What Can Be Learned From 'The Last Jedi'
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What Can Be Learned From 'The Last Jedi'

The Last Jedi has stirred up major controversies since its release and as someone who found faults with the film, I have come to learn that there is always a greater lesson with Star Wars.

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What Can Be Learned From 'The Last Jedi'
via Ramin Rahimzada

The Last Jedi has stirred up major controversies since its release on December 15th. Many people have fought over plot points and reveal (or lack thereof) that take place in the film. The arguments have even dwindled down to smallest details such as the newly introduced porgs which have even the cast split on whether the creatures are adorable or a waste of screen time.

And while, yes, there are better things to argue about such as the newly approved tax plan or tensions with North Korea, Star Wars has always been, to many, an allegory for life, dwindled down to the basic principle of deciding to fight for good or choosing to side with evil. If there was ever a time we needed to be reminded of the hope for a better future, now would be it.

I do see the why many people have equated this film’s plot to that of The Empire Strikes Back. The parallels are evident and the themes line up perfectly. However, stating that The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film of all time was baffling to me as a fan and movie goer who left the theater almost unaffected by the two and a half hours I had been anticipating all year to see! Especially after having such a visceral reaction while seeing Rogue One, I was shocked to find myself in the unpopular opinion that The Last Jedi did not accomplish what I speculate it set out to do.

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

The reason I did not particularly like the film was not due to the fact that nearly all hope was lost for the rebellion nor that the major characters did not win this particular battle with the dark side. If we are to view these character’s journeys in the span of a trilogy, it was time for our heroes to take some major blows. What surprised me was how unsurprising these events were when viewing the film for the first time. The amount of visual bait given to the audience was baffling.

The best example of this came with Kylo Ren’s encounter with Snoke after bringing Rey to him. Kylo Ren is the most intriguing villain in Star Wars because he is unpredictable and unstable, a fact that is evident in his behavior and found in subtle clues like his very own lightsaber design. On top of that, he has made the choice to be a leader to the dark side which is something no other redeemable character has ever done. Yet, being informed that Kylo was moving Luke’s saber in the monologue that preceded Snoke’s death took away the audience’s sense of anticipation for they could see exactly what was going to take place.

With that, Snoke had never been formally established as a menace to the galaxy. Yes, he is an influence to General Hux and Kylo Ren but the destruction of the rebellion has been achieved by guns and armory which is in Hux’s control. Kylo spends most of The Force Awakens being verbally taunted by the Snoke only to be called worthless and a slave to the light in The Last Jedi, which continues to confuse Kylo and piss him off. It was the moments that succeeded in taking our breath away that were some of the best parts of the film.

The ultimate example of this is the use of sound and lighting as Laura Dern flew the rebellion vessel through the Supremacist, a sentence that truly captures the glory of that moment. The silence was breathtaking and became one of the only moments of clarity in the film that measured up to the themes of sacrifice and hope. It helped the audience understand the gravity of the fight for good in the galaxy. This sensation only came in a handful of moments which was surprising when looking at the franchise’s track record of well thought out screenplays with great use of language (exempting the prequels, of course).

Which is another point I had with the movie. After a few ill transitioned scenes, I could tangibly feel this was not the work of J.J. Abrams or his prior team who worked on direction, cinematography, and screenplay for The Force Awakens. And there’s truly nothing wrong with that. A new director should have a fresh take on the project or else they are not parting their own vision on the work that has been handed to them.

Where my issues surfaced were with the storytelling and how the plot moved forward while characters did not seem to continue on their arc to becoming different people, for better or for worse. The most compelling people to watch were Rey and Kylo Ren because of the inability to predict their next move or their loyalties which is why their tag team fight in the wake of Snoke’s death felt earned and cathartic when it occurred, and why Kylo’s decision to rule the dark side was heartbreaking.

The two also harnessed a great amount of tension between one another that it was impossible not to be invested. While the last thing Kylo needed was a shirtless scene, what their relationship brought to the end of the film was more questions and ambiguities, the good kind that kindle a desire to know more about these characters. I will spend the next two years wondering whether Ben Solo has truly died in the ambitious plights of Kylo Ren the same way I spent the last two wondering about Rey’s parentage and how she came to be.

There has been many an article about Mark Hamill’s admittance to his thoughts on Luke Skywalker in this film, sharing that it is not the character he had created so many years ago. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson shares equally that this was his direct point. And I hold no animosity towards the decision to tear down the sacredness and formula of the original trilogy.

Same as I understand that sometimes handing the future to the next generation does not warrant itself a clean and clear passing of a torch. It is the way that they get to this place, verbally and through their actions, that seemed to lag. The pacing and use of humor set off a tone that was difficult to decipher. Leave it to Poe Dameron to create some witty banter which sets the film off with a great sense of ego and danger for his character and counters the devastating losses which were soon to follow.

Yet, the humor disappears, only to resurface when Kylo Ren assumes his new title of Supreme Leader and begins to, for lack of a better term, lose his shit. It’s a choice that seems to undermine the credibility of his character which may have been the direction Johnson had wanted. As a viewer, it was jarring in the same way the cinematography approached the Yoda apparition, and with the jump in Leia’s abilities with the force, specifically her ability to fly.

Then there are the new additions to the Star Wars family. My praises for Laura Dern came after seeing where her character ended for I did not trust her in the beginning which stems from the unfamiliarity of not seeing General Organa in control, which makes me no different that Poe Dameron in that moment. I had no opinions or cares about the codebreaker and I felt Rose to be soft in a way that did not undermine her strength and ability as a character.

Strength does not solely manifest itself in physical actions or aggressiveness as it does in characters like Kylo or Rey. However, it distorted the pace and the tone of the film. Being paired with Finn, who we saw in The Force Awakens be charismatic, secretive, scared, ashamed, brave, and who learned to rise above his past to fight for what he believes is good in the world, she seemed to dial him down.

Their first encounter alone brought up thoughts of “didn’t we already see this? Where Finn has an ulterior motive, usually to save himself or those he cares about, and he gets caught under the pretense that he does not care for the cause at hand?”

Of course, we see this many times with Han Solo in the original trilogy, a character who I see most paralleled to Finn the same way Luke is paralleled to Rey and Leia to Poe. For being the “new trio” of the film, it was interesting to have Rey, Poe, and Finn on separate missions, never in one another’s presence.

It had completely slipped my mind that Poe and Rey had never even met, however, it attests to her power in the rebellion. People who have never met this woman hold a candle to her because of the symbol of hope she has become and will continue to be as they struggle to rebuild.

The list could go on and on. Knowing the vastness of the fandom, someone already has delved into such detail on their own reasons for disliking The Last Jedi. I bring up these points to help those who stand on the opposite side of the spectrum understand where we, the confused yet hopeful, are coming from.

What I did come to learn and what I believe is at the heart of this film comes with everything the film did right. The rebellion, for the most part, is run by high ranking, well-respected women who are as powerful as they are frightening. They are faced with defeating white, privileged men who are weak and defensive in their abilities, causing them to continuously exert their dominance among one another.

The two individuals who have the greatest power over the force are two women, one who has never faltered in her allegiance to the rebellion, despite her family history, and one who stands as the last Jedi for the time being. The dark side is a council lead by white men whose way of life is being challenged by a diverse group of individuals ready to die for their freedom.

And while those leading the fight have exemplified prowess and spoken at unapologetic volumes to be heard, we have been shown how passion for making good with the past and those around them can be as simple as opening a caged door, inspiring the youth with hope for the future.

If I were to choose an overlying thesis for this film, it would be "It's time to let old things die." What Luke Skywalker realizes in his reluctance to face his past, his present, and the inevitable future is the importance of imparting on the young that there is hope and it is through our actions that we empower those around us, bringing forward a greater possibility for good to conquer evil.

That is what we fans who may not altogether agree on the film must learn as well. If anything, The Last Jedi has created an exciting future for the Star Wars universe, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what is in store.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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