So, “The Last Jedi” is here and Jingle-Bell rockin' into our lives. Critics are satisfied, but fans are divided! Why? And why do I love it so much? Let’s see.
The second major point I delight in for “The Last Jedi” was the collection of themes and messages the film tried to portray. Others, on the contrary, denounce it as, you guessed it, leftist (or liberal) propaganda! Are they just looking too hard under the veil of bias, or are is the movie really a wheel in a conspiratorial campaign of one-sided propaganda?
For starters, what are the movie’s themes?
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is one of hubris. We see this especially with Poe, as he, time and time again, goes over the heads of General Leia and Admiral Holdo, leading to costly victories, misunderstandings, and relative disaster. Poe rushes in, thinks he knows what would be best, and problems ensue. Then, toward the end, he begins to understand- he doesn’t go out after Luke and he realizes that the remaining members of the Resistance need, for now, to run rather than face the menacing 1st Order attack force.
Interestingly, Luke breaks this down for us too. While teaching Rey, he explains that one reason he and the old Jedi Order failed was hubris. Arrogance and overconfidence lead them to believe they could not be stopped or were obviously in the right- potentially an allusion to “Attack of the Clones,” when Yoda states this issue explicitly to Masters Windu and Kenobi.
Secondly, the film builds itself around the idea that you don’t have to be predestined for greatness to effect change in the world. The original trilogy and prequel trilogy both placed a heavy focus on a chosen one and his relatives. The main characters either started out special or were related or connected to that special person.
In “The Last Jedi,” who are the new heroes we see? We have Finn, who before the events of “The Force Awakens,” was essentially a First Order janitor. He was nobody. Now he fights as an acclaimed hero of the Resistance. Then we have Poe, whose backstory seems to be naught but he has become one of the best pilots in the Resistance fleet. Rose was just a mechanic from a poor/oppressive background doing her job, but when duty called her elsewhere, she rose (ohhhh) to the occasion and helped out.
Then we have Rey. Fans have obsessed for the past two years about her potential lineage, who her parents were, and who she would become. “The Last Jedi” drops a non-bombshell, subverting our expectations. Where does Rey come from?
She has no special parentage, no circumstances that predestined her for greatness or being Jedi. She just happens to be powerful in the Force, and joined the Resistance out of circumstance on account of the traits she possessed and skills she gained over the years through hard work.
Some might decry this as liberal propaganda (Oh, they’re saying everyone is a special snowflake!). But isn’t this what the American Dream is about? That anyone, through hard work and moral character, can achieve greatness? That is what we should take away here.
Third, the movie brings us the idea of how to effect good change in the world. In a way, it’s non-creepy Anakin-style take on the Jedi Code regarding compassion and hatred. Rose clarifies this message explicitly, “This is how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”
In essence, this was the plot of the movie and this message connects to Poe and his hubris. Finn and Poe both fight the First Order- and they both hate it and are willing now to go to great risks just to deal some damage to it. But Leia and Holdo are focused on preserving the “spark” of the Resistance. In “The Last Jedi,” keeping what remains of the Resistance was the point of every hoop that was lept through.
This is an important message for the times we live in. The nation is divided in many ways, though most starkly in politics. We’ve sent so much time building up our “others” as monsters or things to hate, and actual hate groups have sprung up as well. We as a nation and our government as a whole need this reminder of what it’s all for:
Saving those we love, not destroying what we hate.