A Series of Thoughts on The Last Jedi

It’s not 1999 anymore. I don’t actually care whether you liked TLJ or not, and I have no intention of telling you your opinion is wrong. If you hated it so much that the flames on the side of your face are heaving breaths, that’s fine. We don’t all have to like the same stuff.

I enjoyed The Last Jedi. It wasn’t perfect, and it could have been better, but I had fun watching it. Honestly, that’s all I care about.

Herewith are presented, in no particular order, a set of thoughts and reactions to the film.

Your Messiah can only save you once.

  • Once the day has been saved, the savior retires and let’s others do the business of functioning in the new world.
  • Moses could only take Israel out of Egypt, not lead it to the Promised Land. Mohammed died two years after cleansing Mecca. Jesus ascended to heaven a mere forty days after his Ressurection.
  • Frodo Baggins cannot live in the Shire after the Shadow is gone and must take the ship to the Undying Lands. Eventually, all of the Fellowship save Aragorn follow him.
  • Paul Atreides conquers the galaxy in Dune, and rules it as Emperor, and is destroyed by it. Dune Messiah tells the tale of his spiritual collapse and renunciation of his status as Emperor and Mahdi. In Children of Dune, he returns incognito, only to be defeated by his son.
  • It is fitting, then, that Luke Skywalker be defeated in his effort to create a New Jedi Order, and that he should give in to despair, and recover from this at the price of dissolving into the Living Force. He gives the Resistance one last escape and then passes the baton to the younger generation. This is entirely proper.

The sub-plots were short on payoff. But at least they had a thematic purpose.

  • Poe Dameron’s plot involves him being wrong, and then wrong, and then wrong some more. And nothing he did seemed to matter at all to the outcome. That’s annoying, but at least there was a character payoff: he got the idea that, for a rebellion, survival is often the only victory available. That tiny amount of character growth was more interesting than anything Obi-Wan Kenobi (or anyone else) did in the Prequels.
  • Finn’s plot seems to have no real plot purpose, either, but it does give the SW-universe a needed piece of world-building. We see something of the class structure of the Galaxy, and are reminded that every tyranny is supported by a wealthy parasite class that profits from the tyrant.
  • Watching Benicio Del Toro do whatever the hell he was doing was a million times more fun than Sam Jackson’s numb take on Mace Windu.
  • The theme of escape as victory echoes somewhat the plot of Empire Strikes Back, but whereas in Empire it’s more a cliffhanger, here it’s central to the movie. Empire is about the centrality of Luke to the struggle between light and darkness; the Rebel Fleet escapes from Hoth and disappears from the movie. Here the survival of the Resistance in any form is called into question. And it explicitly states that Luke is no longer central, contra the entire plot of The Force Awakens. Find this annoying if you want to, but it’s different.

Rey is still the most underwritten Character in the new series, and Kylo Ren the most interesting.

  • There’s nothing to Rey. She has no motivation and nothing to seek. Luke, an orphan, wants two things, to discover who he is, and to find something to belong to. He discovers who he is by becoming a Jedi and redeeming his father. He finds something to belong to in the Rebellion and his surrogate family of Han, Leia (who, we discover, is real family), Chewbacca, and the droids. He has a momentary refusal of the heroic journey, but once that passes, he never thinks of Tattooine again, and only smirks in ROTJ that he used to live there.
  • Rey, by contrast, seems to want nothing but to return to Jakku, and gets involved in the plot of TFA more or less against her will. And why? To find parents that, we now know, are dead nobodies who never wanted her. This did provide a minor twist to those of us who were speculating a connection to the Skywalker lineage, and underscored the populist theme that the new trilogy is going for, but… it’s not like the Skywalker family are galactic royalty. Anakin Skywalker was a nobody. A slave. So who cares that Rey is a nobody too?
  • We still don’t know anything about Rey or what she wants or why. She’s generally a good person. She’s kind and good-hearted. But why does she want to stop the First Order? Why does she want to fight/save Kylo Ren? Han Solo was more of a father in a few short hours than Rey had ever known, noted. Kylo Ren killed him, noted. Is that it? Daisy Ridley is working very hard to imbue this enigma with any kind of life.
  • Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is very well drawn. He’s shown more of an arc, and more internal conflict, than Anakin did in three movies. He feels drawn to the darkness, and hungers for power, and yet feels guilt at his actions. His parricide haunts him, and he’s unable to commit matricide. His hatred of Luke is overwhelming (far more believable than Anakin turning on Obi-Wan in ROTS), and clouds his judgement in a way that serves the plot. His may be the central narrative of the new Trilogy, and I’m very curious to see how it will end.

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