When I first watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I liked the movie. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. There were some things I really enjoyed in the film, and some things I could have done without. I left the movie theater on opening night a satisfied Star Wars fan. I was optimistic about the future.
Fast forward to today; I’ve seen the film a couple more times, and it gets better every time. The things I didn’t like before aren’t that big of a deal now, and the things I liked have been enhanced. The Last Jedi is a film about progress. It’s a film about failure. But most importantly, the Last Jedi is a unique film. That credit mainly goes to director/writer Rian Johnson. His vision helped The Last Jedi stand apart, visually and thematically, all while respecting the core themes of Star Wars and helping the franchise move forward in the future. Now, everything I just said is completely opinion. That’s the beauty of film. You can have an opinion and discuss with other fans about said opinion.
With all that being said, The Last Jedi has been the subject of huge controversy ever since it came out. What’s caused it? Is Rian Johnson a racist? Did John Boyega get accused of sexual assault? You’d think that’s what has been going on recently with Star Wars, but no. Some fans just didn’t like the movie. Not only did they not like the movie, they have gone to incredibly childish lengths to voice their opinions.
I saw the other day that there’s a campaign to re-make the film. Fans have also littered their dislike of the film with hateful comments towards Rian Johnson as a person and have even targeted members of the cast. Both Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran have endured constant harassment and have left social media. It’s been an annoyance, to say the least, because I don’t give a damn about if someone doesn’t like what I like. But, I don’t appreciate it when fans act like this. It gives the community a bad name and unfortunately, given how the internet works, negativity usually overrides positivity.
I want to bring some positivity to Star Wars today. You might have seen long videos or posts about everything that’s wrong with The Last Jedi. Whether it’s the SJW rhetoric some claim is in it, or the fact that Rian Johnson killed their childhoods, I don’t want to talk about any of that today. I’d like to expand on what I truly love about this film, and why it’s one of the best structured films in the Star Wars franchise. Let’s start with talking about the characters.
I think most of us fell in love with Star Wars because of the authentic characters. When you’re a kid, sure it’s the action and the lightsabers. But the older you get, you realize how vital characters are to a story. I think Rian Johnson understands that extremely well and that showed in The Last Jedi. In The Force Awakens, we were introduced to our new trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe. They went on a crazy adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed that film. In TLJ however, I wanted them to grow. And that they did.
Starting with Finn. Finn’s an interesting character because we’ve never seen a Stormtrooper switch sides before. We still don’t know anything about him, in terms of where he’s from, but that doesn’t really matter. Finn is a simple character in terms of motivations. He’s seen some horrors in his life, and his conscience could never agree with what he saw. One of the first things he does when we see him is free Poe. And why? In his words, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
Another interesting element to his character is that he’s a runner. He wants to get as far away from the war as he possibly can for all of The Force Awakens, and a good portion of The Last Jedi. It’s a natural character trait and one I think a lot of us would have if we were placed in Star Wars. He wants to run away from the First Order and it’s Rey who makes him stay to help fight it.
Things don’t change for him at the beginning of The Last Jedi. He still wants to run and is stopped by Rose. They end up going to a place called Canto Bight where Finn learns the true meaning of being a rebel. He learns that the line between right and wrong is sometimes blurred. After he helps Rose free the Fathiers, he says how nice it was to tear up the casino. A casino he praised minutes before in the film. But he learned that the casino made their money by selling weapons, and his perspective was changed. I know we see the Rebels as the good guys, but this film (and Rogue One) reminded us that hard, sometimes unjust choices must be made. Finn dedicated himself to those choices, and by the end of the film, he was ready to die for the cause. Not because he was scared, not because Rey was in danger, but because he believed in the cause.
Opposite of Finn is Poe. Funny how things work in a story. One character is going through one thing, while another is going through quite the opposite. Poe has never not believed in the cause. He’s fully committed to ending the First Order and will do so at any cost. We saw the literal effects of that mentality at the beginning of the film. His hubris got the entire bombing fleet killed, and it forced Leia to demote him. And instead of listening to the orders of Admiral Holdo, he staged a mutiny which nearly killed the entire Resistance.
When Poe realized that Holdo had a plan, he started to respect her more. Respect he should have given her in the first place, but still. Then, when she made the bold move of destroying the enemy fleet by flying into them at lightspeed, there was a look on his face. For the first time, I think Poe saw something that truly surprised him. I think He realized that waiting isn’t cowardly. There’s wisdom in patience, and sometimes bravery.
Courage isn’t simply defined by striking at any time. Poe learned about true courage in The Last Jedi and we saw evidence of that when Finn wanted to ram the cannon. Poe instantly thought about living to fight another day, while Finn thought about the cause. There is no right or wrong in their growth, but simply that. Growth.
Rey’s development is unique and it’s tied to Kylo Ren as well. Rey and Kylo are interesting, because they don’t fit the age-old mold we’ve seen in Star Wars. For years, we’ve seen the Jedi and the Sith. Pure good and pure evil. Over the years, we’ve learned about the problems with both sides, but what’s interesting about The Last Jedi is that it brings those issues to the forefront. On one side, you have Kylo. A misguided youth with anger in his heart. But it isn’t the empty black rage that most Sith possess. Call it puberty, call it him being a baby, whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is he’s an individual. His anger is unique: he has problems with Luke, the Jedi, and even his own existence. And that conflict within him is talked about frequently throughout the film.
On the other side is Rey. For a year straight after The Force Awakens, fans argued about her origins. It was deduced that she was either a Skywalker or a Kenobi. Those were the only two that made sense. Rian Johnson threw us a curveball and revealed her parents were nothing. Nothing but drunk trash who traded her off for their next drink. She’s just a pure soul who has a strong connection to the force. And just like Kylo, she struggles with her own existence.
Both voice their frustrations with who they are, and Rey especially just wants to know how she fits into everything. She sees the force as this grand thing, and she wants it to help her. When it doesn’t she loses faith in Luke and tries to turn Kylo to the light. She’s wrapped up in the fantasy of the Jedi. Wrapped up in this idea of dark and light and she believed it was her mission to turn Kylo. The scene with them in the elevator reminds me of Luke telling Vader he’ll turn him to the light. When Rey fails to turn Kylo, she’s upset but she just like Finn and Poe, she grows. She stops dreaming and wakes up to reality. Maybe her parents left her. Maybe the Jedi weren’t perfect. And maybe Kylo will always be evil. That’s totally fine, but Rey decided that as long as she’s alive, and as long as she has a connection to the force, she’ll use it to help people. I love her for that.
Once again, Rian Johnson showed us this growth. At the end, Rey and Kylo were connected telepathically again. Snoke said it was him that did that throughout the film, but here it was, happening again. Rey just wanted the truth in this film. And she thought maybe understanding Kylo could help lead her to it. By the end of the film though, she wants none of it, and closes the ship’s door on Kylo, ending their connection.
Rian Johnson did a great job with the new trio in The Last Jedi, but where he shined the most to me is the development in Luke. I know everyone has different opinions on this, and I wasn’t even a fan of the direction Luke went in the first time I saw the film. But, I let it sit with me for a while. And over time I came to understand why Johnson did what he did with Luke.
I think it’s easy to understand Luke’s situation from a Jedi standpoint. Like Luke said in the film, the history of the Jedi is failure. Darth Sidious infiltrated them at the height of their power, and systematically took them out. And it was a Jedi Master who was responsible for training Darth Vader. Luke truly believed in the Jedi way, and I can understand why finding this out about his religion would shake him.
From a personal standpoint, Luke was a confident Jedi the last time we saw him. In Return of the Jedi, he never had a doubt that he would turn Vader to the light. He did, but obviously at a cost. Still, it makes sense to me that his arrogance in his skill didn’t just go away. And like the Jedi before him, he let his arrogance blind his judgement when he, for a moment, decided to kill Kylo Ren. You combine that personal failure along with his realization of the Jedi’s failure, and you get a man who shuts himself off from the world. A man who shuts himself off from his sister, his friends, and the entire galaxy. Luke was at the top of his game at the end of Return of the Jedi, but life doesn’t care about our egos. He was beaten down to nothing and it took a special moment with Yoda for him to realize how wrong he was.
The moment with Yoda is a personal favorite of mine. It’s funny, light-hearted, and Johnson reminds us why failure is a great teacher. Luke failed a few times as a Jedi in the original films, but nothing compared to what happened with Kylo. And just like Yoda and Obi-Wan before him, he let failure consume him. It’s an effect of the Jedi religion as much as it is an effect of their own personal hubris. And I think that’s the beauty in the moment between him and Yoda. Finally, Yoda has realized the error of his ways, and is here to laugh at Luke, who’s still so wrapped up in the past. Wrapped up in the negative and the mistakes he’s made, instead of what’s happening in the moment.
Yoda reminds Luke that the only thing that matters is the here and now. If one is too focused on failures of the past, and refuses to learn from them, you’ll never grow. Seems like a simple lesson, but one that is forgotten often in their world and our own. Luke told Rey he had three lessons for her. We only got a chance to learn two. We learned about the Force and we learned about the Jedi. I think Johnson skipped that last lesson on purpose, because Luke was about to hit Rey with some prideful nonsense. He needed to learn the last lesson about failure. And after he did, we got to see Luke’s journey come full circle. He reconnected with the Force, fought Kylo, and died a meaningful death. Once again, Johnson kind of spells it out for us. Rey said that Luke’s death wasn’t filled with pain. But rather, peace and purpose.
I love Star Wars. Hopefully it’s evident by how much I just rambled. I also hope that you enjoyed someone talking positively about Star Wars for a change. There are a bunch of other things I love about this film. The visuals, the cinematography, and score just to name a few. I just wanted to focus on the characters and themes today since that’s what usually drives the conversation. The Star Wars community shouldn’t be defined by a group of people who don’t have enough decency and respect to leave creators and actors alone.
Star Wars needs to grow up. I think one of things that holds most fandoms back is nostalgia. Fans get attached to certain aspects of a property and hold on to it for years. Now that’s not a bad thing really, but it is when fans attack the franchise or others because of it. Or worse, they don’t really know what they want, but they aren’t willing to try anything new. I think The Last Jedi is a clear example of that. Luke’s development in The Last Jedi represents not only some problems within the Star Wars universe, but also the fandom.
The Last Jedi isn’t a perfect film. No film is. But I think it’s clear that Rian Johnson loves the franchise. Making a movie is a small miracle. It doesn’t just happen with 200 million dollars and a vindictive attitude. Not liking what someone made is fine. I’m a fan of the prequels (did all my Star Wars cred just go out the window?) but I’d be out of my mind to trash every fan who didn’t like them. We must move past this as a community. Let people enjoy what they enjoy. And stop tying every fiber of your being to fictional universes. Love them for what they are. Because fans like myself aren’t going anywhere and you can’t drive us away with your negativity.
“His name is Toren Chenault but he goes by Raymond X. He’s currently a student attending Michigan State University from where he will graduate this spring. He loves all things nerd culture from television to comics and his favorite heroes are Daredevil, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nighthawk, and Captain Atom. Toren is a writer as well, and his debut superhero novel, Mystic Man, will be released this year.