Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

This is a blog about action figures, and for the most part, I try to keep it contained to that subject. Sometimes I don’t. This is one of those times. I have no idea where I am going with this post. I know that isn’t shocking, but what is shocking is that I’ve had to put so much thought into this movie.

At this point, I need to let you know there will absolutely be spoilers below. Stop reading if you have not seen the movie and don’t want anything spoiled.

On the day that I saw the film, the lights came up in the theater after the movie and I just sat there, dumbfounded. I looked around and wondered why everyone was just going on about their lives as if nothing just happened. I told everyone that I was close to that this movie was the end of my relationship with the franchise. At the very least, I would not be seeing 9, or 10, 11 and 12 in the theaters. I’d see the planned Solo movie, and if they make a Yoda, Kenobi (with Ewan McGregor) and even a Fett solo movie, I’d see those. I’d go and see one-offs like Rogue One, but as far as supporting the franchise going forward, I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t say I was ok with what happened; with what I just witnessed.

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Got Milk? He does.

I’m self aware enough to understand that this is all trivial pop culture nonsense. Let’s start there. I understand that people are suffering, that the planet is constantly on the brink of war and the ice caps are melting. That’s saying nothing of the current geopolitical maelstrom here in the US. I think that’s a good place to start as the first response you’ll get is “Butt hurt much?” because you’re focusing too much on a film. It isn’t that this film, or Star Wars, or even *gasp* action figures, are more important than those things. However, I have the ability (like most emotionally healthy adults) to compartmentalize issues. So I don’t rank my displeasure with a Star Wars film over and above, say, human trafficking. We good there? OK.

Why did this movie affect me so adversely? I am 44, and probably what I consider the perfect age to have been fully sucked in to the Star Wars universe. I watched a New Hope before it was called A New Hope in the back seat of my parents station wagon. I was four years old.

I have, for 40 years pretty much, at least 30, day dreamed about what Luke’s return would be, how powerful he would be. Luke, at the risk of being melodramatic, was us/me. My mother beat the hell out of us growing up. We lived in a back water, crap town in WVa at the time the original trilogy came out. With Luke, we saw you could have humble beginnings and still matter. You weren’t trapped trying to get to Toshi station to pick up some power converters. We could write our own future. Luke was and has been my hero for most of my life. At age 4, 7 and 10, Luke Skywalker wasn’t just a fictional character. He was my hero, my role model, and my big brother. It was cool to be a fan of Han Solo, but me? I was never about being chaotic good. The unequaled optimism that seemed to exude from every syllable Luke spoke carried with it the naive belief of youth, that there is good in everyone, only if they tried hard enough to see it. I shared that belief.

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I hear those books aren’t page turners.

What’s more, we seen that belief to be founded when Anakin was redeemed. When Return of the Jedi ended, that was the story for me. The good guys had won. However, I never stopped being awestruck by Luke Skywalker. I lost my MIND when Luke (Mark) showed up on The Muppet Show. In his Bespin fatigues? Are you kidding me? If I had to guess, I am pretty sure I probably got beat for how excited I was seeing Luke interact with my favorite muppets.

Then the prequels happened, and I couldn’t drop my cash quick enough. Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t hate the prequels. Sure, the only decent parts of TPM were the first and last ten minutes, sure Episode II brought us an in-depth look at Anakin’s hatred of sand. But who cares? Prior to TPM, we never saw a Jedi, fully trained, in his or her prime. We saw an old Obi Wan, we saw a barely human Anakin, and a neophyte in the form of Luke, who wanted to hug the galaxy.

If anything, the prequels were safe. We met characters like Jango, Dooku, Grievous and a host of other characters, but for the most part, we knew what was going to happen to the big players as soon as we saw them on screen. It was no secret what the ultimate fates of the Jedi, Yoda, Obi Wan, Anakin, Padme, Palpatine, Luke and Leia would be. It was… safe.

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Oh Phasma, we hardly knew ye.

Revenge of the Sith hit and it remains tied with Empire for me in terms of favorites. Annnnd that was a wrap. Star Wars was done. George wasn’t doing any more Star Wars. This was disappointing, because I remember sitting in a barber shop as a child and reading an interview with Lucas who I remember vividly said he was doing 4,5 and 6, then the prequels and by that time the original cast in the OT would be old enough to do 7, 8 and 9.

Except 1, 2 and 3 took 15 years to hit theaters.

Then something amazing and horrifying happened. Disney bought Star Wars, and tossed out the Expanded Universe (EU). That means all of the comics and novels I had read (some were amazing, some were horrible) didn’t matter. We never had Zahn’s trilogy nor a new Jedi Academy. That was a tough pill to swallow, but it was the cost of new Star Wars movies. The cost of moving my very favorite franchise forward, now with the power of the Mouse behind it.

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I watched The Force Awakens with the wide eyed amazement that my 4 year old self had in ’77. I didn’t care that it was basically a retelling of a New Hope. Han, Leia, Chewie, Luke and the droids, they were all back, baby!

Then Han died.

I actually had that spoiled for me prior to seeing it and frankly, I am glad I did. Because if I had went in cold and saw Han die, I probably would have needed to call off work the next day. Han’s death, though it resonated, wasn’t a shock. Harrison Ford wanted Solo killed off in Empire. I never understood his attempt to distance himself from the franchise. I get it, no one wants to be type cast, but he was Han Solo. It wasn’t like perspective producers wouldn’t know that. However, I digress. Back to TLJ.

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We still had the rest of the cast after Han’s death, plus we got some amazing new heroes in the form of Poe, Rey and Finn. We had new villains with Ren, Snoke, and Hux. That seems to be the first argument I see from people who want the world to know that the people who disliked TLJ are secretly racist/misogynist and we can’t handle a strong female lead. You know, because Carrie Fisher was such a wall flower. I love the new characters. TLJ actually made me like Ben Solo a lot more.

In between 7 and 8, the unthinkable happened. We lost our Princess. That hurt a lot as well, I won’t lie. Because like Luke in a New Hope, I thought I’d eventually end up with the Princess. I didn’t do too bad in that department and on the upside, my girlfriend is not secretly my sister. However, I consider myself and the rest of the world blessed for having had Carrie Fisher in it.

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“I’m half the man I used to be…”

All through the film, we are told, burn down the past. Even Luke says, “This is not going to go the way you think.” I just didn’t understand how right Luke was at the time. Had the movie ended ten minutes earlier, it would have easily been the best Star Wars movie ever for me, no questions asked. And that’s taking into consideration the waste of the extremely talented John Boyega in a subplot that, as far as I can tell, only served to teach us that not every “too cool for school” smuggler has a heart of gold. I really liked Leia’s lessons for Poe, and how he learned to be a leader as opposed to a hot shot pilot.

They had several opportunities to kill off Leia in the film and I was surprised she wasn’t the one who piloted the capital ship into the destroyer at the end as opposed to Admiral Never Heard of Her Before. Still, the final shot with the remaining members was inspiring, but bitter sweet. Now one of the most important characters in the franchise, the one who started it all, has to die off screen. Also, please note, I am separating the character from the actress and I mean no disrespect to Miss Fisher. I’m not excited to see Leia die, but I am even less hyped to see her recast (which I can’t imagine they will, which is why she has to go away off screen).

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The idea of ships going until they ran out of fuel and the First Order easily picking them off one at a time was horrifying. Loved it. The Rey/Ren battle with the Praetorian Guard? Loved it. Snoke getting taken off the board by Ben after talking smack to him the entire movie? Loved it. Rey’s parentage being nothing incredible? Sure, I wanted her to be a Kenobi or a Skywalker or a Solo, BUT… that would have been safe. I’m ok with what Ren said, if it’s true.

Which brings me to the end. What is left of the resistance could fit on the Millennium Falcon. They are holed up in a cave with no way out. The First Order is slowly, but surely encroaching on the entrance to their base.

The appearance of Luke gave me chills. Him brushing off his shoulder after the At-AT salvo had me almost leaping out of my chair. Luke spinning in mid-air during the battle… this was shaping up to be everything I wanted from Luke’s return. And the best part? “I’ll see you around, kid.” Luke had told us he wasn’t going to go face down the First Order with his “laser sword” and he didn’t. He outsmarted everyone. Had the movie ended there, I would have went out in the parking lot and did spinning back kicks of elation.

And that would have been safe. But Rian didn’t want safe, and I’m not sure I did either. I just didn’t know it. Instead, he beats back the First Order, goes back to his physical body and is like, “That’s it, I’m out. Good luck with this all…”

My heartbreak over Luke’s death was real. I know it’s a fictional character, and again, I also understand that while there are starving children in the world, this doesn’t even compare. However, in my Star Wars/pop culture category, this was the biggest thing happening in my life. Yet I mourned. Like I said, the people who disliked the movie because of Luke’s death lost a piece of ourselves. For me, it was as tragic as it would have been had I lost a real life mentor, or an older brother. So when people shout you down for not liking TLJ and say “Go away, Star Wars doesn’t want you anymore,” for some of us, you’re telling us that we have a problem for mourning the loss of what is essentially a family member. Perhaps being aggressive about someone’s opinion isn’t the way to go? Maybe the person didn’t like TLJ not because they’re racist, or hate women/are intimidated by strong women, or not because they hate change, but because they were hurt emotionally.

I studied film in college and I usually judge art by how it moves me. Mystic River remains one of my favorite movies because of how it made me feel dirty as the lights came back up. Art should illicit emotion. Otherwise it’s mass produced drivel. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some mass produced drivel, but don’t think for a second I can’t tell the two apart.

I saw the movie on December 17th. It has taken me this long to think it through (for future readers, its December 29th). I think that’s good, right? That a movie was able to resonate with me and occupy space in my mind for a couple weeks. Especially in our 5 minute sound bite society.

I’ve given this some thought, and here is what I see now: Luke’s sacrifice literally saved the resistance. There was no way out for any of those people. Not only was his sacrifice the most important in the SW universe, he did it with the most powerful force feat we’ve ever witnessed. Most importantly, he gave the gift of hope to the resistance. His legend will grow as a result. We’ve seen a force ghost Yoda and I hope he returns. I am 100% positive we will see a “ghost” Luke in episode 9.

Am I ok with Luke’s death yet? No. I probably never will be. Yet, how many of us are ever ok with the death of a loved one? So with all of this, what is my opinion now?

I don’t hate it. I’m not happy with Luke’s death, but I am turning the corner on Rian’s vision. I hope in the months and years to come, I am able to look back at it as one of the best in the franchise. For now though, I am going to mourn Luke’s loss. Please allow those of us who are doing so to do it in peace. We’re not “wrong” for being upset at Luke’s death, just like you’re not wrong for applauding it. On the flip side of that coin, I also understand how his loss moved the story forward and as a writer, that’s something I CAN appreciate.

What did you think of it?