This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
luke dolson’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
When The Force Awakens released two years ago, it was the formal revival of a cultural touchstone for generations of people around the world, and for some, it was their introduction to a new trilogy that could be their own; a new trilogy that they can grow up with and experience in real time. In 1977, Star Wars premiered, and since then, it has only grown in its popularity and status as the icon of entertainment and science fiction. But I wasn't there to experience it, and neither was anyone around my age and even years older. Somehow, though, it has still maintained itself as the movie that everyone knows, loves, and can enjoy, regardless of age.
I first watched Star Wars when I was about six years old, maybe a little younger, I don't quite remember. But I do remember watching it. I remember being drawn in and instantly hooked by its simple story of good vs. evil, by its story of a nobody from a nowhere meeting a hero and saving the galaxy, and he happened to share my name. It helped that nearly everyone I met introduced themselves by declaring "Luke, I am your father!". I was enamored by the coolness of Han Solo and the badass princess named Leia with the iconic hair that my sisters incessantly tried to recreate. I collected all the plastic lightsabers I could, spent hours at the library reading extended universe novels, studied the encyclopedias until I knew every planet and character imaginable. I'm pretty sure I still have my Obi-Wan costume tucked away somewhere, even though Luke Skywalker was always my hero.
I didn't watch the prequels until a few years later, and even those were "the best movies ever" at the time. Sure, they suck (well, I still maintain that Revenge of the Sith is a good movie), but they'll always have a special place in my heart and I can still rewatch them to this day. But the story of Anakin, however compelling it was, never compared (and still doesn't) to the story of Luke. Luke, a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere who discovers that there are worlds beyond his own, heroes, and this mysterious thing called the Force. He leaves his home with his new mentor and inspiration, Ben Kenobi. And he, along with a group of instantly lovable characters, save the galaxy from the ultimate evil.
Looking back on it now, I think that's the true beauty of the Star Wars saga: a simple story about masters and apprentices, good vs. evil, and the full circle of the apprentice becoming the master. But it all felt so distant, despite the timelessness of the saga, I was only taking part in the past. And then The Force Awakens happened. Yes! A Star Wars story that I get to see and experience. And it didn't disappoint me. It introduced Rey and Finn and Poe, three characters that were obviously a parallel to Luke, Han, and Leia. Rey, a nobody from a desert planet, along with a band of her friends, set out and saved the galaxy. But just as in A New Hope, the threat is never gone. The First Order has now risen to immense power, and the resistance is in trouble.
The Last Jedi. At its core, this film is everything a Star Wars fan could ever want, even if it takes some thought to realize that. I think it builds off of TFA's success of balancing the new generation of heroes with the nostalgia of the old. But it was never just nostalgia, it was part of the full circle. And I just realized that. The apprentice becomes the master, who must teach the new generation. Full circle. The title "The Last Jedi" is a paradox, because the Jedi was never a set of rules or a bunch of books (Yoda, the wisest Jedi of all, burns them down, so we know that's true), the Jedi is an idea. The Force is universal, we learned that in The Empire Strikes Back. As long as the Force is there and the balance exists, we will always have the Jedi.
Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi. What do I mean? He's the last Jedi because he's the last of the Jedi of the past generation, both canonically and in real life, the last remnant of the saga that started with him now forty years ago. But the Jedi is an eternal idea. That is the risk that The Last Jedi (the film) takes in telling us. There will never be a last Jedi. Luke became the master, and just like Ben passed when he was ready, now he passes when Rey is ready. I see a lot of people complaining that this should have been Rey's movie. After all, there's no reason to believe it wouldn't be after where TFA left us. I thought so too. But it's now been 24 hours since I left the theater, and I think I'm glad it wasn't. It wasn't because it had to be Luke's movie, and not in small part for the nostalgia and emotional satisfaction of every true Star Wars fan. Like I said, he's been my hero since I was six years old. The prequels told us that Windu or Yoda was the most powerful.
And here arrives the second great risk of The Last Jedi. Luke becomes the most powerful Jedi by doing what Ben did all those years ago, sacrificing himself. Now here's the narrative brilliance of what Rian Johnson did: not letting us see it until he wanted us to. Not letting Rey see it until he wanted her too. Not even letting Leia see it until he wanted her to. When Ben let Vader kill him, Luke saw it, but he didn't understand it until much later. Luke did what he was always destined to do, he completed the circle, and passed it on to Rey. That moment is done in one of my favorite Star Wars moments of all time. Rey lifts the rocks, taking the mantle, just as Luke transforms into the Force, ending his journey right where he began it, looking out over the horizon to the setting of the two suns.
I could spend another paragraph talking about how the subplot was poorly edited, blah blah blah, but I won't. Because that's not what this movie was about, and that's not what Star Wars is about. It's never been about perfection or the best writing or the Academy Awards or even a rotten tomatoes audience score. It's always been about its story and its characters, their simplicity, universality, and timelessness. And it still is. Episode IX will be Rey's movie, as it should be, and just as the mantle of Jedi has now passed from master to apprentice, Luke to Rey, from one generation to the next. Rey is A New Hope. Full circle.