Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – Part II

The Women of Star Wars

Women have always been an integral part of the Star Wars Saga, and as our society has evolved into being more inclusive with women and minorities, this has been reflected even more so on screen with Star Wars. From Princess Leia to Mon Mothma, Mara Jade to Ahsoka, and Padme to Rey, women have played integral roles in the Star Wars galaxy and have had a lasting impact on the overall story. The Last Jedi is no different as it adds so much value to the overall story with it’s female characters and especially with the following.

 

Leia Organa Solo

The Princess who is now a General has had a long journey from the captured prisoner who stood her ground and talked back to Darth Vader, a Dark Lord of the Sith, back when we first met her in Episode IV: A New Hope. General Leia Organa Solo has suffered much throughout this Saga and has lost much that is dear to her. In The Last Jedi we see a Leia who recently lost a man she loved and who was the father of her wayward son. She hasn’t had much time to grieve as the First Order is knocking on her door step and she along with the Resistance has to flee their military base.

Leia has to now lead a Resistance that is under attack and rein in Poe Dameron, a hot shot pilot who probably reminds her of a young Han Solo. Leia is attacked and blown into space and only through her strong will to survive and her connection to the Force is she able to rescue herself and receive medical attention. What strength she has shown just in the last 24 hours (movie time)!

Once she is contacted through the Force by Luke, she is able to recover and once again lead the Resistance in their escape. They eventually are able to escape to the Rebel Base on Crait, at the cost of many lives under her command. On Crait, Leia sends a distress signal to allies for help against their foes, but to no avail as there was no response from her allies. After a failed ground battle between our heroes and The First Order, Luke Skywalker intervenes and is able to distract The First Order long enough for his sister, Leia, to escape. Along with Leia, the newly self-proclaimed Rebellion members are able to locate a back way out of the base and escape on the Falcon with Rey and Chewie. Aboard the Falcon, Leia promises Rey that they will rebuild the Rebellion.

Leia is the epitome of try, try again and has learned throughout her life the lessons that Luke has been unable to learn throughout his. Leia has learned from her failures and has also learned the value of never giving up despite the Death Star-sized odds that she has constantly faced. Like her father, Anakin Skywalker, Leia has lost loved ones and has suffered so much grief. But unlike her father, she has not turned to the Dark Side nor has she sought revenge for the wrongs done to her. Always at the center of the Galactic Conflict, whether it is in the Rebellion against the Empire or in the Resistance against The First Order, Leia has used her talents and gifts to liberate others and strengthen the cause of freedom.

Despite not being as strong in the Force as her brother Luke has been, Leia has had just as big of an impact on the Galactic fight for freedom as Luke has. When she passes, she will be just as much of a legend as Luke Skywalker has become.

Tragically the real Leia, Carrie Fisher, has passed away in real life in 2016 and Princess Leia’s on screen story ends with The Last Jedi. Initially the over arching plan for this new Sequel Trilogy was to have Episode 9 be Leia’s story, just like Episode 7 was Han Solo’s final story and Episode 8 was Luke’s final chapter. A new story will be written to close out this final Trilogy and ultimately I am glad for the character of Leia and for the scenes she had in The Last Jedi. However, Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia will be missed for so many reasons. May The Force Be With Her – Always.

 

Rey

Rey again takes center stage in The Last Jedi and ultimately the title of this movie is hers. As Luke Skywalker becomes one with the Force at the end of this movie, he has passed the mantle of The Last Jedi to her. He proclaims to Kylo Ren that Rey will be the last of the Jedi. Which is surprising in more than ways than one. Luke has resisted teaching Rey the ways of the Jedi and ultimately only teaches her two lessons in an attempt to dissuade her from becoming a Jedi. He teaches her that the Jedi were wrong in what they did and that they were responsible for Darth Vader and for enabling Darth Sidious’ rise to power. And that he, as a Jedi, was responsible for the new Vader, Kylo Ren. So everything that Luke had done to prevent her from becoming a Jedi was overturned by his own declaration that Rey is now a Jedi.  A second surprise that Rey is now a Jedi is that she has hardly trained to become a Jedi. I can see her as a strong light side Force user, but to be called a Jedi was surprising. While Yoda did declare that Rey had all she needed to be a Jedi, I thought it was a stretch to declare her a Jedi. Rey did take the ancient Jedi texts from the first Jedi Temple with her when she left Ahch-To in the Falcon, so I think the ability to learn the ways of the Jedi and to ultimately bring back the Jedi Order; I believe that these building blocks are in place for the Jedi to be reborn. Maybe it’s just semantics at this point.

Rey’s journey takes another twist as she is tempted by the dark side. She and Kylo Ren are able to see and talk to each other through the Force while she is on Ahch-To. I believe that there are two reasons for this, one is that while a captive of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, Rey and Kylo have a battle of the minds as they use The Force to read each other’s minds. I would like to think that this connection carried over to allow this trans-Galactic Force conversation. Also I think that being on Ahch-To had something to do with amplifying this ability. It would appear that Ahch-To is a location strong in The Force and is able to boost The Force. (I also think Ahch-To also helped Luke project himself through The Force to Crait by amplifying his Force abilities.)

As Rey is talking with Kylo through The Force she sees that there is a chance Kylo can be turned back to the light. We later learn in Snoke’s throne room that this was a trap set by Snoke to bring Rey to him (much like Darth Sidious did in Return of the Jedi to Luke as he sought to turn his father, Darth Vader, to the light side. In all fairness, Luke did warn her that it wouldn’t work).  Ultimately, Kylo kills Snoke and in an amazing melee, Kylo and Rey team up to defeat the Praetorian Guards. Rey tries to convince Kylo Ren to come back to the light and to work together to save the Resistance from The First Order. Kylo instead tries to convince her that she needs to join him and they will rule the galaxy, just as Anakin tried to convince Padme to do in Episode III. Just like Padme, Rey declines as it goes against her nature.

In a last ditch effort to convince Rey to join him, Kylo tells Rey that he knows who her parents are. That they are nobody, drunks that sold her for drink money, and that they are dead on Jakku. Personally, I don’t believe Kylo and I believe that he was using whatever tactic he could to try and convince her to join him by trying to strip everyone of value from her, such as Han and Luke and her parents. Also this explanation doesn’t match up with what we saw previously in The Force Awakens with a young Rey calling for her parents to come back as they flew away on a starship. I do believe that Kylo thinks that if he can convince her that she is alone then she wouldn’t want to be without him. But thankfully Rey is stronger than that and doesn’t fall for it.

I think the question of Rey’s parents and Rey’s growing up needs to be addressed definitively in Episode 9 due to her importance in the Saga, as well as her strength in The Force. Whether she is a hidden Skywalker or a daughter of Jedi that’s been in hiding for years or a anomaly such as Anakin Skywalker, it needs to be defined as I believe it goes to overall character development for Rey. The dark side cave under the island where Rey goes to find the answer to who her parents are, up to this point was not very helpful in answering that question. Just as in Empire Strikes Back, the scene of Luke going into the dark side cave made more sense once we saw Return of the Jedi, I hope that this dark side cave scene from The Last Jedi will make more sense after seeing Episode 9.

Rey’s journey to becoming the last of the Jedi starts in this Episode and she still has much to learn. I think she learned a lot during her encounter with Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. I think she realizes that she has more to learn, as evidenced by her final scene on board the Falcon with Leia. While holding the broken remains of Anakin’s lightsaber, she asks Leia how they are supposed to rebuild? I think the question is two fold, one part for the newly created Rebellion and one part for the Jedi Order and Leia’s answer is sufficient for both the Rebellion and the Jedi Order.

 

Rose

Rose Tico is a new character introduced to us in The Last Jedi. She is a new voice for the Saga, a voice of the common person, the non-Force user, and a voice that is just as important as the other characters. Rose represents those that want a better life and who have been oppressed by The First Order and the Empire for so long.

By the time we meet Rose in The Last Jedi, she has been through so much heartache. She and her sister, Paige, have escaped The First Order’s ruin of her home planet and have joined the Resistance. Paige was killed during the Resistance’s escape from their base in the Elenium system. Rose now has nobody to lean on and is feeling alone. She meets Finn and after a fan girl moment of meeting The Finn,  together they join up and create a plan to help the Resistance escape The First Order through hyperspace.

Rose is the person that Finn needs to meet in order to become a more rounded person. Rose is down to earth and a no nonsense type of person. She is able to teach him what’s important in life and that relationships matter. Finn has become used to running away, as we see in The Force Awakens he is constantly running from others and responsiblity. Rose grabs hold of him and doesn’t let go and in doing so teaches him a valuable lesson. One of the best lines in the movie comes from Rose, “I saved you, dummy.” She does indeed save Finn in more ways than one.

Rose is a great addition to the story and adds a lot of value to The Last Jedi. While I never questioned her character, I initially questioned the Canto Bight side story with her and Finn in which she plays a big role in this side story. Initially I thought it was a distraction from the main story that eventually doesn’t go anywhere as Finn and Rose don’t get the hacker they are looking for, then their mission fails before they can complete it and are captured by Phasma, and then that hacker eventually sells them out and they are set to be executed. I didn’t understand the reasoning for this side story until subsequent viewings. I learned that this side story is just as important for Finn as Ahch-To is for Rey. Rey learns things on Ahch-To from Luke Skywalker and Finn learns things on Canto Bight from Rose Tico. Finn’s character would remain stagnant without Rose’s influence and the Canto Bight adventure. Thanks to Rose, Finn learns not to run anymore and that people matter and can do great things, and that this is one of the reasons Finn left The First Order in the first place. Rose is a voice of reason in the crazy and chaotic galaxy.

 

Phasma

Phasma is my personal favorite character in this new Sequel Trilogy, unfortunately she doesn’t get the screen time she deserves (in my opinion, lol). She has so much potential and is such a cool looking character, I’m sad that she only gets a few minutes in each movie to shine. I’m hoping she survived the fall into the fiery depths of Snoke’s mega starship, so as to make a comeback in the next movie. Hey, she survived the destruction of Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens! We didn’t see her hit the ground and die, it’s possible that she landed in a soft spot, a trash compactor maybe, and was able to escape in time. I think JJ Abrams should put Phasma in Episode 9 to show her tenacity in that she is able to constantly survive these crazy situations. We’ll see what happens.

UP NEXT:

Finn Grows Up, Poe Becomes a Leader, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, and more.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – Part One

Star Wars History

As a life long Star Wars fan, the Star Wars Saga has been a part of my life since I was 4 years old. I can remember bits and pieces from seeing Star Wars in the theaters in 1977, the Death Star shootouts between our heroes and the Stormtroopers, the Tusken Raiders, and Darth Vader. I can remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and just being enthralled with the Tauntauns and Hoth and everything I saw on screen especially the duel on Cloud City between Luke and Vader. Interestingly enough, I don’t remember my first time seeing Return of the Jedi in theaters, but I do remember seeing it for the second time with my cousins and how they kept asking me when Darth Vader takes off his mask.

As a young child, my friends and I loved Star Wars as did many other youth of our era. We played the video games, watched the movies on HBO, played with the action figures, and made up our own adventures in the fields behind our house. I couldn’t comprehend a world without Star Wars growing up, and even when the “Dark Times” were happening, ie. the post-ROTJ era, we still had the novels and video games to help us revisit the galaxy far, far away.

Then the Special Editions were released in 1997! Then the Prequels were announced! I saw The Phantom Menace multiple times in theaters in 1999, as well as Attack of the Clones several times in 2002. In 2005, I was able to take my son to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters and the circle seemed to be complete as this last Star Wars movie was released and I was able to experience Star Wars with my then 4 year old son. Life was great.

I am one of the oddballs who enjoyed the Prequels and still watch them religiously. Sure, they have their faults, but so does the Original Trilogy (OT); to me that’s just how Star Wars is. It’s fun, awe-inspiring, and cheesy all at the same time. I’ve never understood why my fellow fans, mostly my peers, could hate the Prequels so much. Dislike them? Sure, why not. However, the level of hate and spite that was and is spewed forth at the mere mention of Jar Jar Binks or Hayden Christensen is remarkable.

As much as some love the Star Wars OT, others have come to hate the Prequel Trilogy (PT) just as much. It’s almost like the balance in the Force, the light and dark must balance each other out (Plus check out Mike Klimo’s ideas on the Star Wars Ring Theory to see how the Prequels are just the Originals in reverse and the hate of the Prequels starts to make more sense) Just like the OT, not everyone was a fan. My father couldn’t understand the Star Wars hysteria that took the world by storm in the ’70’s as it wasn’t his type of movie, my mother thought they were fun movies, but didn’t see the long lasting appeal. Star Wars appeals to different people in different ways and that is just fine.

Now, here we are in the latest era of Star Wars, the Sequel Trilogy (yes, the ST), and now instead of having George Lucas to blame, as everyone did with the Prequels, the new perpetrator is Disney. But yet the same hatred is still out there. While overshadowed by Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ success of $2 Billion dollars made worldwide, there was a small, vocal group of fans who still spewed the same hatred that we heard during the PT. Now, with the release of Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, the grumblings and criticisms have returned and have grown louder.

I am not one of those fans.

Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson is the one responsible for The Last Jedi. He wrote the script and directed the movie with Lucasfilm’s blessing. Rian Johnson, a self proclaimed super fan of Star Wars with a similar path of fandom as I described previously, turned the Star Wars Saga, and it’s fandom, on it’s head. Some say he is the next great Star Wars storyteller, and Lucasfilm tends to agree as he has already been awarded the opportunity to create and direct a whole new Star Wars trilogy with all new characters and situations. Rian can be considered George Lucas 2.0 and he has an opportunity to have a similar impact on the filmmaking world. Others claim he is the newest Sith Lord and like Darth Sidious usurping The Galactic Republic in Episode III, Rian Johnson has ruined Star Wars Canon from within. A petition has been created to remove Episode VIII from official Star Wars Canon! The hyperbole from these Star Wars fans is laughable at best and mostly just disrespectful.

With The Last Jedi, Rian has crafted a Star Wars story that is fresh and engaging for the fans. Upon first viewing, I didn’t know exactly what to think, in fact I had to take some time to think and process what I had just seen. There was so much that happened that was unexpected, (Like Luke tossing his long lost saber over his shoulder) that it took time to let it sink in. In the first weekend after my first viewing, I spent hours talking with friends and family about what happens in Episode 8. After these conversations and subsequent viewings, these new ideas began to coalesce together along with old ideas, as well as with the previously established mythology of both the Star Wars Prequels and Originals, combined with what we saw in The Force Awakens to ultimately create something new and unexpected. With one movie, Rian Johnson has unified ALL eras of Star Wars just in time for the final chapter of the Skywalker saga!

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker has been my hero from the beginning. He was the one I identified with growing up and his hero’s journey was mine. Not only as a youth, but with repeated viewings as a grown up, I watched his journey with satisfaction as he left his unfulfilling farm life on Tatooine and eventually grew to become a powerful Jedi. So to see his situation in The Last Jedi and where Luke was at physically and emotionally was very hard to watch. How could my quintessential boyhood hero just run and hide and not help his sister and best friends in their fight against the First Order?! I was appalled as Luke hid in his hut and and rebuked Rey’s pleas for help.

As the story and Luke’s reasoning for being on the island of Ahch-To unfolded and as Rey engaged with Luke as to why he was a hermit on Ahch-To instead of coming with Rey to get ‘back in the mess’, it began to make sense to me. Luke, my hero, had failed miserably and was ashamed of his failure. He was responsible for the galaxy’s newest Dark Side villain, Kylo Ren. Everything Luke had fought against in his hero’s journey, to overcome Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, was back and it was his fault. Just like his nephew, Ben Solo, was striving to become the new Darth Vader, Luke was now the new Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi who trained Darth Vader. Similar to Obi-Wan and Yoda, Luke decided the best course of action was to go into hiding. But instead of training the new hope to become a Jedi, Luke reasoned that that would be just perpetuating a cycle that was too dangerous to repeat. Hadn’t he just tried to do the same as Obi-Wan and Yoda had done with him and failed? (Interesting that as Rey leaves Luke on Ahch-To, she claims that Ben Solo is the galaxy’s only hope against defeating Snoke and in the end, she was right!). Over the years, Luke had come to the conclusion that the Jedi must end for this cycle to be broken.

Enter R2-D2 and as in previous Episodes, he plays a pivotal role in the story. Luke reunites with R2 on the Falcon and in his droid wisdom, R2 replays the message that started Luke’s hero’s journey, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”. This was Leia’s plea for help to Luke’s former Master so many years ago and it is just as pertinent now as it was back then. You can see it on Luke’s face as he realizes, it is now his turn to take up the mantle and help Leia, just as Obi-Wan did. I believe he also comes to the realization that just like Obi-Wan, he doesn’t need to be the one to do the deed, but he is to be the one to put everyone on the right path and then let the new generation handle the rest. Luke’s angst and inner conflict in this moment is palpable as he decides to do what for years he said that he wouldn’t do. He decides to teach Rey about the ways of the Force. Luke commits to teach Rey three lessons about the Force, but in an effort to help her understand why the Jedi must end. He helps her understand how Ben Solo succumbed to the Dark Side and his involvement in Ben’s downfall and provides Rey with a cautionary tale. However, just like Luke in Empire Strikes Back, Rey is drawn away from her training before it is completed by a vision of the future in the Force. Rey thinks she can turn Kylo Ren back to the light, just as Luke thought he could turn his father to the light in Return of the Jedi. Luke warns her that Kylo Ren and Snoke are too powerful and that Kylo will not turn.

Luke stays on the island while Rey leaves with Chewie and R2 to confront Kylo Ren. Luke decides to burn down the first Jedi Temple and the ancient Jedi texts contained within. But he is unable to bring himself to do that, as he is holding too much on to the past. The Force ghost of Yoda appears and Yoda again teaches Luke a valuable lesson, failure is a harsh but necessary teacher. Through the Force, Yoda uses lightning from a storm to ignite the Jedi Temple on fire and together they watch it and the Jedi traditions burn. Yoda scolds Luke for not heading his advice and not passing on what he has learned to Rey. Yoda tells Luke that they must not lose Rey to the Dark Side.

At the end of the film, we see Luke arrive at a pivotal battle on the planet Crait and he is able to say goodbye to Leia and C-3PO one last time. Luke confronts Kylo Ren on the plains of Crait. We find out that Luke isn’t physically there and that through the Force, Luke is projecting himself across the galaxy to make it appear that he is there on Crait. Luke doesn’t engage with Kylo Ren and avoids Kylo’s saber attack to buy enough time for the newly christened Rebellion to escape. We then find out that Luke is still on Ahch-To and that the effort of using the Force across such a great distance is too much and Luke becomes one with the Force, in the same way that Yoda did on Dagobah in Return of the Jedi.

As mentioned previously, I was initially confused and disappointed as to why Luke would not fight and join the conflict. Then I remembered a lesson taught to Luke by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the most beloved Star Wars film of all time, that a Jedi only uses the Force “for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” This put the whole hermit on Ahch-To idea into perspective. Luke is actually living the Jedi teachings, something the Prequel era Jedi were unable to do due to The Clone Wars.

Even when Luke confronts Kylo Ren on Crait, he still took a defensive approach in the confrontation. How can Star Wars fans, myself included, fault Luke for being the ultimate Jedi and doing what all of the Prequel Jedi, even Master Yoda and the great Obi-Wan Kenobi, could not do? How can some Star Wars fans criticize Luke for not being a great Jedi warrior and not confronting the whole First Order with his laser sword, but yet at the same time condemn the Prequels for not being real Star Wars movies as the Prequels show us the downfall of the Jedi because they didn’t follow their own Jedi codes?

Luke had completed his hero’s journey in Return of the Jedi when he defeated Darth Vader and threw down his lightsaber at Darth Sidious’ feet. Luke stayed on the hero’s path by not being drawn into the Galactic conflict once again and not repeating the mistakes of the Jedi Order. As a result, Luke became the ultimate Jedi Master, even more so than Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the end Luke Skywalker became the Legend the galaxy needed.

 

UP NEXT:

Leia’s Final Chapter, Rey is the Last Jedi, Finn Grows Up, Poe Becomes a Leader, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, and more.

 

– Justin

Star Wars: Behind the Scenes of Jabba’s Palace

Join Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo, Regal Robot’s Tom Spina, and Return of the Jedi Creature Designer Kirk Thatcher as they break down the aliens and denizens of Jabba’s Palace from Star Wars The Return of the Jedi. Pablo, Tom, and Kirk identify and discuss the various creatures from Jabba’s Palace and how they were created. Kirk Thatcher was one of the creators of the creatures from Return of the Jedi and witnessed first hand as well as participated in the creative process for these creatures and is featured heavily in the presentation. This panel was held on Sept 23, 2017 at Salt Lake Comic Con 2017.