Movie Musings - Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Updated: Jul 7, 2020



(Photo Credit: Lucas Film/Disney, URL: Mammoth Gamers)

All the online petitions in the world won’t remove this film from canon or upset it’s profit margins. The Last Jedi has proven to be as successful as other Star Wars films from Disney, but I’m interested mostly in its new direction and how it’s set the nerd world on fire.

Of 2015's The Force Awakens, people’s main criticism was that it was a shot-for-shot remake of the original 1977 Star Wars. I didn’t expect any different from JJ Abrams, and I think that was the safer bet to make when reviving something as old and popular as this. The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson had an arguably tougher task: to rehash familiar elements in line with Disney’s vision while also taking the franchise into new territory that will sustain it for the rest of our mortal lives.

In that regard, I think the film largely succeeded. Johnson created an entertaining film that pays homage to the Holy Trilogy while turning assumptions about the Star Wars universe on its head in creative ways.

TLJ is a combination of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in it’s major plot points, though shuffled in order a bit. But more than that, it offers some new possibilities for a franchise that somewhat stagnated in the prequel trilogy and in its transition to Disney.

That doesn’t mean the film was perfect, though. It faltered and downright stumbled at times, largely in issues of pacing and in plot choices. But overall, I’d say the good outweighed the bad and the herculean task of positioning the franchise for even greater heights was accomplished in visionary style.

Below is a list of some of the things I liked or didn’t like about the film, in no particular order.

It goes without saying, vast spoilers and fanboy rants ahead.

LIKES

1) Themes

The best part of the outrage over this movie is that the film itself is actively making fun of the reasons why people dislike it. Johnson, a fanboy himself, is poking fun at the blind allegiance of those who keep expecting things to be the same while also criticizing when nothing changes. Johnson uses the theme of the film to rebuke these expectations.

All the people who are boycotting the film because of its portrayal of Luke Skywalker (or his inevitable death - though don’t worry, space ghosts exist, he’ll be back) are the butt of this film’s joke.

I mean, the dialogue practically hits you over the head with it.

“This is not going to go the way you think,” Luke tells the naive and gullible Rey, who has no idea she’s being manipulated by her own emotions into false assurances. Just about every line Luke has in this film is pointedly chastising people for assuming that everything will work out just like it did before and the characters we know and love won’t have changed in 35 years.

Grow up. These movies don’t belong to you, to say that they do is vanity (see what I did there?)

I get where the knee-jerk hatred of that portrayal comes from. After all, it's hard to see our heroes for all their warts and it would be tempting to have had Luke stay closer to the man he was when he burned his father on the pyre. But would that have even been realistic? Could Johnson have done that after Episode VII fully embraces the fact that a defeated Luke wants to never be found again? I suggest adjusting your expectations a bit if you wanted that.

In reality, it’s a wonderful storytelling technique that complicates Luke’s character while complicating the whole idea of Star Wars. Yes, we all got along for the ride because these lovable heroes always found a way to overcome the odds and achieve the impossible. But the films are moving to a different tone, albeit in the same galaxy far, far away. Luke’s character in TLJ is not only a way of introducing some new themes to the franchise, it’s a self-reflexive warning that fans need to stop living in the past if they want to continue to enjoy Star Wars.

2) Theme Strikes Back (with a feminist tone)

Continuing the thought from above, the difference in the franchise now is also found in the more realistic views of heroism.

Poe Dameron and Finn’s characters both act as impulsive “flyboys” who think charging in and kicking ass will always save the day. Poe gets a reality check from two women in Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo, Finn in the form of Rose Tico. In both cases we have a heteronormative male role being brought down a peg by powerful female ones; not only for the sake of proving a point, but for the sake of expressing love and imparting wisdom.

It’s a remark on the fact that the good guys can't keep winning a war on luck alone (You mean, you're going to shut down the Empire's shield with a recon squad and a tribe of teddy bears?) Couple that with heroines being the ultimate voice of true leadership and you’ve got a feminist theme wrapped in a commentary on the way Star Wars is changing.

If you’re one of the people who thought Holdo and Leia should have told the plan to their subordinates to avoid the whole mutiny, maybe you’re right.

But equally important to note is that trust is earned and there's a chain of command. Poe and his young cohort of lower-ups haven’t earned it with their constant lack of discipline or trust in their leaders (I mean people are trying to jump ship, you think they're blabbing the plan to everyone?)