So, I watched The Last Jedi. This blog will have more spoilers than Luke’s island had porgs, so you’re warned.
First things first: this article about Star Wars not caring what you think pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie, and I LOVED it. I loved the basic premise of this movie: Star Wars isn’t safe. Star Wars shouldn’t be predictable. Throwing out the rulebook is why this is a great movie. Now, it’s okay if you don’t like the movie or any part of it. We’re still cool as long as no one’s namecalling or being rude to each other about it.
That being said, our first major clue that we were off the rails is when Luke Skywalker, after an intense build-up of serious music, camera panning, and deep expressions between himself and the expectant Rey, takes his father’s lightsaber and chucks it over his shoulder like it was a piece of trash. I think it was necessary that we be told right up front that this wasn’t our beloved and cherished and almost fetishized Star Wars. This couldn’t be your daddy’s Star Wars because it’s been 40 years. The world, and we, have changed so much in that time.
I couldn’t help thinking about Weird Al’s song ‘Everything You Know Is Wrong’ as Luke grills Rey about why she was there, and he told her (a recurring theme of the movie) that everything she said was wrong. Everything we know about Star Wars is wrong. We’ve built up this huge religion about what Star Wars is and isn’t, we’ve had 30 years of Star Wars RPG games that codified what you could and couldn’t do with the Force, we’ve had years of sometimes conflicting information building up into this solid edifice, this bedrock institution. Quite honestly, the structure of Star Wars and the fandom that had built up over the past 40 years reminded me of the society around the Old Republic during the prequel era. I think some of the anger about this was realizing that we had become similar to the corrupt society that Palpatine took advantage of and used to destroy the Republic.
The scenes in Canto Bight’s casino took the place of a cantina visit and it showed how the rich people of the galaxy made their fortunes by selling weapons to whoever would pay, they didn’t care about the politics of the situation. War was good for business. That being said, I really enjoyed the scene of the fathiers running through and trashing the casino, because I saw that as ‘the people’ delighting in knocking down the establishment that enriched itself on the pain and suffering of others. If we were expected to hate the rich and polished and perfect culture in the casino, we were also supposed to enjoy the chaos that the ‘lower class’ inflicted upon them.
Speaking of specific characters, the first thing we really saw was Poe Dameron playing a rather funny stalling game, calling Hux on the Star Destroyer and then acting as if he was talking to an underling. It presaged the fact that this movie would have more humor by starting off big and going from there. I loved them taking the piss out of these pompous Imperial windbags who have to make this big blustery speech and overturning the tried and true story of what happens when you make a call to another ship. Sure, it was a delaying tactic, but it was brilliant at taking the wind out of Hux’s sails until it was far too late.
However, the next thing that happened was needed. Poe is a great pilot even without the Force, with the skills of a Wedge Antilles but without the humility and leadership ability that Wedge eventually was given in the now-Legends books and comics. Poe got good people killed because he was looking at the smaller picture and not at the larger one. He was trying to be a hero and not a leader. Sure, they took out a dreadnought. But they lost their remaining bombers. If Poe had listened to Leia’s orders, things would have been very different for the failing Resistance fleet. I imagine the First Order has more dreadnoughts up their sleeves, and I was quite frankly expecting another one to come rolling in.
Poe reminded me of Maverick from Top Gun, the hotshot pilot who thought he was so clever and didn’t accept anyone’s leadership or rules except his own if he disagreed with his leadership. Poe had to grow up and learn to be a leader, which he did by the end of the movie, but here at the beginning, his behavior got people killed for no good reason. In fact, it’s not until the endgame scene on Crait before he finally ‘got it’ about what it meant to be a leader.
Speaking of leaders, I utterly loved Vice Admiral Holdo, played with grace and steel by the epic Laura Dern. Much like Poe, I wasn’t expecting her. Her attire, including the famous ‘space jewelry’ that Carrie Fisher insisted stay in the movies to show that women can be feminine and yet powerful, was awesome. The uniform doesn’t make the person, and I really liked the notion that this sharp military mind was housed in a form that was classy as fuck. Leia spent much of her time as a leader wearing a dress with no underwear, so why can’t a Vice Admiral wear an elegant dress? Holdo isn’t having any of Poe’s shit and she treats him like the insubordinate subordinate that he is. I felt they had Poe playing it as if he expected to be named the new leader of the military after the attack on the Raddus. I didn’t get the impression that Poe thought anything actively sexist about her, but he did have that more subtle thing where he felt so righteous in his own opinion that he should be more of a part of the leadership of the reduced Resistance than he was.
Quite frankly, Holdo was right to put him in his place to maintain the stability of command, and she did it with precision skill. And also quite frankly, his insistence on an explanation goes against many military doctrines. He was a junior officer despite his self-opinion, so his job was to fall in line and follow orders. That might sound more like an Empire thing, but it’s actually more of a military organization thing. Even the Rebel Alliance’s guerilla army had ranks and roles and an enforced chain of command. Having the person delivering the check to the out-of-control junior officer being a woman shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
It doesn’t lessen her character to admit to Leia that she likes Poe, just as Leia does. It’s an acknowledgement that both women see leadership potential in him, although it’s Leia who stuns him with her faithful pistol when Rose and Finn’s plan fails. As for Holdo, she’s quick on her mental feet and able to seize an opportunity to turn the tables on him by distracting his mutineers. She’s also prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice with a new tactic in order to protect the remaining Resistance shuttles. While a number of people are dissecting the science of and going ‘why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ regarding the Holdo maneuver, going to lightspeed through the First Order fleet, pretty much everyone I’ve seen talking about it agrees on the breathtaking FX and visuals in that scene of the Star Destroyers and Snoke’s ship simply being shredded into stardust.
So let’s talk about Leia. Leia’s finest moment wasn’t the open use of the Force to save herself, tho that was awesome. She’d always had this subtle ‘I felt it’ sort of stuff in the original trilogy, and she eventually became a Jedi Master in the EU works, but in the overhauled canon, she didn’t really get to use what we long-time users of the RPG would call a Force ability until just now. And, for the sake of the folks who don’t read any of the side novels and whose only exposure to Star Wars is the movies, this is the first time she actively used the Force, and she did it well. The science of being blown out into space and what happens with a body in space? Eh, Star Wars ignores real-world science for plot points all the time, so I didn’t mind the suspension of disbelief required to allow for her survival. As a side note, it’s an odd sort of reverse mirror of real life, where Carrie Fisher dies first of the trio of actors, but Luke and Han died before Leia in the movies.
Also, I was sad when they specifically announced Admiral Ackbar as having been killed in that attack, but he would have logically been on the bridge then, so he would have died with everyone else there. However, Leia is a self-rescuing princess comma dammit, so I had absolutely no problems with her using the Force to survive certain death. And yes, I teared up in the end credits when it said ‘In loving memory of Our Princess, Carrie Fisher’. I’m glad that so far, they’ve chosen not to have hear appear post-mortem in Episode 9 in some fashion. The way they ended her arc in TLJ turns her into an almost Arthurian figure. Leia can simply be off-camera in Episode 9 and referenced by people on-camera and the Resistance can still use her for a leader or figurehead character. Honestly, I prefer Leia to be transformed into this more mythic figure by her living absence than how the Stargate people handled the RL death of actor Don S. Davis, having Samantha Carter tell John Shepard that General Hammond had died of a sudden heart attack (similar to the actor’s passing).
Let’s talk about that attack on the Raddus that caused Leia’s first use of active Force powers. Kylo Ren was following his grandfather’s methods by having just two wingmen and attacking the enemy, going on his own outside the efforts of the rest of the First Order military. He also mirrored Anakin’s childhood adventure against the Trade Federation in the Naboo fighter. He was being militarily smart by attacking the unshielded bridge of the Raddus while it was fleeing from the Imperials. However, he hesitated. He linked up with Leia and it was his wingmen who continued the attack while he was dithering, so technically, Kylo didn’t murder the Resistance leadership. He could kill his own father, but he couldn’t pull the trigger to kill his mother. He was almost startled when his wingmen followed through on his original orders. We’ll get back to Adam Driver’s tour de force performance later.
Right now, I’d like to discuss about diversity and inclusion. This wasn’t the first Star Wars movie that pointedly had a more diverse cast, but surprisingly, some of it was on the First Order’s side. However, they had no aliens in their crew, but there were women and persons of color in visible roles aside from the still-underutilized Captain Phasma (who, I believe, is not dead). On the Resistance side, there were lots of aliens, women in speaking roles of leadership, female PoC being heroes in their own right. Sadly, many of them died as the Resistance fleet and pilots were killed during the First Order’s lengthy attack, including Rose’s sister. I was particularly grieved to see the death of Tallissan Lintra, aka Blue Leader, an A-wing pilot killed during Kylo Ren’s devastating attack on the hangar of the Raddus. There were also elders in active roles rather than just senior Resistance leaders. This is something that started in Rogue One, having pilots and regular Resistance fighters be older men and women, proving that fighting the bad guys isn’t just a job for the young.
Fighting the bad guys is also a job for droids. BB-8 is even more of a Swiss Army Knife than R2-D2 ever was, even more independent and just as self-sacrificial as his predecessor. He not only saves Poe’s bacon at the beginning of the movie, he uses his own initiative to help save Rose, Finn, and the codebreaker at Canto Bight. While he was something of a literal get out of jail free card, he wasn’t infallible and wasn’t made into a deus ex machina, which is important.
A final thought on the evacuation at D’Qar and how the First Order tracked the Resistance to the Crait system… while we all know that hyperspace tracking was tech first mentioned in Rogue One, I was more put in mind of Battlestar Galactica, the new series, where the Cylons were tracking the Colonial ships and would appear out of FTL exactly 33 minutes after a jump. However, TLJ took this a bit sideways and had Admiral Holdo choosing to bide her time and plan for a longer game. This led to the side plot of Rose and Finn going off with Poe’s subversive nod and plans for mutiny to give them time to solve the problem of the tracking. This is back to Poe’s inability to follow orders or to think he’s so right rather than present this to the senior leaders and have it be a unified Resistance effort.
By the way, I really hated part of that scene of that trio plotting. Rose and Finn’s first meeting was hilarious because she’s a spitfire who’s capable and knows what she’s doing despite her hero worship, but the two grunts coming up with this plan and then bringing it to an officer was important. However, the part I hated about the scene was where Finn not only talked over Rose (who should have tased him again) but actually stepped in front of her during his heedless and fervent discussion of their idea. Honestly, the plan to get onto the First Order ship and take out the tracking was more her plan than his, and the dude did most of the talking. Rose had to force her way into the discussion (I still say she should have tased him again). Still, I did like the fact that the regular grunts, whose specialized knowledge is essential to any organization like this, could have saved the fleet, if the plan had gone off as hoped. Their mistake was not telling Holdo but rather telling someone closer to their rank: Poe. By the way, I utterly adore Kelly Marie Tran, the actress who plays Rose. Her acting is stellar, but I’m tickled by the sheer delight she espouses when she encounters fans and they tell her what her character means to them and how they liked Rose. She cried when she spotted someone cosplaying as Rose at the red carpet premiere, after all, showing us just how she felt about being part of this world. She is yet another reason why representation matters.
I’d like to consider the side quest here. It was a little odd having Poe being the main interface with Maz Kanata, but I guess he was there on Takodana after the Resistance repelled the First Order’s visit, so there’s some continuity there. Once Rose and Finn got to Canto Bight, they did some stupid stuff (parking their ship on the beach just out in the open rather than going through channels and keeping it on the down low?), but I did like the fact that Rose was the one who educated Finn on how terrible those people were and showed him the truth below the pretty veneer. Of course, the parking violation causes their adventure to go sideways, and they just happen to run into another codebreaker. People seem to be forgetting that the fancy codebreaker they were actually going to find in the casino was the only one Maz Kanata said that she trusted. She never said there weren’t others with the skills, so I was fully expecting him to skip out for the money. There was talk behind the scenes before the movie came out that this codebreaker was originally going to be Lando Calrissian, but I’m glad they veered away from that. The betrayal doesn’t feel right for Lando’s character since his stint in the Rebellion, and it would have opened up the can of worms as to whether Finn was his son, because we do like to connect those dots and consider those possible ideas.
By the way, with regards to Finn… he’s not a Force user, IMHO. He’s never shown to be one. Waving a lightsaber around doesn’t make you one. Han called it in TFA: That’s not how the Force works! Maz giving Finn the lightsaber in TFA wasn’t because she thought he could become a Jedi. She did it so he would pass it along to Rey. Everyone was shipping Finn and Rey at first, then Finn and Poe, and now all of a sudden, Rose sort of admits her love for him after she saves his life on Crait when he, yet again, was haring off to do something stupid, and I’m sort of left baffled with it all. It felt like her admission, while an important thing for Finn to get through his thick skull in terms of the overarching reason why the Resistance fights, seemed to come out of the blue when she kissed him. And suddenly he gives a crap about her enough to watch over her in the Falcon‘s medbay as they escape? The TFA marketing seemed to hype up Finn as this badass black dude who’s got a lightsaber (thus leading us to believe he’s going to be the next Jedi), all big central role and all, and here in TLJ, he’s not the big deal he claimed to be in TFA. Finn became a secondary character to Kylo Ren, Rey, Poe Dameron, and to a lesser extent Hux. Finn became what Poe grew out of. He became what he thought a hero was and it took Rose to remind him that dead heroes suck. His fight with Phasma was simply to get some of his own back and to set up the ‘Rebel scum’ quip.
Speaking of meetings, let’s go back to Luke’s island retreat. I loved his rejection of Rey and pretty much all of what she brought to his doorstep. The green milk thing didn’t bug me at all cos I grew up on a farm in the country and nobody thought it was weird or gross to squirt milk straight from the cow into your cup and drink it warm. That was Luke pretty much doing his own version of Yoda weirding him out when he first showed up on Dagobah. I loved how Chewbacca was not having any of Luke’s shit and simply bust the door in and greeted his old friend. And later, when Luke visited the Falcon and met Artoo, I laughed so much when Luke scolded Artoo for language, a nod to the internet joke about how Artoo’s dialogue in all the previous SW movies must have been cussing because they bleeped everything out. However, it’s not the first time Artoo was told to watch his language. I thoroughly loved the sucker punch Artoo gives Luke by showing the original Leia ‘you’re my only hope’ holo. Artoo also isn’t having any of Luke’s shit either.
Luke’s exile wasn’t simply a childish rejection of being sucked back into the whole Jedi thing. Sure, there was a bit of selfishness in there, but it was mostly the deep shame, as we will eventually find out. We will learn that our good and heroic and legendary Luke Skywalker is merely human and fallible. He makes mistakes and he chose to leave instead of possibly perpetrating more. His exile was far different from either Yoda’s exile on Dagobah or Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine. Sure, both elder Jedi Masters knew they and their Order done fucked up, but in this case, it was Luke personally who had screwed up. Yoda and Obi-Wan still had purposes, they were both waiting for Luke to grow up: one to ensure he did, the other to ensure he was eventually trained.
As for the Yoda visitation, I actually rather appreciated Force ghost Yoda calling Luke on his bullshit, and the fact that they used puppet-Yoda rather than prequel-CGI/Clone Wars Yoda in terms of behavior and the FX. It wouldn’t have sat right to have a Yoda who wouldn’t ever cackle like he did in the swamps in ESB, no matter how many episodes of Clone Wars had established pre-RotS Yoda as a wise and non-cackling, very serious indeed sort of character. Yoda’s presence was the only sort of spoiler I had going into the movie, thanks to Mark Hamill tweeting a photo of Frank Oz at the red carpet premiere in London. However, since Hamill is a known awesome troll, I wasn’t taking it as a spoiler per se, since there’s always folks from previous films seen going into the current one as VIPs or whatnot.
One of the most important lessons for the Luke scenes was that we all had a lot to unlearn. Again, we’ve been trained for 40 years on what the Force could and couldn’t do through secondary media and the prequels. The prequels were quite rightly eviscerated for introducing science into something that the original trilogy had said was spiritual. Midichlorians were a silly thing, but they were also an interesting reflection of the overall creation of the Old Republic era. As someone who has roleplayed in the Star Wars universe in text-based online games set in various SW eras, whose gameplay structure was based on various versions of the pen and paper RPGs from either West End Games or Wizards of the Coast, things were codified in what you could and couldn’t do. For example, most of those RPGs pretty much wrote a rule that said you couldn’t use a lightsaber unless you were Force-sensitive or you had to roll versus a pretty hefty penalty check against cutting off your own limbs. These RPGs also took the various lightsaber fight moves and mirrored them against real life fighting styles and invented the lightsaber forms such as Obi-Wan preferring Form III: Soresu. We fans and official creatives working on projects such as the EU novels, comic books, video games have layered these things throughout our stuff so that it was almost regimented. For example, the MMO Star Wars: the Old Republic, the only Legends property still on-going, refers to Soresu, Juyo, and Ataru lightsaber forms in their Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior combat skills.
What The Last Jedi gets right is tossing all of that aside and reminding the viewers that the Force isn’t all science-y up in here. It’s about life and sensing it all around and the mystic energy field that binds the universe together, to return to old Obi-Wan’s first lessons to a much younger Luke. This Force is the same Force that was taught to us in the original trilogy, and that’s important for the overarching story. Quite frankly, the sciencing of the Force took away a lot of the spiritual feeling of what the Force was, it made it cold and sterile, and it made the downfall of the Jedi actually rather necessary. When I was RPing across various games, you’d have Old Republic Jedi talking about their way of doing things, and normal people were all horrified like… you take infants from their parents and then don’t teach them how to handle real-life feelings and emotions but how to fight and whatever? A lot of people quite rightly didn’t trust Jedi characters because in most of the Old Republic era, particularly close to the prequels, the Jedi were so hidebound and reactionary and seen as active threats to the normal raising of children. The children also didn’t get a choice in the matter, the parents had to consent, and it was only in the fashionable parts of the Old Republic where it was seen as an honor or a good thing for the Jedi to come take a kid away from their family. TFA quite rightfully turns that on its head and has it be the First Order using the old Jedi methods and it’s now being seen as evil, and the result of this is Finn.
The central theme regarding the Force in this movie is: the Jedi done fucked up (as I’ve said before – look at the prequels and how easily Sidious took them down), and it’s time to go back to the basics. This movie pretty much solidified that Sidious was right about a number of things that he told Anakin. Not ‘certain point of view’ sorts of things, but hard and honest truths about the Jedi Order being an institution and not minding the Living Force. Hell, Qui-Gon Jinn had it more right than the rest of the Order.
I liked the notions of re-mystifying the Force. They didn’t have to specifically retcon the midichlorians. They simply took what Old Ben told Luke on Tatooine and ran with that. Sure, Obi-Wan could have taught Luke about what makes someone strong in the Force based on midicholorians, but he knew he was wrong, and he went back to the ancient roots of the Jedi himself during his exile. I also like how nothing was explained beyond ‘feel, breathe’. How did Snoke connect Kylo Ren and Rey so they could have their little conferences? Doesn’t matter. People may have questioned Snoke reaching through the Force and yanking Hux around on the holo, but we saw Vader Force-choking Admiral Ozzel from afar in ESB, so this is nothing new. I really liked the training scenes, because it hearkened back to Luke’s original training, it was short, sweet, and to the point. Luke wasn’t showing her lightsaber forms and having her practice practice practice. It wasn’t about lifting rocks, as he said. He also taught her (and us) that the Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi or Sith, it’s simply there.
There were moments that called to mind events in the previous movies, and it’s important to have these nods. Luke refusing to teach Rey because he failed Ben Solo is no different than Yoda initially refusing to teach Luke. His overall protestations of failure were straight up Obi-Wan yelling at Anakin on Mustafar. There were also callbacks to Yoda’s attempts to teach Anakin about the pitfalls of not letting go. This is a lesson Luke needed to learn from his old master as well. Luke couldn’t let go of the ancient Jedi texts, for example, although he was willing to put them to the fire and sweep it all away… for a moment. When he refused, Yoda did what had to be done. This is an odd mirroring of when Kylo Ren refused to fire upon his mother on the bridge of the Raddus and his wingmen taking the shot instead, but in this case, it was Yoda pretty much smacking Luke on the back of the head like Gibbs always did to his subordinates on NCIS.
Letting go of the past is a huge theme for this movie. We as fans were asked to let go of the past a number of times. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and the Story Group was tasked with cleaning up the canon, and they basically swept everything in the EU away and declared it as Legends so they could start over in preparation for The Force Awakens, we were asked to accept it. Some members of the fandom (sometimes, they get so vociferous that I choose to think of those extreme people as the original derivation of fan… fanatic), still refuse to acknowledge the current canon and won’t watch any of the new movies or anything that contradicts their beloved EU. They’ve participated in petitions, online campaigns, inundated the social media of people who work at Lucasfilm, whatever. I understand their passion, but personally, I’m not in the ‘keep Legends canon’ boat. Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff in the old EU that I wouldn’t mind keeping, but I’m not gonna be a gobshite about it. Full disclosure, I’m acquainted with three members of the Story Group and consider two to be passing friends, so I’m not gonna hate on their work.
So, not only are we asked to let go of 40 years of fandom and the codifying of ‘what Star Wars is’, we’re also being asked to let go of the Skywalker blood being all-important. Rey isn’t famous in the Star Wars universe (yet). She’s not some kind of chosen one like Anakin. Part of what’s awesome about this movie is how after TFA, we all had our theories as to whose family she was. Luke’s (Anakin’s) old lightsaber called to her, so she must’ve been a Skywalker, right? She’s Force-sensitive, so she could be a secret Kenobi! Those of us who adored the Obi-Wan/Satine romance in Clone Wars would have loved that! Maybe she’s Kylo Ren’s hidden sister (ooooh, that makes their scenes a bit incestuous, don’t they?). Maybe she’s Luke’s daughter! At the end of the day, we find out that Rey’s parents were junk traders on Jakku who sold her for drinking money and that they died as trash. Socially, she’s a nobody. She’s not a farmboy with an infamous father conveniently hidden away until he grew up to take up his father’s lightsaber and fight against evil. She’s not a secret relative of someone we know. Quite frankly, it makes Rey more interesting that she’s not some chosen one who conveniently returns to center stage like Harry Potter. The chosen one trope in media is tiresome and boring, because it means that unless you were that chosen one, you couldn’t be the hero, you couldn’t actually be the one who saves the day.
All of our great and grand theories about who she was were thrown out the window. Sure, some people think that Kylo Ren was lying to her. However, if he was, she would have called him on it in that scene. And also, Maz Kanata wouldn’t have wisely said in TFA no one was waiting for Rey on Jakku and that Rey already knew that. The flashback of the little girl crying while a ship flies away on Jakku? That ship’s such a red herring and part of Rey’s delusion. It’s important for Rey to have flaws, and this self-deception was a pretty big flaw. She also has a lot of anger in her. That will come up in Episode 9, even tho a lot of people theorized that she was going to turn this time around. You see, the ‘big ESB-style twist’ wasn’t that she’d turn to darkness, but that her parents were nobodies.
Speaking of theories that meant nothing: all of our Snoke theories. He wasn’t Palpatine. He wasn’t some fallen Jedi (that we know of). He was just some powerful Force-user who stepped into the vacuum left by Palpatine’s death. He was a manipulator and held military power, but his identity wasn’t important. He thought he knew everything, but he too was wrong. I loved his throne room, and the throne room scene was amazing. It started off as a nod to the throne room scene in RotJ, including the lightsaber on the armrest, the banter back and forth, the removal of Rey’s handcuffs, and even Rey reaching for her lightsaber to attack, but then it goes off the rails in an awesome way. Snoke redirected Rey’s grasp on the lightsaber to smack her in the head with it. He did some gloating much like Palpatine did, but he never foresaw Kylo’s betrayal. Snoke assumed he truly knew the heart of Kylo Ren, that he understood the whys of what Kylo was feeling or what his intentions were based on Kylo’s sudden resolution, but again, he was wrong.
The throne room itself was so art deco movie set. It first reminded me of the photos of what a heavy-CGI movie’s set would look like with all the green/blue screen walls, but then I started thinking of movies made in the 30s that had a minimalist style. The red walls with no art or designs were actually a nice nod to that era. After Kylo Ren turns and activates his grandfather’s lightsaber and then Rey calls it to her to cut Snoke in half, the subsequent fight scene with the Imperial Guards was simply phenomenal. It also takes a different direction than the RotJ fight scene. Here, the two were working together, not against each other. Kylo Ren and Rey balanced off each other perfectly as they fought both against the guards and later against each other, which is a good mirror for the overarching story of the Force being balanced. And then when they both reached for the famous lightsaber, the one that had been Anakin’s, and then Luke’s, and now Rey’s, their struggle was the key here. They were both fighting over this artifact, and it was important to the overall story of getting rid of the past that their titanic struggle broke the lightsaber. Even though Rey ended up with the pieces later, the lightsaber itself may not be salvagable and that’s okay.
However, that does raise some questions. If Luke truly believed as he said on Ahch-To that the Jedi had to die, why did he tell Kylo Ren in the fight on Crait that he wasn’t the last Jedi? Who was it who stashed the ancient Jedi texts that were supposed to have gone up in flames after Yoda torched the tree protecting them? Again with the theories. Some say Luke put them there (which makes no sense, IMHO, since he was eventually at peace with Yoda torching them). Some say Rey stole them before Luke and Yoda had their conversation. Personally? I’m kinda thinking Yoda might have done it himself. We’ll find out… or it may not even be important. The simple fact is, they were there.
Before we finish up this massive little party, I’d like to go over some smaller character bits. I loved seeing General Emmat showing up again. He was originally a character created for the secondary-but-still-fully-canon material in the various novels, and it’s good to see him again in TLJ (he was in TFA too). Also, I loved the bits with Chewie. First, his explosive entrance into Luke’s hut, then the infamous porg scene, and finally being pilot of the Falcon on Crait. The funny thing is that some people forget that Chewie was the pilot in A New Hope when they were escaping the Death Star and Luke and Han were going all pewpew against the TIE fighters. Han and Rey have both been sold as these hotshot pilots, but Chewie’s also got some skills there and that deserves recognition.
I was also not upset about the increased amounts of humor in the movie. I mean, hell, there were jokes in the original trilogy and humor in the prequels, but even Peter Jackson recognized when he made Lord of the Rings into movies that you needed some humor to leaven the grimness of the rest of the story… although I wasn’t a fan of how he did it by turning Gimli into a walking punchline. I liked the caretakers of Ahch-To, and the deadpan ‘I can’t imagine why’ from Luke when Rey observes they didn’t like her (after she blew a hole in her hut’s wall). The porgs were hilarious. And you could hear the gasp of horror through the theatre when we saw two of them with Luke’s lightsaber and it was clear that one of the two was in a very bad place had they not been scared away.
Back to Crait and that epic fight between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. Luke is telling his nephew that he failed him, and it echoed back to Obi-Wan telling Anakin that he had also failed. But I knew even the first time I saw it that Luke wasn’t really there once he got out onto the salt bed. Despite Luke seeming to touch Leia and give her the dice from Falcon as a memento of Han, you could tell. That was a younger Luke who stepped out to face his nephew, Luke as Kylo Ren remembered him. He wore the old black Jedi outfit reminiscent of RotJ, and he was bearing the blue lightsaber, Anakin’s that had just been destroyed on Snoke’s ship. Kylo Ren was so focused on his rage that he didn’t notice the details. I did wonder what happened to Luke’s green lightsaber from RotJ that would have been part of Kylo Ren’s last memory of Luke before dropping the roof on his head. However, if you remember, Luke and Kylo Ren never actually made contact in that scene until Ren figures out he’s been duped and tests it by thrusting his saber into Luke’s projected form.
Once the fight started, you knew how it was going to end. Luke was giving hope to the Resistance and stalling the First Order, but he was never going to survive. He knew his time was over and this was his way of doing what he could. The fact that ‘what he could’ amounted to reaching across interstellar distances via the Force and manifesting in such a realistic fashion is a testament to how strong Luke was in the Force. He also echoed Old Ben fighting his father on the Death Star, the whole ‘if you strike me down’ thing, but here’s the twist. Kylo Ren didn’t strike him down. And Luke didn’t say he’d become more powerful, he said he’d pretty much haunt the boy. So I perceive this as Mark Hamill’s certain appearance in Episode 9… but perhaps not as Rey’s Force ghost teacher but rather as Kylo Ren’s conscience. Does that mean any of the other known Force ghosts will appear? I would suspect not. For one, it’s kinda cluttery. The only one who makes sense to do so other than Luke himself is Anakin Skywalker. None of these younger generation kids know who Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi are, so their teachings wouldn’t have any impact. Having Anakin telling his grandson to knock it off would be amazing, however.
I loved the acting performances of Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher above all else. The cast as a whole was as good as you might imagine, but those were definitely satisfying to me. Ren’s anger, Luke’s self-disgust and finally coming to peace, Ridley’s trying to figure it out, and OMG, Carrie goddamned Fisher. Such a perfect final performance from our Princess and General.
So here we are at the end of things. Star Wars has become unsafe. It’s uncharted territory with no Luke, no Han, and pretty much also no Leia to lead us. Obi-Wan and Yoda are nearly forgotten. Hope is a precious commodity but kept in the hearts of people. One thing to remember is that the Rebellion was founded by rich and powerful people like Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. Sure, they were better-minded than many of their peers and they had deep pockets to help bankroll the original Rebellion Against the Empire, but this Resistance is now officially small enough to fit into a single Corellian freighter. Hope is their coinage, not weapons or military might. The Resistance is little enslaved kids with decoder rings keeping the faith in their hearts and spreading the word to other like-minded kids and they’ll grow up one day and restore justice. At least, that’s the hope.
The best part of this movie is the fact that it took us off the training wheels. Before, the prequels told a story we already pretty much knew in some respect. The Clone Wars and Rebels TV series are filling in the blanks, but there’s only so much excitement you can get when you already know the end of the story. That’s why Rogue One didn’t really thrill me very much. I already knew what was going to happen. The telling of that story was interesting to some extent, but I didn’t really care about the lead characters in that, I was more invested in how the story of the Death Star plans got into the Rebellion’s hands. To me, Clone Wars and Rebels are more interesting for their characterizations, but they’re still following a story we already knew. The Last Jedi blazes a new trail for us and lets us know that it’s okay to be unpredictable.
Sure, the movie didn’t tell the whole story and there was a crapton of stuff they could only allude to or that could only be told in secondary media such as the comics or novels or Pablo Hidalgo’s awesome Visual Dictionary. Some would snark on this, complaining that it’s a ploy to sell books… and to that, I say, ‘What’s wrong with buying books?’
At the end of the day, I enjoyed The Last Jedi, warts and all. I’m not calling it the best or second best or ranking which Star Wars movie I liked the most. I like them all to some extent, even the prequels. Is it a perfect movie? No, no movie is. Does it do what it needed to do? Absolutely.
I can’t wait to see how this trilogy wraps up in Episode 9.