Star Wars: The Last Jedi (spoiler review)
by Joel Fernandez
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away indeed. Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga lived up to the hype that had been building up ever since the end of episode VII in 2015. It reassured the Star Wars fan base that there will be more intergalactic war and space wizards, and that the best is yet to come. Even though episode VII was a financial success, a substantial number of Star Wars fans felt that it was nothing more than an episode IV rehash that was made with the expressed purpose of capitalizing on the ubiquitous nostalgia that the franchise is known for. Today we will discuss what made made it great and why this was in fact the greatest Star Wars movie of all time.
As was stated in the title of this essay, there will be spoilers after this point. If you have not seen the movie, you have been warned. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s begin. Director Rian Johnson did a great job developing the current cast of characters to the point where they are distinguishable from their golden age counterparts.
Episode VIII gave us a reason to think of Poe Dameron as a standout pilot with heroic qualities. It goes without saying, not everyone has the guts to stare down an entire fleet of star destroyers alone. In another surprising move, Finn was given a chance to show that he is much more heroic than he seems. Vice Admiral Holdo was introduced and immediately made an impact by reminding the audience that victory requires sacrifice in some form or another.
In a move of literary genius, Johnson even found a way to compel hardcore Star Wars fans to accept the fact that Rey can pick up a lightsaber and defeat seasoned force wielding warriors despite her lack of training and experience. He seemed to understand that every true SW fan in existence would find the idea of rejecting Yoda’s teaching unthinkable and even blasphemous. As such, master Yoda’s stamp of approval made it possible to accept Rey as the nigh unstoppable neophyte that will ultimately save the galaxy singlehandedly. Still, it would be appreciated if the next installment of the saga featured a Rocky style training montage with some notable force ghosts.
Episode VII set supreme leader Snoke up to be this trilogy’s version of Emperor Palpatine. The prohibitively powerful dark side wielder that could literally throw everyone around like rag dolls. It was refreshing to see that there was at least one person that gave Rey a bit of a challenge. Rey is compelling character as is, but the character would benefit from overcoming adversity on her way to saving the galaxy. Snoke humanized Rey by showing the audience that there was someone who could capitalize on her lack of experience despite her gargantuan affinity with the force.
It’s too bad that the supreme leader got cut in half because of his hubris. It would have been great to see him face off with the legendary Luke Skywalker at least once. What’s more, Snoke’s apparent death means that the redemption of Kylo Ren’s character became a literary impossibility. Hopefully the writer of the next episode’s script isn’t compelled by arrogance to defy these words. Because if Kylo Ren is the main antagonist of episode IX, it would be anticlimactic for him to simply change his mind at the end of the movie without another commensurately powerful antagonist for him to turn on. That would be a shame since Kylo Ren’s character was also humanized by the tragic circumstances of his fall to the dark side.
The writer of Episode VII did the Kylo Ren character no favors. Having an impressively powerful dark side practitioner in the first movie of the trilogy has become a SW tradition. In episode IV, it was Darth Vader. In episode I, it was Darth Maul. So when we watched Kylo Ren get knocked on his backside by someone who has padawan level experience at best, it made his character look weak. But it does say a lot that Luke Skywalker himself briefly considered killing him in his sleep the way Darth Sidious killed his former master Darth Plagueis. It was a move that generated empathy for the villain, literary genius indeed.
Speaking of the legend himself, Luke Skywalker was finally given a chance to demonstrate his unrivaled affinity with the force. He is a character that is beloved by millions of fans and Mark Hamill delivered his greatest performance as Luke that further cemented his status as irreplaceable. Watching the Jedi master survive a barrage of laser cannon shots was a moment that left the entire audience in awe of power that Skywalker possessed. Then when it was revealed that he was in fact on an entirely different planet using a force hologram, he managed to outdo himself yet again. It was a moment that was so emotional that it was enough to make a grown man cry. It was a far cry from the ignoble death that the writers foreshadowed for the character.
Despite how great the movie was, there were a few things that they could have improved. For starters, we were deprived of a legit lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and supreme leader Snoke. It could have been a spectacular display of both lightsaber prowess and force power supremacy. As cool as it was to see Yoda on screen again, it would have been nice to see Luke talk to Anakin Skywalker’s force ghost. With that said, episode VIII was probably the best Star Wars movie so far. It managed to impress in the moment as well as give hope for the future. Some of us worried that Star Wars had been reduced to consumerist garbage. But The Last Jedi proved that hope did not die with the old Republic.
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