken out one by one, until one is finally able to unload its bombs onto the dreadnought, which then blows up spectacularly, but what is the cost? All the pilots along with their Resistance bombers have been destroyed, which could have been put to better use at another time. When he is back on the Resistance cruiser Leia reprimands him and demotes him for not following orders, as it lost the lives of many Resistance pilots and could have put all of them in danger. Leia is trying to teach him that being good in a starfighter cockpit isn’t always the best way to do things. He fails to heed this lesson. When they discover The First Order is able to track their ships through hyperspace, he assumes Vice-Admiral Holdo has no answer to it and instead of trusting her he instead hatches a plan with Finn to work out a way to get on board Snoke’s flagship so the device that is tracking them can be switched off. The end result of which places the Resistance in great danger of being destroyed again, when the information is sold to The First Order that the Resistance have all boarded transports. The First Order are able to find them and destroy them one by one. If Poe had learned to follow orders and understand that his superiors may have information he doesn’t and they are not at all obligated to tell him if it is on a need to know basis, then yet again many lives may not have been lost due to his actions. He was lucky he wasn’t court-martialed. When they are on Crait and he is leading the attack against The First Order in ski speeders, once he realises the attack is futile because it is too late and won’t make any difference he calls off the attack. This shows he is learning that attack is not always the best thing you can do.  Ultimately Poe is a going to be a leader of the Resistance and you have the feeling that Leia is trying to groom him for it. He needs to learn to pick his battles, to use military force at the right time, and to know when he is outclassed and needs to run rather than fight. This film shows him starting to learn this after some rather harsh lessons.

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The main criticism I have of The Last Jedi is that they didn’t seem to really know what to do with Finn. In the end they have him go on some wild goose chase with Rose to Canto Bight to find someone who knows how to get through the shields on The Supremacy and it ends up backfiring on both him and the entire Resistance. The most interesting thing he does in the end is have a fight with Captain Phasma (yet another character who couldn’t get a decent storyline) in the damaged hangar of the Supremacy, Snoke’s flagship. I really thought one obvious way to go was to explore his potential Force ability. In The Force Awakens he manages to break through his mental conditioning and for me the most compelling reason for this is that maybe he is Force-attuned. I thought maybe they might explore that in The Last Jedi, but it’s not even touched on. What they have in store for him in the next film is anybody’s guess. Hux is another one they don’t seem to know what to do with. The way he gets pushed around by Kylo Ren in the film makes you wonder if he will end up betraying him in some way in the last episode.

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Lastly I would like to mention Leia. Due to the tragic death of Carrie Fisher it was her last appearance in a Star Wars film and I was mindful of that when I was watching it. They didn’t kill her off, though near the start of the film it looked like they had for a brief moment. I’m not sure how they are going to deal with her absence in Episode IX, but with her gone and the characters of Luke and Han both dead now it means Episode IX will be bereft of any of the main characters from the Original Trilogy. Maybe that will be fitting for what will be the last episode for this particular Star Wars saga. In the film she played a leader who quite obviously knew her time was coming to an end. To this effect she was trying to pass on what she had learned to others in the Resistance, most notably Poe Dameron. She also had come to accept that her son, Ben Solo, was lost to her and Kylo Ren, as he is now, was unredeemable. Her character was there guiding all the survivors and even giving Rey some encouragement and hope for the future, as though she was passing the flame of Rebellion onto her. She will be missed. There will be a gap in the next film where she should have been.

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I really enjoyed seeing this movie and I have been disappointed by the response of some of the fan base towards this film. It’s a similar response to what the Prequels got which in the end led George Lucas to wash his hands of the whole franchise and sell off Lucasfilm to Disney. If the fans keep on reacting like this then there may be no more Star Wars one day. There were a few things I was disappointed about such as Rey not being a Skywalker, which I was adamant about. After all, the entire saga has been about the fortunes of the Skywalker family and so it made sense she was one too, especially with her latent Force abilities, her mechanical skills which were an echo of both Anakin and Luke’s, as well as her piloting skills, and how Anakin’s lightsaber called her, etc. But no apparently she isn’t, but I could live with that and it didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of the film. The trouble is there have been so many fan theories over the last two years, and the fact that all of them turned out to be wildly off the mark has caused many fans to act like grumpy children. If you read comments sections on Facebook on posts about the movie you end up wondering if the collective mental and emotional age of some of the Star Wars fan base is in single figures. What’s also worrying is the rampant misogynism in a lot of the comments. Some Star Wars fans resent that there are so many strong female characters in this film and thus there are snarky comments made about how Lucasfilm is in control of Social Justice Warriors and how they are “feminising” Star Wars. Having been in several Star Wars groups now for a number of years these comments don’t surprise me sadly, but it is very disappointing. A lot of women like Star Wars and it’s good to see a number of female characters you can relate to in a Star Wars film finally. Personally I think this reaction to the film shows that maybe some of the fan base needs to grow up a little, and if they do, they may realise they missed a really good Star Wars movie.

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts On The Last Jedi

  1. I was actually shocked when I started seeing all the negative reactions to The Last Jedi. I left the theater thinking, “Well, you don’t get much closer to the bull’s eye than that.” The characters had more depth, the story had more nuance. The fact that there were plans that just…failed – it was refreshing. I loved Benecio Del Toro who didn’t devolve into “the thief with a heart of gold” who sees the intent of the resistance and throws his lot in with theirs. He is a morally dubious opporunist. He holds true to that. I love that they made it look like he was going to be a good person, and then went, “No…he’s in it for the money.”
    More than anything, I think the movie felt…honest.
    And I like that Snoke died. He felt like Emperor 2.0. We don’t need another Emperor. We did that already.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes I like how the Benecio Del Toro sold them out for the money as well. One thing I was going to say in the article which I forgot to is that Snoke was no Palpatine. Palpatine could be quite subtle and for Snoke his entire strategy just seemed to be brute force.

    Liked by 1 person

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