December 18, 2017 The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. It follows the template laid down by The Empire Strikes back, but with some twists. Rey seeking Luke out for training echoes Luke’s training with Yoda on Dogobah. Instead of a marsh or swamp, we find them on an island. It was filmed on Skelling Michael, an Irish Ireland. Instead of Sky City, our heroes visit Canta Bight –a cosmic Las Vegas. DJ is the stand in for Lando Calrissian.
Interestingly, the movie makes a social commentary on our current culture. DJ is an opportunistic capitalist whose loyalties lie with whoever pays him the most. And Canto Bight is filled with the rich 1% who made their fortunes off the war machine between the so-called Good and Evil. The Republic giving way to an Empire that eventually crumbles is a very Roman outlook. But the threatened tyranny of the First Order has more in common with Hitler and Trump than Caesar and Nero. However, the Praetorian Guards around Snoke are very much from the Roman Era.
The Red Room and Red Faceless Guards reminded me of Alice in Wonderland for some reason. Snoke was the King of Hearts, hungry to behead someone. Rey surrendering to Kylo Ren and thus Snoke was out of The Return of the Jedi. It was expected that Kylo Ren would kill off Snoke, but what wasn’t expected that he didn’t do it to redeem himself or save Rey. He did it so could over throw his master and blame Rey.
Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo, and Rey do have a connection. Snoke said he forged the connection himself. And Kylo Ren claims that the Rey’s parents are nobody special. And yet, one has to wonder if Ben Solo and Rey aren’t twins.
In the Franchise books of the 1990s and early 2000s, Han and Leia had twins—Jacen and Jaina. Jacen becomes a Sith Lord while Jaina becomes a Jedi Master. It was Luke who had a son named Ben. The movies aren’t following the books exactly, but they do seem to provide inspiration.
What really struck me was Kylo Ren’s line, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” He was obviously talking about his childhood, his Jedi training and even his own father. But you can’t help but feel like he talking about the previous Star Wars movies. The subtext is that they are fighting to keep the franchise fresh. People complain the plots are recycled and boring.
The counter to that claim comes in the form of what Rose says to Finn after the fight on the planet Crait—Crait being the stand in for Hoth. “That is how we are going to win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what love.” Though Rose is talking about the Resistance, she is also talking about the franchise. The writers want to keep all the good things from the Star Wars Universe. Instead of destroying the parts they hated, they wanted to celebrate the parts they loved.
The relationship between Luke and Rey and between Finn and Rose underscored the danger we face in meeting our heroes. We want to put them on a pedestal and idolize them, but they are only human. We want them to be perfect, but they are flawed. This is true of the Star Wars franchise as well. We romanticize the past movie and fool ourselves into thinking nothing will ever compare to their perfection. We have to be willing to accept a character, a relationship, a hero or even a movie despite its flaws. It is what it is. Both the good and the bad.
That is why the Jedi Order must come to an end. The Jedi are gone and the Galaxy romanticizes them. They are like the ancient Samurai. We write about them and long for them. But they weren’t perfect. Luke finally recognizes the old ways must change. One master and one apprentice may not be the way to go. But what will be reborn from the ashes of the ancient ways?
The movie ends with a poor boy who is a nobody that is strong with the force. Perhaps he is the future. Perhaps he and others like him will find each other and destroy the First Order together. Rey maybe the Last Jedi, but she isn’t the last one who has the ability to tap into the force! And maybe, just maybe, the movie suggests that the force in all of us—all of the fans and all of humanity even. We all have that potential—that divine nature.