When I decided to do this introductory post for this week’s theme, I almost called it a defense of The Last Jedi, but honestly, I don’t think it will do any good. I mean, I have been in the middle of this fight for, well, let’s see, almost two and a half years. I don’t know if I remember a movie that has ever been as divisive for a fan base as this one has been for Star Wars. There are a lot of fans who absolutely hate this movie for whatever reason. I’m not dismissing those reasons, I’m just not going to list them all here. Then there are others who will defend this movie no matter what because it’s Star Wars, and they just automatically love anything Star Wars. And somewhere in between is everyone else.
I tend to be on the side of loving this movie. My wife asked me the other day which Star Wars movie was my favorite. It came down to this one or Empire for me. And I honestly said The Last Jedi. I am not, however, an unconditional Star Wars lover. I can’t stand Attack of the Clones, Solo was just alright, and Clone Wars- I hear it gets great, but I have struggled to get through season 2, so I don’t know. So, I don’t just love everything Star Wars because it’s Star Wars. I still loved this movie, though. I think the story telling is pretty solid. I like what happens with some of the main characters. I liked the idea of moving forward from the past. There was a lot to like.
That’s not to say that people who didn’t like it are wrong, or their opinions are not valid. I even get some of their arguments. I know the Canto Bight side story is one of the big complaints. I have heard everything I care to about the awful Admiral Holdo. And of course how Luke would never act the way he did. I have heard it all, and I get where you’re coming from. Please understand I’m not blind to your argument, I just see it differently. Admiral Holdo was acting like a military leader who was sharing parts of a plan with those that needed to know, Poe didn’t need to know. Luke would behave that way, because he did. And Canto Bight was important in setting something up for the next film, that we didn’t get to see. At least that’s what I think. The kid with the broom. I want to know what happens with the kid with the broom.
Here’s the thing, I know most of you who really hated this film are not going to agree with me, and I’m not trying to get you to change your opinion. I just want you to know that I have heard your arguments. You’re not going to share anything new, so let’s just agree to disagree. This isn’t a defense of the film. That’s what I am trying to get at. I am just explaining why I like this film. Rian Johnson did what he did. Told the story he did. I am not trying to defend it. I just think it was really good. And it would have been even better if Rise of Skywalker would have gone differently.
This post isn’t about Rise of Skywalker, so I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but The Last Jedi was supposed to be the second part of a trilogy. A bridge between the opening act of The Force Awakens and the conclusion of the story in what was eventually called The Rise of Skywalker. However, now that the films are finished, Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker are nice bookends that look and feel similar, but The Last Jedi is this middle story that just doesn’t fit in. That’s not Johnson’s fault. I think Disney buckled under a lot of the fan complaints and spent a good portion of Rise of Skywalker undoing a lot of what Johnson did in Last Jedi. This is also Disney/Lucasfilm’s fault for apparently not having an overarching plan for the story of the new trilogy. Or swerving from that plan drastically with the last movie. If Episode 9 had built off of the story told in TLJ, it would have been even better as a part of a whole story. Like I said, though, this isn’t about Rise of Skywalker or the sequel trilogy as a whole.
No, this is about why I like The Last Jedi. It comes down to the story. It comes down to the characters. And it comes down to what it all meant to me. That last part is going to be covered more in depth on Wednesday’s post, but I have to mention it here. Rian Johnson has become one of my favorite directors, with this film and Knives Out, two of my favorite recent films. Knives Out may be one of my top three films from 2019. In any case, let’s look at each of these three parts one by one.
Much like Empire Strikes Back, the story in The Last Jedi is a little darker, a little more dire. When it ends, the Resistance is beaten and bloodied, and we’re not sure how they will go on. Compare this to Empire Strikes Back. Yes, our heroes, most of them, escaped Vader, but there was no medal ceremony or giant exploding Death Star. We have the most shocking revelation in the history of the franchise, and we are left wondering how it will all end. How will the Rebels regroup and finally defeat the Empire? But there is hope at the end of both movies as well. Hope that they will come back and win.
This is the way a lot of second parts of trilogies work. They aren’t always happy. In fact the heroes often find themselves in situations that go from bad to worse. Their challenges mount and somehow they get through them but at a high cost. But it’s in preparation for the final act, the big battle, the climax. And The Last Jedi does this. It actually does it really well. I know that a lot of people don’t like where the story went, or how it got there, but sometimes, in the middle of the overall story, that’s ok. Just wait, let it resolve itself, see where it goes. I also know that a lot of people didn’t like the story because they didn’t like where it took some of the characters. Well…
I’m not going to dive too deeply into the characters here, because later this week I am going to talk more in depth about some of my favorite characters from this film. But, I liked where most of our main characters were at the end of this film. I really did. I can also say that a lot of what happened was really unexpected, and maybe it felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath us, but really, in the end, I liked how our characters developed. Rey had been wanting to find out about her parents and her family for so long, and it was almost liberating for her when she found out that they weren’t anybody special. It left her free to forge her own path, create her own destiny, and it gave hope to anyone out there who was born a nobody.
Anybody can becomes a somebody, and everybody can be special. That was kind of the point. A point that was totally undone with The Rise of Skywalker, but again, that’s not the point pf this post. So I’ll move on.
I also loved- LOVED- where Kylo Ren was at the end of this chapter. He went from being a whiny, emo, Darth Vader wannabe to Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, and looked totally awesome doing it. He was a legitimate threat now, and someone who had eclipsed anything Vader had accomplished- at least on screen. And there was something to his whole “destroy the past” idea, but I’ll get into that on Wednesday.
Finally, for this post, Luke. He’s the guy a lot of unhappy fans point to when they discuss this film. Discuss- or more accurately rant against this film. Luke would never behave that way. He would never do that. Rian Johnson just didn’t get his character. I get these complaints. As a lifelong Superman fan who has had to endure Zack Snyder’s treatment of the character- I totally get it. The thing is, I just don’t think it’s accurate in this case. And unfortunately, Luke would behave this way because Luke did behave this way. I wanted to have the super powered, force wielding Jedi Master Luke Skywalker going into this film. And, initially I was disappointed with the hermit, disgruntled Luke we got. That being said, I love this Luke. He is broken. He is down. He believes it is because of his pride, and the pride of the Jedi as a whole that Kylo and Snoke are even around. He is ashamed of himself and his own weaknesses, and like so many of us, he can’t forgive himself. These kinds of things don’t make me dislike one of my favorite characters in the saga. It makes me love him more. It makes him more interesting, not less.
What it all meant to me
End of the day, it all comes down to what this film meant to me. I am going to go in depth on this particular topic on Wednesday- how the whole idea of moving past the past, moving beyond the traditions we cling to just to cling to them- this whole message resonated with me. So much so, I consistently write run-on sentences to describe how I feel. It’s that important to me. That deep. That’s why I keep coming back to this film. That’s why I love it, and why It has become possibly my favorite film in the whole saga, even though it doesn’t quite fit in here anymore. Sandwiched between The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker, it kind of stands out. But it doesn’t change that this was the best film of the new trilogy. And top two for the whole saga.
That’s why I like The Last Jedi. Like I said before, I don’t anticipate changing anyone’s minds about this film. You all will like what you like, and that’s totally valid. Just be careful thinking that the only people who like this movie are the people who just love anything Star Wars simply because it is Star Wars. There are legitimate reasons to like, and maybe even love, this film.