[Warning: There be spoilers below.]
As is my practice with movies like this , I went into the latest Star Wars movie as spoiler free as possible. I didn’t read any reviews about the movie and assiduously avoided the vlogs I saw online about it, and my friends were gracious enough to only vaguely comment on what they saw so that none of the film’s twists were spoiled. I must admit that I liked this movie better than the Force Awakens but not as much as Rogue One. With Rogue One, one has an epic tragedy in the way that like in Hamlet, almost everyone dies in order for a mission to be successful. With The Last Jedi we have a sense of something like The Empire Strikes Back with the second episode of the three being a series of flight and the resistance to tyranny being extremely beleaguered but seeking to escape for one last throw of the dice, one last fight when the odds are more even, and this film was certainly a compelling one.
For me, one of the most appealing aspects of this film was the way that it focused on little people who weren’t very important. In the film it is revealed that Rey’s parents were no one particularly important, just junk farmers who sold her into slavery to pay off a debt, and that she is really nothing important. There are also a couple of moments, one of them at the end of the film, where the film shows some attention on a few kids who are either servants or slaves or something of that nature who are telling the stories of Luke Skywalker’s intense bravery, showing the way that such stories and legends are passed around the galaxy and give hope to the downtrodden, in whom enthusiasm for the resistance still burns. One is left to wonder how the republic fell so rapidly, and why it is that the “good guys” of the galaxy do such a terrible job at holding on to power, continually being unable to deal with fracious division and falling prey over and over again to militarism. It appears that thus far the writers for Star Wars have been unable to think of a compelling way for decent people to hold power successfully over the span of the galaxy for a long period of time. This is a serious oversight when it comes to world building.
Overall I thought the acting was good. The characters have frequently tense interactions with each other and there is some substantial payoff in terms of these tensions as far as the drama goes in the story. This is especially true when we have some triangulation in the story, such as the way that Poe deals with Princess Leia as well as the Vice Admiral who takes her place, as well as the tense scene between in Snoke’s throne room. We have Finn’s attempted cowardice that leads him into an alliance with a woman who works in a fairly modest position and who spends much of the film grieving about the death of her heroic bomber pilot sister. We have the film explicitly rejecting the decision of heroic deaths in order to kill the enemy but rather focus on preserving life and living to fight again another day, a strong degree of tension between the American Way of War and the terrorism/freedom fighting/kamikazi traditions of other nations. We see Luke more or less give up on life and want to die and let the Jedi Order die with him only to pass the baton on to Rey, which makes the title a lot more sensible at the end, although it’s not an ending that a lot of people will be satisfied with.
Overall, I liked the movie. I wonder where the film is going. It does appear as if there will be a climactic showdown where the tables are turned and the resistance is successful, but this trilogy of films has made it clear that there are some severe evils in the galaxy, not all of them related to militarism as well as the Sith. We have planets whose economies are based on slavery and the oppression of commonfolk and the exploitation of the planetary environment, and others where the wealthy arms dealers, some of whom profit from selling to both sides of the galactic wars, gamble away their money and generally behave in an unscrupulous fashion. These films do not gloss over the deep-set nature of evil within the galaxy, and how hard it would be for such evils to be dealt with, especially by a small band of idealistic freedom fighters for whom survival is a difficult challenge. We will see how that challenge is met, and whether it is the opportunity for continuing sequels.
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