Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson's enormous Star Wars cat cradle is stuffed with so many interesting oppositions and object lessons, I'm going to have to write them down to keep track of them all:

— Snoke uses the Force to bridge a physical distance between Kylo and Rey; Luke uses the Force to bridge a physical distance between the war and himself. The expenditure appears to cost Snoke nothing, but his plan gets him killed anyway; the expenditure kills Luke, but he dies with peace and purpose.

— The Sith can use the Force to extend the life of the physical body indefinitely; the Jedi can use the Force to jettison the material world and live as pure spirit indefinitely. Immortality is given to both, and both require a transformed relationship to embodiment.

— On Crait, Luke blocks the entrance; Rey unblocks the exit. A spiritual handing of a torch. Luke's final act is sacrificial, but also spiritual. In this, he finds the true rebuke to the Jedi Council of the prequel trilogy, sitting in splendor on Coruscant while the city below is visibly poverty-stricken—not rejecting the Force, but using it to preserve the lives of the many, rather than fostering the power of the One, the Anakin Skywalkers and Ben Solos of the galaxy.

The Last Jedi contains the clearest and I would argue, the most Buddhist statement of the Force's dialectical nature: Life. Death and decay, that feed new life. Warmth. Cold. Peace. Violence. And between it all, balance. An energy. A Force. And inside us? Inside us, the same Force.

— A series of last stands, and the weight of them, and what we learn from them: Paige's sacrifice drives Rose's nearly-sacrificial interruption of Finn's suicide run. Holdo's final gambit is a correction for Finn and Poe's disastrous plan. Luke's purposeful death versus Snoke's unanticipated death at the moment of utter triumph. Leia's unbelievable strength, holding her soul together with a power as great as any character in this story through loss after loss, keeping her eyes focused on the goal: preserve life, preserve the light.

— Although, definitely one of those films where things would go better if folks just talked to each other, but it's wartime, things are stressful, we get it. Maybe this is what detractors find "scoldy" about TLJ? I can see how it could feel like it's going out of its way to create teachable moments.

— On that note, if I have one criticism of the film, it's a feature-not-bug Rian Johnson hallmark: even at 150 minutes, this thing barely has a moment to breathe and take in some of the beautiful moments it's creating.

— DJ is a sort of curdled Han Solo, a future vision of what Finn could become. My heart breaks for Finn; that he finally finds his purpose, that he is finally radicalized rather than succumbing to despair, and for that purpose to then turn so quickly into a drive to extinguish himself in service to the cause. It's Rose, in the end, who nearly kills herself to show him that it's his life, not his death, that is of the greatest value. Rose is the best thing to happen to Star Wars since Yoda lifted that X-Wing.

— Some of Johnson's rebukes to Abrams are so funny. Abrams' impossibly operatic lightsaber-passing ending to The Force Awakens is quickly discarded as a comedy beat. Abrams went with a super-jumbo Death Star and Johnson counters with a ridiculous "battering ram cannon" based on "miniaturized Death Star tech". And, of course: Chewie and Leia get their hug.

— The final sum: our strength is not in the legendary powers of a chosen few; it is in each other, and those chosen few are never useful to us as gods or as masters. As Leia says: "We have everything we need." In this way, The Last Jedi runs counter to every contemporary superhero film. It is also the biggest fuck you to the "fuck you, got mine" of conservatism. This may be a studio film but it's got a radical heart. Canto Bight isn't a non-sequitur, it's a thesis statement.

— I like this film so much I wasn't even that mad at Rian Johnson for killing my forever favorite, Admiral Ackbar.

— Okay, I'm ready for JJ Abrams to fuck it all up again. Let's go.

Block or Report

Dara K. liked these reviews