For all of you die-hard fans:
It is time to throw all you prejudices and fan theories to the trash.
After having seen The Last Jedi twice, I understand the rage that has raised from many fans. All the reassurance that dear J.J. Abrams gave with ‘The Force Awakens’ halts, blowing up every single fan theory available from the last two years since the release of Episode 7. Rian Johnson takes us by the hand to see how our nostalgia gets burned to ashes. In many ways, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a rite of passage, were everything we believed in gets destroyed.
I’m so happy that many fans hate the film. As of right now, Rian Johnson has a smile on his face while watching the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Every single person in production knew this will be a divisive film and they are ready to embrace the hatred.
The Last Jedi leaves the moviegoer as conflicted as the characters themselves. Everybody has to shift their thoughts about this space opera galaxy. The Last Jedi works as a pseudo menace, a threat that the universe will take everything you love about Star Wars.
I’m so glad this is the case. Rian Johnson didn’t have to please the viewers in order to make a good film. He doesn’t care about the fan’s opinions. He did what was needed to transform the franchise.
I’ll try to dissect the film to understand it. Many fans have to watch this movie twice because there is a lot going on. We don’t have time to process the information. This is a more visceral Star Wars film, compared to J.J’s tactical approach to reignite the universe in ‘The Force Awakens’. Maybe this is why the movie became such a rage machine for many fans.
State Of The Galaxy
Since Lucasfilm was sold to the Mouse, two films have been released under the Star Wars universe.
In 2015, ‘The Force Awakens’ launched the beginning of a thrilling trilogy. With gentle nostalgia touches and interesting characters, most fans of the saga gave the film a thumbs up. J.J. Abrams was able to blend the old with the new, having a consistent storyline with different characters.
In 2016 we had ‘Rogue One’, which explains how the Rebels obtained the plans for the Death Star. Being a Star Wars Story, the film separates from the episodical saga in tone. Even though it received praise from the critics, the movie had some flaws. Some people noticed the lack of character development as the main problem with this film.
What these two films have in common is that they land on common grounds: some known characters, established stories and trying to fill some gaps in Star Wars. Lucasfilm wants you to know the franchise is in good hands and they’re willing to give you the best of what Star Wars means to you.
Enter The Last Jedi.
Rian Johnson comes with the most disturbing of the recent films. It gives you the best of Star Wars from the original trilogy and the prequels (because we can say that Canto Bight and Snoke’s office is on prequel territory, right?). The difference is that things start to shake up. We find out that some things we thought about the universe aren’t as true. The Last Jedi introduces the notion that there is more grey area between the light and dark forces that balance the galaxy. The story gets more complex, less about the battles and more about the meaning behind all this conflict. And all of this begins changing all your expectations from the very beginning of the film.
Blowing Up A Dreadnought
As the scroll finishes, we only have a few minutes until we get a First Order vs. Resistance confrontation. Poe tries to contact Captain Hux to give time for his team to get ready. The conversation begins with the simplest of jokes, yet it communicates to the audience that they’re in good hands. We see Rose’s sister die while bombing the dreadnought.
From the start, this is an intense film. We see Poe Dameron facing the Resistance’s command, lead by Leia. Finn doesn’t want to fight and tries to escape. General Hux is in a tough spot with Supreme Leader Snoke. Kylo Ren learns that he must solve his emotional conflict. Everyone is dealing with internal struggles that may or may not payoff.
Somehow, this first battle encounter is the spark of the conflict within many of the characters in the film. Rian Johnson wants to deliver a battle scene to let us understand later the development of each character. As the second film in this recent trilogy, external and internal conflicts are everywhere.
The Tall, Pale, Skinny Guy
Many fans have pinpointed the different style of comedy in The Last Jedi. In my opinion, it still feels Star Wars, but in a way we haven’t seen in other films. The dark tone of every shot needs some comic relief that the characters in The Force Awakens can’t deliver; BB-8 is too busy being the most badass droid in the galaxy and Chewie is taking care of the Porg invasion in the Millenium Falcon. Because newer and important characters (Rey, Kylo, Finn, Poe, Rose) are struggling, the comedy must appear from another place. This is why I believe that the jokes feel different, as they reflect on Star Wars itself rather than on a single character.
Poe holding on Hux works as a joke because we know that in Star Wars people take threats seriously. Luke throwing a lightsaber strikes us as silly (for me, at least) because we deify the Jedi as an exclusive lineage (spoiler: it’s not). Rey asks Kylo to put some clothing during the ForceSkype™ because, even though they’re talking about a serious topic, it is uncomfortable and she doesn’t need to see him that way. In the end, these jokes touch an emotional fiber of ours, breaks some ‘rules’ we have added as fans, and makes us remember that this is a human story after all.
I make a clear distinction between Porgs and the jokes of the movie because they are more of a comic relief and running gags. Porgs do the job BB-8 had to do in The Force Awakens, but in a much bigger scale. Porgs are charming little creatures we just want to hug as the only comfort we have in the movie. They fill us with joy and cuteness when we need it most.
Many people were scared they would become the next Ewoks (I like Ewoks), but they ended up being fun little running gags. I love when the Millenium Falcon is plagued with Porgs. I love when they see Chewbacca eating their little friend. I love when they fly around the mysterious Jedi island. Rian just decided to embrace silliness with these creatures, besides having the practical purpose of hiding the puffins present in the island during filming.
Leia Is Strong With The Force
In a desperate action by Kylo Ren trying to reinforce himself that he can deal with his internal conflict, he tries to kill her mother Leia. He wasn’t able to push the button, but it was too late as a fellow First Order pilot blows up part of the Resistance’s space ship. We see Leia (and Admiral Ackbar) die in this attack.
Leia’s body starts to move in space. First her hands, then her eyes, as she extends her arms to fly to the spaceship.
Leia has Skywalker blood within her. She is strong with the Force. Even in The Force Awakens, Leia has some moments when she viscerally feels how Han dies. So yes, it is plausible that she has enough powers to fly through space and straight to the spaceship.
Many people have criticized the fact the Rian Johnson could have killed her in this moment, as it happens early in the film. Even though this decision could be made due to the terrible loss of Carrie Fisher, it destroys Poe’s arc completely. Without Leia, it makes no sense that Luke could come back and help the Resistance. In the end, Leia is much more that a nostalgia character in The Last Jedi.
One of the recurring themes in this film is understanding the Force at a different level. In some ways, Leia’s power to go through space foreshadows this arc of the story: The Force can be used as long as you embrace it and use it to bring balance to the universe.
Rey’s Force Crash Course
Due to the amount of character development that Rian Johnson tries to deliver to every single character, there are few details about Rey’s training under Luke’s tutelage. But I find this thought, expressed by many film critics, misleading. Even though Rey’s training isn’t as action-packed as Luke’s in Empire Strikes Back, she gets enough wisdom to comprehend the Force within her. Also, she makes some self-exploration as she embraces the Dark side as much as the Light, understanding how the Force is balanced. Yes, I wanted more Jedi training, but this would mean that it would me a remade Empire Strikes Back moment. I like the fact that her training doesn’t come as much from Luke, and more from understanding problems and finding answers for her internal conflicts. Let’s remember she is also dealing with the constant ForceSkype™ with Kylo, and that has a significant importance to her character’s arc.
The Finn-Rose Trip
As Finn is about to escape, he encounters Rose. She was grieving over the loss of her sister, as she sacrificed to tears down the dreadnought. Finn tries to take advantage of his hero status to get rid of her, but she is much smarter than that.
Rose’s belief in Finn gets shaken, but soon they bond out of geekery. They relate technical information to the idea that the First Order can now track spaceships through hyperspace. The relationship slowly builds up until they can go on a trip to find the code breaker.
Both are emotionally struggling, as Finn looks for Rey and Rose just lost her sister. They are looking for answers and this trip will give them some. They grow as they relate more to the cause of the Resistance. In the end, they find their place in the galaxy by understanding that they are part of something bigger.
Canto Bight Shows The Best Of The Prequels
As Rose and Finn take the trip to find the code breaker, we end up on Canto Bight. So far this has been one of the most divisive sequences of the film. I’m going to settle on the fact that this B plot is necessary for the characters and the overall story.
First of all, Canto Bight shows how the prequels could have gone right. Richly detailed, with interesting characters, this sequence makes the Star Wars universe look so much bigger, something lacking from The Force Awakens.
Second, this casino setting explains to us how the war is financed. It shows how a part of the galaxy is living a normal life while others are fighting for freedom, just like it happens in real life. It’s just the way it goes. Maybe people criticize this because it feels like real life, but for me is the reassurance that the film also projects a stance on a current situation in society, which makes it relatable.
Third, without this plot, Finn and Rose would have never grown as characters. Finn would have escaped and failed at helping Rey. Rose would have escaped too, now that she has nothing to fight for. Both characters grow, they find their place, and that is what makes this sequence essential.
Some have also criticized DJ, the character portrayed by Benicio Del Toro. In the few moments we see him, there’s a character with a clear purpose. He’s just taking advantage of the war as those millionaires on Canto Bight. DJ exposes that there’s a middle ground for those that don’t care about politics or the force. As a consequence, the themes of the saga feel much richer and deeper.
I understand that the Canto Bight sequence takes a little more time than needed to state its purpose, but I’m glad we are being exposed to other parts of the galaxy. If we don’t allow directors and screenwriters to take these kinds of risks with the saga, it will never flourish like it has in other media like canon-related books.
On The Rey-Kylo ForceSkype™
In my opinion, every single conversation between Rey and Kylo was my favorite bit of the entire movie. It is clear they’re both finding out what to do as they go along. In their story arc, many questions need to be answered. Sometimes they even have a certain accountability partner vibe until the battle in Snoke’s office.
As they try to find out their place in the universe, a moral dichotomy is present between both parts. Rey wants to understand the dark side to resist it. Kylo wants to know how he can outgrow the current status quo. In this dichotomy, we are constantly wondering who will switch to the light/dark side. We’ve been trained that the Force has only two sides and no in-between. Luke plants the idea of a Jedi-free Force, where this power belongs to everyone.
When Kylo kills Snoke, it is pretty clear who has turned. But Kylo hasn’t switched to a side, but to an ideal: burn the past down to build something from the ground up.
This ForceSkyping™ also prepares us for Luke’s Force projection, as we see for a few seconds that Kylo has been able to project himself to be with Rey in the same physical space. As the pieces move into place, we understand the reasoning behind these conversations and how they let to Rey and Kylo’s personal development.
Snoke Died. Now What?
Snoke’s death was the most surprising moment of all. Yes, my eyeballs fell off as the camera panned horizontally to reveal Yoda, but the fact that Kylo killed his mentor without any mercy left me speechless. Snoke’s death is the realization that Kylo is willing to kill the past, even if it is needed to destroy all the politics of the dark side.
The other aspect of this death leaves many fans wondering the story of the all mighty Supreme Leader. What we know, if we get picky about the way the character is portrayed, is how similar he is to Kylo Ren. Just think about it. The way he establishes his power through imagery instead of real power. Granted, we see him doing some badass Force stuff in the movie, but it is used only when necessary. Giant hologram? Gold robes? Surrounded by guards? No Sith needed that much to establish its power.
I’m not sure about his destiny in Episode 9 or the Star Wars Universe, but Snoke needs to be explained, whether in a book or a film, as it is one of the biggest plot holes in both Episode 7 and 8.
Poe gets quite some lessons about leadership as he is getting ready to be a prominent leader for the Rebels/Resistance. Having Holdo as someone who makes him step back of his old tactics allows the character to evolve. What we get is a stronger character, that is much more thoughtful than it appears. Many people raved about Poe in The Force Awakens, but for me, it was just a pilot friend of Finn. With The Last Jedi, there is a stronger arc for the character. Maybe he won’t be the main commander in Episode 9, but he’ll definitely be a very prominent character as Holdo and Leia are not with us anymore.
Hyperspace As A Weapon
This is the most beautiful shot in the film, and it dares to create new visual storytelling for the saga.
Holdo sacrifices for the greater good and Poe Dameron learns from that. Some fans have stated that this hyperspace scene breaks the entire film. Why use weapons when you can destroy a ship into hyperspace? First, I’m sure those spaceships aren’t cheap. Second, you’ll need to have an equivalent spaceship to evacuate. Third, the logistics of leaving the spaceship are much more complicated than having other vehicles for attack (X Wings, Tie Fighters).
As I said, this is my favorite shot of the film and I applaud braveness in a franchise film. Rian Johnson is exploring what can be done within the universe and we get feats like this one from Holdo.
For those who still think using hyperspace is illogical: watch episode 7 of season 4 from Star Wars Rebels. Thank me later.
Phasma Isn’t As Badass As We Thought
Of all the things that have bothered some fans, Phasma’s death is the one that affected me the most. She had the potential to be a great character and there’s even a whole book detailing her backstory. I’m doubtful she will come back. Finn was able to defeat the commander that gave him so many headaches, but we are left with no other ideas about her character. I always saw her as some mediator within the high ranks of the First Order, as Hux and Kylo are always in tension. Well, at least we had a short fight with her and the knowledge that her armor was bullet proof.
I gasped when the camera panned to see Yoda as a force ghost. It was the most surprising yet logical appearance of a character. Just as Obi-Wan appears as a force ghost in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke needs to be remembered that he is doing his best, but the fight isn’t lost. Upon Yoda’s death, he has become wiser, acknowledging how the old religion has many wrong ideas, just like Luke has discovered in his lonely retreat.
Besides the word play Yoda does to tell Luke that Rey has everything she needs to learn (because she stole the books), he gives the final push to Luke, showing him that he needs to give hope to the rest of the galaxy.
Luke And Leia
This sad farewell from the Skywalkers is meta. You can’t stop thinking that Carrie Fisher is dead. But besides that, this scene foreshadows somehow the fact the Luke is force projecting himself. The fact that Han’s dice fall under her hands because she is the only one to be force sensitive, C3PO wondering if it’s actually his master, the close-ups that we have of Luke’s younger and groomed beard. We get enough time for us to understand what is happening. It is genius that few people catch this upon first viewing because we have deified Luke in such a way that we don’t see these smaller details.
Your Fan Theory Doesn’t Have To Be Considered
As you have read, I wanted to touch upon several points instead of doing a pretty generic review of the film. What I want to pinpoint to most is the fact that your theories about the last 2 years don’t need to be canon. Rey doesn’t need to be a Skywalker, Snoke isn’t as strong as you thought so and Leia is stronger with the force than expected. This film opens up so many questions and possibilities because it breaks free of the pressure that many fans give it. Even though Star Wars has a big fan base, a big portion is one of the most close-minded, hermit individuals that just want a story similar to the original trilogy. I don’t want a Star Wars film that gives me the same regurgitated plot. Maybe I don’t agree with the plot, but at least it is making me think about this universe so much.
The Last Jedi will sure be considered one of the best Star Wars films of all because it was willing to take risks within the universe. We as fans are growing with the new possibilities this film has given us. I don’t know what to expect for Episode 9 because Rain Johnson did mental Jedi tricks on me and that is amazing. I just hope that many fans that have negative thoughts on this film would be willing to give it a try, as the next film closes on the many gaps that it has opened just like The Empire Strikes Back did in 1980.