Hello dear reader! We have reached a point at which we will pause in our journey for a bit, as we have now caught up to the theatrical releases of the Star Wars films. With next month’s release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, we will have a chance to revisit this series in a few months, but until then this will be my final entry in my discussion of the films. The Last Jedi came to theaters in December of 2017 and arrived on home video (or digital, or disc, or whatever you prefer to call it) 3 months later in March of 2018. This arrival allowed me to digest the film again and really ruminate on why this film has been so divisive, but also what it is about this film that crawls into my head and sticks around, prompting repeat viewings. This last phenomenon will obviously be the focus of this work, as it’s my blog about my thoughts. Lucky you. Of course, my thoughts on this film may evolve over time, but I have a feeling that many of my current feelings will remain constant. Some of the elements of this film that make me want to revisit it will sound familiar to you, like the colors and the humor, but the surprises may come when I tell you that the maturity of the themes and the density of the ideas presented are the other things that bring me back. Oh, and that lightsaber duel is cool, too. In the words of Leon from the cinematic classic “Midnight Madness,” allow me to explain.
I will start out by stating that The Last Jedi is currently and will most likely remain one of my favorite Star Wars films, and will probably end up being in my top 10-15 favorite films in general when all is said and done. This film moved me in a way that I was not expecting, and as much as I enjoyed The Force Awakens, this latest entry in the Skywalker Saga is a much more satisfying experience for this viewer. I’ve mentioned color several times in this series, so it will come as no surprise to you to learn that the color palette of this film draws me in every single time. The 2 scenes that immediately spring to mind are the throne room battle and the battle of Crait. Even if these were the only 2 scenes filmed in color, this film would still be on my color list because of these sequences. The deep, bright red of Snoke’s throne room is an immediately iconic look and one that I freeze-frame to enjoy from time to time. Everything about this environment creates tension. The red light just screams “evil” and the round shape makes it seem endless. It just looks Imperial, even though it’s a First Order creation. Following on the heels of the “Red Room” we visit Crait at the end of the film, and the red soil that gets kicked up above the white surface is blindingly vibrant and fascinates me on an aesthetic level. Add to that the red crystal caves that Rey pilots the Falcons through, and you have 2 of my favorite environments with the best color scheme we’ve seen since the blue and orange of Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. As for the green milk…the less said the better.
The Last Jedi has been faulted for many, many, MANY things in some circles. The humor of the film has been a sticking point for a lot of people, and I understand the criticism, even if I don’t agree with hit. The humor in this film is snarky, which is fitting given our current cultural climate. Some people have argued that snark has no place in Star Wars, but I don’t know that I agree. I certainly disagree that the humor in this film is out of place. Humor has always been a large component of Star Wars, and it’s one of the reasons that I love it so. This film was, to me, the funniest Star Wars film we’ve seen yet. The jokes come in unexpected places and from unexpected sources, except of course for Poe Dameron’s quips. The situational humor of Hux having to holster his blaster when Kylo Ren wakes up, the ribbing that Hux gets at the top of the film from Poe, and BB-8 being mistaken for a slot machine and using the credits he ingests to assist in the prison escape all make me chuckle for different reasons. The film deals with some serious themes, and these moments of levity are necessary to keep the audience from feeling beaten by the film. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, we get a nice dose of humor from Yoda, of all people. His humor is warm and his presence is a welcome element that gives the audience permission to let the air out of their tension. It takes a master orchestrator to combine humor and pathos and high drama effectively, and Rian Johnson proved himself to be more than up to the task.
As I’ve stated many times before, I try to go into each Star Wars movie with little to no expectations regarding what I’m about to see. With this film, I hoped for a serious film that raised the stakes for our heroes and left us anxiously awaiting a resolution in Episode IX. Mission very much accomplished. I cannot WAIT to find out how the Resistance will bounce back from this. What I did not expect was a serious meditation on letting the past go and a denunciation of hero worship. It’s been said that this film is about tearing down what we know to make room for what we will learn. This hit some people the wrong way, but I was thoroughly moved and energized by it. Rey approaches Luke with the assumption that he will come back to save the day, and she is constantly fighting her desire to know where she came from. Upon meeting Luke, he takes all of the air out of her expectations about him, and her battle with Kylo Ren destroys any ideas she had about finding out where she came from. The idea that the Jedi order needs to die is a very harsh idea, but when you consider that we saw the death of the Jedi order that was during Order 66, it makes it less of a scary idea when you think of it as just the natural order of things. Every so often, a purge is necessary to get things back to basics. Luke comes to realize that he CAN and SHOULD help those he cares about, and he does it, at great cost. This is a message that has gotten lost in all the discussion, but one that should be remembered. Rey’s search for her lineage is the part that struck me the most. As someone who has lost both of my parents fairly early in life, remembering where I came from sometimes gets cloudy. I cannot imagine never knowing where my roots lie, so Rey’s desire to find this truth makes sense. However, at a certain point, where we’re coming from matters far less than where we’re going, and Rey’s journey in this film provides her that exact realization, and the final shot of the slave child staring up at the stars is the perfect button on that idea. I cannot wait to see what Rey is able to accomplish once she is able to put aside her focus on the past in favor of the journey ahead of her. These are serious themes that you expect from science fiction, but you don’t always expect them from space fantasy meant for the masses. I applaud Rian Johnson for incorporating these ideas into his story.
One thing that is always a constant in Star Wars is lightsaber duels. Rogue One is the first film that didn’t contain a duel of some sort. The Prequels really upped the ante on the athleticism and emotion that can be displayed in a lightsaber duel, and The Last Jedi took this mantle up and added in a new element: The Praetorian Guards. Let me start by saying that the Emporer’s Royal Guards are some of my favorite character designs in the history of anything, and the Praetorian Guard immediately captured my attention the first time I saw them. One thing I DID hope for in this film was a good representation of these characters, and the film did not disappoint. The Throne Room battle that teams Kylo and Rey up against Snoke’s guards is absolutely my favorite lightsaber battle in any Star Wars film so far. The emotion that is at play, both from Kylo and Rey, is absolutely palpable, and the mastery of weaponry exhibited by the guards makes them all formidable opponents for our two Force-wielders. I know several technical gaffes have come to light recently, but this scene is so wonderful that it does not diminish my enthusiasm for it in the least. I have opened the film and gone straight to this scene several times, and that is not something I do. I am typically drawn to dialogue and character scenes, but this one is definitely an exception. Rian Johnson has given me my favorite lightsaber battle yet, and that is quite an accomplishment.
As I said at the outset, my thoughts on this film will likely change over time. In this moment, these are the things that speak to me about this film. And that’s something I’ve never said about Star Wars. As much as I love this series, as much as it has been a part of my daily life, I have never been MOVED by a Star Wars film. I have never felt SPOKEN TO by a Star Wars film. Not until now. This is a film that fascinates and entertains me, and it’s a film that helps me to explore myself in a way that few films have. I see myself in several of the people presented, and I empathize with their struggles, and I have been and am currently on similar journeys. Even if anything else I wrote about this film above were not a component, this relatability would be enough to bring me back to this film repeatedly. Luckily, the film is also a VERY good time, and for that reason, it sits just below A New Hope in the #3 spot on my list of favorite Star Wars films. How about you?
Until next time,
May the Force of Others Be With Us All.
Margot and Archie say hi.
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, on CoffeeWithKenobi.com, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.Powered by Sidelines