I’ve never seen a movie divide its audience so much the way The Last Jedi did, not in recent memory. It’s a movie that does not care to treat the past with the same reverence The Force Awakens did, and boldly throws out a few sacred cows in its quest to build the franchise’s future. It is, almost by design, very divisive. It is also very paradoxical – it may claim to not care about tradition – and in one instance even literally tore apart one of Star Wars’ most enduring symbols – but it also offers some of the most touching tributes to the Original Trilogy.
But this wholesale cleansing of Star Wars’ baggage made The Last Jedi one of the best movies in the franchise. In fact, its divisiveness is its strength.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI AHEAD
In my review of The Force Awakens, I argued that it had every chance to pile on the deconstruction and darkness that plagued every other modern movie. The Force Awakens doubled down on hope, personified by Rey, Finn, and Poe, even though the entire galaxy was going down in flames around them. The Last Jedi, on the other hand, doubled down on the darkness, offering us the bleakest Star Wars film yet.
With the New Republic gone, the Resistance is in tatters. General Leia Organa and her rebels are on the run, their numbers are running thin. An attack leaves her in a coma, leaving our heroes without a leader to look up to. Luke Skywalker hid away on Ahch-To, broken by a momentary mistake that led to the resurgence of the Dark Side of the Force, intending to die and take the Jedi Order with him.
And then we see the first sign that this movie is breaking from tradition: Luke Skywalker accepts his father’s lightsaber from Rey… and promptly throws it over his shoulder.
It comes as a shock, really, considering how much of The Force Awakens was centered around that lightsaber, treating it with the reverence as you would a religious artifact. We have our preconceived notions on what a Star Wars movie should be, and then The Last Jedi turns all our expectations against us.
Throughout the movies, C-3PO often announces the odds of the heroes’ plan succeeding. And even though said odds are overwhelming, our heroes actually pull off the stunts almost unscathed. Here in The Last Jedi, that luck finally runs out. Our heroes fail, and they fail hard. A daring plan by an impulsive, hotheaded pilot fails. A heist at a casino and a First Order starship fails, and even dooms the Resistance to oblivion. The odds actually prove to be true.
We came in with expectations, thanks to tropes established in the seven movies that came before it. We expected the conflicted Kylo Ren to turn from the Dark Side as his grandfather before him did, only to solidify his place in the dark. We expected Rey’s flirtations with the Dark Side lead to disaster, only to strengthen her resolve to be a Jedi, despite Luke’s misgivings. And speaking of Rey, her raw power led us to speculate that she came from a prominent Jedi family – either a Kenobi or Skywalker, but she is a nobody. A child of drunken parents who abandoned her for drinking money, and may be buried in pauper’s graves.
This deconstruction of the many tropes that make Star Wars may be divisive, even turning off a vocal portion of the fanbase, but director Rian Johnson’s attempt to put his own mark on the franchise has produced the boldest Star Wars movie so far.
However, unlike Kylo Ren’s insistence on killing the past and changing for its own sake, The Last Jedi’s deconstruction serves a purpose. The darkness and bleakness that came with every Resistance defeat only reinforces the hope that underpins the franchise as a whole. The Lightsaber may be broken, but the kyber crystal that powers it is still intact. It can be rebuilt, more powerful than ever.
The Last Jedi asks you to kill the past. To look at your fallen heroes not with reverence but with honest eyes and see how they failed you. To not repeat their mistakes, but to break the cycle and be better. It asks you to throw away all of your preconceived notions on how the world should be. Does it make you uncomfortable? Good. Burning down the past is never easy. Like the Resistance at the end of the movie, our heroes are gone and it is now up to us to save the world. This is a thesis the movie makes that you will either love or hate and that’s alright.
The Last Jedi is far from a perfect movie. It’s cluttered, tries to say too many things at once, and it wasted an entire subplot and two of its best characters. It makes sweeping changes to the mythos and the enmasse clearing house will make fans angry. But it is a Star Wars movie that dares to make a grand statement, finally, for the first time since George Lucas thought to pit a scrappy bunch of rebels against a Nazi-inspired space empire. It sends off Luke and Leia perfectly. It throws out the past, but keeps the parts that matter. And in the end, when you see the seeds of rebellion – and hope – being planted in children, you know that Star Wars will outlive all of us and will be loved by a new generation inspired by Rey, Rose, Finn, and Poe.
- Your Snoke theory sucks, Disney.
- Crait’s salt fields and the blood-red soil underneath it makes for some beautiful battles.
- I love new character Rose Tico and her purpose to show to Finn, and by extension the audience, the bigger picture. But man, that casino was underwhelming. I expected something glitzier, tackier, just to make me hate everything about it the way she does.
- Much has been said about this, but Admiral Holdo’s lightspeed kamikaze is the best in a movie full of amazing moments.
- There was so much anger around Luke’s arc in this movie, but he was already starting to get cocky by Return of the Jedi. Believing in his own legend and failing so hard in such a personal way is probably the only way they can get Luke Skywalker, the man who never thought twice before helping strangers, to run away.
- Luke ascending into the Force, looking at a binary sunset, is perfect.
- Another movie, another underutilized Captain Phasma appearance. Sigh.
- Apparently there’s major speculation as to who Broom Boy’s parents are. Missing the point, are we?
- I didn’t think Yoda’s appearance would work, but here we are and I loved every single second of it.
- I thought the way it was made was very weird, but giving Leia the space walk and an opportunity to show off her latent Jedi powers was the perfect way to send Carrie Fisher off.
- Who the hell was cutting onions in the theater? Almost ruined the scene where Luke kissed Leia.
- Just in case you wanna know where I stand in this debate: PORG ARE FOOD NOT FRIENDS
This movie has been divisive to say the least. So let’s talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What did you love or hate about it? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.