Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Evolving the Franchise

Spoilers ahead*

I’ll admit, I was wary to the expectations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I’ve learned to turn a deaf ear onto the popular critiques of current films. It was beautiful, heart wrenching, enthralling, everything a Star Wars movie is defined as. It challenged expectancies from the past, present, and future of the franchise, and I’m liking the fresh direction it’s taking.

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First, I was sure that Rey was a Skywalker. The directors and writers knew this, they knew the audience expected the Skywalker or Obi-Wan lineage, a familiar tie that has taken over the franchise, but hinting that Rey is a nobody sold by “filthy junk traders” according to Kylo Ren changes dynamics. This nugget of information ties into the final scene, where we see a slave boy exhibit Jedi force that gives hope to a new future of Jedi’s from all walks of life. Hope is a strong theme within this film and the others before it. We hear a constant line of a “spark of hope” that’s all that’s needed to fuel the rebellion, and this hope transitions from a legend Luke Skywalker to a new hope (no pun intended) that anyone can join and remain fortitudinous in the cause.

Rey’s hero’s journey reaches its climax when she finally gets the answers she craved. While keeping in mind the symbolism of hair with the Jedi, her hair is worn down in this film to show her growth. She’s able to fulfill her destiny. This idea of a “nobody” becoming a “somebody” reflects back to young Anakin Skywalker, who was a slave boy before becoming the most feared and naturally gifted Jedi-turned-Sith. While Rey deals with conflicting thoughts about her place in the rebellion and grasp of power, so does her counterpart: Kylo Ren. He’s totally prequel-Anakin in terms of angsty tantrums, but I enjoyed Adam Driver’s portrayal of him a bit more in this film compared to Force Awakens. The mask was awesome, but his decision to destroy it represents an identification of self rather than hiding behind the symbol of Darth Vader, like Snoke chides him for.

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I thought that the connection between Kylo and Rey was hinting at another incestuous Luke and Leia situation, but discovering that Snoke linked them together and that she has different parents opens up the floodgates to an intense, almost unbelievable relationship. Although I can’t seem to picture them romantically involved, there was that split second after he killed Snoke where I thought something incredible would happen between them, but his Anakin-like notion to take over the world ruined it. Rey’s not that kind of girl.

The lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo and the Elite Praetorian guards was one of the highlights of the film, where they worked in tandem for the most bad ass, stunning work of choreography and cinematic art with the dynamic color backdrop and clean visuals. Seeing it in Imax took my breathe away. The use of red and black for the throne room and guards was a win. Snoke was showing some serious Sith skills with the lightning, but I was a bit disappointed he wasn’t as engaged in battle. We still don’t know who he is, but seeing as he got killed Darth Maul style, it doesn’t matter.

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I don’t want to say it, but there was some very “Disney” humor in a few segments. While Star Wars isn’t known for brilliant dialogue, there were some lines that made me think of Disney’s influence, just as they input corny, juvenile lines in Marvel films. Humor definitely helped cut back from the dark nature of the film, but come on… “Need a lift?” Other forms of humor were greatly appreciated: Luke tossing his lightsaber casually in the expected moment of Rey’s arrival, General Hux almost drawing his gun on unconscious Kylo, the Porgs were not annoying at all and incredibly adorable, especially funny when Chewbacca was roasting some avian amigos in front of them, and the amphibian-looking “housekeepers” of the island were hilarious as well.

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Besides the humor, I believe that The Last Jedi haters were hesitant in loving the film mainly because of the subplot between Finn and Rose, which made some sense for the plot action, but was an overall failure either way. Some scenes were tedious between them, somewhat unnecessary besides offering a change of scenery and perspective, but in the end Finn finally “grows up” and takes some responsibility instead of running away as he’s prone to.

Despite some forceful humor and subplot, I honestly cried throughout 90% of the film thanks to many allusions to the previous films. The “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” Leia hologram had me bawling, Han’s golden dice, YODA!!! his appearance shocking and ever-so welcome, the wise and eccentric Yoda of the first films was a perfect addition to a film who says goodbye to the past in order to move on to the future.

 

P.S. Let’s also thank The Last Jedi for disposing the “midichlorians” explanation of the Force, back to the naturalistic, Eastern ideology that it was always meant to be!

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Grade: A

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