I would like to talk about Star Wars. I would like to discuss certain points of the latest movie. If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, then look away, Marion. (Incidentally, was that Raiders scene not the first time that somebody well and truly and almost literally Opened Up a Can?)
Spoiler avoiders should not read beyond this point.
So. Here, in no particular order, is what impressed me about the movie.
LUKE. WhenI was seven and a serious tomboy, I had a family friend make me an orange Luke Skywalker cape. I wore it with an orange peanut butter bucket on my head. (It was my X-Wing outfit, if you must know.) Luke Skywalker and his Jedi training are some things I took rather literally in terms of, say, trusting my feelings. I taught myself to play piano with “the Force.” Now I can play by ear. I taught myself to trust my gut, which is how I do everything from assessing people to writing my stuff. Luke, missed you, have I. The evening after I saw you die, I came down with the flu.
Whether he had to die is a question I’ll talk about later. But I do think the movie’s handling of Luke rang true. By the time of this film, he’d developed a little Leia snark about him. This is perhaps because in his Jedi mastery, he learned to loosen up—or perhaps because in his bitterness, he lost some of his perfection. Either way, he was more fully Luke than he’d been since Empire. Also, I agree with his near-killing of student Ben. Luke has always had anger in him; it’s the black drop of paint that’s used to set off his white-knight armor. Indeed, he would think of killing any resurgence of the dark side—and then, indeed, he’d back off.
KILLING FAMILY. Poor Luke. He’s been resisting the urge to kill his kin for his entire adult life. But in the Star Wars saga, that’s one thing the good guys don’t do: They don’t kill family. While he’s on his island, Luke goes on and on about hubris. But if there’s one thing that saves the Star Wars saga from Greek tragedy, it’s this rule: Don’t kill your dad. Don’t kill your kid. Even Chewbacca, with a crossbow and a clear shot, does not kill his adopted brother’s son, even after he sees him kill said brother. Emo Kylo did in his pops, and he went full AT AT at his uncle, but even he couldn’t pull the trigger against his mom. So I’d say he’s got a 33.3 percent chance of redemption. I’ll return to this point too.
IMPERIALS AND SITH. Snoke was okay. OkeySnokey. I thought his throne room was a touch too fifties-musical number with all that red backdrop. But I like how the Imperial Guard got to show their chops. Back in my day, they were the coolest action figure on the shelf—and to quote Mr. Chekov (the author, I mean), they needed to go off. I did worry that Gollum was going to emerge from the little Chinese-carton fold-up part of Snoke’s head. But I guess there’s only so much you can do with the same actor playing them both. In any event, I was mostly happy to see Snoke go—but only because he didn’t seem to do much. I mean, who was he? Where did he come from? He looks ancient, but if that’s the case, how did he relate to Palpatine? To me, Snoke was like Darth Maul in his squandered potential. He had so much menace, but he never managed to climb from his predecessor’s shadow. I’d give him six blackened fingernails out of ten.
Still, I find Snoke far better than whoever that red-headed Imperial is. You know who I mean. He’s like a Percy Weasley who’s gone three notches closer to bad. Mostly, I find him too young. I know I’m showing my age, but that’s because he appears my age—and fortysomething is not the age of Grand Moffery! Make him sixty at least. Give him a history fighting it out with the Skywalkers. Maybe Han shot him while he was still a stormtrooper. Something. Let this Red-headed Poobah revel in the fact that he has their Ben. That’s much tastier.
THE RESISTANCE: Something interesting happened with the nomenclature in this movie. I’m sure we heard the word Rebel a few times. (“That’s rebel scum,” says Finn.) But now more than ever, we hear about the Resistance. I love it. It makes me want to put a Rebel logo on my laptop. I think one of the reasons this movie has such good reviews is because it’s a story of resistance against a sinister power. In a few scenes, it’s even a story of resistance against slavers and money-grubbers. That, and the resistors are small—in number, yes. But also in terms of screen time. We have nearly-no-name heroes dying to drop their bomb payload (in zero-G somehow). We have a slave-child intervening on behalf of one of those racing creatures. We have friends coming from the outer rim. Big names bite the big one; Admiral Ackbar, delenda est. But this movie showed more of the price that the foot soldier plays. And I love that, because 1) it’s true, and 2) it makes this struggle theirs. In fact, it makes the struggle ours, in whatever role we can play in our own rebellion.
REY. In keeping with the trope, we learned that Rey is a nobody. She ain’t no Kenobi. She’s not Force royalty. She’s a child of druggy junkers. I like it. It’s democratic. Still, I also don’t buy it. If Rey does not come from some Forcefied lineage, the next movie better do a lot of work toward explaining why she had those lightsaber visions. Is she just picking up the history from an item? Is she not from history herself? This is a development that could be interesting to watch, as long as the writers honor what they’ve already given us.
THAT THING WITH LEIA. At first, I hated it. I thought it was a hideous misstep for her to assume the position of Lady Liberty and fly through space. And what’s worse is that nobody talks about it. Not even Poe is like, “Damn, lady. Remind me not to mutiny against you. We’d throw you out the airlock, and you’d still come back.” Nobody says a word. Not even Luke. And no matter what the writers do in the future, I don’t think they’ll be able to make at least some of this look like a thing other than a mistake. BUT, I have a theory. I think Leia died. I think every hero in the original trilogy is supposed to die. And I think they do this after they discharge their task. Han loves his son—dead. Luke has his Jedi epiphany and saves the resistance—dead. Leia dies but doesn’t, (or maybe she does, but she still projects). And this is because she isn’t yet done. I think she will do her thing, and I think she will ascend. AND THEN, I think Han, Luke, and Leia will have a hand in redeeming Kylo. Alternatively, Leia didn’t die, because she has more work to do, yada so. But I want her dead. At least part of her. Because if she is dead, but somehow not, all the other departed are that much closer.
And that’s all I know. I liked The Last Jedi. It hurt my feelings some, but that just means it also evoked them. I love how everything seems to get bigger as these movies go by. Star Wars is aware of its status as a kind myth. And despite their missteps, the writers honor this enlarging universe—this universality—by saying that although no hero is truly gone, the story itself is for you and me.
(Originally posted January 7, 2018)