Why I Love The Last Jedi
"Strike me down in anger and I'll always be with you. Just like your father."
I was late seeing The Last Jedi. I have loved Star Wars since seeing the original trilogy as a young boy with my family. I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back and worrying that it was the end of the story. When my father told me we still had one more to watch, I was elated. After hearing so much negative chatter about The Last Jedi, I was prepared to hate it. When I finally saw it, I kept waiting for the film to get bad, and to do something unforgivable. Yet it never happened. From start to finish, I loved The Last Jedi.
It was only a matter of time before the snarky, condescending arsery that typified the reaction to the underrated and unfairly maligned prequel trilogy, raised its ugly head again. The reaction to The Last Jedi lets us see that George Lucas is and was not nearly as bad as we are led to believe. If the self-appointed true fans of the series find so much fault in The Last Jedi, their credibility to criticize anything artistic is severely compromised.
The Last Jedi proves that it was not just serious offenses that caused the hardcore Star Wars fanbase to get unreasonably angry, but any little thing that set off their delicate sensibilities. Consider the accepted wisdom that the original trilogy was when everything was good and right in the world, and put a big fat no through that when you realize that many of these same fans hate Return of the Jedi for similar reasons to the prequels and The Last Jedi.
Then there are more than a few who don't particularly have time for A New Hope, leaving that lone survivor Empire Strikes Back to represent what the series should aim for. These fans want that movie on repeat and little else, no matter how enjoyable and artistically satisfying. A Force Awakens succeeded because it stuck extremely close to the formula. Rogue One, likewise explored the same kind of semi-depressing ground that Empire did.
This is not to say, of course, that the prequels were without flaws. They had quite a lot of them, but it is condescending and untrue to say that they were without merit, especially Revenge of the Sith, which was in my opinion, easily up there with the new movies. That General Grievous fight alone... damn! So good. I find it amusing that many of those who were constantly telling us that we were stupid to find artistic worth in the prequels, are now in the same position as we were: defending the art they love.
The Last Jedi is a beautiful movie that builds very well on the success of The Force Awakens and Rogue One. It is a story of the spiritual journey of Rey, and the re-birth of the Jedi. Let me say again that Rey is almost certainly my favourite character in any Star Wars picture. She is someone whom I would follow across the galaxy, in any kind of story. She is played so well by Daisy Ridley, who I want to run away with. Hell of an actor, and a very lovable person.
I loved The Last Jedi for the way it explored the spiritual development of Rey, and how it examined the regret and guilt that consumed Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill is just sublime here, with all of the wisdom of Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan Kenobi. Speaking as an atheist, I have to admit that I find the transcendent spirituality of The Last Jedi, and Rogue One, to be so rewarding. Some may find it amusing and ridiculous that so many people identify with the Jedi, and find real spiritual worth in the wisdom of Star Wars, but not me! The scenes with Luke and Rey are among my all time favourites. I found the ending to the movie to be tremendously moving, and poetic. "I know I believe in the spirit.
Traveling soul, was alone part of me. Out in this world, it don't take your eyes long to see."
Adam Driver again proves that he is the real deal, as the wonderfully complex and intriguing villain of the piece, Kylo Ren. The scene where he kills Snoke and the ensuing lightsaber battle which sees he and Rey temporarily join forces is one of the best in the history of the series. Also a big shout out to Poe, who is played by the supremely talented Oscar Isaac, who deserves to get his own spin off series. Finn goes on some good adventures in the course of The Last Jedi, and new character Rose is yet another great female character with real depth. She has one of my favourite lines in the movie: "We're going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love." As Alan Partridge would say: lovely stuff. Unlike some people, I did not find the trip to the casino planet to be superfluous. Some great colour here, and an insight into the lives of people under the brutal rule of the First Order. Benicio Del Toro stands out in this section as an amoral realist. I was surprised to see him, but very happy to do so.
Two of the most ridiculous complaints about The Last Jedi follow: that Rey's parents weren't anybody important, and that Snoke was killed before we knew who he really was. This reminds me quite a lot of the people who were angry at Twin Peaks and Lost for not adhering to the precious pet theories that were concocted by fans who felt they were better capable of telling the story than the creators who were given the job. Is The Last Jedi the first artistic thing that these people have experienced, so infantile and insignificant are their complaints?
It is dead on right that Rey's parents were not Palpatine or some other grand figure from the history of Star Wars. This is again just a childish desire to see the new Star Wars movies follow the pattern set out in the original trilogy, because that is safe. There is a deep insecurity at play here, that provokes these hardcore fans to question their whole damn life if something steps outside of their insular, creatively barren lives. As for Snoke, I thought it was a really good twist that he was killed by Kylo Ren, giving Adam Driver the role of Top Heel, his chaotic anger far more dangerous, sinister and familiar than Snoke's measured evil.
The Last Jedi is one of my favourite movies of last year, up there with Twin Peaks The Return and Blade Runner 2049, and I stand in solidarity with those who get their taste attacked by daring to love an unpopular movie. We should never feel like we need to tow the cynical line, for fear of being verbally attacked or shunned on the dark corners of the internet. Those who think that identifying plot holes is a knock out critical blow, or that being cynical is the same as being insightful, should be the ones who should be stigmatized. Even for a movie with flaws, there are things to love and appreciate and be positive about. Those who love more than they hate are the ones who are winning.