January 3, 2018

The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has caused enough stir and been out long enough that I am ok to comment without feeling like I’ll spoil anything. I want to focus on the complaints about the movie but from the perspective of why I like it and wasn’t bothered by the things that seem to cause so much angst. I’ve either heard or read each of these paraphrased complaints, all of which I understand but show that we’re not thinking past A New Hope or much else.

“The Skywalker storyline is over. And ruined.”

I don’t think it’s ruined but that’s my opinion. However, it’s certainly not over. Both Leia and Kylo Ren are technically Skywalkers.

“It’s no Empire.”

Of course it isn’t. Nothing will ever be The Empire Strikes Back. As I’ve said before, Empire holds personal and mythological status for too many people. Nothing can touch it, nor should it try, nor should we compare anything to it. Anything compared to it falls short. Let The Last Jedi be The Last Jedi.

“It’s too much / not enough like previous movies.”

So, The Force Awakens was too much like A New Hope but The Last Jedi isn’t enough like The Empire Strikes Back? It’s like we enjoy being unhappy (we do). The Last Jedi has enough throwbacks and new story and ideas to both respect the past and look forward.

“This isn’t the Luke we expected/deserved/needed/etc.”

Did you expect Luke to be a composed, level-headed person with a father like Vader? He showed a moment of clarity in Return of the Jedi scenes and that’s how he’s going to be for the rest of his life? He was arrogant through the first three movies. I loved it. And this movie chose to stick with a Jedi master who let that arrogance get the best of him…until he saves the day again at the end of the movie.

“This isn’t Luke. Luke doesn’t abandon his friends.”

He does, actually. In The Empire Strikes Back, he abandons his training and Yoda’s advice. He rushes to meet Vader (as Yoda points out in Return of the Jedi) and because of it put himself and his friends in danger. And he lost a hand. And that light saber he now hates. So, “from a certain point of view,” he abandoned his friends by not fulfilling his role and being who he was supposed to be for them.

“We can never see what Luke and Rey could have learned from each other.”

Of course we can. Force ghosts. Obi-Wan figured out the force ghost thing almost immediately.

“The science of space isn’t accurate.” (Regarding, I assume, explosions, bombs dropping, etc).

So say people to the movie with a Wookiee co-pilot, astral projections and some weird mirror wall thing. Factual accuracy may not be something to worry about.

“Apparently the force does things we didn’t know it could do.”

Right. We learn this in every movie. Episode IV: we learned of the Force, how dead people can talk to us and how it can be used to choke people. Episode V: we learned that dead people can actually show up and talk to us. Episode VI: we learned that there’s a thing called Force lightning. Episode I: we see Obi-Wan jump 10 stories (I know we saw Luke jump but it wasn’t like that). Episode II: we learned the Force allows us to safely free fall both in the city and weird insect arenas. Episode III: we learned the Force can keep people from dying (supposedly, as this feature of the Force doesn’t seem to work that well) and that Qui-gon had learned the way to talk to the living. And that Yoda didn’t know that yet! In Rogue One we see Vader choking someone without doing his fingers like that or even looking at them. There’s more we learn of the Force in The Clone Wars and Rebels and other material. So, go with it. The Force does things we don’t know about and it may not be consistent from generation to generation.

The Last Jedi did a lot to upset people, but not everyone. I love that the storyline took unexpected turns, even from the beginning with Luke tossing the light saber. We had theorized for two years how that scene would go and that was not what we saw in our own minds. We were surprised. It didn’t fit our view of Luke. So what? Are we that stuck on our view of how things should be that we’re unable or unwilling to accept that our way may not be the way? Much like how Doctor Who casting a female lead did not ruin my childhood, Luke not being exactly who I thought he was does not ruin my view of him. It just…changes it. The Doctor can be female. Luke is flawed. Why would that bother me?

Heroes should be flawed. It means we can all be heroes, not just the perfect chosen ones.