This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Stephen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Supreme Leader Snoke has lots of ideas about how things should go based on what has gone before. He talks to Kylo Ren of making something of “your bloodline... a new Vader”. He is, in many respects, just your average Star Wars nerd with a YouTube account. Perhaps he puts his “WHAT KYLO REN IS REALLY DOING” vlogs between posts on make-up tips for melted faces and unboxing golden bath robes.
In any case, when Kylo Ren tells Rey her parents were nobody it destroys so many fan theory videos just as cleanly as Ren cuts Snoke himself in half. Death to guardians of legacy; it’s the message running through the entire movie. That message is there to serve Star Wars’ most egalitarian instalment yet, one with little time for bloodlines. Even sequences I didn’t really like on my first viewing are reinvigorated through this lens — especially the Canto Bight fathier break-out.
It initially appeared as almost something from the prequel trilogy, a CGI spectacle akin to the pod-race of The Phantom Menace or the droid factory chase in Attack of the Clones. But those two sequences are either bluntly basic (“Anakin is a good pilot”) or the metaphor is unintentional (“these characters are trapped in a lifeless machine, on a conveyor belt churning out plot”). The abused fathiers, rescued with the help of enslaved children, are another instrumental part of The Last Jedi’s egalitarian streak, turning the oppressed against the oppressors by wreaking merry havoc among the unethically wealthy and their casino; liberating the mistreated in a scene that prioritises living creatures in a patchwork union over slick machines and impersonal uniforms. It’s good for the characters, but it’s joyous for politics.
(Not all machines are bad, though — just look at BB-8. And listen closely: you can hear the casino chips rattle around inside him before he weaponises them!)
When The Last Jedi takes a breath from stressing the importance of people who can’t trace themselves back to Shmi Skywalker, it only does so to “kill the past” — another phrase that seems to posit as Kylo Ren as the unlikely mouthpiece of the author. Although if Snoke is the army of YouTube fans, it is Yoda who takes the place of Rian Johnson, gleefully setting fires to relics. Jedi temples, trees and texts burn in a raging fire, but they may as well be your Thrawn trilogy paperbacks, your Knights of the Old Republic save files and your 1970s Marvel comics.
That’s a brave stance to take it any franchise, but one where its original creator thought of the whole as a long poem that rhymed throughout? It’s downright insane — and yet somehow feels like Star Wars all the same. The showdown on Crait resembles Hoth (even if it can’t top that thrilling first act of Empire, but what could?), the TIE fighters still scream across space in blurs of green blaster-fire. But there are differences and they are many: “I have a bad feeling about this” is relegated to BB-8’s bleeps, and although there are two incredible scenes with “laser swords” no two lightsaber blades hit each other.
This is not the Star Wars third trilogy that George Lucas would have created. And that makes it as radical, and exciting, as his first exploration of this galaxy was.