Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

It's hard not going into the latest "Star Wars" film and not get misty-eyed about the franchise and remember your fondest memories of it formulating your childhood. Trust me, I'm one of you - the nerdy kid who collected the action figures and played with them until they broke, the kid who would watch the Original and Prequel trilogies on loop for a huge part of my childhood, the kid who would write his own scripts based off of his own "Star Wars" lore and dream of adapting it to screen - and I will always remain that kid at heart. But "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," the eighth film in the episodic franchise, is the film to remind us that this dream, this box we keep our memories in, isn't always pure. 

Our expectations for this were high, especially coming off of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," a satisfactory, yet re-hashed film that was delicately placed to trap the audience in getting sucked into this new Sequel trilogy; it's a safe film, one that doesn't reveal too much about what this new trilogy is about to explore and you know what? It works. It perfectly misguides the audience on what "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will be about. All your atrocious fan-theories? Yep, they don't matter here. Your hope that this will continue that magic that "Star Wars" has had for 40 years? Yes, but not in the ways you'd expect.  All your nostalgic warmth about Luke, Leia, Chewie, and the rest of the gang from the classics? Watch it motherfucking burn. 

Because of this fact, it's now apparent that "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" has apparently "ruined" the beloved franchise (something that seems to be agreeable with people who either don't seem to understand with what the film was trying to do, think the only argument was that Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy have no clue on what they're doing, or find that their only argument is that it's simply not like the other films - those who have their reasons for hating it minus these idiotic reasons: I applaud you and respect you)! We cannot, as a community, allow this film to exist because it explores characters and moments that evolve from the Original trilogy and therefore, don't really feel like "Star Wars" at all!

I don't mean to sound condescending or mean, but those people really don't make sense to me. A film that defied expectations and you're disappointed at the fact that things don't go your way is a disgusting argument for why something is horrible. Sure, there are things in films I'd change or wish something went a different route, but I'm not going to hold that against the overall film; this is the film we got and we've got to deal with it. "Star Wars" is a franchise that explores growth within its characters and evolve with its worldbuilding; "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is a mature film that deals with this in a fandom of immaturity and if you, the fan, aren't willing to let the past go, then forget it. 

As much as we want to remember Luke embracing Han and Leia after he blew up the Death Star in "Star Wars," remember the iconic and shocking reveal with Darth Vader and Luke in "The Empire Strikes Back," and the Endor celebration with Luke glancing at Ben, Yoda, and Anakin while his friends celebrate their win against the Empire, we can't. As much as we want them to live in our hearts, they won't. The reveal to Luke that Han was no longer alive in "The Last Jedi" is soul-crushing to him and to us: perhaps Luke believed they would live forever, but time grew and ate at him and he realized the errors of his ways. Which is why he, surrounded by past failures and the destruction of Ben Solo, countless years of fighting and losing and winning and losing, he is a bitter old man, determined to die.

"The Last Jedi" allows us to see a Luke we've not seen before; he's no longer that wide-eyed farmer boy who dreamt of taking on the Empire and gazed at the sky as those two suns beat down on him. He's done that and more, but that more made him fall. Luke believed the myth until it costed him greatly, until he realized that the myth wasn't reality: it was verbatim, passed down from person to person. Luke realized he was a person. So yes, he's bitter and angry at the world, barely living in a world that spat him out and chewed at him until he was bone and dust. But like Luke finally realizes, we can't live by memory. We cannot allow the mistakes of the past to remind us of our failures, but allow us to improve. 

Which explains why the film's main focus is on characters who AREN'T our beloved friends. The world of "Star Wars" doesn't have to revolve around the Skywalker's (as much as it is perfect) and as much as we want Rey to be a Skywalker descent or see Leia don a lightsaber as the true last Skywalker, it's not the case. Leia is old, Chewie isn't going to live forever, R2-D2 and C-3PO will malfunction, and Rey, Poe, Finn, BB-8, and Rose will be tasked with caring the torch and follow in those (large) footsteps the greats have imprinted. And they may never reach the significance of the past, but it's time we ACCEPT the circumstances and move on. We see Rey learn about herself and evolve as a character, Finn find a purpose in a world that felt purposeless and hopeless, Poe become a sensible and contained, yet still unpredictable leader, and Rose blossom into the epidemy of hope. 

And the same goes with Kylo Ren, who we see struggles internally with what his purpose is and who he is and if he's followed the right path by becoming this vengeful, spite-filled, and angry assassin of darkness. He, in a moment of clarity, after killing Snoke and helping Rey kill his guards, says "Let it die," meaning the connections to him and his grandfather, Vader, are no more: Kylo Ren has become his own thing, separate from Vader's failures and successes. The growing thought of living up to his name no longer matters - Hell, by this time, Vader's been dead for 30 years. 

But it's the truth: Vader and Han are dead, Luke and Leia are old, and the others are nearing their time, too. So why focus on the past when the present can be this exciting and hopeful? Sure, these characters are difficult to love and accept, but like the classic characters, we have the opportunity to grow and love them, too. And the cycle will continue: Rey will die, Finn will die, Kylo will die, Poe will die, BB-8 will malfunction, and the ‪new kids on the block‬ will (metaphorically) take the torch and light it (hopefully not anytime soon - or ever, though) and those characters will be burned onto paper, becoming legends as their predecessors were and the ones before them and so on and so on. "The Last Jedi" reminds us of this cycle and allows us to become less toxic when evaluating those silly criticisms and (hopefully) make us realize that this is simply life. 

I love how this film plays with the myth of Luke. He cheekily sneers at Rey upon first meeting her saying something along the lies of him battling the entire First Order. His legend, his myth has preceded him and I wouldn't doubt that Rey was hopeful in some sense that that would've been the case. And how does he go out: doing exactly that. But it's not; Johnson is, once again, playing with the idea of Luke and instead, it's Luke projecting himself there when he's still on exile planets away. It says something about Luke: putting others before himself. His distraction - becoming the story - allows his friends to live another fight, but causes him to lose his life. And in one of the most perfect moments of the entire saga, we see that farm boy looking at those two suns, now having accomplished everything. His peace finally allowed, himself finally at rest. 

I find this to be one of the most spectacular blockbusters of the 21st Century, maybe the most radical and bombastic we've seen yet in this century. I understand that it's not the film we'd hope for, but it's the film that allows us to peer into the truth of what "Star Wars" is about. This is the now, these events are what matters. But even then, as much as it is important to move on from the past,  I'll always find myself drifting back to those memories, of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, C-3PO, R2-D2, and everyone else dancing their life away; nothing will change those memories I have, nothing will burn those and nothing will be soiled.


EDIT: after months of not even looking at this review, I suddenly feel stupid that it’s not a 5 — the new Disney films are trash, but this is the most artistically inspired film of the bunch, not to mention one that roots itself in Lucas’ filmmaking and illusions while also giving Johnson a voice. scrap 7,9 and those shit spinoffs: keep this film because it’s almost as good as Lucas’ films

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