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The Last Jedi: a sort-of review

If you know me at all, you know I’ve spent the last few weeks shaking in anticipation of The Last Jedi. I wanted to share my immediate impressions here. I’m still processing (will be for weeks, probably, good god), so this is a rough, somewhat incoherent analysis.

MEGA SPOILERS, so don’t click to view the full post unless you’ve seen the movie or don’t mind getting spoiled:

Luke Skywalker. Oh man, Luke.

Straight off, this was the performance that I’ve been waiting all my life to see, that Mark Hamill has deserved to have the chance to show us. He’s brilliant. (“See you around, kid.” Oh my god.)

I’m already seeing commentary saying that Luke was out of character, but I disagree. I think fans who feel that way haven’t accepted that Luke Skywalker is more than a myth, more than a legend – he’s a man. Human. Fallible. He failed Ben, and that’s okay.

What I’m getting at is: Luke, Leia and Han aren’t perfect. They’re heroes who saved the galaxy, but in their personal lives, they had weaknesses, flaws, failures. That doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them people, full-stop. It makes them human, and that’s much more interesting than putting them on a pedestal.

Like Rey, we all have to recognize that Luke isn’t a saint. He’s just a man. And sometimes, instead of waiting for a hero to come save us, we have to become the hero and save ourselves. It’s hard to accept. Uncomfortable. Frustrating. But it’s real.

(Side note: I love how, despite his “eff the Jedi” attitude, Luke carries on the proud Jedi tradition of straight up lying about something important.)

As for Luke’s “death,” it felt right to me. If it felt OOC to you, remember: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

To use the last of his strength to reignite the fire of the rebellion is the most Luke Skywalker thing he could’ve possibly done. It was tremendous. Beautiful. He is one with the Force now – like Qui Gon, like Yoda, like Obi-Wan. (“We are what they outgrow.” Oh, wow.) We haven’t seen the last of Luke Skywalker. Just you wait.

Moving on to Rey: Y’all know that I’ve spent the last two years insisting that Rey has to be a Skywalker, or the foreshadowing in TFA wouldn’t make sense. But the truth of Rey’s heritage just about knocked me out. It was the best possible surprise.

The idea that a hero can come from anywhere – from nowhere – is a powerful and important message. It’s one that I always like to see explored in fiction; I just wasn’t expecting it from the Skywalker family saga. It’s a fantastic twist, and it feels right. Kudos, Rian Johnson. Kudos.

Kylo Ren. Where do I even begin with Kylo Ren?

Remember in TFA, when Han told Kylo: “Snoke is using you for your power. When he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you – you know it’s true.” And somehow, Kylo did know. You could see it on his face. (Also, it was written in the script.) But all he said to his father in reply was, “It’s too late.”

In The Last Jedi, though, we witness the moment when Kylo can no longer tell himself that Snoke isn’t just using and manipulating him. We see the moment when he realizes that it’s NOT too late. And he sets himself free.

(Side note, when Kylo absolutely wasted Snoke like that, and then he and Rey jumped into battle together, the audience in my theater CHEERED. I almost had a stroke. My heart was pounding so hard that I was dizzy. Nothing in my life has felt as good as that scene.)

I want to be clear that Rey and Kylo’s connection never felt romantic or sexual to me. What I sensed from both of them, beginning in TFA, was a terrible, aching loneliness. They’re each set apart from other people, always have been. When they meet, it’s like standing in front of a mirror, some essential part of themselves reflected back at them. But I think calling it a love connection would be reductive.

Also, like, Rey physically and metaphorically shut the door on Kylo at the end. I think she wants to save him, to help him, and she’ll try if she can – but she’s not in love with him, and he’s not in love with her, either. It’s more complex than that.

Rey was right that Kylo would turn, but wrong about which way. He didn’t turn to her – he turned inward. He turned to his own side. The only person in the galaxy who’s never betrayed him is himself.

For a while there, with Rey, he thought he’d found an equal, someone who understood what it was to be like him – and he did. (When he says that she’s nobody, except to him – I don’t think it was just “negging.” I think he feels like nobody, too, but he wants to matter to someone, and he thought it could be Rey.)  But in the end, he saw that he had to walk alone, just like he always has. Wow.

THE SUPREME LEADER IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE SUPREME LEADER.

I could never have guessed it would happen that way. Right when we were poised to get a boring Snoke back story, Rian Johnson basically said “Psyche! We’re doing something cool instead!” and yanked the rug out from under us. Incredible.

Up to this point, we’ve only been able to speculate about Kylo’s end game, the destiny he’s reaching for. Now we know: He wants to burn it all down and start over. Vader, Luke Skywalker, the Jedi, the Sith, the Empire, the New Republic: It’s all the same, an ageless cycle, worthless, and he can see it now. The galaxy can only be cleansed with fire. In Kylo’s eyes, there’s nothing left worth saving – not even him. Hell yeah.

(And yet – he couldn’t kill Leia. That’s the one part of his past that he couldn’t bring himself to destroy.)

Side note: I loved all the Hux whump, though I wish he’d been less of a cartoon villain. I’m lowkey obsessed with Hux, and I hooted when he moved to blow Kylo’s brains out, then tried to act casual. Classic. I look forward to watching him spend Ep. 9 actively plotting to kill and usurp Kylo.

Speaking of Hux, I think his survival points toward an interesting new conflict for Kylo. He’s the Supreme Leader now – but what does that mean? How’s he going to handle it? Does he know anything about administration?

At the end, when Kylo was screaming “MORE!” and Hux yelled, “THAT’S ENOUGH!” the soldiers followed Hux’s order. They’re used to taking his orders. He’s their general. They’re probably more loyal to him than to Kylo Ren.

How will that play out in Ep. 9, when Kylo is running the First Order? Also, why did he keep Hux (his bitter ex – I’ll never let that die) around at all, at the rank of general, if he didn’t think he still needs him for something? I wonder if Hux won’t stay at Kylo’s right hand to smooth the transition. I can’t wait to see their dynamic in the next movie.

FINN. You’re doing amazing, sweetie. I found his arc very satisfying. He goes from wanting to escape the fighting with Rey (which is perfectly understandable) to holding firm, planning to sacrifice his own life for the cause when all others had fallen back. He learns self-sacrifice from Rose – and in turn, Rose learns how to be a little selfish. The whole movie, she gives and gives to the cause. She even gives up her precious necklace, without hesitation – but in the end, she keeps something for herself, too. She keeps Finn. She saves him because she can’t bear to do anything else. I was moved (though I don’t think Finn feels the same way about her – much like myself, he’s all Rey all the time).

(Side note: I was SO SCARED that Finn was going to die. Thank god for Rose Tico.)

Poe’s arc was another big win for me. He understands what it means to be a real leader now (and the way Leia passed the torch to him seems almost prophetic in hindsight). Also, one of my favorite tropes is when characters in a military setting learn to respect the chain of command. (I find rigid structure comforting or something.)

I think it’s a very American thing to celebrate “going rogue” and “bucking the system” because you don’t trust your superiors. In a different movie, Poe would’ve been shown to be in the right and Holdo would’ve turned out to be a traitor or something. But in the real world, sometimes you have to suck it up and listen to the person above you, even if you don’t understand why. That’s the lesson Poe learned.

Seeing Leia use the Force was a transcendent experience for me. And I don’t really have the words to describe her scene with Luke – it’s still too raw – except to say how beautiful it is that Luke and Leia had a chance to say goodbye. “No one is ever really gone.”

The Last Jedi is a story about mistakes and redemption. It’s about falling, struggling back to your feet, and fighting on to find your place in the galaxy, no matter who you are. A polarizing movie, for sure, but one that elegantly, beautifully, devastatingly closes the book on the OT and ushers in a new era of Star Wars.

And the rest of it:

  • Luke milking the fleshbeast… why… I don’t get it… but it was amazing…
  • alternate title: General Hux and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • I actually loved the chase scene with the giant dogs?? go, my children, you’re free now
  • PORGS. oh my god, the porgs, I’m so happy
  • Kylo Ren’s ample bosom just about knocked me out
  • where was Lando?? I demand Lando. he could’ve made a cameo appearance in the casino
  • I wanted to see the Knights of Ren SO BADLY and I didn’t get them! however, my long-standing theory that the other knights are students who left Luke’s Jedi school with Ben seems very plausible now. I hope they’ll appear in Ep. 9, maybe as the new Supreme Leader’s guards.
  • Yoda is still a complete troll (in case you missed it, Rey stole the Jedi texts. they’re on the Falcon at the end of the movie. so when Yoda says there’s nothing in those books that Rey doesn’t already possess, he means it)
  • the moral ambiguity gave me life
  • eat the rich
  • I anticipate a time skip for Ep. 9, so Rey has a chance to train new Jedi and Kylo has a chance to settle into his role as the Supreme Leader
  • “Do you think you got him?” even after getting Force-choked, Hux just can’t help himself

What did you think of The Last Jedi? And where the hell do you think the story will go from here?

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