24 December 2017

SPOILERS: Let's discuss Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi.


Hello everyone! I posted a very short, spoiler-free review on Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi a few days ago, and upon seeing the reactions from critics & fans, I decided to discuss it further.

This is a very SPOILER FILLED SPACE, if you want to see the film and want to read a spoiler-free review, you can read the one I posted here. Otherwise, get ready for a whole lot of spoilers and discussions.

The Last Jedi is a very bold and risky film. It stays faithful to it's roots, with the traditional characteristics of the franchise still very much alive: theatricality, a little cheesy, but with charm and heart. I'm going to dive right in since I've already written about this film previously. I enjoyed this film. It's a good film, just perhaps not a good Star Wars film. It is flawed, but there is goodness also. 
  • DESTROYING EXPECTATIONS 



  • LUKE SKYWALKER


Rian Johnson, the director of TLJ, took a lot of risks with the plot. The trailers feature Luke saying "This is not going to go the way you think" And it's true. Luke was shrouded in so much mystery in The Force Awakens: hooded, cloaked, overlooking the sea. What happened between him and Kylo Ren? Why did he run? Why would he cut himself off from the rest of the world? These questions are answered in TLJ in one way or another. In his very first scenes in TLJ, Luke Skywalker carelessly tosses his lightsaber over his shoulder in a very dramatic Skywalker way, before trotting away back to his hut and telling Rey to go away. He isn't depicted as a fierce, all powerful Jedi master (not at first anyway) - but a man who has had enough, who is perhaps a little bitter. The Last Jedi completely destroys any expectations we may have had about Luke upon seeing The Force Awakens. The first dialogue we have between him and Rey is a little wooden. Simple, straightforward dialogue. This changes as the film goes on, as Rey begins to learn more about him. Some would say that Johnson has completely destroyed what JJ Abrams so successfully established in TFA: yes, I wish we had more Luke. More of what? Everything. Just more. It may make for interesting storytelling, but many, like myself, are somewhat disappointed that a hero such as Luke Skywalker, would have done the things he did. Consider killing his own nephew (even if he did change his mind a split second later and the guilt drove him to a remote island for the rest of his days) when he never, ever considered killing Darth Vader/Anakin. That he didn't leave the island to confront Kylo in person, even after the destruction of the Jedi sacred texts - what was left for him on the island, really? There is much to discuss about Luke, it will be interesting to see what lies ahead in episode IX. 


  • SNOKE


Let's talk about Snoke. We didn't know much about his identity in TFA, we only saw him as a mysterious hologram figure at the head of the First Order, giving commands to General Hux & Kylo Ren. The mystery surrounding this new big bad built up many expectations, with theories flying left right and center about who he may be, his past. Yet, in the second film of this new trilogy, he is killed by Kylo Ren, before we are given a chance to learn more (or even care?) about him. The supposed big bad was killed in the second film?! But surely a redeemed Ben Solo and Rey were going to team up and take him down in a huge badass-Jedi-force-lightsaber-fight showdown in the final film of the trilogy, right? This is another expectation that was swiftly destroyed: we do not learn more about this Snoke. This huge, unexpected twist has sent this trilogy into unpredictable territory, a very risky but yet interesting move in the beloved SW franchise. With Kylo Ren now at the helm of the First Order, what lies ahead? I've seen some predictions for IX, such as General Hux turning on Kylo, creating a rift in the First Order, the perfect opportunity for the Resistance to strike.



  • KYLO REN


Now let's discuss Kylo Ren. Ben Solo. He committed patricide, killing our beloved Han Solo, yet he remains my favourite character in this new trilogy. We see and learn more of Kylo in this film, which is a good thing: giving the antihero a backstory to explain his current situation (although past actions explains ones deeds but does not excuse them). Redemption arcs are the most exciting & challenging storylines out there, and when done right, are extremely rewarding. Adam Driver brings such a raw and emotional, intriguing performance to his character. We had a Force scene between him and Leia, as he couldn't bring himself to kill her. He showcases Kylo/Ben's inner turmoil, being torn apart inside, fighting both light and darkness. In The Last Jedi, he & Rey found themselves connected through the Force, able to talk and sense eachother. These scenes firmly cemented themselves as some of my favourite in the whole franchise, beautifully executed in the film-making sense, but also in terms of plot and character development. This plotline led us to believe that Rey would succeed in bringing back Ben Solo, the beginning of a redemption arc. And we were so close to having this: it's revealed that Snoke is his true enemy, and he kills him. We then have an awesome scene of Ben & Rey fighting back to back against the remaining soldiers. This hope of a redemption arc is shortly lived, however, with him offering Rey a place at his side to establish a new order to the galaxy - by letting the Resistance & The First Order destroy eachother. Once again, this potential arc has not yet reached full fruition. Will it ever? How could it?  We see more of Ben Solo in TLJ: destroying his helmet after being scorned by Snoke (Snoke saying he was but a child in a mask and beat by a girl - toxic masculinity striking once again). I for one, am hoping for a well constructed redemption arc in IX, not only because it makes for interesting storytelling, but because it's the Skywalker legacy after all. 


  • REY

Another expectation that was quickly deconstructed in TLJ is that of Rey's heritage. Is she Luke's daughter? Obi Wan's? It is revealed that her parents were actually just 'nobodies', selling her for drinking money. Whether or not this is the true, we shall probably know for certain in 2 years time with the final installment, but it's safe to say we had so many expectations and hopes about this that having such a revelation in the second film has undoubtedly disappointed & shocked a lot of fans. I believe many may consider all of this as poor storytelling, but it's still a bold move, and frankly too early in the trilogy to tell. I respect Rian Johnson's boldness, Star Wars is such a loved part of pop culture - and to take such huge risks in only the 2nd film of the trilogy, leaves us with an interesting, unpredictable future ahead. After all, we have seen good vs bad, Jedi's vs emperors many times over the years, and the prospect of retiring the Jedi, or letting the universe balancing itself out without their aid, is an alluring concept. It would make for intriguing and exciting storytelling. I doubt the Jedi would end, simply because of the final scene of the film: a young boy, using the force to pick up a broom to sweep the stable floor, before giving us a wide angle full body shot of his silhouette against the stars, the broom in his hand mistakable for a lightsaber when lit by the moonlight. 


So The Last Jedi wasn't what any of us were expecting. And that might (maybe) be a good thing in the long run. I had very mixed feelings upon leaving the cinema, I couldn't figure out if I loved it or not. I'm still unsure. Yet in the 2 days that have passed since, I find myself looking up fan art online, reading reviews and critics, smiling whenever I think about it. It's too early to tell whether the risks taken in this film have paid off, with a final installment yet to grace our screens.

With that being said, I could not be happier that JJ Abrams will be back for the final installment. I'm a big fan of his work,  I trust him as a director, he successfully established this new trilogy with TFA and I have faith that he will give it the ending it deserves - hopefully fixing the issues brought through by Johnson.

However  there was greatness in this film also. Our much loved princess and general, Leia Organa, in the emptiness of space, surrounded only by debris of her own spaceship, surviving soaring through the stars using the Force for the 1st time on screen ever. Kylo & Rey communicating through the Force. Luke Skywalker sassiness. Back-to-back Jedi fight scene. Awe inspiring visuals, whether it be exploding ships or wide angle shots. I would suggest seeing it on the big screen for the visuals alone, but also because it's by far the most bold Star Wars film yet. And don't lose hope, JJ will be back for the next one!

What did you think about The Last Jedi? What are your hopes for Episode IX?
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