“What they grow beyond.” The Last Jedi (Part 2)

*Full Spoilers for The Last Jedi will follow. If you haven’t seen it then please stop, go watch it and then come back. This article will be waiting. I promise.*

Since the new films came out, many people have said that Star Wars ended for them in 1983 and some even say that it ended in 2005 but I’m here to tell you why Star Wars will never end for me.

I never want The Fandom Correspondents to become a site of vitriol or intimidation. If you disagree with me about something then I will never be writing to prove you wrong, I will only be writing to back up what I believe and where I stand on a subject. To me, one of the greatest things about Fandom is the ability to discuss and debate between two people. It can occasionally be the worst thing about Fandom as well but that’s entirely dependent on who you’re talking to. This article was not written lightly, I’ve chosen my words very carefully and I implore you to keep an open mind about it.

Crait

So, I genuinely loved everything about the finale of the film. The characters choices, the music, the fantastic crystal foxes and of course, the action set-piece. Now many people would just read that as I just like the action but that’s not entirely true. See, the set-up to a final battle or struggle is what makes the crux of a story. Return Of The King’s battle at Minas Tirith means nothing if you don’t care about Gandalf, Pippin, Eowyn, Merry and the rest, The Dark Knight’s encounter with Two-Face means nothing if you don’t care about Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent or Batman and The Last Jedi’s battle of Crait means nothing if you don’t care about Rey, Luke, Leia, Kylo Ren and the rest. This is basic storytelling 101 that a finale needs to be a payoff for the entirety of the film and I think that’s why this sequence works so well. The Dark Knight features a very tense, character driven finale because it’s been a tense, character driven film. The Avengers features a bombastic, team-up and save the world finale because the six previous films had led up to something like this. The Last Jedi falls in the same area because it’s familiar but just slightly off just like the entirety of the film itself. It’s the Rebels/Resistance vs. The imperials/First Order but the actual fight never really happens because the speeders all basically get picked off,  the ground troops get destroyed and nothing really changes until Rey and Chewbacca get there in the Millennium Falcon. Luke Vs. Kylo Ren definitely doesn’t go how you think it’s gong to go and Rey, the primary protagonist, is hardly present throughout most of it.

So yes, slightly off but still good. The primary love that I have for this scene is the red salt mist. That is, without a doubt, just one of the coolest visuals I’ve ever seen in a film. The fact that the speeders are kicking up the mist as they go was a brilliant writing move. It’s the kind of scene that you dream about building. From the surface battle to the Millennium Falcon coming to the rescue and then having the Tie Fighters chase them is another scene that I absolutely loved cause I enjoyed seeing the crystals in the caverns below.

Overall, I thought the finale was a perfect set-up and execution.

The Princess’ Finale

This was Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia Organa Solo and she didn’t disappoint. Whether it’s her ability to save herself from the ship being attacked to her teachings with Poe. I love her finale. Obviously I do wish that Fisher had lived to go on and star in Episode IX but I believe that they’ve done her justice in this film. Every line and scene involving her is given a metatextual gravitas that is eerily powerful at multiple times.

Leia became the powerhouse leader all throughout the originals and here we see a mother who is struggling with the loss of her child, a wife who is struggling with the loss of her husband and a sister who is struggling with the loss of her brother. It’s a poignant final piece for her because Leia has always suffered silently. She lost her entire home planet and never says anything about it because she has to carry on for the cause. This film is only different in the fact that you can tell that Leia is really wanting to prep Poe as the next leader. The resistance is on it’s last legs following the loss of the new republic, the losses at the battle of Starkiller base and the losses at the escape of D’Qar. They’re truly the underdog rebels again and Leia is placed at the forefront of the fight. Even to the point where death won’t stop her. I love the fact that she gets blasted out of her ship and just basically says “Not today.” It’s really the ultimate Leia moment and that’s why I don’t understand how people were so upset with it. But, to each their own.

Her final scene with Luke is truly heartbreaking in the film and behind the scenes because they were basically brother and sister the entirety of their careers. It’s so well written and shot that I absolutely teared up in the theater. Her final scene with Rey, saying that “We have everything we need right here.” was the perfect send-off for her and for the film.

They even had one of the most tasteful and beautiful honors for her in the end credits. She always was and always will be our princess.

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker is one of my all time favorite characters. I watched the original trilogy for the first time when I was around 4 years old and his character immediately resonated with me. What child didn’t stared off into the horizon at least once? We always look to the horizon because we always want to see what’s next for us. Luke does the same and that’s why he meant so much to us. He’s a classical hero and he developed in his character for us. When we see him in A New Hope to when we see him in Return Of The Jedi is a huge difference for him but he’s still the same person and he still has struggles but ultimately he is a man of principal and a man of optimism for the bright future…So why did I love the characterization of this dark, brooding figure who had given up on life? Well, let me tell you.

I could’ve done this entire article based solely on why I loved Luke’s finale in this series but I decided to do the entire article to lead up to it instead. When I left The Force Awakens my only concern was why would my favorite character go into exile? Why would he abandon his friends to The First Order? My thought was that the entirety of the next film hinges on if they can answer that question correctly. For me, they did and I’m going to tell you why but first I have a question to ask you : Where are you in Life? I’m being dead serious, really think about your position in life just real quick.

Now, maybe you’re at your prime, maybe you’re just a king or a queen in whatever it is that you’re doing. Maybe you’re becoming a legend. But what happens when we fail? You’ve lived a life where things had either been great for so long or one where you struggled to get somewhere that when things change is when you become enraged. This is Luke’s position here.

Luke worked for years to rebuild the Jedi order and then his dreams were crushed all because of one person. No, not Ben Solo. Luke Skywalker. See Luke knows that everything that happened was because of his doubts in his nephew. When he goes in and considers killing Ben is a great scene and there’s a reason that they show you three different versions of the same scene. When we finally discover the truth many people were angry that Luke would consider killing him even for a second when he spent the entirety of Return Of The Jedi trying to save his father. There’s a very big difference in the two films though. In one, we see Luke as the boy who is willing to go to any lengths to save his father because he knows it’s the right thing to do. Luke can look out at that horizon, that distant future and can see his father returned to his former self. But it’s that same horizon that makes Luke doubt Ben. He mentions when he goes to confront Ben that he could see all that Ben would do to destroy everything. “He would bring pain and death and destruction down on all that I built.” Notice that it’s in future tense. if he had actually stopped and thought things through then he wouldn’t have even thought about igniting that lightsaber and then maybe Ben wouldn’t have fully turned.

It’s this failure that leads Luke to the harsh reality of the Jedi. He explains to Rey that at the height of the Jedi’s power that they allowed Darth Sidious to destroy them. He then decides that the order will die with him but the force won’t(See yesterday’s article, I love that explanation.) and until he sees Rey’s determination then he would’ve died there just as he had wanted to. Luke see’s his failure in the same vein as the Jedi’s and he’s not entirely wrong. He just wants to forget about everything that he did and just live out his last days in sorrow.

Now, earlier I mentioned that Luke is the character that truly resonates with me on a personal level as he does for a lot of people. Luke was the young boy and he grew up but he didn’t make any irreparable mistakes in the first three films but now we see the old man. Now we see what really happened. Luke got old. Think about it, when we’re younger we enter this world very bright-eyed and we’re going to make a big difference and live out our dreams and what happens? We get a swift punch in the mouth and have no idea what to do next. Luke even says : “I came here to die.” Well, doesn’t that hit home with a few people. How many times have you left a job, a relationship or a friendship and just felt like you failed? I know I have. We’ve all been there. Do you really think that three years into building The Fandom Correspondents that I don’t have a few things where I felt like Luke cause I can promise you that I do but fortunately for me, I had a team behind me. Luke does too. Luke has Rey, R2-D2, Chewbacca and especially, Yoda.

Yoda came in as a definitive surprise for me in this film and obviously I was nerding out over the fact that he was puppet Yoda again but I really loved his role in this film. This wasn’t the back flipping Jedi council member, no, this was the wise hermit that we knew and loved and boy did he things to say. Basically everything Yoda says here is a quote to remember for a long time but the key one here is “Failure is the greatest teacher.” This quote epitomizes what Luke is going through. Yoda reminds him that no matter what happened and no matter how dark things got during The Clone Wars and The Empire that there was always a hope for them. Originally that hope was Luke, Leia and Han and now they have the hope of Rey, Poe and Finn. It’s the definitive Star Wars story that no matter what happens we’ll always have a chance. This is why this movie works.

As you know, Luke’s true finale comes from him projecting himself across the galaxy to buy the rebel enough time to escape. From the entrance, to the beautiful line : “No one’s ever truly gone.” which is just absolutely beautiful when you realize that it works for Luke and Leia as well as Mark and Carrie. Then he walks out and after everything with the At-M6’s barrage we then get a final showdown between Luke and Kylo Ren. Can I just say that I love that they played up that Kylo is basically an angry child here? Note that I’m saying he’s less of an intimidating character but I love the exchange of “I’m sorry, Ben.” “Oh I’m sure you are!” it’s just a fun moment that I was really glad they put in there. Then of course Luke gives that great speech about how he will never be the last jedi. It’s a truly great moment and it’s the first time that we see Luke truly optimistic about something. Following that he reveals that he’s a projection, fades away and then has his final scene where he stares out at the twin suns and then becomes one with the force. Finally letting go.

For me, it was a perfect finale for my favorite character. Luke has always been a better hero when he was passive. In both A New Hope he only succeeds when he lets go of everything and allows the force to guide him. Empire Strikes Back is the only other time that we’ve seen Luke proactive and aggressive until he effectively loses the fight. Now Return of the Jedi is the most complex because we see Luke constantly try to turn Vader but then the moment that Vader mentions Leia is when Luke freaks out and nearly kills him, stopping only when he realizes what he’s about to become. From there, Luke lets go again and wins the day because of his faith in his father. The Last Jedi is honestly no different. Luke is so angry that he cuts himself off from the force but at the end, even in the way he saves everyone, he becomes a more passive character. He doesn’t face down the entire first order with a laser sword like he said earlier, instead he attracts Kylo’s attention in every way possible. He’s dressed the exact same way as that night at the academy, even his hair is the same way and the kicker is that he doesn’t use the green lightsaber. Kylo Ren doesn’t care about the green lightsaber at all. He cares about the blade of Anakin Skywalker, just like in The Force Awakens. It’s a perfect distraction.

Luke was given the finale he deserved and Mark Hamill himself has since come out in favor of the film even though he previously stated that he wasn’t a fan of Luke’s character. I think that if you really start to think of him as a character though then you really understand that this was a perfect finale for him.

 

The Future

So another major complaint is that Star Wars is moving past the older things from the original trilogy and moving forward with the new characters and story. This is true but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. This is mostly evident by the death of Snoke. For me, it was one of the best moves they could’ve gone with. Snoke wasn’t going to be an interesting character because he’s just another evil for the sake of being evil character and that’s not interesting. Kylo Ren has pathos, he’s a rage filled character and he perfectly mirrors so many people in our own society. Now some could say that The Emperor and Darth Vader had the same dynamic of one being just naturally evil and one being a much more sympathetic character. Well, let’s go ahead and ruffle some feathers by saying that the Emperor isn’t that interesting. Ultimately he just isn’t because he has no real motivation. Kylo Ren is now supreme leader and can be better than Snoke, Palpatine and Vader put together. Yes, you read that correctly.

Rey’s the same way and Luke understands that. That’s why Luke is at peace because he knows that Rey can be better than him and she just might. Rey’s main motivation is compassion while Luke’s main motivation was adventure. They’re both great heroes in their own right and they both have a want to help others but they each have a different defining characteristic. Rey can be better than Luke in the next film cause she can literally do whatever she wants. No past is holding her down and Luke even mentions that she can access the dark side but she’s clearly not turned by it.

The passing of the torch might make it a little scary to many people but honestly, it needs to happen. Star Wars needed to grow and this film allowed it to do just that. Like Yoda said, “We are what they grow beyond.” With most of the resistance in the Millennium Falcon and growing numbers of force users within the galaxy then we clearly have many more stories to come and I’m ecstatic for all of it whether it’s Episode IX or the new trilogy that Johnson is working on. Star Wars always has been and always will be the reason I write and I’ll always owe it for that.

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