This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
jpark’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
we are what they grow beyond
This is a movie that challenges our relationship to Star Wars; a sharp rebuke of the "hero's journey", subverting the role of destiny in this franchise and instilling an element of self-determination into this universe. Anyone can be a hero now, and anyone can be a villain. Kylo is descended from heroes, but has still chosen to be evil. Rey is descended from nobodies, and she might just save the galaxy. So much of this film is about redefining what good and evil means, and adding depth and dimension to each. We get such a rich depiction of the rebellion here. No longer are they just a plucky band of do-gooders fighting against an obviously evil empire; there's more here than that. Rose is so important to this new angle, and her relationship to Finn functions as a metaphor for the audience's impression of the rebellion. In The Force Awakens, Finn is basically a baby after being liberated from the First Order, motivated by his connection to Rey and not much more. Here he wakes up to a Rey-less resistance, and immediately tries to abandon it. But, he meets Rose. A resistance fighter who, unlike Finn, is not motivated by things like grandiose acts of heroism. Her motivation is much simpler...much more organic. She understands the evil that the First Order represents, and she understands the systematic oppression they force onto "the little guys" across the galaxy. Because she was one of those little guys.
This is what distinguishes The Last Jedi from damn near every other Star Wars film...an understanding that evil is much more widespread and nuanced than stormtroopers, Sith Lords and Death Stars. Canto Bight illustrates that the dangers of war aren't always just a gun in your face, but can be rooted in the greed of bureaucrats, arms dealers and an indifferent elite. Rose's line "not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love" perfectly encapsulates this, and what the resistance is about. While the First Order is absolutely evil, the fact that the Resistance is fighting against them shouldn't make them "good". They're good because they strive to create a better galaxy, and to protect a vision of a future everyone can rally to.
Instead of basically rewording the last paragraph from my first write-up on this movie, I'm just gonna copy and paste it. Every Star Wars write-up I post I seem to conclude with some rambling, overly-emotional and repetitive; but the points I made here still stand. I adore these moments; I'm in love with what they mean and how well executed they are...Rey finally becoming one with the Force felt downright profound, a meaningful portrayal of the Force as something that is always with us, found in the most peaceful moments of our lives. Just breathe. Johnson's depicted it with such clarity, such majesty...I teared up. Or Luke passing away under the light of a sunset, gently recalling the young man from Tattooine just decades ago with the simple ambition of being part of something greater; effectively born under the light of the sun only to be taken decades later, a radically changed man, similarly gazing into the light of the sun, at peace in his final moments. It's an affecting use of an immortalized moment in cinema, gently engaging in the familiar cyclical storytelling we've come to expect from this franchise without compromising the idea that the life he'd lived was his, and his alone. These are the moments that remind me why I've always loved Star Wars. It's not the thrilling action, dazzling effects or boundless creativity; its the spirituality. What is Star Wars but a story about hope? Seeing light when there is darkness, hanging our heads in desperate hope of redemption, rescue or revolution; and holding to the simple belief that what is good will win out. In that belief, The Last Jedi holds out hope for a generational change; a belief in that small, nameless dreamer somewhere far away who has not yet resigned themselves to a galaxy run by the greedy, corrupt and power-hungry. This is now a universe of self-determination, with a much-needed message of peace and acceptance. Unconventional? Radical? Unfamiliar to this franchise? Perhaps. But this movie underscores precisely what this franchise has always been about. It's unmistakable.