After seeing nine Star Wars movies, you should have expected some new and crazy stuff to show up in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Back when George Lucas made them, he loved nothing more than to geek out by creating new aliens and new worlds, then throwing in a yuck-yuck joke for good measure. Why did you think that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be any different? Personally, I absolutely loved all the new character traits, Jedi mythology, alien races and places.
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Before I dig into all the new things writer-director Rian Johnson invented for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I want to say that I don’t know what all these fanboys are up in arms about. I know one fanboy, in particular, who, upon seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, said it was the same story all over again, and why couldn’t they do something new? Then, after seeing The Last Jedi, he said, that wasn’t the same Star Wars I know and love; it was too different. Fanboys. You can’t please ’em, and you can’t block ’em on Twitter fast enough.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a fantastic movie. It’s a brilliant combination of both the old world and the new. Johnson used Luke and Leia much more effectively than their rather teensy parts allowed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They weren’t just set decoration. And the newcomers gelled well. They seemed like they’d been there the whole time.
BEYOND HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Star Wars: The Last Jedi shed the shine of its novelty and gained the sheen of a classic Star Wars movie by focusing on only two storylines, rather than haring off on side adventures: The battle between the First Order and the Resistance; and what the heck is going on with the Force. I didn’t have to follow some unknown droid or alien off into a dark alley, or watch a no-name alien feeding his cattle, or whatever. Yes, we got into a ship with an unknown bomber, but she played an integral part in that battle I just mentioned. (Plus, Poe was there too.)
The effects weren’t over-the-top, like in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace or its two sequels. [Shudder] In the casino on Crait, Johnson came very close to abusing Industrial Light & Magic’s cutting-edge special effects. But he avoided lingering too long in places that didn’t move the story along.
There was a lot of progress in the overall story; there was a ton of action; and there were plenty of tear-jerking moments. All of it combined to make an excellent movie that was even better the second time around.
Now, let’s run down all the new and inventive characters, tenets and action in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in descending order of importance.
Bridge Over Troubled Minds
We’ve seen people with the Force communicate before, sort of. Luke and Leia sensed each other’s presence in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Darth Vader and Luke also sensed each other in the original trilogy. But we’ve never seen two people with the Force communicate the way Rey and Kylo Ren did in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Suddenly, the two of them were looking at each other across who knows how many light years. They could talk to each other, while all other sound disappeared into a vacuum. They couldn’t see their surroundings, but they could see each other, shirts or no shirts. Eventually, they even touched hands.
Supreme Leader Snoke took credit for bridging their minds (seemingly to Kylo’s surprise), but the two of them still held that connection even after Snoke was dead. They saw each other just before Rey shut off Kylo’s access when she closed the door to the Millennium Falcon, after rescuing what was left of the Resistance.
Does that mean they have an undiscovered connection? The answer to that could also dovetail with whether or not Kylo lied to Rey about her parents. Or, did Snoke simply open a channel that remained opened? I’m hoping that this connection plays a bigger role in Episode IX.
The more Star Wars films there are, the more we learn about the Jedi religion. (Show of hands, who even knew it was a religion? I don’t think I knew that until recently.) We gained a rudimentary understanding of the Jedi and the Force in the original trilogy. Rogue One gave us more insight into the Jedi’s ancient beginnings by showing us Jedha’s Jedi Temple, where Kyber crystals — the crystals that power lightsabers — were mined. Now, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we learn that there are — were — ancient books that were Jedi bibles.
Yoda, with a prod from Luke, destroyed the books in a bonfire that would have made the Archbishop of Salzburg proud. He was all, “Everything [Rey] needs to know is already inside her,” or something to that effect. (Seriously? That seems like some Grade-A bull, but I’ll go with it.)
I had trouble with this whole story thread. If these books were so important, we should have seen them before. Or, they should have been treated more reverently. Very little time passed between “ommm, these are the ancient texts of the Jedi” to “light it up!” A lack of gravitas meant I could give a porg’s ass about those books.
However, my husband pointed out something after our second viewing: When Finn was rummaging through a compartment on the Millennium Falcon, we saw a handful of books that looked an awful lot like the ones that allegedly just went up in flames. Did the books pull a Luke Skywalker-type projection? Or were they copies? Or, are we totally mistaken? Time will tell.
Dear Liza, There’s a Hole in the Island
The other attraction at the Jedi theme park of an island was the dark, gaping, vine (?)-covered hole under the island. The hole represented the Dark Side, the balance to the Light, which I’m guessing lived in that overhang where Luke and Rey discussed the Force, because where the hell else was it?
I had trouble with this part of the story too, until I remembered the tree in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. When Luke trained with Yoda on Dagobah, Luke entered a cavernous tree where he faced his greatest foe, Darth Vader / himself. I was only nine years-old when Empire was released, and it was a lot easier to accept this kind of thing at face value. Now when I’m told there’s a black hole that holds some kind of Dark Side Force shenanigans inside it, I feel like I need a little more info.
Luckily, the next scene provided some credibility. Just as Luke confronted a Vader version of himself, Rey wound up being confronted with herself, nearly into infinity. I don’t know if there were so many Reys because it was the Force showing her how she was connected to everything, or if it was because of some other reason. Whatever the reason she was forced to look into that deep mirror, those Force shenanigans were enough for me to believe a seemingly innocuous hole actually did hold some power.
UFG (Unidentified Flying General)
I’ve heard a lot of harrumphing about Leia using the Force to pull herself back onto the Resistance’s transport ship after she was sucked out into space and, to all appearances, frozen. If Luke could lift an X-Wing, and Yoda, Ben and Anakin could appear almost corporeal after death, why couldn’t Leia do this?
The Force works in mysterious ways. Nothing we’ve seen to date has shown it wouldn’t be possible. I compare it to the incredible feats of strength that people have performed under duress. If adrenaline can turn those people into real-life Hulks, surely Leia, on her last breath, can use the Force to save herself.
I Got Your Back
Star Wars: The Last Jedi had one of the best lightsaber fights ever. It’s right up there with Yoda flipping all over the place against Count Dooku in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. I got chills watching Kylo and Rey turn back to back, ready to fight Snoke’s guards. They didn’t flip, but they did pretty much everything else.
Rob Inch, the stunt coordinator, came up with some boss moves for that fight scene. There were two moments that stood out. The first was when a guard had Rey in a headlock, about to slice off her head. She dropped her lightsaber past his arm, into her other hand, swung around and killed him. The second was when Kylo found himself in the same predicament, but without a lightsaber. Rey tossed her sheathed lightsaber to him, he flicked it on, and the blade went through the guard’s head behind Kylo. Whether they liked it or not, they made a great team.
The Color Purple
We met a new character in the Star Wars universe in The Last Jedi: Vice Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern. It’s a fabulous character — no nonsense, tough, loyal — played by a fabulous actress, topped with lovely, lavender hair. The novelty of Holdo, however, wasn’t nearly as exciting as what she did in her final moments.
We’ve seen light speed used many, many times in the Star Wars universe. Most recently, Han Solo used light speed to slip through the force field surrounding Starkiller Base in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In The Last Jedi, light speed was used in a new way that was inventive and utterly satisfying. When Holdo saw that the lil’ Resistance transports were getting picked off by General Hux, she made a quick decision. At first, it seemed like she was going to try to shoot down Hux’s ship, which was foolhardy. Then, it slowly dawned on the rebels, the First Order and the audience what her brilliant, brave plan was. She pointed her ship directly at the First Order’s and then jumped to light speed, which split their ship apart with deadly effectiveness. Johnson purposely pulled all the sound from that scene so that we were left with a vacuum filled with silence. Brilliant.
Postcards from the Edge (of the Galaxy)
Every new Star Wars movie introduces at least one new planet, if not several. The Last Jedi was no exception, but may have had the most striking planet of all.
First, we visited Canto Bight, a casino planet filled with lavish settings, elegant costumes and all manner of well-to-do aliens. If there was a chink in The Last Jedi’s armor, it was this storyline. Many fans felt that Finn’s and Rose’s hijinks on Canto Bight were unnecessary. However, they did need a code-breaker. And Star Wars movies always have at least one scene that’s silly and childish. Lucasfilm loves to show off, so having a whole planet full of aliens dressed to the nines (we usually see them in uniform or in rags) was probably irresistible.
My favorite new place in the galaxy, however, was Crait, which was covered in salt, that covered the blood-red minerals that were mined by the ol’ Rebel Alliance for funding. I absolutely loved the visuals during the battle between the First Order and what was left of the Resistance. The blood-red lines left in the bright, white salt by the Resistance’s clunky pods were stunning. All that red echoed the red in the First Order’s emblem, and the red of Kylo’s lightsaber. The setting gave the final stand-off of the movie a stark quality that underlined the dire nature of the Resistance’s circumstances, as well as Kylo’s rage-fueled failure.
Above all the amazing special effects, and all the incredible action sequences, there was one scene — one shot — that immediately brought all my feels to the surface. It was just before this one. (I couldn’t find an exact photo.)
The image was haunting because of both movie and real-life reasons. In terms of the movie, General Leia Organa was waiting for First Order to come and possibly wipe out the movement for which she had spent her entire life fighting. In her eyes, you saw steely determination, and resignation.
In terms of real-life, the image is haunting because Carrie Fisher is gone. She is literally and figuratively beyond the veil, staring across an expanse of white. In fact, it was difficult for me to watch scenes with General Organa without mourning Carrie Fisher at the same time. I grew up with her. She was the first female badass I ever saw in action. Like Johnson told Digital Spy, “We just tried to be true to the performance she gave. Obviously what did change is the context when you’re watching it. It’s got this whole very sad additional layer to it.”
My family has a tradition of gathering, somewhere between our scattered homes, to watch the new Star Wars movies on the day they premiere. It’s a celebration for us, a ton of fun. The grief I felt watching Fisher in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was also something new. Painfully, regretfully, new.
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