WARNING: SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
“The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be The Last Jedi.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone and punched all expectations in the guts. For some, it was despicable for being far too unique from what Star Wars had always been in the past, even though it continues to score big worldwide. However, this is the kind of freshness necessary for Star Wars to survive and appeal to a new generation of fans – myself included.
When I watched the original and (endured) the prequel trilogies for the first time, I didn’t fall madly in love with the franchise. In 2015, J. J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens arrived and gave me a chance to dip my toe back into Star Wars. This year, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi flipped an “on” switch and I’m fully on board. So what was meaningful from The Last Jedi which appealed with relevance to many fans in this generation?
Being a Hero is Within All of Us
The events in The Force Awakens led to many theories regarding Rey’s bloodline, mostly that she is a Skywalker. The Last Jedi threw this away and revealed that Rey’s parents were, in fact, nobodies. You may have been one of those who asked, what were all those Skywalker parentage hints in The Force Awakens for then? Although some questions haven’t been answered, The Last Jedi told us this – Star Wars never promised us a Skywalker as a chosen hero. That concept is now obsolete. The Last Jedi dared to shatter that rose-tinted glass that we have been looking at the Skywalker dynasty through and turned the spotlight to the true heroes of the current era.
So who are these heroes? Rey was abandoned as a child and made a living out of scraps left from the previous war before joining the cause. Finn was forcefully forged into a Stormtrooper to live his life as a machine under the First Order, until he found his calling to the Resistance. Poe Dameron, whose parents were in the Rebel Alliance, was born into a new generation of fighters and had a long way to learn about true leadership. Rose Tico grew up as a child victim of the First Order’s tyranny and proudly joined the Resistance with her sister Paige – even if only as a mechanic.
The Last Jedi taught us that the real heroes can be any of us. They aren’t perfect, fully mature, or even the most recognized in the Resistance, but they stepped up and did what needed to be done because they were all affected by the war. They can come from anywhere or nowhere. They can be of any gender, skin color, and age. Their heroism comes in different manners. They are so much more like us, and this is the key to the hearts of new Star Wars fans.
The Last Jedi did not shy away from exploring imperfections. It showed that the problems happening in the movie that took this generation as victims were, in actuality, the failure of the past generation. Han and Leia made the erroneous choice to send Ben Solo away to Jedi training as they went on with their own agendas instead of caring for their son. Luke Skywalker had even fleetingly considered killing Ben Solo after sensing a rising darkness inside him, which triggered the creation of Kylo Ren. This was why Luke isolated himself at Ahch-To with the intent to die as “the last Jedi”. This was why Luke believed that the legacy of the Jedi is “failure, hypocrisy, and hubris”. The Last Jedi was brave enough to deconstruct the glorified myth around the Jedi. They may not be with the Dark Side, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t wrong.
After we were shown how Kylo Ren was created, The Last Jedi wanted us to root for Ben Solo and believe that maybe he was not completely beyond redemption. We learned that Ben was still emotionally torn after killing his father. We saw that Ben couldn’t bear to kill his mother. We even hoped that Ben killed Supreme Leader Snoke because he had turned to the Light Side. The characters faced their own conflicts, including Rey who did not hesitate to approach the Dark Side to look for answers about her parents yet still become the hero of the day.
Ultimately, it took effort for Luke, Ben, and Rey to stay in what they perceive as their designated tracks by questioning their own actions. In the past, the Jedi was the ideal goal to strive towards. Now, balance within the Force is what we’re looking for. This is much more realistic and relatable to current situations in real life where nobody is all good or all bad, especially in the context of war, as D.J. had pointed out to Finn and Rose. Could this finally bring relevance to what we know as the Gray Jedi? It would certainly elevate what Star Wars really stand for.
Making the Important Choices
The aforementioned conflicted character journeys were wrapped up beautifully in The Last Jedi. By the end of the movie, what Kylo Ren and Rey learned from each other only strengthened their resolve in staying at the opposite sides. At the end, they did what Kylo Ren believed was best to do: let the past die. For Kylo Ren, that was to kill everything that drove his conflict – from both the First Order and the Resistance – and establish a new order in the galaxy. But for Rey, that was to not let the longing for her parents haunt her anymore and nurture herself to grow into the person she wanted to be. For both of them, despite Kylo Ren’s vision of Rey’s dark destiny and vice versa, what mattered was the choices they made to create their own future.
Making the important choices was also what made Luke Skywalker stand out in The Last Jedi. At the end, he earned his redemption arc instead of the expected Kylo Ren. Luke decided that being resentful towards the Jedi’s legacy after attempting to murder his own nephew did not do much good, so he chose to own up his failures to Ben and contribute to the Resistance by covering them to escape. His belief in winning the fight was finally restored, even though it was not through the Jedi Order, but through Rey and the Resistance instead. He wisely told Leia that “no one is ever really gone”, instilling optimism back into what was previously cynicism. He achieved his closure and finally became one with the Force – a wholesome completion to his character. The Last Jedi knew Luke best and did him justice. Through Luke, the current generation of Resistance is reminded of why their cause is worth fighting for.
You can love it or hate it, but The Last Jedi is necessary and just the right thing to get new fans on board the Star Wars saga. What did you think about The Last Jedi? Let us know in the comments below!