The Last Jedi went into uncharted territory. It scared the crap out of us. It broke the “rules”. It challenged our expectations and cliches. It was bold with the Force. It took our characters and tossed each of them into their worst-case-scenario. It showed broken heroes and villains.
Can I even venture to say?
The Last Jedi was the deepest main saga Star Wars movie to date.
It is not a perfect movie with zero flaws, nor do I say the most beloved. There is something magical about A New Hope. My personal favorite for a long time was The Empire Strikes Back (best time ever), and now TESB is tied with The Force Awakens in my affections.
The most basic piece of writing advice storytellers are given is this…
Find out what your character wants…and then do everything in your power to keep them from getting it.
Harsh, huh? And yet, it’s compelling.
Kylo Ren wants peace.
Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren feels thrown about by his life. He wants to finally feel he is in control of his destiny. The turmoil inside of him is eating it up. He believes he can reach this place of “peace” by resetting the game board and crowning himself king. Control everyone and everything…that’s the answer, right?
Rey wants a sense of belonging and identity.
Rey has felt abandoned her whole life. She’s been waiting for people to make her belong, to give her worth. Now she has this whole new can of worms called The Force and she wants someone older and wiser to guide her in it. Secretly she is hoping that Luke as her mentor can give her that sense of belonging and value.
Leia wants a legacy.
She’s been in this fight since the day of her birth. She has sacrificed everything. Her beloved husband is gone. Her son is now her enemy. Her brother is missing. Her people are few in number and on the run. Will there be anyone to take up the gauntlet and continue this all-important battle for freedom that has been her life’s work?
Poe wants his people to survive.
Poe has natural giftings as a leader. He’s brave, he’s kind, he’s insanely talented. He knows he can make a difference in this fight that he’s grown up in. He’ll give his last drop of blood to ensure that happens.
Finn wants the one person he loves most to be okay.
Finn has found one thing to fight for up to this point: Rey. She’s his primary object and sole focus. Rey has to have somewhere safe to return to.
Luke wants to die alone and bitter. He wants to punish himself for his failure.
At least…that’s what he thinks he wants.
Rose wants her sister’s sacrifice to count for something, and she’s sick of people dying.
She’s lost everything up to this point. She’s done with that.
Hux wants respect.
He gets treated like a buffoon…huh, wonder why that is?
Snoke wants…uh…he wants…control?
Yeah, ahem, Mr. Rian? You kinda left us hanging on that one. Hoping Abrams can fill in the gaps here, Snoke was too big a presence to just disappear from the story after one highly efficient lightsaber stroke.
Vice-Admiral Holdo wants her people to survive.
Huh, sound similar to anyone else we know? How about SHARING SOME INFO UP FRONT WITH YOUR PEOPLE ON THE SAME SIDE??? C’mon, Ellie!
Chewbacca wants a new friend.
BB8 wants to be a part of everything.
Our baby droid is really the only one who gets what he wants from start to finish and has an utterly fantastic time all the way through.
It was like pulling teeth with pliers for every character to attempt to reach their goal in this movie. It was almost like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day made into a Star Wars film.
Somehow, if it could go wrong, it did go wrong…right until the very end.
Because here is the follow-up piece of writing advice to the one I mentioned previously.
The characters must prevail, and they come out having defeated the obstacle, lie, villain, etc, and have grown in the process.
Let’s start with the heroes. How did they end up?
Rey chose her identity apart from her past or any other person.
She wanted a mentor. She wanted a dad. I get that. But people let you down, sometimes you cannot find what you want. What do you do then? You decide. “Who am I going to be regardless of what happens around me?” Rey decided, and she emerged as a shining beacon of new hope and the future for the Jedi.
Leia has a legacy.
We see it in the mentorship she gives her surrogate son Poe. She trains him on how to become a leader that will last. We see it in the determination of new Rebel recruits such as Finn. We see it in the enduring fire of characters like Rose and Holdo. We see it in the gleam in Rey’s eyes as she rejects Kylo Ren’s offer of power and instead chooses freedom. Leia’s life work has not been in vain, the fight will continue.
Poe leads his people to survival.
Yes, there are like 7.5 of them, but…
Poe was pushed far beyond his comfort zone, and he rose to the occasion. He’s already got incredible talent but in the end, he was going to lead his people to destruction if he did not learn the wisdom required to lead. He learned, and the future of the Rebels will now be secure.
Finn’s original goal was to make sure Rey was safe. He at first believes that to be his only mission. By the end, he chooses to join the Resistance for his own sake. This does not mean he loves Rey any less, it just means he has finally come into his own.
And as a delightful bonus, because Finn chooses to stick with the Resistance despite the “loser” circumstances, he was right where he needed to be to reunite with the person who feels like home to him.
Yes, a FinnRey post is totally in works. And no, I will not disclose how many times I have watched this hug. That’s none of your business.
Luke dies…but not the way he thought he wanted to. He instead dies in peace, a legend who has forever changed the galaxy. This is the fulfillment of the original goal he had as a youth who stared off into the sunsets and dreamed of adventures.
It’s poetic, it’s epic. Luke dies, but he is not completing the shallow and self-piteous arc of his elder years. No, instead he completes the much deeper and meaningful arc that we began in A New Hope. We have come full circle. And in all honesty, can we actually say that this giant of the Force is actually gone?
Rose saves the people she loves, making her sister’s sacrifice and everything up to this point worth it.
Rose is a simple and straightforward character, but she represents a new attitude for this fight. Surviving to fight another day is just as if not more valuable than sacrifice. We’ve watched single to entire casts of beloved characters (*coughs* Rogue One) sacrifice themselves for the cause. FYI, I’m still hurting over Caleb Dume.
We admire and respect their sacrifice, and those deaths had their place. But winning is also about life, not just death. Rose represents life.
Ahem, yes, she saved the people she loves. Yeah, I saw that kiss too. That one, tiny little kiss that sent a whole crowd of people like sheep to the slaughter with the belief, “Well, I guess she’s with Finn now?” C’mon, guys, don’t be so gullible. If a single one-sided kiss was enough to seal the deal then half of you would be married to your little crush from kindergarten. More on that in the FinnRey post.
Vice-Admiral Holdo’s people survived. Barely. In spite of her. Really we all almost died but hey, she did that cool lightspeed thing! Plus, I have never seen purple hair look so chic.
Holdo as a character, or rather, the idea and look of Holdo was utterly fascinating. She represented a larger group of people who like Leia, have fully committed themselves to this fight. Supposedly she’s another kind of Force-sensitive character who uses her abilities outside of the Jedi method.
I do not believe her character was done proper justice, she was fascinating in the creation, less effective in the execution. Her character was responsible for the biggest plot holes in the movie, and that’s a crying shame. Still…did I mention that awesome purple hair?
Chewbacca kept his new friend.
We were amazed that he was willing to drop his new girl off to meet up with Ben Solo after how splendidly that went the last time, but Chewie is loyal to a fault. He obviously trusted that she could handle it. Chewie is one original character that we can rely on sticking around.
BB8 was a part of EVERYTHING.
Can this droid get any cuter?
Onto the villains.
DJ and Captain Phasma barely get an honorable mention. They got exactly what they signed up for.
DJ’s only purpose was to serve as a darker reflection of what Finn could have become, someone who is only in it for themselves. He was not useless, per se, but he was also not deep.
Phasma had the character arc of a yardstick. She served as a great few seconds of external conflict that made for some really hot Finn fight scenes. *golf clap*. Nice, but nothing to write home about.
Now for the REAL villains.
Hux is still a laughingstock.
In true villain form, Hux was thwarted yet again at the moment that should have been his triumph. He’s a rather interesting figure to me, he’s both fanatically frightening and laughably ridiculous all at once. He’s both bold and cowardly. He’s just weak enough to be dangerous and I think Kylo Ren is wrong to underestimate him. Hux’s defeat in this movie is going to make him even more dangerous in Episode 9.
Snoke is dead. So, there’s that.
Unexpected, cool, and also disappointing? Snoke was too malevolent and overpowering to just be forgotten. We need more information on what his bigger picture was. At the same time, he’s dead, so any agenda he may have had is in pieces. Literally.
I saved the most intriguing for the last…Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo.
Like the heroes of this movie, Kylo Ren gets exactly what he wants…control. And yet, he ends the movie more desperate and villainous than he began it. Why?
What Kylo/Ben actually wants deep down inside is peace. Peace cannot be gained through murder and control, that only creates more chaos. Kylo’s blazing path of bloodshed and fury have not given him what he thought they would. Instead, he is left angrier and emptier than before. He’s a classic case of trying to achieve what you want/need the wrong way. This approach always leaves you in a worse situation than you began.
The Last Jedi went deep on multiple characters. It took our oh-so-familiar Star Wars moments such as the Darth Vader redemption scene and added a new twist to them. What if Vader kills his master but then decides to take control for himself?
We ended this movie where our heroes had nothing more than a hunk-of-junk and a smile to their names, and yet they felt that they had won while their enemies were left licking their wounds. Why?
Not all victories begin physically, the battle between good and evil is a battle of mindsets, ideals, and endurance. Our Rebels are winning this war, and the First Order knows it.
The Resistance is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.
I truly value the previous main saga movies that have led us to this point, but Rian gave us a fresh perspective on an age-old battle. He highlighted characters outside of just “the big three” and somehow managed to leave us full of hope after a dreadful day. While there are glaring mistakes in this film, I am also amazed by all he accomplished.
Our heroes went through the fire and emerged as legends. Our villains went through the fire, some of them burned, and some of them now burn with a vengeance. The stage is set for an epic conclusion to this saga.
More in-depth on aspects of this film coming soon!
Other articles you may like…