[Warning: While this post isn’t a review, there is a spoiler at the end.]
Here’s the part where I tell you my plan: I’m going to start with a personal anecdote, introduce an idea, then use the anecdote to bring that idea home. This anecdote is about a boy. A very young boy. And the only time he (unknowingly) hurt his mother’s feelings. If you haven’t realized by now, I’m the boy.
I grew up in Hale County, which is Nowhere, Alabama. There wasn’t much to do as one could imagine. So on weekends, we watched a lot of movies. I think this pastime is probably what cultivated my love for movies today. Anyway, one weekend, my mom decided to share a piece of her world with us. We went to Movie Gallery to check out the Star Wars trilogy. This was right before The Phantom Menace so she did this in hopes of bringing a new fan to the galaxy.
I think I’m predisposed to becoming instantly sleepy when Star Wars comes on because as a kid, I use to run to the screen crawl thinking it was the opening for Superman: The Movie. After the first note of the Star Wars theme kicked in, I used to walk away from the TV disappointed. Well, that continued on this particular day.
“Wait, why is this movie Episode 4 and it came out before episode 1?”
“How long is this?”
“Do we have to watch all of these?”
And if that wasn’t enough, I drove the dagger straight into her heart.
“Can I go outside?”
My request was granted and I left my mom there with her Star Wars movies. I can’t recall if we even attempted to watch them again that weekend but I know that was pretty crappy.
Fast forward to modern day, and I do have some appreciation for Star Wars. I love how it’s still a cultural phenomenon, I’m intrigued by the Jedi religion and The Force, but I still don’t care about the universe. I think a half of the movies aren’t that good. This is probably why Rogue One was one of my favorite Star Wars movies until now.
The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back.
To kick off my argument, I’d like to ask a fundamental question: Did this new trilogy need to happen? No matter how you feel about this movie, I think the answer would be a resounding no. Although the final act in the two previous trilogies wasn’t as strong as their predecessors, the conclusions were still satisfactory. So making the third trilogy would be a huge risk. Which is why The Force Awakens played things safe. It brought us back into this world and basically remade A New Hope brick by brick. The movie basically centered around “How is Supreme Leader Snoke?” and “Who are Rey’s parents?”. If your movie spends two hours asking two basic questions, it’s not much of a movie. I was happy to revisit this world but I have no desire to watch The Force Awakens again.
On the other hand, I want to see The Last Jedi multiple times over. This movie takes the best parts out of a flimsy story established by The Force Awakens and made a stellar movie. Under the vision of Rian Johnson, it’s by far the most visually stunning, best written Star Wars movies. The common gripe most Star Wars fans have is the belief this movie didn’t advance the story. While I do agree to an extent, I think that’s what makes this movie unique. “Advancing the story” for this movie means it would have to answer those two questions: “Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?” and “Who are Rey’s parents?”. This movie balled up those two questions and threw them into the dumpster. This movie scaled down the galaxy and made it a more intimate story. It was about Luke’s redemption and the battle to keep Rey from the dark side. In these two and a half hours, it gave Poe, an ancillary character in The Force Awakens a full character arc. He now has a purpose with The Resistance. This movie took risks, it made gambles, and while it didn’t world hop or answer those two questions, it still made a statement.
Many argue this movie doesn’t have the feel of a Star Wars movie. I can’t argue against that. But this is still a great movie. It’s a modern-day vision of a Star Wars movie that takes this title into a new, bold direction. The ending of this movie wraps my message up perfectly. The kid grabs his broom using The Force then looks up to the sky. He sees The Resistance streak across the sky. He looks down at his ring and smiles. This one’s for you, kid.
So while it was pretty crappy of me to bail on my mom, her mission is finally completed now. But not by doing it her way, but in a new, fresh way. As Kylo-Ren said, let the past die. Kill it if you have to. Allow this new chapter of an already great story to go into uncharted territory. Let what you hold so dearly become something new and beautiful. That’s the only way to truly keep it alive.