I have just returned from my second viewing of “The Last Jedi”. The realization has hit me that we, the Original Trilogy Star Wars fans, are the citizens of Canto Bight. We are rich with the wealth that “our” Star Wars gave us and vile with the cynicism that the prequels left us.
These conflicting urges, to love all things old Star Wars and hate all things new Star Wars, have led to a disturbance in the fans of the force. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror as if something terrible had happened.
Personally, after my first viewing of The Last Jedi I was underwhelmed. There were enough Star Wars moments to keep me coming back but it lacked the wow factor that The Force Awakened gave me. The Force Awakens sparked the feelings I had in 77. It had all the great nostalgia of a perfect cover song. I recognize the tune but appreciate the new twist.
The rage around The Last Jedi mostly boils down to it not being nostalgic enough and feeling of being insulted by not having our questions from the previous film answered.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” Master Yoda.
Even the most jaded viewer can see what the writer/director was attempting to do. Where The Force Awakens tried to be a cover song of Star Wars, The Last Jedi is a mash up of Empire and Return of the Jedi. It was much more Empire because Jedi was, if we are honest, an empty shell of a Star Wars film. Haters of the slow chase in Last Jedi bitch about the leaps in logic it forces you to make in both the First Order and Resistance motivation and strategies. Really? How much of a mess was the Jabba’s Palace Solo rescue plan? Convoluted nonsense. Sneaky mission to disable the bad guys systems to make them vulnerable to a good guys attack? Are we talking about the bullshit on Endor or the search for Benicio del Toro doing his worst Goldblum? The parts that people hate about The Last Jedi are the Return of the Jedi stale leftovers.
The best parts of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s Throne room and the Dagobah scenes, are covered excellently in The Last Jedi.
“Oh no, Snoke went down like a sucker. “You say.
Really? Vader picked up Pappa Palpatine and tossed him down a well. Just straight walked up behind him, scooped the darkest Lord of the Sith up with one good hand and tossed him over the ledge. At least Kylo used some deception and guile.
The Porgs were way less obnoxious than the Ewoks. Don’t even try to deny it.
Which leaves the parts of The Last Jedi that must live up to the greatest movie ever made, The Empire Strikes Back. Empire is not perfect, but it works perfectly because at the time it was made it shocked the shit out of us and as Dante said, “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings.” No serialized set of films that we knew of did that before.
Now try to remember Empire in reverse. Luke has a touching reunion with Leia. Luke has a showdown with his counterpoint in the force, Darth Vader, and it did not go the way he thought. A questionable amount of time passes on Dagobah, while Luke and Yoda train. The wise Jedi Master Yoda giggles at his mischief and sweetly mocks Young Skywalker. The Rebels flee to Hoth and hide behind massive blast doors as janky speeders and trench fighters try to take out the Imperial ground forces before they can blast their way in.
That is what The Last Jedi is, the few solid parts of Return of the Jedi with a backwards retelling of Empire Strikes Back. The writer/director does not try to hide this but it is executed with no small amount of skill.
“But, all the questions set up by The Force Awakens were just thrown in the trash!” You holler.
Have you forgotten what the world felt like before the Luke/Vader reveal in Empire? We did not live in a world of rampant fan theories and teaser trailer speculation. Sure, we had our own ideas about who Boba Fett was under the helmet. We were told in a few throw-away quotes what happened to Vader to make him more machine than man.
The fanbase had dozens of potential parents for Rey. The only way to surprise us was by denying us the satisfaction of being right in our personal favorite parentage theory (mine was Palpatine) or shame of being way off base. The non-twist was the only way to shock us. Marvel fans will remember a similar feeling in Iron Man 3 with the Trevor/Mandarin reveal.
The Last Jedi desperately tries to tell us that The Force always seeks balance. Had the Prequel Jedi not held so much power they would not have had the blind spot that allowed Palpatine to rise right under their noses. The Emperor would not have been able to be defeated without his counterpart in the force, Yoda, fading away. Luke could not go on without Snoke to balance him out. Rey and Kylo need each other and their connection makes for one of the most intimate balances yet.
We, the original fans of the saga, must accept that balance also. The prequels and our over hype before their release was our greatest failure. The greatest teacher, failure is.
None of these new movies are going to be “my Star Wars”. It will always be Lucas Star Wars and then Disney Star Wars. We are what they grow beyond.
Luke would have never have done that. He was always the pure hero. Except when he had moments of doubt, lashed out in rage at his father, or was threatening to kill mobsters. Strike this version of Luke down in anger and it will be with you forever.
“Star Wars is over! My child hood is ruined! When JJ Abrams comes back he’ll fix this.” Amazing. Every word you just said was wrong.
See you around, Kid.
Young Skywalker, miss you I have, and will (and hope you haunt the hell out of Kylo)
For reference my Star Wars order is (best to worst):
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars
- The Force Awakens
- The Last Jedi
- Revenge of the Sith
- Rogue One
- Return of the Jedi
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones