Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Like last time, if you want the spoiler version of this review, go to the bottom and expand the cut. In addition to the spoiler cut, I’ve also added what I call the BuzzygonMarySlate Review, where I break down the film for social justice culture warriors and their lovable opponents. I like to be inclusive.

For a second entry in the third trilogy, The Last Jedi plays two important roles. One is to further flesh out the characters introduced in the first film, and the second is to set the stage for the final movie. The Original Trilogy’s Empire Strikes Back did this masterfully, and in my mind, the film is still the best film of every Star Wars film made. The Prequel Trilogy’s Attack of the Clones also served that capacity while attempting, rather badly, to expand Anakin and Padme’s relationship. Writer-director Rian Johnson may not quite be Empire’s Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the previous film in the new trilogy, but for someone with a relatively low profile taking on a big franchise in its middle act, he played most of the right cards that needed to be played.

Like Empire, the second movie crawl opens to the remnants of The Resistance escaping into space from their previous base, as The First Order fleet, its uptight commander Hux, the brooding and troubled Kylo Ren, and Supreme Leader Snoke give chase. Poe Dameon, the hotshot X-Wing pilot, sets up a rather amusing conversation with Hux to stall long enough to launch a counterattack against their Dreadnought, setting the stage for further internal and external conflict throughout the rest of the film. Meanwhile, Rey encounters Luke Skywalker on his island, hands him his lightsaber, and he shoulder-tosses it behind him, also setting the stage for mostly-internal conflict among them for the rest of the film.

Mark Hamill, returning to his iconic role as a now-hermit-grizzled Luke, plays the part very well throughout this movie, with plenty of witty quips, and plenty of genuine emotional responses to things like seeing Chewbacca again, The Millennium Falcon, and other surprises. Because much of the movie centers around the last Jedi master, his performance served to set up much of the film’s primary cast development, but fell slightly short of delivering the kind of performance we got from Master Yoda in Empire. I had a lot of speculation about how Luke and Rey were going to interact, which I think would have functioned better overall, but it was glossed over, possibly for brevity.

Carrie Fisher’s final role, as Leia Organa, did not impact me as much as I thought it would, and seemed much more muted than her performance in The Force Awakens. Still, as the glue that holds any kind of rebel alliance together, she peppered her dialogue with wit, and mentored Poe in a way not unlike Mark Harmon in the television series NCIS. I had wondered how they were going to handle her character after the actresses’ untimely death in 2016, but I am satisfied with the direction they took given the circumstances.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver also deliver their respective roles of Rey and Kylo Ren well, but their presences felt muted compared to those of John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran as Finn and Rose Tico, who occupy most of the middle acts on a side quest to aid the fleeing Resistance. Many reviews from the first movie talked about the chemistry between Ridley and Boyega as Rey and Finn, but I would suggest that the chemistry between Boyega and Tran was much better played in this film, especially as both of their characters come from similar pasts.

The action and special effects continue to stay top-tier for the franchise, with an opening space battle, and closing ground battle. It does not really measure up to the same effects of the first film, but is on-par with the other middle films as they are meant to be within their respective stories. It more closely compares to Rogue One in terms of being more character-heavy than starbattle-heavy.

Overall, it’s an acceptable entry to the franchise, and a much better attempt at a more original story than its predecessor. How the final entry is going to measure up remains to be seen. My hope is that the writing talent is able to convert most of the character development from this movie into satisfying conclusions to pair with whatever epic space battles are planned. However, a few issues exist in this film, but unfortunately, can only be covered in the spoilers sections. Read below if you’ve seen the film, otherwise, go see the film.

The Spoilers Review
It’s hard to write reviews without spoiling parts of the movie, because I have to talk about them in order to really detail why I feel a certain way about the film. So here are some spoiler-points in chronological order:

FTL: Star Wars Edition
The Resistance. Unlike the Rebel Alliance in the original films, or The Republic in the prequel films, The Resistance seems to function similarly to that of a space-gang than a paramilitary force. They have some equipment, some ships, some bombers, and some fighters, but they seem to lack the gumption or the leadership that we enjoyed in Mon Mothma’s Rebel Alliance. Which really begs the question; Where is The Republic? The first film suggested it was restored after the fall of The Empire, so you’d think that most of the Rebel fleet would convert over to Republic fleets, or take over the hardware left by The Empire. I assume they are leaving this plot hole open for a future film, but the way it plays into the current Resistance has been nagging me since the start of this trilogy. Unfortunately, that nag did not help as the entire plot device for this film was literally space fuel. Yes, Star Wars, a franchise that has never once explored the limits of capital ship engine and fuel management, decided to make its second film in the franchise a 4X space simulator.

My wife, who is not really a Star Wars nerd like I am, but enjoys the movies, lamented the most about this long crawl of events. The space-chase is a classic way of moving a character-heavy, dialogue-heavy middle section of the movie along, but it doesn’t really serve anything, and most viewers aren’t really interested, or feeling the tension, of being reminded how much fuel the ship has left. If anything, they are questioning how Snoke’s ship has a plot-device-hyperspace-scanner on it (1), and why that is even a thing. It’s like half of this movie was ripped out of the heads of the younger kids in my scout troop who used to play Star Wars The Roleplaying Game like they had god mode enabled in a video game. “YEAH? WELL YOU CAN’T GET AWAY, MY SHIP CAN TRACK YOU THROUGH LIGHTSPEED! What?

(1): I sort of forgot that in A New Hope, Vader had a tracking device planted on the Falcon to track its movements through space. Also, in Rogue One, Jyn mentioned hyperspace tracking in the list of projects and files while they were searching for the Death Star plans. Now, you can settle that there, or you can nuance and say; In ANH, they had to place the device on the ship in order to track it. In TLJ, it’s established the device is on Snoke’s flagship. So what Jyn found either was the tech Vader would then use on the Falcon, or the evolution of that tech into what Snoke would later use, one that does not require the device to be placed on that you want to track. It also surprises me no countermeasures were developed against those, as unlike Trek, it seems cloaking and a lot of other evasion tech relies on scrambling enemy scanners, so reasonably, counter-tech would also include interfering with the ability to scan through hyperspace, like decoys.

The Killing Joke
The entire plotline of finding Luke Skywalker was obviously meant to set him up as the new Yoda, the island retreat where no one could find him, shoulder-tossing his lightsaber, THE FORCE ENDS HERE, THIS FAR NO FURTHER, and basically being the old guy from Up. The film tried to re-create the Dagobah scenes from Empire, but didn’t really capture those moments the same way, and it leaves you feeling like Rey didn’t really accomplish anything she already didn’t have from the previous film.

Luke went into the beginning of Empire having blown up a Death Star using the force, but not knowing what the force was, or how to really use it. So after Hoth, he split from the others and went in search of answers. He thought he could just get the TL;DR and run back to his friends, but Yoda put him through mental and physical paces, before Luke ultimately cut short and ran anyway thinking he could confront Darth Vader.

Rey went down a similar path. She stumbled on to the force like Luke did and managed it well enough to score a victory against Kylo in the first film, but lacked the discipline, and the meaning, behind that power. She came to Luke with two goals: A: Recruit him back to The Resistance B: Learn how to properly use the force. Luke was uninterested in both. So they played this full tsundere game while Snoke was linking her mind to Kylo, and Kylo was egging her to get the full story on how Luke almost killed him. Finally she wore Luke down enough so that he’d try to teach her, but the lessons were really more philosophical than anything. The force is not power, it’s all living things and the energy between them. We knew this already as viewers, we knew The Jedi Order was basically a religion, and there are plenty of religious references in this film. Ultimately, when Rey reaches her confront Kylo Ren moment and leaves, she leaves pretty much the same as she was when she got there. It would have been a little more interesting had she raised his X-Wing and flown that, or fought Luke and came to a mutual conclusion. All we got was a reflective cave scene, which I assume was meant to mimic the Luke-as-Vader scene in Empire, but intended to be more cerebral, I guess?

Leia and The Force
I thought for sure when Kylo Ren’s escorts took out the Resistance flagship bridge that Leia was dead. Carrie Fischer had passed away before the release of the movie, and they had plenty of time to change the story to fit, so I thought this was her end. But somehow she uses the force to get herself back to the airlock and is saved, and is alive at the end of the film. What? I mean, that is fine, presumably she will simply exist as an off-screen character in the final film or have some kind of CGI applied like they did with Tarkin in Rogue One, but I don’t know if I am willing to accept that kind of comeback, even with the force, which Leia has never really demonstrated having any real ability with aside from sense.

The Incredible Misadventures of Finn and Rose
If I had to single out the most badly-executed section of the movie, it would be Finn and Rose’s adventure to the casino world. Not because the characters themselves were bad, but because it was just a bad way to execute this plot. First off, the setup for this plot was that Snoke’s ship has a tracker that can track their ship through lightspeed. The only way to disable it is to get on board and cut off its power. But it’s heavily shielded and cannot be hacked remotely. But a MASTER CODEBREAKER, by recommendation of Maz Kanata, can break through it. So Finn and Rose embark to a planet where rich oligarchs and arms dealers gamble and race animals for amusement. Three plot-points are made here:

1. Rose came from a race of slaves like those caring for the animals, and resents oppressors, and the rich people who support them.
2. Arms dealers routinely sell weapons to both The First Order and The Resistance, highlighting the agnosticism of selling weapons in war.
3. The deal, can always be altered. Pray it isn’t altered any further.

Let me address each point separately, and tie it together into why I feel this entire off-world experience should never have happened:

Rose’s Past: Rose’s past is important to her character, and it gives her common ground with which to connect to Finn, who is also the product of servitude-by-oppression. However, going to a planet full of rich people and arms dealers does not do anything other than satisfy a sense of justice when the place gets wrecked up towards the end, even though she knows it fundamentally changes nothing. We could still get the full impact of her character without these visuals in the form of brief flashbacks.

Arms Dealers: Like the scene in Empire where Vader calls for bounty hunters, this film could have employed a similar scene where Hux is seen calling arms dealers to inquire about weapons to replace the destroyed Dreadnaught, perhaps alluding to a future weapon for the next film or something sinister. That scene could then be tied back to Finn and Rose when they’re on the ship and stumble upon what The First Order is planning. It enables some sub-plot and off-screen plot to occur to find out who is funding The First Order’s military machine, if you really want to go down this path.

The Deal: The “Codemaster”, or whomever that got Finn and Rose onto the ship, but quickly sold them and the fleeing cloaked ships out, represents Empire’s “The Deal”, and is the oldest form of deception in Star Wars. This scene was really penultimate scene for Finn and Rose prior to the ground assault, but it exemplifies the best aspect of Star Wars, that outside of empires and rebellions, the rest of the galaxy engages in all sorts of legitimate and illegitimate business, and there are many characters without morals, or allegiances.

All of these roll into my view that the off-world excursion should have been replaced with Finn and Rose, using Rose’s technical ability, and Finn’s resourcefulness in-a-pinch, to find their own way on board Snoke’s flagship, and sabotage it before bumping into Rey, whereabouts they’re all captured, Rey is brought before Snoke, Finn before Phasma, and Rose put in a cell block. Then Rey’s sequence happens, Finn beats Phasma and rescues Rose (important character point), they find Rey, and manage their way off the ship just in the nick of time.

Snuffing Snoke
Like my Guardians of the Galaxy Part 2 review, it feels like The Last Jedi spent its load too quickly by killing Snoke off two-thirds into the film. Now, to be fair, this could not be the real Snoke. It could be a puppet, or something not unlike what Luke did at the end of the movie. But, assuming it was Snoke, this is Kylo Ren’s magnum opus, he wants to take total control of The First Order to prove he has power. But even more importantly, he wants to control it himself, as Kylo Ren, and not following Darth Vader, or even Luke Skywalker. That was the significance behind his appeal to Rey to get her to join him. Before, he wanted control over her because he wanted the kind of control Vader had over anyone. But having been beaten and humiliated, having a glimpse at the struggles Rey has had and continues to take on, and realizing that he’ll only ever be in someone else’s shadow, he grasped for control over himself. It would have been far more interesting had either Rey joined him or he joined Rey, and together they explored the “grey side” of the force, something that would make this trilogy stand out on its own and be remembered for something like the first two.

But at the end, Ren decides otherwise, jumps ship, and he angerly confronts Luke’s force ghost hoping to best Luke in combat and come around full circle. In a way, he won, Luke dies as the result of expending so much energy, but psychologically, he still lost, especially knowing Rey is still out there, able to challenge his position.

Finn is an interesting character, but he is also Courage the Cowardly Dog, able to meet and exceed expectations, but complaining the entire way to, from, during, before, and after. Rose helped to advance his character along a little in this movie, to where by the end, he was willing to sacrifice himself to possibly stop the battering laser. But Rose’s near-sacrifice really should teach him the lesson that took Han Solo three movies to figure out, and that is no one person stands alone in the galaxy, not when there are others willing and able to fight with you, or for you.

After listening to the excellent RedLetterMedia guys talk about this, which will hopefully lead to a Plinkett review, my overall take on this movie is that it was not bad, but it was not good either. All of the characters were great, and there was plenty of interaction between them, but a lot of it felt forced and cookie-cutter, and the main plots were just weak. The only interesting thing for me was Kylo and Rey, the force-mind link, and them working together to defeat Snoke and his guards. I feel like the film wasted a golden opportunity to forge an interesting path for both characters into something we have not seen before, but it ultimately settled for making Kylo Ren the bad guy again, for no real reason. I also feel like they gutted Luke’s character significantly, either to prove a point, or make it so he does not steal the show from the main cast members. I know a lot of older fans associate him with the franchise and the franchise’s “legacy”, but his role here was to teach the next generation and let them find their own way, as Yoda did to him.

Someone mentioned this movie felt like a Netflix series, or a Marvel movie. That’s actually a good way of putting it. It feels like Disney-influenced Star Wars was sanitized, removing the gritty, darker elements of the universe, elements that made the original films good once you looked past all the surface characters. I actually hope that after Episode IX comes out in theaters, Disney considers a different direction for the franchise, possibly Netflix series or just side-stories. Because it’s becoming more and more apparent that the original trilogy should have just stayed as-is and nothing else been made, even by Lucas himself.

The BuzzygonMarySlate Review

The unfortunate aspect of the new Star Wars film, amongst the current sociopolitical climate, is that they are being deeply examined and picked apart by culture critics, the kind that have been picking apart other movie franchises like The Ghostbusters, and video game, comic book, and other nerd fandoms. So I felt it was neccessary to get out ahead of this and provide my input from this perspective to prepare you for what will inevitably come down the manufactured controversy pipeline.

A good primer for this section would be to read Richard Brody’s review, which was marked as negative on Rotten Tomatoes, I think encompasses some of how I felt about watching the film.

Despite a few stunning decorative touches (most of which involve the color red) and that brief central sequence of multiple Reys, the movie comes off as a work that’s ironed out, flattened down, appallingly purified. Above all, it delivers a terrifyingly calculated consensus storytelling, an artificial universality that is achieved, in part, through express religious references.

The pacing of the movie felt very calculated, and dare I say, intentionally designed, to tick off focus group boxes, much like the first. Much of the story seemed put together neatly, like a jigsaw puzzle. So it makes sense for the above tweet by a game journalist to assume that any criticism of the movie would logically fall down to people mad online with unwarranted self-importance, especially if they didn’t like Rey or Rose, that’s double points for social justice culture warriors, you hate women AND minorities. It bothers me greatly because I am a huge fan of the universe, not the films. I could honestly care less about the legacy of Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, they’re excellent characters, but twenty-some years of books, television, animation, and other materials expanded the universe far beyond those films. Rogue One, which released between VII and VIII, captured this spirit perfectly in a story about characters that weren’t Jedi, just average everyday fighters of the Rebellion, and powerful leaders of the Empire. I mean, read the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. It’s such an excellent book series, because it introduced an Empire admiral that wasn’t just some cookie-cutter bad guy, he had sophistication and depth to him.

But, as explanations go, here are some other examples of things I felt stand out from this perspective, not particularly in chronological order:

Toxic Masculinity in Space

Poe Daemon’s character in the first movie seemed to be fairly standard, an X-Wing pilot tasked with getting vital information back to The Resistance, much like Leia’s role in A New Hope. In the second movie, Poe’s role seems to have been expanded to being a character used to exemplify bad tactical decisions, such as his plan to take out the Dreadnaught, which succeeded, but at the cost of a lot of lives, and equipment. Leia seems to not care for Poe’s decision-making or bravado, but she does not seem fit to stop him, and somewhat cherishes that spirit of the rebellion.

But, every character needs a foil, something to challenge them and reward them for meeting and overcoming the challenge. That challenge was Vice Admiral Holdo, an older purple-haired woman played by F is for Family matriarch Laura Dern, and as far as deadpan expressionism goes, she nailed the role well, so I applaud the choice of actress here. Holdo is lauded as being a brilliant tactician, one of the best. So Poe eagerly awaits her orders…

…and she orders them to flee.

Naturally, Poe does not like the face they are fleeing, without any real plan, and under the threat of minimal fuel left. So he asks her what the plan is. She offers nothing, but then coyly notes his eagerness by lamenting about how he’s just like every other “flyboy”. Now you can interpret this along canonical lines by saying it’s a callback to Leia and Han, how Leia looked down on Han’s roughed profession and loose morals, but part of their character development was that when he pulled through, she respected his ability to pull through in a pinch. Most culture critics, however, are going to see this as an open-handed slap towards boys mad on the internet or fanboys angry their precious Star Wars is full of women and minorities. The setup is simple, female leader in power, doesn’t tell the male underlings the plan, because they don’t need to know, they just need to listen and believe.

The latter point is further reinforced when Poe’s half-baked plan fails, and then he finds out that Holdo’s real plan was to evacuate the ship, and cloak the escaping ships’ approaches to the new base. But this plan is foiled when DJ gives up the cloaking codes to The First Order when Finn and Rose are captured, enabling them to target and pick off fleeing vessels. Holdo sacrifices herself to ram the flagship into Snoke’s flagship using the hyperdrive, earning Poe’s respect, but underlining the real message all along; If you only trusted THE WOMAN IN CHARGE, none of this would have happened. Consequently, had she just informed Poe or the rest of the crew what the plan was, Finn and Rose wouldn’t have had to go and ultimately get captured, and the cloak would not have gotten out to The First Order.

As I can hear some of you screeching, let me offer a canonical example; Mon Mothma is one of the franchise’s oldest female Rebel leaders, seen in A New Hope, and the side-story Rogue One leading The Rebel Alliance during their tenure on Yavin. It was here Jyn Urso detailed her willingness to retrieve the Death Star plans so they could blow it up, and was declined. They did it anyway, which got those plans, but at the cost of everyone who went there. Later, she authorized the plan to attack the Death Star with the plans. In either instance, there was no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives. Decisions were made. Mothma didn’t dance around the issue, or call her male Rebel pilots, eager or not, “flyboys”. She commanded respect, and received respect. Why is Holdo different? Is it her character? Is it a previous unexplained relationship with Poe or someone like Poe? Certainly we won’t know unless we get a book or something that explores this more, but the point is that for all these events to stack the way they did, the writers had to have inflected something here to tell a fourth-wall subplot subtlety intended to trigger culture warriors. Especially with purple hair.

Mary-Sue Who?
A big contention point for many from the previous film was that Rey was too much of a “Mary Sue”, a character trope in written fan-fiction where the author’s self-insert character is too connected or powerful, the envy of all, and the love interest of the main established characters of the franchise. For the record, I did not really think Rey was a Mary Sue, but I do think that she has not really been written adequately enough compared to, say, Jyn Urso in Rogue One. Characters in the Star Wars universe often come from less-than-noble backgrounds or are just plain fodder that somehow wind up in a larger series of events and survive long enough to become the hero. Luke Skywalker was a backwater farm hand who happened to acquire Rebel droids with a message for a hermit Jedi Master. Only later did he learn his linage and decided to take up the force. Rey literally has no past, we find her on a sand world salvaging parts for food. She too gets swept up into events by a droid and a defecting stormtrooper, but her introduction to the force wasn’t as warmly as Luke’s, she was thrust upon it, by Kylo Ren. With no explained reason for her force powers, viewers found it hard to believe that she could just pick up a lightsaber and fight on-par with Kylo Ren, who at least has had formal training by two masters, even if his own self-control is lacking.

I came across a good Medium piece by Joseph Choi also talking about Rey and character development as it relates to Luke and Anakin Skywalker in the first two trilogies.

Everything that informed Anakin’s turn to the dark side was a question of nurture over nature. He was a sweet kid, starting out. But he was presented with obstacles, and given choices. Some of his choices may have been either bad or good, depending on your point of view, but the ones that led him towards the dark side were clearly defined. He slew the sand people. He slew an unarmed Count Dooku. He let his fear of Padme dying — a strong premonition, nothing more — influence his actions to turn against Mace Windu and support Palpatine’s murderous plot. He killed children. He murdered the Seperatist leadership. Finally, he choked his own wife. When he awakens in the Darth Vader suit, the first thing little Ani asks is whether Padme is alive. His grief and anguish over learning that she died drove him over the edge in sorrow. The aftermath of Revenge of the Sith paints a very clear picture of what kind of a man the imposing villain of the OT really was. Vader was not born innately evil, nor a misunderstood hero. He’s a tragic figure who made some very bad choices and became essentially spiritually trapped in a cyborg body, doing the bidding of the master he was cleverly manipulated into serving. Now that’s a mythological story if I ever heard one. It’s Faustian, epic, allegorical, and larger-than-life.

For all the other things in the prequel trilogy, the clunky dialogue, all of Episode I, and Jar-Jar Binks, Lucas still managed to tell a decently-crafted prologue of the events leading up to Vader and Episode IV. Both Anakin and Luke had Jedi masters to guide them through the force. Rey did not. So really, in the first and second movies, we should have seen her usage of the force be erratic, unstable, and fail constantly. Lightsabers are lightsabers, General Grevious proved you don’t need force powers to use one, and even Finn gave it a decent shot in the first film. But as far as persuasion, movement, and senses, Rey should have rolled ones on her D20 five out of six times, at least until this movie where Luke could actually teach her how to focus her skills, while explaining that the force is more than just those powers. This could have been a movie where we learned what the force really was, and even that opportunity was wasted. Snoke coming in and connecting her mind to Kylo’s with the force, was actually a pretty clever idea plot-wise, and really could have served alongside Luke’s training to sow the seeds of doubt in Rey and have her come to the same realization that Luke came to in Empire, that she needed to do something, and although her training was not complete, she feels it is, and sets off to do something anyway. That’s when she encounters Kylo Ren, they batt, he persuades her to join him, to discard everything, and start anew. But the twist from Empire, is that because she wishes to save him, she accepts, and this sets up a major plot in the third movie where she has been turned to the dark side by Snoke and Kylo Ren, and Luke must make the final confrontation, where he frees Rey’s mind, she defeats Snoke, and he sacrifices himself to free Kylo from the dark side. That is better Rey character development to me, giving her goals to achieve, steps to perform, and major failure to iterate on. Letting her just waltz through these movies, winning everything, and losing nothing, puts her dangerously close to Sue territory.

Emo Kylo Ren

The major criticism of Kylo Ren from the first movie was that he was a whiny teen angry over not being a dark side badass like Darth Vader, and angry that he was beaten by a girl. Culture critics sparred no expense ripping on his character, comparing it to “whiny basement-dwelling manchildren”, and otherwise not taking his character seriously. Some of it was justified. The fits of rage, destroying consoles. My wife also said he was a whiny emo kid. But there is a method to the madness of portraying Kylo Ren as an unstable force user, because he is just a kid, like Anakin, like Luke. But being farther in the future, after force users like Palpatine, Vader, and Yoda are gone, and only Luke remains, who isn’t really a master in his own right, any new force user now should be unstable, there is no Jedi Order to train stable masters anymore. Now you could say Snoke is a master, but the conflation of evil military empire power with force power are not mutually exclusive, Snoke can command the largest fleet in the galaxy, but still not really be a master of the dark side any more than Rey currently can use the light side.

So that instability is exploited by Snoke to link their minds together in order to bait Rey into believing that Kylo can be saved. I am not immediately sure if Kylo knew about this before, or if he knew whether or not Snoke trusted him, but this actually served to really expand Kylo’s character, to show he wasn’t just some emotionally-stunted child, that he was trying to assert his place in the galaxy and among The First Order, but could not reconcile the past, and how Luke almost killed him for dark side temptations.

Considering the prequel trilogy was about master and apprentice, the original trilogy was about father and son, this trilogy has yet to really establish what the relationship is between Kylo Ren and anyone. At first there was Han and Leia, his parents, but he killed Han in the first movie, and nearly killed Leia in the second, or does not seem to care if she dies. Then there is Rey, whom we do not know of there being any real relationship, but where he was partially motivated to take her on as an apprentice, he couldn’t follow through with that. His relationship with Luke is estranged, largely by Luke’s own actions, which aren’t really adequately explained even by Luke himself. So Kylo is really kind of on his own, and the only people he is shown to have any kind of relationship with was Snoke and Hux, and he killed Snoke. So I am curious if any culture critics will revise their ideas of Kylo after this movie, if they see him simply as someone who is trying to figure out their path in the galaxy, or still as some manchild bent on power and conquest. Considering the final scene and fight with Luke, probably the latter.

“Let the Past Die”
Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker both insisted that the past, the Jedi, the war, both sides, everything should just go away in this film. It’s a supremely nihilist point-of-view, really, and a curious one on part of the writing staff and directors. Why should everything die? Because Luke ran into one snag with his nephew and called it quits? Because Kylo Ren isn’t Darth Vader?

No, I think this represents a very millennial point-of-view, and a very current-Hollywood point-of-view when it comes to rebooting movie franchises from the past that have especially large fandoms attached to them. The amount of contempt seen among culture critics for fans of the original trilogies and of core characters like Luke and Han, moreso than Leia because she is the face of the modern political “resistance”, is palpable and strange. A lot of the decision-making and writing in the new films seems to insinuate that they want new, Disney Star Wars, to be so far removed from the original source material, that the core fanbase eventually quits out and is replaced by new fans, uninterested in the original material, so they can be fed the new, sanitized material free from backlash.

Now, that is an incredible stretch, but it’s not completely inconceivable. Long-time franchises have to change up their material in order to draw in new fans. Naturally, Lucas’ Star Wars tried to appeal to new fans with the prequel trilogy by importing more kid-friendly elements to the first movie. Today’s Star Wars is making an effort to pull in more women and minority fans with Rey, Finn, Rose, and others. None of this is especially insidious or bad to the franchise, so long as these characters are written well, develop well, and are open enough to be iterated upon in other media. You will have fans of the core characters unable to cope with the transition, and that’s something we need to work them through, like the loss of a grandparent or parent, not with scorn and apathy as if they “just don’t understand how it’s $CURRENT_YEAR and need to get over it.” I personally am fairly invested in the Star Wars universe, although not quite the same as Star Trek, but when JJ Abrams rolled through the Trek universe, I was disappointed, but it’s the price of doing business to attract new fans, and build a base for what would eventually get Discovery on TV, which is an acceptable entry to the franchise.

I would, however, hope that eventually, Hollywood culture critics, and insiders to film and television, begin to understand that there are not really large swaths of people out here trying to actively fight against change in their favorite franchises, they just want respectable attempts to introduce new elements and bridge the old ones. I’ve often said the best way to soft-reboot an older franchise, especially when you have most of the original cast, is to do it in a “hand-off-the-baton” manner, to have the old cast pass the legacy on to the new cast, and to embrace it moving forward into their own stories and paths, as humans naturally do in life. Trying to subvert or destroy the past does not serve to continue connecting the future of a universe that the fandom built around Star Wars, and make no mistake, had it not been for the fandom creating the universe around Star Wars, it would simply just be three successful films archived in the history of cinema. Nothing more.

I may have more later, but at over six-thousand words, I think this will be enough for now to get the point across. I may also go watch it again just to refresh my memory of what I saw before, maybe look for things I did not see before that could help revise some of these sections. Stay tuned.

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