Volume 6, Issue 50!
“The Past Is Dead….Bury It”
SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI BELOW!
The Last Jedi has finally arrived, and the reactions to the latest film in the Star Wars saga have been mixed, to put it lightly. Granted, there’s always an extreme reaction to these movies upon release, but Last Jedi has had a more extreme and visceral reaction than any movie since the Prequel Trilogy. But is that really the movie’s fault, or the fans?
Much was made of two things when The Force Awakens released two years ago: Rey’s parentage and the identity of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke. Fans came up with a variety of theories for both mysteries, ranging from the pretty good (Rey is possibly a Kenobi or Skywalker) to the flat out ridiculous (Snoke is a clone of Vader). Well, neither of those theories comes to fruition at all in The Last Jedi. In fact, they are both thrown away in service to a larger story. Snoke is dispatched with in a thrilling and surprising scene that removes him from the board so that we can focus on Kylo Ren and Rey’s story for the rest of a film (a move that, in my opinion, is a good one since Ren and Rey are way more interesting than Snoke). We also learn that Rey’s parents were “nobodies who sold her for a way off their planet”, a revelation that, while a bummer for those hoping for something more, is good because it reiterates the fact that the Force can be accessed by anyone, and not just through some fabled bloodline.
Fans were so caught up in these two mysteries that they are allowing these twists to blind them from a simple fact: neither of these was really that important to begin with. In the original trilogy, we didn’t know anything about Emperor Palpatine. His story and background was largely saved for the Prequel trilogy. Why? Because the main crux of the movies he was in was focused on Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, not Palpatine. Like the Emperor, Snoke’s place in the story is to turn Kylo Ren to the dark side and twist and torment him there. Taking time to tell his story would have slowed the plot down, and honestly, he’s not that interesting to spend time explaining his back-story. He’s largely been seen as a hologram or hanging out in a throne room. He hasn’t done anything menacing other than look threatening by sitting down. It’s a weird aspect of the Star Was fandom that he’s been elevated to “great villain” status when he’s honestly done nothing more villainous than Greedo shooting at Han.
When it comes to Rey’s parentage, that’s also an unreasonable thing to get hung up on. If Rey was connected to a character we already knew, that would be fine. But the fact that she’s not connected to someone from the series is even more powerful, simply because it reiterates a fact from the original trilogy: the Force is everywhere, and anyone can use its power. Much of The Last Jedi is about the idea of the Force being more than just a tool for the Jedi and the Sith, it’s everywhere, and exists in all things. By refiguring this idea of the Force that was largely tainted thanks to the Prequels, it creates an easier idea of rebuilding the Resistance’s forces with people that Rey can inevitably train at some point down the line.
Naturally, some fans are pretty damn pissed about this, and I get it, to a point. But they’re not realizing one of the biggest aspects of this movie: forgetting the past. Kylo Ren even directly references this theme by telling Rey that “it’s time to let old things die”. The Last Jedi is removing past characters and themes from the board, and in its place setting up some incredibly daring and new ideas for the series to play in. Yes, it’s surprising and bold, but that’s what made the movie work so much for me. At 8 movies (10 if you count the Clone Wars cartoon and Rogue One), we’ve come to expect certain themes from the Star Wars franchise: good will defeat evil (eventually), there will be some similar scenes and callbacks, and there will be some major changes but it won’t be TOO crazy of changes. Rian Johnson’s Star Wars tale takes all of that and subverts it, and the end result is something that is challenging, but will stand out as one of the best installments in series as time goes on. Luke accepts that the Jedi has to move on, but in a new way. The same can be said for the Star Wars franchise has a whole.