Why I Love ‘The Last Jedi’

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.

If you have any comments, questions, or disagreements, keep it all civil (as I know you will) and let the discussions commence!

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Han Aloneguy: Unnecessary Backstory, and Other Delights (Spoilers Everywhere)

If you know me at all, you probably know I love Star Wars. Both extended universe AND new canon. You also probably know I sort of hated Rogue One and love the new trilogy, so going into Solo I figured it was about fifty-fifty; I might love it or I might hate it.

I hated it. Although hate is a very strong word, honestly – it was terribly tacked-together, badly written, too long, and so boring I had trouble keeping my eyes open, so basically it’s equal with Rogue One on my ‘if I’d had dreams this movie would have crushed them’ scale.

But instead of doing a long, rambly post I decided to write a list! A list of things about which I have questions. A list wherein I can make a remark or several about each different Thing.

NOTE: Are you shocked I hated Rogue One? Are you aghast that The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie? Do you want to pretend like I’m not a ‘real’ Star Wars fan because of these things? If so, this is not the place for you! I mean, feel free to comment these things but a) you really won’t change my mind, I promise and b) I’ll just delete the comment if I don’t make a sarcastic reply, so comment with those arguments at your own peril.

THE LIST

CHARACTERS

Han: Alden Reichenbach wasn’t terrible, although I loved how he started out obviously trying to channel Harrison Ford with his expressions and inflection and then just kind of gave up about 1/3 through the movie. Also his name? Solo? Was literally given to him by a guy at the airport? Because he was /alone/? Get it? Han Solo? So now you know, the iconic name that would have been perfectly fine without a terribly lame backstory was just tacked on by an exasperated TSA guy. I didn’t realize we were supposed to take his last name literally.

What does this mean for the other SW characters with a noun as their surname? Was Grievous named by some guy at the airport, too? Did he show up and cough his way through security and the TSA guy was just like ‘well, you’re really chapping my khakis; what’s your name? Oh never mind, ‘Grievous,’ because you’re a grievous guy. Here’s your stuff!” Or Anakin Skywalker, did he wake up one day in space, walking, and Shmi went ‘welp, guess I know HIS last name from now on!’ Why didn’t the airport guy call him Han Aloneguy? Or Han Byhimself? Or Han Single? How many people with no last name has this guy named ‘Solo’ since he started working? Does Han have thousands of unofficial relations running around the galaxy?

Am I nitpicking? Probably. But it was a really stupid way to give us his name. It could have just been…his name. Also I nitpick a lot so here’s something that ISN’T nitpicky –

Han ends up helping a rebellion in this movie because he’s got a heart of gold and is secretly a good guy. We know this because Emilia Clarke says so, and Han has basically spent the entire movie running around helping other people – so did he learn to be extra jaded later? Is that what this movie is supposed to set up? I felt like having Han go to all this trouble to help a mini-rebellion in this movie really undermined his character growth in the original trilogy since he basically just does the thing he’s already done. Sigh.

Qi’ra: I have mixed feelings about Qi’ra. Emilia Clarke is a fine actress and she’s cute and Qi’ras character was….okay, and wasn’t badly done or anything, but we have her zipping off at the end of the movie into what looks like a sequel (please no we don’t need it) and I just have a hard time seeing her being at all interesting apart from Han because…she has very little personality? And the only person she really interacts with with any meaning is Han? And aside from that storyline she’s just sort of there being pretty and wearing bomber jackets because the costume department had five hundred bucks and the nearest mall, I guess

Beckett: I usually like Woody Harrelson’s characters. They’re just very Woody Harrelson-ish. But Beckett was so full of plot holes and contradictions it’s just confusing. We have the obvious scene where he tells Han “Don’t trust ANYONE” at which point you know he’s going to stab Han in the back at the end of the movie. But then Han brings up Val, who I guess was basically Beckett’s wife? Practically? and Beckett’s just like //I trust NO ONE// but that doesn’t make sense because he trusted Val and Val apparently never did anything to betray that trust; she literally sacrificed her life so the team would get away and I just….okay, Beckett

Val: Literally served no purpose whatsoever. I don’t know whether this is due to all the cuts and reshoots or what, but she just…had no reason for being in this movie. Her death didn’t even really affect Beckett that much, and clearly his trust issues had nothing to do with her at all, so….sorry, Val

Rio: Oh boy. Rio was supposed to be a lot of the comic relief, I think, except every joke he made fell so flat I physically cringed with most of them. They were bad, folks. Here are a few examples of these ‘jokes.’ Ahem.

‘Have you ever tried to disinvite a wookie to anything? Not a good idea.’

‘I’m telling you, you’ll never have a deeper sleep than curled up in a wookie’s lap.’

And my personal favorite,

‘You’ve never been to a mynock roast on ardenia!  It’s nuts! Wakka wakka!’

I’m pretty sure that’s when my heart just kind of sank with the realization that all the reshoots and cutting had either taken out all of the good jokes from the original version or the reshoots had stuck in new bad ones by someone with no actual sense of humor trying to pass off these lines as being funny. It’s pretty sad when someone in a movie says something that’s clearly supposed to be humorous but it falls so flat that literally nobody laughs. On the bright side, I think adding ‘wakka wakka!’ pointlessly onto the end of anybody’s bad joke is going to make life ten times better.

Dryden Vos: Paul Bettany was (as usual) a breath of fresh air, even if he didn’t really have space to do much. Apparently he was one of the big changes from the original version to the reshoot; Dryden was originally going to be a CGI character played by Michael K Williams, but when schedules shifted he couldn’t make it so they cast Bettany in the role (hallelujah) as a romantic rival to Han which is the one part that doesn’t…translate? Really? I mean if they wanted some kind of legitimate love triangle they didn’t pull that through very well; Dryden was interesting but definitely more of a Master with Delusions of Mentorship while Qi’ra was either a slave or hanging around for a better opportunity (or both).

Also I thought it was hilarious that the scene with Vos, Qi’ra, and Han at the end was basically an exact echo of the throne room scene from The Last Jedi; you could almost take the exact lines and switch them over so Vos is like ‘I feel your hatred and rage turning your weapon toward your true enemy!’*

*lines obviously paraphrased because I don’t feel like looking them up

Lando: Donald Glover was to Lando what everybody hoped Alden Hackencough would be to Han Solo. Except for the lines that were just terrible (‘Mining colonies are the worst’) and clearly stuck in for a reshoot, he seemed to be having a wonderful time and did a great impression of the original Lando. Unfortunately we don’t really get more to his personality; the impression remains an impression of the character, rather than an expansion, but Glover was a delight anyway.

L3: Once again, we have a character who’s more like two characters at odds with each other thanks to the reshoots. L3 COULD have been funny –  I mean, even K2-SO was a worthy gem in a movie I can’t stand, but L3 was a confusing mess of personality traits. Most of her lines are cringeworthy SJW ideas supposed to be funny? I think? Except this line of ‘humor’ raises questions like ‘dO droids deserve equal rights as humans? Does that make every droid-owning character a slave master? Are we supposed to agree and sympathize with L3 or are we supposed to laugh her off?’ Whatever they were trying to do, it didn’t work. And sometimes it was so ham-fisted it was just truly terrible; there’s one scene where Lando asks L3 if she needs anything (she’s a droid piloting a ship, what’s she going to need?? A margarita??) and she goes “EQUAL RIGHTS?” and it’s just. I just.

Chewbacca: Chewbacca was Chewbacca, and the way he meets Han was pretty okay even if every ‘plot twist’ was so obvious it was sad.

‘Throw him in witH THE BEAST.’ ‘you have a bEAST?? oh NO’

Also there’s the scene where Han asks Chewbacca his name and Chewbacca’s like ‘Hrra2353948ghhhg’ and Han’s like ‘Chewbacca? I’m not calling you that every time! Chewie it is!’ like Chewbacca is some difficult-to-remember mouthful of a name, like Alden Anglerfish. Did we need backstory for his nickname? I mean I know that when I give someone a nickname I don’t usually go ‘Boy howdy, your name is hard to say I’m just going to shorten it!’ and then we look back on that time and laugh. Usually they just happen and we don’t really need backstory for it but it’s fine

(Why yes this post is longer than I expected but don’t worry we’re nearing the end)

The Kessel Run: Am I the only one who assumed the Kessel Run was some kind of space-race or maybe a difficult stretch of space that Han made in double-quick time or something at some point? Well, I was wrong, because apparently it’s a space-storm, called a ‘run’ just…kinda because, and there’s also a space monster! Except we can’t see a lot of it because it’s pretty dark and cloudy and it’s basically the star trek thing where they go ‘IF WE RELEASE X FUEL WE’LL EITHER PULL FREE OR EXPLODE’ and anyway. They don’t explode. Eh.

Necessary Backstory: The whole thing with Chewie’s nickname and the Kessel Run are only a few of the things we didn’t really need to see the Origins of in this movie. Included in the list of things nobody really cares about are a) how Han got his blaster! (Beckett hands it to him) b) how Chewie got his bandoleer! (Beckett gives it to him) c) How Han got the Millenium Falc – wait, we already knew how he got it. Oh well, we get to see it all play out exactly as you’d think it would. d) how Han got his last name! (I know we covered that already but it’s on the list and is probably the worst one) e) you know those droid brains supposedly fighting inside the Falcon causing it to be temperamental? Well one of those brains is L3, apparently! Which seems cruel and unusual since she hated being a slave and is now forever trapped inside the navigation system of a ship, unable to sass or anything. Yikes.)

The Plot in General: I’ll say this for Rogue One (words i never thought i would say ever), it had a straightforward plot. The plot for Solo is pretty all over the place with very little cohesion and a lot of action so useless it’s boring (I almost fell asleep during Rogue One three times and found my eyes glazing over after about ten minutes of Solo). Also Rogue One was way more visually interesting than Solo – Solo has a shockingly dull aesthetic. Even the costumes are boring. Qi’ra wears one neat outfit with a red cape and I liked Dreyden’s half-cape-suit-thing, but aside from that we’re back with 500 bucks at the mall and that’s what it looks like. The planets aren’t very distinctive, and it all just looks very…bland. It’s kind of the same beef I have with Agents of Shield – even during its good seasons, it has a very monochromatic boring ‘coulda bought that at Target’ aesthetic that’s just very uninteresting to look at.

Things I DID Actually Like: Speaking of Rogue One, remember that one guy I mentioned who I wanted to know more about? That one alien who worked for Saw Geurrera but had almost no lines and died almost immediately? He was in here! He was with Enfys Nests’s group in the background for like fifteen seconds; it was great.

Also I was happy to see Ray Park back as Darth Maul, even if they’re always dubbing over Ray’s voice because it’s not intimidating enough for anyone, apparently. Also I thought Boba Fett was in the movie for a second because there’s a suit of Mandalorian armor in Dreyden’s office and how great would it have been if it WAS actually Boba Fett, and as soon as Solo leaves the room she and Boba run dramatically into each other’s arms, ring up Darth Maul, and set sail on a life of passionate adventure? No?

Fine. Other things I liked….mmmm

OH there was one line where Han’s about to fly into the deadly storm cloud and he goes ‘I have a really good feeling about this’ and it was by far my favorite line in the movie.

TL;DR

Nothing worked tonally. I wish they had stuck with the Lord and Taylor comedy version because that would have solved nearly every issue with this movie, from the terribly lame half-jokes to the things that we were supposed to take seriously but came across as lame, and vice versa. This COULD have been the Thor: Ragnarok of the Star Wars universe, but I guess for some reason Disney is still afraid to take risks like that despite how well Thor: Ragnarok did in theaters. Also I’m even more scared for the Boba Fett movie now because I have very little faith in these prequel spinoffs

When can we get a solid non-prequel anthology spinoff? Because that would be cool. In the meantime, this is the easiest Star Wars movie to cosplay ever, just ask for a gift card to Forever 21 or something and you’re set!

//the garbage will do

rey1

I’ve seen Rey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) get bashed by not only the media, but friends I know and love. She’s been called self-centered, a brat, and even ‘trash.’ I legitimately do not understand how you can watch the movie and come away with these opinions. To each their own, but it honestly baffles me; so in the name of this bafflement, I see your name-calling and raise you some truths.

Let’s start with the first name: “Brat.”

She was abandoned on a desert planet as a child, and she grew up surrounded by cheaters, scavengers, thieves, and those who would do her harm. She leads a thankless life just to survive, and she hauls scrap across dunes every day just so she can eat that night. The people she meets are cheaters and thieves. She has trust and abandonment issues. So how is it ‘bratty’ to behave as she does? She’s wary of strangers, but she rescues BB-8 and lets him come home with her. She views Finn as an enemy because BB-8, the first friend she can probably remember having, calls him a thief. However, once she discovers Finn is not an enemy, she’s excited to meet him.

She wants to know about his work in the Resistance. She’s curious about life outside her planet, and she clearly longs to be elsewhere, doing other things – but her loyalty, her hope, that someone will come back for her keeps her on Jakku. She is anything but a brat – and in fact we see who she is at the beginning of the movie (closed-off, alone, self-reliant) begin to crack as she befriends Finn and becomes involved in something important with other people. She’s thrilled to see a planet of green. She’s shocked that Finn would rather flee than help. She squeals excitedly with Finn when they managed to escape their enemies. She apologies immediately after finding Luke’s lightsaber. She never once acts as though she’s ‘above’ anyone else. Brat? She’s anything but. And as for her ability to fight being called ‘trying too hard’ – fine, you try surviving alone on a hostile planet without learning to defend yourself and take initiative. See how long you last.

“Self-Centered.”

If by ‘self-centered’ you mean she has spent her whole life waiting for her family (even though she knows they’ll never return) and is now intent on helping a Resistance she barely knows a thing about. Sure. Self-centered. I think her quick thinking and ability to learn as she goes irritate some people, because it’s ‘unrealistic,’ but there are numerous arguments for why it is not unrealistic. Rey is clearly force-sensitive, she’s intelligent, and she learns. She doesn’t have an arrogant, “I can do it all” attitude – she is strong because she refuses to give up. Maz tells her about the Force and she recalls Maz’s words later, and she uses them. She tries and she tries again. She is anything but self-centered, constantly putting herself in danger to help others (who are practical strangers to her). She becomes attached to Han Solo very quickly. She’s reached a point where she can embrace Leia, a woman she barely knows – where at the beginning of the movie, the idea of even holding Finn’s hand was foreign to her. She grows and blossoms so much in this movie, but never once is she ‘self-centered.’ In fact Finn (whom I love dearly) proves more self-centered than she is, and you don’t see anyone bashing him about his desire to run away (and run away, and run away). ‘Self-centered?’ I’m sorry. I just don’t understand this accusation.

“Trash.”

I have one thing to say to this: if Rey’s selflessness, hope, humility, enthusiasm, and determination make her ‘garbage,’ then the garbage will do.

 

//in defense of kylo ren (spoilers)

kylo2

I actually sketched this before I saw the movie. LOL @ me.

 For at least a week now I’ve had friends telling me, “You’re going to be the worst Kylo Ren trash.” “Oh, man, Kylo is really gonna do you in.” “You need to see Kylo, okay.” “Seriously, it’s like Kylo was designed for you.” “Yes, you do need that Kylo Funko Pop.”

Needless to say, I was predisposed to feel something for Kylo – with people who know me this well telling me constantly how much he was going to wreck me, it would have been a bizarre anomaly if I felt nothing at all.

Kylo is intriguing right off the bat. Obviously powerful – he stops a blaster shot in mid-air and keeps it there – he’s made doubly mysterious by the fact we can’t see his face. He’s keenly observant, noticing Finn’s struggle on the battlefield – one storm trooper out of dozens. He’s extremely strong, but also surprisingly uncontrolled. As opposed to Darth Vader, who never let emotion get in his way until the end of Return of the Jedi, Kylo is an absolute drama queen. He wears a helmet because #DRAMA. He throws temper tantrums. Even the storm troopers are used to this by now, and they know it’s better to just walk away and let the Drama Queen have his moment.

Then we get the most interesting fact about him – it’s remarked more than once that he struggles with the light. The big, scary Sith, the First Order mascot, is not completely dark. Not even after all this time spent with the dark side, spent as an apprentice under Master Snoke. Kylo’s ability to function as an actual villain is constantly questioned by the other, worse villains.

‘I can handle this.’ ‘Dude, are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, totally.’ ‘Because you can, like, take a break or something. Like, you don’t have to do this. We can cover for you.’ [insert temper tantrum here]

Then we have the moment after he has captured Rey (and carried her bridal-style into his ship as per Villainy 101 regulations) when she wakes up and he’s simply crouched on the other side of the room, watching her. “Don’t be afraid,” he says.

(Because that’s also straight out of Villainy 101.)

Rey calls him a monster, and then asks him to take off his mask, which he does – because he doesn’t want her to see him as a monster. He takes it off as if to say see me. I’m not a monster. This is my real face. He And while many people were probably expecting someone older, or someone scarred, underneath the helmet is just…a human. A very young and strangely innocent-looking human; soft-spoken  and with the galaxy’s best hair.

He enters Rey’s mind, and out of everything he finds there, he chooses to tell her not to bother thinking of Han Solo as a surrogate father figure, because he will only disappoint her. The feelings behind this remark are very much a driving force for Kylo, as we find out that he’s Han Solo and Leia Organa’s son. There was ‘too much Vader in him,’ and so Leia ‘sent him away,’ and consequently ‘lost him.’ Kylo was abandoned by his parents, and those who feel abandoned or unwanted are very susceptible to seduction by the Dark Side. His parents literally sent him away because they were scared of him, and if you think a kid isn’t going to know this, you’re wrong.

Kylo wants to be powerful. He wants to be strong, as strong as his grandfather (because Kylo is the world’s biggest Darth Vader fanboy) – but there’s more to this. There is a reason we don’t know. We understand that he was seduced toward the Dark Side by Snoke, and we know that whatever happened during his training went so terribly wrong that Luke went into exile over the guilt. This is open for many theories – what happened? How did someone as light-filled as Kylo get seduced to the Dark Side? How did Snoke get ahold of him? Was it under Luke’s nose? What went wrong?

The novelization provides more insight.

He had trouble believing what he was hearing. “So Snoke was watching our son.”

“Always,” she told him. “From the shadows, in the beginning, even before I realized what was happening, he was manipulating everything, pulling our son toward the dark side.”

Ben’s transformation into Kylo was not a sudden overnight change of heart. It was a planned manipulation from the beginning. The Jedi order is very rarely compatible with extremely emotional people – Jedi are supposed to be passive, and Kylo is an extremely passionate, emotional person. Passivity would not sit well, it would be a bad fit. Even now, in present-day, Kylo is basically a tiny ball of light who really, really wants to be bad and is honestly so unconvincing that even his Master gives him the side-eye. A lot.

Kylo’s outbursts are also interestingly timed – the first being after Finn escapes, and the second being after Rey escapes. Both times, he was at fault. Unlike Vader, who destroyed others when they failed, Kylo’s anger is directed inwardly, toward himself and his own failures.

Han Solo’s death was hardly surprising to anyone, but the scene was emotionally painful. You can see the tragedy on Han’s face as he looks at his son and the person he has become, and in that moment Han makes the decision to try and win his son back one last time. This scene was the best scene in the movie visually, emotionally, and symbolically. The sun is fading, the energy from it shooting toward the destruction of another planet, but the light is still shining onto Kylo’s face as he speaks with his father for the first time in years.

Han urges his son to come home. He offers him another chance, and in that moment, we see Kylo’s struggle. He wants to come home. “I’m being torn apart,” he whispers. “I just want to be free of this pain.” ‘This pain,’ of course, being the struggle between light and dark; the thing ripping him in two. He says he knows what needs to be done, and he hands Han Solo his lightsaber.

This was an interesting gesture, because I truly believe that Kylo was about to change his mind. That the light inside him was going to win, that he was going to turn his back on the name Kylo Ren and perhaps become Ben again, because the parent who had abandoned him was offering to take him back. But ‘can you help me,’ as he hands his father a weapon, indicates that he didn’t believe he truly could come back, and if that’s true, then there is only one reason why he would be handing his father the saber. I think there is a good chance he wanted his father to kill him. Because what Kylo has been afraid of the whole movie isn’t death – it’s been his own weakness.

But then, in the most powerfully symbolic scene in the movie, the light fades as the sun goes dark and in that moment, so does Kylo. He transforms, and in the darkness, he finds the supposed ‘strength’ to do the one thing every Sith must – kill someone they love. And he does. But even as his father is dying, his last gesture is to reach out and touch not Kylo’s face, but Ben’s face. The face of his son.

Killing someone you love is supposed to symbolize your fearlessness. It’s supposed to be proof that you are truly transformed, that you are now in control, and no doubt that’s what Snoke wanted – but unlike what happens with other Sith, it has the opposite effect on Kylo. He doesn’t gain more control, he loses it. He doesn’t become fearless, he becomes more afraid. In his fight with Finn and Rey, his skill and power are obvious, but so is his desperation.

A brief note on Kylo’s actual strength: We’ve seen storm troopers get shot with the crossbow-blaster before, and upon being shot, they were thrown fifty feet in the other direction. Kylo, also a human, is shot with the same weapon and it barely phases him. He shakes it off and keeps fighting, and this itself shows enormous physical strength and strength of will, even in his uncontrolled state. His training has not yet been completed, and yet he is this powerful already. It’s interesting to consider how powerful he could be once his training is completed – if it ever is.

Kylo Ren has so much light still left in him that he has to physically cause himself pain in order to keep fighting, because the Dark Side feeds off pain. He is the antagonist, the protagonist, and the battleground of his own story. One thing about true Sith is the fact they are ruthless when harming others to further their own ends. They don’t care if they’re hurting someone else, and this is obviously not Kylo’s case. Kylo isn’t fighting Rey with mere anger or a heartless, stoic demeanor – Kylo is on the verge of breaking down, he’s holding back tears, he is fighting with himself as much as he is with Rey, if not more.

I find it hard to believe that the franchise would present us with such an emotional, sympathetic character if they weren’t planning to give him a redemption arc or, at the very least, giving us an even larger conflict to follow in the coming movies. There’s much about Kylo that we as viewers don’t know and can only theorize about, but they have given us the most emotionally conflicted Sith in cinema history. There is more potential for light and goodness, for redemption, than ever before and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am so invested in Ben Solo.

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