WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS!
Last night I saw The Last Jedi the same way I've seen every new Star Wars movie for the first time over the last 40 years: alongside my father and brother. These movies have been a family affair my whole life. It’s not just a movie franchise, it’s a tradition. And I suspect such is the case for many families.
I avoided spoilers before seeing the movie, but I was not able to avoid seeing many people in my twitter feed reacting badly to the movie. A lot of people I know, who adore all things Star Wars, felt very strongly that The Last Jedi was...just a bad movie.
I however, loved the film. I especially loved the messages of the movie. And after thinking about it, I can see why so many people I know took those messages badly or personally.
The Last Jedi spends a lot of time deconstructing Star Wars, and I can understand how some people would take that personally or badly. It probably felt like someone walking into their room and ripping their Star Wars posters down off the wall (or lighting them on fire with a lightning bolt).
The Force doesn’t really care who you are. Nobody is the chosen one. Concepts like Destiny and Mysticism are hubris. Legends are problematic. The cycle of the empire vs the rebellion repeats in the first order vs the resistance and the ideologies of both sides are inherently flawed. It’s a machine. And the only way to be free is not to join. The past must be destroyed. The Jedi must end. We have to stop fighting what we hate and start saving what we love.
My favorite scene in the entire film is when Luke takes a torch to the Jedi Tree because he’s going to finally burn it all down. He’s going to burn the Jedi texts and end it. Then he hesitates. So Yoda appears as a force ghosts and does it for him. Yoda basically tells Luke to stop being so dramatic. Even in his attempt to hide from the past and close himself off from the Force, Luke is deifying the Jedi order. And Yoda tells him straight. None of this is really important. And then in a sublime moment commiserates with this former padawan by reminding him that when you’re a teacher, you’re agreeing to be the thing that your students move beyond. You get left behind, that’s part of the deal. Woof!
I mean, how great is that moment?
So yeah, when a movie takes the concepts that have been central to Star Wars and tears them down some people are going to react badly. I get that.
But God, how I loved it.
Writing is all about making choices and Rian Johnson made some bold choices. Which, in my opinion was better and braver than just playing it safe with fan service. I feel like J.J. righted the ship so that Rian could chart a new course. Because otherwise what’s the point of having more Star Wars movies at all? Everyone complained how The Force Awakens was just a retread of A New Hope. I agree and disagree. Yes, it rhymed with ANH thematically, but we needed that so get things back on track before striking new ground.
Random thoughts before I go:
- I’m glad they didn’t change anything after Carrie Fisher died and I’m glad they won’t be recasting or replacing her with a CGI character. This was Carrie’s final performance and it deserved to be seen as it was intended. She was amazing. Leia was amazing. I fought back tears every time she was on screen and I cried when R2-D2 played the original message that started it all.
- So glad Rey is nobody. Her parents being junkers that sold her for drinking money is perfect. I hope nobody ret-cons that in the next movie. People are saying that maybe Kylo is lying. No. He pulled the info from Rey’s head. She’s the one that finally admitted it to Kylo and herself.
- I'm glad someone finally pointed out how the Jedi pretty much failed over and over again.
- Luke telling R2 "Hey, sacred Island...language." was so Toshi Station Luke I giggled.
- Luke’s exit looking at twin suns...are you KIDDING ME? So good. I cried.
- Luke’s last lines are “See you around, kid.” So he’s gonna be back, right?
- I loved the Poe/Holdo conflict. I guess even in a galaxy far away women have to deal with mansplaining and sexism. I love that Holdo didn’t feel the need to explain herself to Poe. It’s like, screw you. I outrank you and go do your damn job. Loved it.
- Speaking of Holdo, how freaking "anime" was that hyperspace collision?
- Love that the whole movie was a chase, just like Empire.
- Loved the Snoke was so powerful, and that in the end, he was just another despot. Another turn of this wheel. I hope Kylo isn't destined to repeat it.
- I love that Rose was the one character who knew EXACTLY who she was and didn’t give a shit about anything but doing the right thing. Once again, Rian showing that the workers, the common people, are the ones who hold the real power.
- How did the Jedi texts get on the Falcon? I assume Rey stole them, yeah? Yeah she did. She gonna be a Jedi.
- loved the porgs.
- loved the blue milk and the alien nuns.
- Chewie looks younger every movie.
- I don't care if bombs don't "fall" in zero G, or that explosions don't happen in space, or that you wouldn't dogfight like you would in airplanes.
- I look forward to thinking and talking about this movie for a long time. And I can’t wait to see it again.