The Last Jedi is finally here, and we’ve got a lot to talk about! Watch the rules get rewritten and then check out this recap for more insight on the highs and lows of Episode VIII! Questionably canon fan theories, but hey, this article only mentions porgs one time!
I wanted to get some thoughts out there on Last Jedi a little sooner, but due to a family emergency this past Saturday I’m a bit delayed. Everyone is fine which is the important thing, especially this time of year. There’s been a ton of ups and downs this year. . .kind of like the Star Wars franchise if you think about it.
Fair warning, I’m going to spoil the space pants off this movie. So if you haven’t seen it yet, get on with it! And this is just what I thought after one viewing – other than spelling, I didn’t google anything, so if I forgot something or misspoke, just bear with me, it was the first of what will become many viewings. This is also in no particular order, just the order I thought these thoughts in going back over the movie in my head, so do excuse the mess.
The Last Jedi opened officially on Friday and subverted so many expectations. Like it or not, the rules have changed, yet some things have stayed the same too. Rey is on her way to train with a load of recovered Jedi texts and a ship full of Resistance fighters. The creation of Kylo Ren is revealed, and he’s a hurt soul, twisted not only by Supreme Leader Snoke, but also the misunderstood actions of his master, Luke Skywalker. Snoke’s throne aboard his personal mega-destroyer engages in a chase with the Resistance fleet, who is running low on fuel, personnel, and hope.
It is super difficult to think about this movie without the spoilers in mind. Almost from the words “A long time ago. . .” it sets out to answer questions left behind from The Force Awakens. The film opens with Poe Dameron trying to outwit the First Order, who has appeared over D’Qar and is beginning orbital bombardment of the hidden base there. Poe’s X-Wing has been modified with an extra booster, which plays into his ploy to distract the First Order crew until he can disable their cannon batteries – and he does all this while insulting General Hux and his mother.
Yep, it got weird. A joke about somebody’s mom in Star Wars. Poe makes numerous references to being ‘put on hold’ while pretending not to realize he’s on comms with Hux, and then says he has an urgent message regarding his mother.
(Note: I’d like to think that that’s a nice nod to the new canon, where Hux is an illegitimate child and has issues with his father – I’ve never seen him have issues with his birth mother, though he likely doesn’t know her. But how does Poe know all this anyway? It’s a nice reference whether Poe knows whether or not his joke could be taken as super-personal.)
The Last Jedi deals with heavy themes at times, and often cuts in with jokes to break the tension. From reddit to my favorite podcasts, I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions on the film’s humor. The characters may be making the joke you’re jumping to in your head, saying it before you can and then resuming the plot ASAP. Sometimes it feels like the seriousness might be immediately forsaken for a quip, or is it just the kind of brevity the film needs when dealing with themes of betrayal, trial by fire, and sacrifice?
My thoughts on the humor – I think the film will benefit from a second viewing for me, but the more I thought about it, doesn’t every Star Wars movie try to be funny? Episode One has Jar Jar and poop jokes. Episode Two has Anakin losing his lightsaber constantly and C-3PO’s head mistakenly fused onto a battle droid’s body. Episode Three has. . .well, don’t we all find that one funny know because of reddit? Four, Five, and Six have a less comical sensibility but it’s there too, and Return of the Jedi is often criticized for all that business at Jabba’s palace.
So beyond the humor, The Last Jedi splits up nicely into a handful of separate storylines – Poe Dameron, by way of Finn and newcomer Rose, is trying to save the remaining Resistance fleet from certain doom and they need a master codebreaker (or slicer) to help them disable the First Order’s superior ships. Meanwhile Rey, along with R2-D2 and Chewbacca, is trying to convince Luke Skywalker to return to the fight alongside the Resistance and lead them to victory for the sake of the galaxy once again. And boy are they heavy on the porgs (I didn’t mind the little guys but repeatedly making faces at Chewbacca was just laying it on thick) While the good guys are trying to find a way to save their skins, Kylo Ren is still focused on his mission to capture Rey and kill his former master, Luke Skywalker – but does he want to do that because he wants to, or because Snoke wants him to?
The themes of the film are classic Star Wars – the previous generation made mistakes which the current generation has to help them fix, and with the help of an exile, a new student takes the reins of a rebellion against tyrannical evil. But that’s an oversimplification, and the film has its hands in comedy, tragedy, battle, and even a little romance here and there. It’s got everything, so let’s dispense with the pleasantries and dive in.
STOP READING HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET. IN FACT, MAYBE GO WATCH IT AGAIN FOR GOOD MEASURE. THIS WILL ALL SOUND MADE UP IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.
Instead of recapping the plot point by point, I’m just going to go over the moments that had the biggest impact on me, and impact on the story and universe so far.
Rey Really is No One:
Who would have guessed that one of the biggest mysteries in the galaxy would have such a simple answer? So long as Kylo Ren is telling the truth, it is revealed that her parents are nobodies. They were simple scavengers on Jakku who sold her for drinking money, and they later died and were buried somewhere in the vast desert.
I have to wonder if Kylo is telling the truth. Ultimately it’s a better message in terms of story if he is – it’s stating that not everyone has to have great Jedi or rebel generals for parents to grow up to be great themselves. But could Kylo be lying despite confessing to caring very much for Rey in the same scene? I think back to The Force Awakens and remember that flashback to Jakku. Little Rey cries and screams at a ship on its way off Jakku, pleading for them to come back. Were these some adoptive parental figures? Friends? Who else there on Jakku that could have affected her so deeply, and did they leave her to Unkar Plutt or is he just the one who found her and made her into a scavenger?
Regardless of these possible inconsistencies (or possible new questions, really) Rey appears to accept what Kylo is telling her. She doesn’t seem satisfied, but realizes the truth. Or realizes what is most likely. And having nobodies for parents works perfectly from a story standpoint. Kylo is enough lineage for the storyline, being the son of Han and Leia. A criticism of a recent Mortal Kombat game (how’s that for a tone shift? Bear with me) was that it was about the ‘Kombat Kids,’ or the children of the main characters. They’re more or less updated versions of the classic characters with slightly-tweaked abilities, but in the end still pretty similar. Rey being a nobody and Kylo being Star Wars royalty essentially is a good balance and keeps the family ties from getting too complicated.
Supreme Leader Who? (He Might Be No One Too):
I did NOT see it coming when Snoke was abruptly killed by Kylo Ren, kicking off a brilliant and climactic melee battle. Kylo slowly inches his lightsaber toward a captive Rey, all the while using his impressive telekinetic powers to also move Rey’s saber across the room. As the saber rests on Snoke’s throne, it activates, piercing him straight across the middle as he gloats about the immeasurable power under his control. He slumps over dead, bisected, and his eight Praetorian guards jump into action.
I’m torn on this one. Did we hype him up too much with all the theories? I never really had one, just followed along the bizarre logic with some while maintaining that he was a new character obviously versed in Sith teachings. No lore has been written about Snoke to my knowledge outside of any tidbits and references in the film novelizations and film visual guides. So what do we know? He’s got Sith lightning. I like Sith lightning. He wears a ridiculous golden frock and got way more vocal in The Last Jedi. He’s constantly talking down to Kylo Ren in a tone that says he’s seen all this before. And he has apparently, having seen the rise and fall of the Empire at some point. I guess he didn’t see it coming, the part where Kylo gets tired of obeying orders way quicker than Vader ever did. . .
Bye Snoke, we hardly knew ya’. Here’s to seeing your backstory in a comic or something. I wanted more out of this character, but I have to give the film credit for killing off it’s main villain halfway through and elevating Kylo. Kylo is hardheadedly driven to destroy the past – Luke, Snoke, the Jedi, rebellion, and family isn’t even off the list. Only Episode IX will reveal, ultimately, what the plan was – was Snoke just a stepping stone for a broken kid to become the ultimate evil? More on Kylo in a bit.
The Finn Awakens:
Finn is growing as a character this time around. He’s still a bumbling goofball when he stumbles out of the medbay in the bacta suit, but once his side story gets going he realizes what is really worth fighting for even more than in Force Awakens. Finn accompanies Resistance tech Rose Tico on a mission at the behest of Poe Dameron. They sneak away from the dwindling Resistance fleet to find a code breaker that can help them disable the defenses of the First Order ships pursuing them.
Rose joined the Resistance after the First Order devastated her home planet. They tested weapons there and turned many citizens into mindless stormtroopers. I’m not sure where the romance plots are going in this trilogy, but I think Finn ultimately makes more sense with Rose than with Rey. Rey is family to him, but Finn has more in common with Rose. Both were robbed of their innocence by the First Order, and they have a great first date together tearing up the casinos on Canto Bight (what? What do you do on dates?) Rose also saves Finn from his suicide run on the mini Death Star door-opener thingy at the battle of Crait, so they have a lot of time to bond despite the short span of time in-universe. Finn was ready to die in that battle, and for a minute I thought they were really going to kill him off. That kind of determination is new to the character, and is a huge growth for him after trying to turn and run away in the last movie.
Phasma Strikes Back:
After a great novel and a good comic, Phasma was less underutilized the second time around, but I could have used more from her somewhere in the film. It’s a great reveal when it’s her division that captures Finn and Rose aboard the FO Mega Destroyer, and the resulting fight is awesome. Speculation has it that the fight didn’t kill her – her reflective armor is shown in the film to deflect blaster bolts, and it’s made of starship grade chromium that would obviously be heat resistant. So would getting the beatdown and falling into fiery wreckage be enough to stop her? Will she be back with just a burned up face since Finn pierced her helmet? I’m glad we at least got a good Phasma fight onscreen. Even though it’s short, she’s soooo awesome to watch in battle.
Mega Destroyer = Star Forge?
One of the first things I wrote for this blog was a comparison of Starkiller Base to a Legends superweapon from the Old Republic days, the Sun Razer. (You can read about that here if you like https://theempireselite.com/2016/09/09/definite-article-arsenals-of-empires/) Now we all know how the story group likes to pick from the best of Legends and make them new again. So who would have guessed we’d get some more gently-used Star Wars in another sequel trilogy movie?
Snoke’s Mega Destroyer is insanely huge, over six kilometers in length. It looks like a stealth bomber but, you know, gigantic. Snoke’s flagship isn’t just a boomerang covered in guns, though. It’s also his mobile throne room and a factory for First Order vehicles. In the film we’re shown that it’s massive construction sections are capable of building the new AT-M6 walkers as well as upgraded AT-ATs and AT-STs. It probably builds TIE fighters too.
Sound familiar? Darth Revan used a similar piece of technology called the Star Forge in Legends. In the Old Republic timeline, he used the Star Forge to build a Sith war fleet for himself and his apprentice, Darth Malak. The Star Forge anchored itself near a star and drained its matter and energy for raw materials, which it could then process to churn out weapons and starships. No word on how the Mega Destroyer is powered, but I have to say, the First Order has good taste.
Leia’s Resistance gets its collective space butt kicked throughout most of this movie. In the opening alone, they lose a squad of bombers and pilots, Admiral Ackbar, several unnamed other command staff and ships, and Leia herself nearly dies. It was a little weird to see her using the Force to fly through space, but at the same time it was daring and unexpected. She obviously has power in the Force, but using restraint and staying the political course was more interesting, I think. So the fact that she only seems to use her potential Force abilities in dire emergencies makes it more powerful. Weird? Yes. But this whole franchise is weird.
Vice Admiral Holdo received some backstory in the novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan, which I recently read and plan to review. Her idealism is apparent in the novel and film, as she refuses to accept defeat as they run from the First Order. She can’t fight back, but she won’t give up either. Her secretive methods bother Poe to the point he starts a mutiny, but maybe she likes teasing him for some reason. She knows he’s a hothead, and she’s known to joke around a bit in the novel. She’s smart enough to lead the Resistance back to the abandoned base on Crait, giving them a holdout (Hmmm) to make a stand against the First Order. Her ultimate sacrifice, a lightspeed kamikaze into Snoke’s Mega Destroyer, is a fitting end. She was such an idealist that she refused to let so many others die when she could do something selfless to fight back.
Do We Call Him Supreme Leader Ren Now?
Kylo Ren is the standout character of this film. He’s gone from being almost irritatingly mysterious in TFA to deep and conflicted in TLJ. All he wants is power to ease his pain, the pain of being caught in the middle all the time. His parents gave him up to uncle Luke Skywalker, who agreed to train him in the ways of the Force. But was that what young Ben Solo ever wanted? Did anyone ever ask him that?
The first major move Kylo makes in this film is refusing to kill Leia despite having killed Han Solo like the day before. He knows he shouldn’t have done that, and he knows it makes him an evil person. But as we know from previous films, good and evil are points of view. Yes, he’s the villain, but he was twisted into that role. Supreme Leader Snoke was known to invade the boy’s mind and twist him up somehow. We don’t have very many clear details there. But what we do know now is that Luke saw the darkness in him, and in a moment of weakness, nearly murdered young Ben. Before he could explain himself, Ben struck back in defensive anger, leaving Luke thought dead. While Luke lay unconscious in the rubble, Ben destroyed the new Jedi temple and took a handful of students with him, killing the rest.
What’s presented here, I think, is some kind of origin story for the Knights of Ren. Luke tells Rey that Ben took five students with him. Counting Kylo, there appear to be another six or so members of the Knights, so barring any drastic additions, this number works out. Hopefully these guys play into Episode IX in some way – I’d like to think Kylo had some kind of power, or the more seductive promise of power, to get this handful of young Jedi far enough within his grasp that he could corrupt them without much help from Snoke. He’s bent on manipulating Rey and explaining his views and truths to her, so I think he’s got enough pull there to recruit other followers. I’d bet their absence in TLJ could be explained away by having them on other missions, filling the ‘Kylo role’ in other First Order divisions across the galaxy.
At the film’s climax, Kylo eliminates Snoke and, with the help of Rey, destroys a detachment of Praetorian guards (eight of them – who knows if there are more?) Kylo and Rey scuffle over control of Rey’s lightsaber, and the Force pulls they’re both directing on the hilt cause it to explode in a burst of blue energy, knocking them both out for a time. Regardless, he becomes the de facto leader of the First Order, stealing any chance at that away from General Hux. Humorously, Hux begins to draw his sidearm when he finds Ren unconscious, and then slowly puts it back as he starts to wake up. I’m going to throw a theory out there that I hope comes true, because the imagery would be awesome and I think it would fit with Kylo’s eventual arc in the films. I think Kylo is still going to be redeemed, somehow some way. And although Rey most likely needs it to build a lightsaber for herself, I want that crystal to wind up in Kylo’s possession somehow. How cool would it be if he happened to find another damaged crystal, this one likely damaged in the explosion, that he could fit into his crossguard saber? He’d keep the iconic shape but it would become blue obviously, showing his return to the light. I think it fits. The film shows us his original saber was blue as well. (Though I’m admittedly peeved that he didn’t train with Luke using Anakin’s old saber – it’d make so much more sense then when he says “That lightsaber. It belongs to me.” in TFA.)
Oh My God I Almost Forgot Yoda is in This Movie:
Yeah, they went there. Rey realizes that Luke cut himself off from the Force, but Luke later lets it back in as he realizes what’s at stake. And who comes to visit him? None other than the only little green man who can get away with calling Luke “Young Skywalker” after all these years. They nailed Yoda. I didn’t see that coming at all. With all the speculation, I was expecting Force ghost Anakin to pop up somewhere, and while I still want that, seeing Yoda guide Luke was amazing. He could see that Luke still had lessons to learn. Luke was bitter with the Jedi, regarding them as failures who lead to the rise of the Empire. And while he wasn’t wrong, the true lesson was that there is always more to learn, especially from one’s mistakes.
Crait of Surprises:
The battle of Crait at the film’s end gives us the conflict I was most looking forward to going into the film. I wanted to see Luke confront Kylo, and what we got was pretty awesome. (Extra spoiler alert for this part) Luke uses an incredible Force ability that allows him to project his essence from Ahch-To all the way to Crait. He uses taunts, an earlier image of himself (the one Kylo would remember,) and the familiar blue Skywalker lightsaber to wear Kylo down, enrage him to the point he exhausts himself. Luke gives Kylo a similar remark that Obi Wan once gave to Darth Vader – that if Kylo destroys him, he’ll be stuck with him forever. That is so powerful, and it speaks to Kylo’s obsession with purging the past and all the weight off his shoulders. Sadly, once Luke has bought enough time for the Resistance to escape Crait, Luke lets go and becomes one with the Force. It’s sad, but a perfect end. He goes peacefully, without pain, and from a certain point of view, he doesn’t really die.
The Resistance lives on with Rey, Finn, Poe, and Leia it seems. There’s no telling how they’ll deal with the unfortunate real-life passing of Carrie Fisher, but it never came up at any of the points in this film where it seemed she could be killed. The Last Jedi broke the rules and wrote new ones for sure. The Force has been expanded upon yet again with new powers, potential, and room for understanding. A twisted, terrified young man stands at the helm of the vast arsenal of the First Order, and the only weapon that stands against him is hope. Not only does The Last Jedi answer questions left behind after The Force Awakens, it gives us a slew of new ones to find answers for. It seems strange at first because it tosses so many ideas straight out the window, turning tropes on their heads even. But maybe that’s exactly what the middle-movie needed to shake things up a bit after the safeness of its predecessor.
So let’s see what happens next. Do this again in two years? I’ll see you then.
Edit: How could I forget about the kid with the broom in the totally-not-post-credits scene?! That was weird. Is he another kid like Rey who will rise up from nothing? Are there more Force sensitive kids in Episode 9? Maybe Kylo will be hunting down potential Force users before they can become a problem again. Stay safe, broom kid!
Thanks for reading! As always, I’m happy to talk Star Wars and I hope you enjoyed reading.
-Supreme Leader David