I’ll be honest – it’s taken me nine months to write this because I really didn’t want to. The reasons are twofold: one, I’m extremely emotionally attached to this movie and attacks against it feel way more personal than they should (Alexa play My Immortal) and also, I don’t want to devalue critic’s opinions of the movie. I get why people don’t like this movie. Whether you hate it because it Destroyed Your Childhood or because Rose and Finn’s subplot was kinda dumb, I do understand. I’m not here to change your mind, but instead to state why those who liked the movie DID like it (meaning: myself) and hopefully create better discussions on a small part of the Internet.
That said if you’re one of the people who harassed + bullied those involved in STARS FORBID making a movie you didn’t like, your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries and you have my disdain. mOVING ON
Before I continue, I want to get some things out of the way.
ONE: This movie isn’t perfect. NO movie is perfect.
(Except maybe Pride & Prejudice & Zombies DON’T @ ME) I’m not here to ignore the flaws or claim the movie doesn’t have any.
TWO: Entertainment is a subjective medium. I can (and will) lay out the big reasons why I find this movie amazing and you can disagree with every single one of them and neither of us is necessarily wrong. Go watch a movie you DO like!
THREE: If you’re saying Mirriam why are u bothering 2 wRITE this POST we know u love the movie and we hate it why r u wasting ur TiME – I’ve been asked. Repeatedly. And I figure if nine months can make a baby, it’s probably long enough for me to have some emotional distance between myself and making a list about why I liked it, so here we are.
REASONS WHY I LOVE THE LAST JEDI
(in no particular order)
- It doesn’t play by the numbers. The Force Awakens closely mirrored A New Hope in both story structure and feel, while remaining different enough to shoot the sequel in a new direction. While I loved The Force Awakens, I’m glad they veered off from the paint-by-numbers formula. The formula was needed to re-draw Star Wars fans into the new era, but they needed something different and fresh to keep it going. So yes, everything about the new movie was polarizing because it was different – and that doesn’t mean it was all perfect – and that’s something I enormously appreciate.
- I appreciate that they took Hux’s near-nonexistent role in the first movie and dared to actually make him funny. He was more or less superfluous in the first film and here he still kinda is, but at least they gave him the role of comic relief. And on that subject,
- I appreciate the humor in this movie. Granted, it’s more outright than in most of the previous Star Wars films – Poe Dameron messing with Hux, Rey reaching out with her hand instead of her feelings, Finn walking around in a leaking medical bodysuit. If this isn’t your kind of humor, that’s fine – but I liked the humor in this movie. It could very easily have taken itself too seriously – and in some ways it did (i.e. Finn and Rose’s subplot) but it chose to keep its sense of humor intact, which it needed to keep it from being a Serious Sci-Fi Melodrama. (Also if you have a problem with the humor in this movie but love the humor in the original trilogy – arguably more slapstick and On the Nose even than this movie – I’m a little baffled, but okay.)
- It delved into the concept of Gray Jedi, something myself and many Star Wars fans have been wanting to see more of for years (and years). The concept of stark white/dark and good/evil worked well in the original trilogy, but you can’t simply stay there with ongoing trilogies and while the prequel trilogy tried its best to kinda diverge from that, it was…um, muddy. (I still love them. But they are a mess.) Good and evil really exist and light/dark symbolism is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t all there is and the exploration of that more conflicted center comes heavily into play with both Rey and Kylo Ren, and I find it exhilarating. It’s exactly the kind of conflicted, complicated topic I want to see being discussed, and this movie dives unapologetically into that arena.
- This movie also doesn’t back away from the reality of war in that good people will mess up and do bad things, and situations aren’t always as clean and simple as we want them to be. Poe disobeys orders and gets a lot of people killed. He’s not an evil guy by any means – he was doing what he thought was right, and he was wrong. This movie looks at this theme a lot, and again, it’s something I highly appreciate seeing and experiencing. This movie doesn’t take the easy way out with its decision-making. The good guys don’t always make the good decisions, and the bad guys don’t always act like bad guys. Heck, the good guys don’t always feel like good guys and the bad guys don’t always feel like bad guys. And even though I agree, Finn and Rose’s subplot is hardly riveting, I don’t even mind that in the end it comes to no fruition – because sometimes life doesn’t. Just because the heroes set out to accomplish something doesn’t mean it’s going to work or make a difference. You can call this a storytelling flaw and it might be, but since it fit with the overall theme of the movie in that hey, war is messy and life is complicated, I don’t mind it that much.
- This was also the first time I’ve liked Yoda ever in any Star Wars movie (don’t talk to me about the lone Wars I don’t like the animation style and so never got into them I KNOW, I KNOW, SUPPOSEDLY THEY’RE AMAZING)
- Luke. I know quite a few people who feel Luke’s character arc here was in complete opposition to his earlier arcs, but I completely, and respectfully, disagree. (YES, EVEN WITH MARK HAMILL.) Looking at the progression of Luke’s character arc, his position in this movie seems completely reasonable to me. We want our heroes to remain unchanged by time, but that simply isn’t the way life works. And given Luke’s past and the mistakes he’s made – and the fact he’s a Skywalker and Skywalker Blood Means Drama™ – the role in which we find him here makes complete sense to me. He nearly gave into the temptation of the dark side after fighting against it his entire life, and his momentary weakness set off a chain reaction that destroyed basically his life’s work and crumbled the entire foundation of his life. I mean I could be wrong, but if you had similar experiences, you’d probably be tempted to hole up on a dark planet in the middle of nowhere with your creepy blue milk aliens and wallow in your own guilt. The whole first movie was about searching for Luke, and people were disappointed to find him shut off from the Force and playing hermit – but what was the alternative? That he was in hiding for fear of his life? Luke has never been a coward. In fact, one can clearly see that his life choice have been anything but easy. Every decision Luke makes in this movie is a hard one. The decision to help Rey? Hard. The decision to help the rebels? Hard. The decision to face the nephew he drove away? Hard. Even the decision to shut himself off from his identity (Luke the Jedi Master) and the family he loved were incredibly difficult decisions made from the enormity of disillusionment and guilt, and I don’t think we can blame Luke for doing what he thought was best. The other alternatives – he was moping (which he kind of was, BUT THAT’S ONLY A LITTLE OF THE REASON) or was being held captive – don’t work either, as one just makes him pathetic and the other….also just makes him pathetic. This was the only path that made sense, and I personally love it. (Also Mark Hamill’s’s acting in this movie was amazing.)
- This movie also took the unimportant hang-ups from the first movie (WHO ARE REY’S PARENTS?? WHO IS SNOKE REALLY??) and said ‘Hey. Hey. These aren’t important. Focus on what IS important, okay? Please?’ and I think that was brilliant
- This movie flips the usual story upside-down. Our hero, Rey, starts out as a hard-knock orphan with passion and wide-eyed idealism and slowly becomes more and more jaded the more she realize life isn’t always as easy or simple as she thought it would be off Jakku, and our antagonist Kylo is constantly being tempted and seduced by the light side of the Force. He is being tempted away from evil the entire series, and it brings both of their character arcs into a BEAUTIFUL meeting in the middle that threatens to go the way of Luke and Vader but instead spins off into something entirely different. Looking at Rey and Kylo from a typical storytelling standpoint, Kylo has the hero’s backstory and Rey – well, she has the villain’s. And speaking of Kylo,
- Kylo Ren is one of my favorite fictional characters of all-time. I’ve heard every ‘he’s whiny + weak’ argument available, but I disagree and even wrote a whole blog post on that after The Force Awakens came out (and subsequently had to write one about Rey because she was also getting dragged through the – er, sand, and I love her as well). In this movie we see much more of Kylo and there’s even more to discuss, and I can’t go into all of it here, but I’ll cover some of it. Kylo Ren is a character unlike anything we have seen in previous Star Wars movies. He’s a Dynasty character – both a Solo and a Skywalker, but instead of being the Golden Boy, he’s a tormented emotional drama queen with more power than we’ve ever seen in an individual, and in this movie he chooses to do several things with that power. a) he uses it to talk to his space girlfriend and genuinely bond with her b) he uses it to fight alongside his space girlfriend in THE BEST SCENE IN STAR WARS HISTORY FOR SO MANY REASONS YOU CAN FIGHT ME, c) he murders the abusive Snoke not for himself, but because his space girlfriend is in pain, and then d) offers to burn everything to the ground so his new best friend can be Somebody instead of nobody. I’ve seen people argue that when he tells Rey ‘You’re nothing. But not to me,’ he’s trying to manipulate her, but everything about the way this scene is shot, framed, and acted indicates he is completely genuine in his feelings for her. Snoke even derides Kylo and Rey for thinking the force bond was theirs, shocking them both, but we can also see the bond they had in The Force Awakens, supposedly before Snoke was actively manipulating it. We see extreme emotion on all sides of the spectrum from Kylo, from surprising tenderness to raging temper tantrums, but nothing about him makes him less redeemable than Anakin was as Darth Vader. If anything, Kylo’s arc is just the more extreme version of Vader’s, but we still see Ben inside him, just as Luke still sensed Anakin in Vader. Oh, and while you can argue that Kylo was lying about Rey’s parentage, nothing seems to suggest that to me (and he is innocent of that until proven guilty) – he never once lied to Rey, unlike everyone else.
- I’m a sucker for stories about redemption, and BOY HOWDY if that ain’t what The Last Jedi is and what the final trilogy installment is shaping up to also be. Furthermore, this movie isn’t just about redemption, but about what happens when you stop believing in redemption. In the original trilogy Luke was always willing to believe in the possible redemption of the most evil people, including his father, the Ultimate Murdering Space Wizard. Here, we see what happens when that resolve, that belief in redemption, flickers – it causes catastrophe. Luke had the ability to recognize that the dark side was ravaging his nephew and in a moment of weakness, he stopped hoping he could change that. Rey, however, still does believe in redemption, and – exactly like Luke in the original trilogy – throws herself into danger believing she can turn the bad guy around. Which she…doesn’t, exactly, but I would hardly call it a failed attempt. Her plan doesn’t work out, of course – at least, not yet – but I believe the events of this movie will play heavily into the next, as otherwise the set-ups for Rey and Kylo’s character arcs would fall flat and they have DEFINITELY not done that so far. In a heavy-handed On the Nose moment, Rose tells Finn they won’t win by destroying what they hate, but saving what they love and while it was a little *cough* blunt, that encapsulates the theme of this movie and even the entire trilogy. Luke momentarily forgot the truth of that statement, and it cost him and the galaxy a whole, whole lot.
- The symbolism for the scene where Kylo destroys his mask is another thread that winds its way throughout the entire movie. This movie destroys the concept of masks, either real or simply the false way we view our heroes and villains – as purely Good or purely Evil. This movie is all about staring a very specific question in the face – what do heroes really look like?
- This movie is also about mistakes, and I’m here for it. Everyone messes up. Rose and Finn trust the wrong guy and he screws them over. Rey makes a naive but wrong decision and has to admit she’s been lying to herself. Poe makes…a lot of mistakes with disastrous consequences. Kylo is suffering from the mistake of killing his father, which leads him to refuse to kill his mother. Luke made a mistake so horrible that the only way to atone for it was to sacrifice his own life.
I could go on with the smaller reasons why I really love this movie, but this post is pretty long as it is and I’ll spare you the minor details. You don’t have to like The Last Jedi or appreciate what Rian Johnson did with the Star Wars universe, and that’s fine. But I do, on both counts, and hopefully this helped explain at least part of why it means so much to me, both as a lifelong Star Wars fan and a storyteller.