Star Wars: The Force Awakens left many fans excited for the rest of this new trilogy, but also with a lot of questions. Some of which were about this new mysterious leader Snoke. Others were about Rey’s parents and how she fits in with this big story.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, many of these questions are answered. But the brilliant thing about the movie is that it also suggests that most of these questions aren’t the point. We’ve been asking theorizing over what we think the Force or Star Wars is, and it’s so much more than that.
This installment into the saga lets the old things in Star Wars die and raises hope through its new characters beautifully. Here are seven ways it did so and what it means for the future of the franchise. Warning: Light spoilers for the movie ahead!
1. The movie burns down the past metaphorically in many ways
Many people will probably go into The Last Jedi expecting it to be another Empire Strikes Back. In some ways, it does parallel that installment. There’s definitely Jedi training, and there is more of a blur between who is good and who is bad, but the movie’s true thesis is it’s time to “let the old things die.” So much so that it is said by Kylo Ren not too long after our heroes burn down a Jedi monument and while transporters carrying rebels are being shot down.
But what are these old things that are being represented? What does it signify for the future of the franchise? What does it mean for the characters we love and the family we have been emotionally invested in for decades? The answer is pretty interesting.
2. The family aspect of Star Wars isn’t as important going forward
The franchise has long been tied to the fact that it’s a story about a family torn apart. This aspect was picked up in The Force Awakens with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leaving his parents and becoming more like his grandfather, Darth Vader. This undoubtedly continues in The Last Jedi, but turns the idea on its head.
Because many fans know Star Wars to be a story about a family, they have been suspicious of how other new characters, like Rey, fit in. This installment goes against that, having Kylo Ren flat-out tell Rey, “You have no place in this story,” since her parents have no relation to the characters we know. But this isn’t true.
Every character has a place in this story — it’s just the story has changed from being one about one single family, and that’s a good thing.
3. We’re moving beyond needing the original characters
Bringing back Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford was a great move for this trilogy because it renewed faith in Star Wars fans after the prequels. But it would have been a mistake to hitch these original characters to the rest of the franchise. Thankfully, this movie continues the strides to move beyond them, just as The Force Awakens did.
In The Last Jedi, the Jedi training isn’t actually about using the Force. Most of the time, it isn’t even about Rey learning from Luke! Instead, it’s about asking the question of where do we go from here, while also looking towards the past. Luke learns that by being stuck in the past, he has created chaos and that there isn’t much more for him to teach Rey.
It’s also making the audience understand that the goal of the franchise isn’t to have another Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, or Han Solo. It’s to be better than them. And that’s not hubris of the creators of this new trilogy. It’s the goal of life that the new generation be wiser and stronger than its predecessor.
4. The strategy to defeat tyranny has changed
The First Order and the Empire have always represented tyranny, so Star Wars has always been about fighting it. But in The Last Jedi, there is a question of how to fight it. Some fans who may not have paid close attention might suggest the best answer is to take it head on and battle it, but the answer in this movie is different.
Poe (Oscar Isaac) is a representation of this. His first instinct is to always go into battle, whatever the cost. But by the end, he has a change of heart, and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) says why this to Finn (John Boyega) who is about to make the same mistake: “That’s how we’ll win. Not killing what we hate. Saving what we love.”
This isn’t exactly a new concept to Star Wars. Darth Vader isn’t defeated through battle, but by appealing to his human side. But what is new is that this concept is no longer constricted to the metaphor of the Force.
5. The franchise won’t shy away from controversial topics anymore
Star Wars has always shown tyranny through brute force and violence, but still managed to avoid controversial topics that are tied to tyranny. This movie doesn’t hold back, instead showing the complicit nature that allows tyranny to grow via Finn and Rose Tico’s storyline.
Fans see the life of the beautiful and the rich comes at a cost for the disadvantaged. We also see how capitalism fuels war. We even see animal cruelty as a cost of this privilege, with multiple characters shrugging it off as “just business.” But what is the most striking is that we see all of the people who don’t even notice the dark underbelly of their “beautiful” life — which is also often the case in real life.
The movie also touches on issues of sexism, without hitting the audience over the head with it. Poe, who we love and who is an ally, ignores the women in power because he thinks he knows best. It’s a very realistic storyline and how it gets resolved makes for a wonderful arc for his character.
6. The movie still keeps just enough of the old for a reason
Although the main meaning of the movie is to grow from the past and to let old things die, there is still an acknowledgment of what they’re worth. Kylo Ren also has this point of view, but for very different reasons. He tells Rey to let the old things die as they watch transporters carrying the Resistance being attacked. He instead wants them to team up and rule.
Kylo Ren wants to throw away the past, but his outlook isn’t to really create a new future. It’s to repeat history. That’s the danger in not truly learning from your past, and the movie finds a perfect balance of acknowledging it and moving beyond it.
We are also faked out, thinking the old Jedi texts were burned down in the tree monument. Instead, we see them at the end on the ship with the remainder of the Resistance.
7. The thought of ‘our only hope’ is no longer
Who could forget Princess Leia’s call: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?” Well, it’s brought back into this movie more ways than one. Although in the original trilogy, Luke is the symbol of hope, he’s not the only form that hope takes in The Last Jedi.
Yes, that hope is through Rey with her use of the Force. But it’s also brought by Finn who at first has the instinct to run from danger but later fights that temptation by the end of the movie. It’s also brought by our new characters who never waver, despite the older characters who think they know better than them.
Then there are the characters we have yet to really meet. Where are the other kids of this new generation of Jedi? It’s hinted that we will eventually find out.
The Last Jedi really opened itself to so many possibilities by letting old things die in a fire. It elicits new hope for its characters and assures fans that a better future will rise from those ashes.
Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.
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