One of the main themes in The Last Jedi was the idea of moving forward from the past. This was the theme that resonated the most with me in the film, and one of the reasons I love the movies so much. There were three main characters that presented three views on this idea of moving forward, in my opinion: Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, and Rey. Each of these characters took a different approach to the same idea of moving on to something new. They each had the same goal in the end, but how they chose to try to get to that goal helps define their characters at this point in the story.
Kylo Ren’s approach to moving forward was that the past needed to die. I think at one point in the movie, he actually says the past needs to die. But the past didn’t just need to die for Kylo. Instead, he needed to murder it. Coming off killing his father, thinking that had freed him from a burden, from a pull back to who he was, he used to be, he wanted to kill more of his past. He attempts to take out his mother, he kills his mentor Snoke in order to become greater than him, and he tries to kill his previous mentor Luke Skywalker. For Kylo, he sees the past as something that is holding him back, and he needs to destroy it and become something bigger and better. Without killing it all, it will continue to pull at him. In Kylo’s mind, he needs the past dead in order for him to move forward.
Kylo looks back on his past and sees himself as weak. He wants to be strong, so he wants that weaker him to be gone. He needs it to be gone. In the film we see this over and over. He destroys his helmet because it reminds him of when he was weaker, when he lost to Rey in the woods. Everything Kylo is doing in The Last Jedi is to become bigger, better, and greater than who he was before, who his grandfather was, who Snoke was, who his uncle was. Kylo wants the past dead because it holds him back.
Luke Skywalker looks back at the past and he is ashamed. He is ashamed of choices he made, or almost made. He is not proud of what he went into Kylo’s hut to do when he was his teacher. He hated himself for it. And as went into isolation and studied the history of the Jedi, he became ashamed of who the Jedi were especially at the end. He sees how they clung to ceremony and pomp, and he felt like the Jedi needed to die. He didn’t want to murder the past, but he was willing to let it die out naturally. His goal was to let the Jedi die out with him. He was ashamed of who he was, and as he learned more, who the Jedi were. For Kylo and Luke, the past was holding them back, and needed to disappear.
Rey doesn’t know her personal past, but as she learns more about the Jedi and the force she begins to embrace what the past was, and sees a way to move forward. She wants to build on the past as she discovers it, and sees what was in the past as the future. She doesn’t want to destroy it, she wants to cling to it in some ways. She sees it as an opportunity to become part of something larger than herself. That was something she had been wanting her whole life, and when she found it, she needed it even more.
You know the old saying, never meet your heroes? It applies when you meet someone that you have looked up to, you have a lot of respect for, and they end up being totally different than you expected. Disappointingly different. This is what Rey experiences when she meets Luke for the first time. This is Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi Master, the guy who is going to save the Resistance. She had built up this image, rightfully so, in her head, and who she met did not meet that image. Now she was in a position to learn more about a past that was now part of her as a Force sensitive, but in her way was a man who wanted to get as far away from all of it as he can, and to keep it as far away from everyone else as he can. Rey begins to see things differently. Instead of looking to the past for the answer to the present, she sees it as building on the past, shedding what didn’t work, losing those traditions, and build something new.
I look at these three characters, and I love Rey. I love parts of what Luke believes. There is a lot of tradition, a lot of pomp that needs to be done away with, but we can’t ignore the past completely. In the end I love that Rey embraces what the past was, all of it, and decides to move forward with building a better future. There is a lot to love about that idea. The past is what it is, and we can learn from it, or hide it and ignore it, but to truly build something better we need to understand it, and move forward from it. I think Rey embraces this idea.
I also love the idea of getting rid of a lot of what holds us back. Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, there was a lot I learned about what that meant, and a lot of that was tradition. I learned the doctrine too, but there was a lot of things done because that’s how they were always done. It has been interesting to see how so much of that has changed in the last few years. A lot of the tradition, a lot of things we did just because we did them have been done away with. It has almost been a war on tradition for tradition’s sake. Moving away from a church that fits the needs the Wasatch front to meeting the needs of a global community. And honestly, I love it. I think there are a lot of parallels as we move forward in the Church to a better future. I don’t know. That’s some of my thoughts.
Luke and Kylo saw the past as a hindrance, and it can be. If we cling to it so much it hinders us from moving forward. But Rey understood that knowing the past, learning from it and building on it can bring even better rewards. Living in the past, dwelling on the past can hold us back in our own futures, but hiding it away or ignoring can cause us to make the same mistakes. Only by understanding it, embracing it, and then moving forward learning from it can help us to be as successful as we can be. And that’s why this was my favorite theme from The Last Jedi.