The Last Jedi

I loved this movie. And if you read this, it might spoil it for you. But hopefully you have made it to the movie already. Hopefully you have gotten to experience it, too.

I’ve read a lot of Last Jedi reviews since the movie came out. A lot. And if you’re recall, the day of the release I posted a blogpost about my hopes for the film. I want to start from that point, and talk about my feelings, and talk about some of the reviews that have stuck with me. I want people to understand why this movie left me glowing, why when I woke up the next morning I was still glowing. This movie gave me hope.

leai last jedi

2017 has been a hard year. It’s been a joyful one for me, too, but I’m not blind to what is happening in our world. When Rogue One came out in December of last year, it felt like the movie we needed. That desperate fight in the rising darkness. The resolution of faith, when hope was gone. I don’t think that I was wrong, in that feeling. I wasn’t entirely right, either. Faith and hope and love must all hold hands. I can have Jyn Erso’s faith, bitter and solid and true. I can have Leia’s hope, the bright vision. And I can have Rey’s love. Rey’s arc has always been about love, and this movie shows us that unshakably.

In my blogpost last week, I talked about how closely paralleled and yet how divergent Luke and Rey’s characters are. In the wake of watching The Last Jedi, I can confirm that Rey is the hero we need. Her character arc continues – as she has come to the force, she comes to it with more skills than her mentor managed in his time. These skills, however, are not just the physical skills that I had previously cataloged. They are emotional skills, too. Rey has learned to forgive others, over and over, sometimes to her own detriment. In fact, Rey’s only character flaw may be that she does not always value herself. She looks up to others, first her lost parents, later Han and Luke, and even, a little, to Kylo Ren. Even though none of these people gives her everything that she wants, though, Rey does not blame them for it. She grows. She becomes what she needs.

In this way, her arc parallels Luke’s in the original trilogy. This, I would argue, is intentional. The thing that Rian Johnson and the new writers of Star Wars want to keep, the inescapable thing that makes a Jedi a Jedi, the thing that Anakin never could hold onto, is emotional maturity. And that maturity requires vulnerability. Without being vulnerable, a Jedi cannot care for and protect what she loves.

Nothing else plays out quite like what we expect, however. I agree with Chuck Wendig that this is a lot of what has made this movie divisive. The Force Awakens trades on the familiar. The Last Jedi steps beyond it. But it keeps the heart.

“They want the familiarity. They need nostalgia.

And this movie burns it all down.

A lightning strike setting fire to a sacred tree.”

– Chuck Wendig

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the burning of the sacred tree, the original Jedi temple. Luke intends to burn the past, to let it die as Kylo has tried to do. Their journeys, here, parallel. Luke is tired, he is angry and afraid. His anger and fear are for himself. He has failed. The Jedi will always fail, because they are human, and so there is no point in any of it, not anymore. Luke is lost. He goes to burn the tree as an act of destruction.

Yoda, on the other hand, burns the tree as an act of emancipation. The past cannot die. The path of the Jedi will always exist, because the Force will always exist. Whatever petty symbols of it may remain are crutches. A Master does not need them. This movie keeps the Force at its heart, and burns down the trappings of it.

And yet, at the end, the books, the knowledge of the Force that the temple guarded? They are carried in the Millenium Falcon, safe. Finn finds them, not during battle. He finds them when he is caring for Rose. Rose, who gave herself up to save him, when he had given up on hope and love and let it all go to rage.

Rey’s power to defy the First Order comes from love. Love for her friends, love for the world. When she goes into the cave to face her test, she doesn’t see an enemy. She sees herself. She sees herself, alone, forever. This is her greatest fear, this aloneness. Luke’s fear was to become his father, to fall to the dark side. His fear of the dark side is also what destroys his relationship with his nephew, starting Kylo Ren along his path.

rey dark side

Rey’s fear is to lose her new family, but she has been alone before. It is a fear she has faced before, a horror she has lived through.  It is no wonder that the dark side does not tempt her as easily. She knows that she has survived her fear. It cannot, therefore, consume her. Luke is horrified when she is pulled into the dark side so easily, because he does not believe that she can withstand temptation. He, after all, could not, not entirely. The dark side has marked his life, forever, it has lost him too much.

Luke’s fear moves the plot of this film just as much as Kylo’s anger and Poe’s pride. Each of them must work through those feelings, because “building that emotional intelligence is the difference between the dark and the light.” Luke succeeds, and finds oneness with the Force. Poe begins his journey by valuing his comrades over the cause. Only Kylo does not embrace that emotional maturity, and in his anger and hatred he writes his own downfall. He is so afraid of Luke, so focused on his hatred, still, of his father and the Millennium Falcon, that he fails to accomplish his goal, effectively losing the final battle to crush the Resistance. He cannot grow without bringing himself into balance, and he shows no signs of doing so, even when Rey offers him a clean slate despite everything.

In the end, The Last Jedi is the truest bit of Star Wars cinema that we have seen since The Return of the Jedi so many years ago. No, it does not look the same. Many things have changed, but hell, there’s a whole galaxy out there. Who would want to stay in the same old orbit? The heart of this story, however, remains. It is the new hope of a new generation.


Come to the dark side – please check out my Patreon or buy my books!

Star Wars, The Force Awakens

The new Star Wars is out this weekend, and by the time this post goes live I will hopefully be about to watch it. This is a cause for celebration, so your post is a teensy bit early this week so that I can recover Friday.

I cannot tell you how excited I am. Rian Johnson is one of my favorite directors, albeit little known. If you haven’t seen his other stuff, Brick and The Brothers Bloom are both fascinating movies. When someone shouts in the trailer “this is not going to end the way you think it will,” I believe them. Johnson never fails to have a twist in his movies, and I believe that The Last Jedi will be no exception.

Because the movie is so close to release, I’ve been thinking back on The Force Awakens, and, to a lesser extent, on Rogue One. We’ve had decades to watch and rewatch the previous Star Wars movies, even the terror that is the prequels, and come to our conclusions, to carve out a niche in our hearts for the familiar characters of Luke and Leia and Han. Most of us have never watched a Star Wars movie as a standalone, I would imagine. We’ve always known how the plot goes, always seen Luke not just as the whiny farmboy but also as the powerful Jedi who returns balance to the Force. When we watch A New Hope, we are watching it within the context of both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens has no such advantage.

Now we are finally getting the next installment in this new trilogy, a year later. What happens with The Last Jedi will make or break the previous film, as often happens with trilogies. I have faith in Rian Johnson, and in the creative team that is spearheading this reboot, personally. So today I want to take a moment to reflect on the main characters of each trilogy and their parallels. Luke, Leia, and Han, and Rey, Finn, and Poe. Specifically, at Luke and Rey.

Luke and Rey are the strongest and clearest parallels from each party. Both Luke and Rey are orphans. Luke is raised knowing that his aunt and uncle are not his parents, and that they are both dead. He knows, he thinks, who is parents are – his father, a war hero, his mother, a wife. Leia is more concerned with her mother, and remembers her more clearly, but her adoptive family raised her as their own. Finding out about her is not as much of a concern as supporting her new family. She knows who she is.

Luke doesn’t, exactly. He’s a boy, a kid when we meet him, barely on the cusp of manhood. He has ideas about what to do with his life, but they are just dreams. Any shred of knowledge about his father, who, presumably, would not keep him bound to a farm in the middle of a desert, is something he jumps at. But all that said, he has a good life. He is loved, he is fed, and if he is questing he is not doing so out of desperation. It takes the Empire to unmoor him, though if he had had his way he would have gone off and made something of himself at some point. But his adventures, in his head, are bloodless. Until they’re not.

star-wars-or-a-new-hope

Rey is a very different character.

Yes, she grows up on a desert planet. Yes, she is an orphan. Yes, she is preternaturally gifted with the Force, just as Luke will be – more so, even. All of those things are true. But that is the end of the similarities between Rey and Luke. Rey does not want to leave Jakku. Like him, she is forced to leave because of the Empire, but she does not want to go. She continues to try to return to Jakku, where her parents might find her. She believes, strongly, that someday she will be found. Rey’s childhood left her when she was less than ten, and she prays every day that it will come find her again.

She lives alone. She does not have enough to eat. She has no family to love her. Luke works hard on the farm, but Rey works harder, and the work she does has no safety net. Scavenging means that her death can come for her at any time, and it will probably wear a familiar face. There is no protection from her competitors. She must rely on herself, on her own fighting skills.

When Luke comes to the Force, his experience is in sharpshooting and mechanics. When Rey comes to the Force, her experience is in self-defense, in infiltration, in survival.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I think that the differences between Rey and Luke tell us a lot about what kind of story we are going to get from this trilogy. Luke’s story was always going to be a hero’s journey, the classic kind, farmboy turned king, or, in this case, wizard. Rey’s story is much more complicated. Perhaps that is why it sits uneasily in the mind. There is no true parallel that we can latch onto. What does a woman whose skills are survival become? An assassin, or a spy, or a courtesan. Not a hero, not in our stories.

Perhaps it’s time for that to change.

Upcoming movies and some guest posts

We are so close to Wedding Day! And given that, my general ability to think thoughts is pretty depleted. Please instead enjoy this pulpy post.

But first, some housekeeping for all you lovely readers. I’m featuring a few guest bloggers over the next few weeks while I’m away getting married and traveling and such. I’m super excited to introduce you to these lovely ladies, who are going to be talking about a wide range of fantasy/science fiction topics. Please check in over the next three weeks and check them out!

Now, on to the matter at hand. What movies am I looking forward to in 2017?

Annihilation – Released ???

For those who haven’t read Jeff VanderMeer’s book by the same name, you probably should. An eerie, atmospheric tale where the horror is mostly in the mind, but not entirely, this story tells the tale of a scientist (unnamed) who goes into Area X, equal parts Area 51 and alternate dimension, to search for answers regarding her husband’s disappearance and death. They’ve kept the release date and any set pictures mostly under wraps, though there have been some very restricted showings of a teaser trailer or other footage.

The director is the same guy who did Ex Machina. That actually gives me some pause. His aesthetics are solid, but VanderMeer’s book has zero men in it for the vast majority of the text, and I’ve seen the casting list. It is not lacking in men. I’m assuming they are expanding on the timeline prior to the scientist entering Area X, which could be good or bad, depending on whether it swamps her character. I’m a little worried about the adaptation for that reason. Check out the IMDB link for more information about the project.

Wonder Woman – Released June 2nd

wonder woman

So who hasn’t been waiting for Wonder Woman? This movie has been running trailers and promotional material for a while now, and you can tell that DC pulled out a lot of stops for it. They should. Wonder Woman is arguably their most iconic character after Superman and Batman, and before for many. In contrast to Marvel’s line-up, she is also a singularly iconic woman. This will be the first superhero movie to focus entirely on a female character, and DC beat Marvel to the punch (no surprise, since Marvel seems set on making mistake after mistake in this regard). Check out the IMDB link for more information.

I’ve been planning to rush the theater for this one, and I doubt I will be alone.

Atomic Blonde – Released July 28th

Holy shit, this move. Here’s the IMDB link if you haven’t heard of it. Take a minute to watch the trailer. I’ll wait.

atomic-blonde

Really, what is there not to love about this? It’s all of the action packed, grungy goodness of a hardcore spy movie, with the kickass feminine lead from Fury Road. You have my money, sirs and madames.

The Dark Tower – Released August 4th

So I honestly didn’t realize that this was coming so soon until this lovely trailer came out. Holy mess, it looks good. The Dark Tower series is a sort of hit-or-miss thing for me, actually – I thought it ended up getting wrapped around itself somehow, if that makes sense, and ending was not my favorite. But The Gunslinger was an amazing book, and I’m excited to see what they will do with the story, as it looks…very different from the one I remember.

Hitman’s Bodyguard – Released August 18th

I have to admit that this movie is not my usual cup of tea. I wasn’t a huge fan of Deadpool, actually. I thought it was fun, and the graphics were obviously spot on, but it just didn’t quite click with me. That said, Ryan Reynolds is a fun actor, and he definitely brought life to Deadpool’s character with some trademark witticism that seems evident in this move. Plus there are lots of guns. If the trailer doesn’t make you laugh, well, we have different senses of humor, probably. IMDB link on the click-through.

Blade Runner 2049 – Released October 6th

Holy shit, guys, there is a new Blade Runner movie and the trailer is out! Harrison Ford is always a good bet for these kinds of movies, but Ryan Gosling joins him, which I am way into. The director is also the guy who did Arrival which is one of my favorite movies cinematically of the past year.

blade runner

Basically if you are a fan of cerebral science fiction, this is the movie you are looking forward to this year (well, in addition to Annihilation, but it’s hard to look forward to something we don’t even have a trailer for, yet). Check out the IMDB page here for more info.

Thor: Ragnarok – Released November 3rd

thor-ragnarok-photo-chris-hemsworth

So Thor. Thor is the hottest Avenger, probably. And his hair is part of that for me. Now they have chopped all of his hair off. I find myself…not dismayed? He is still really sexy? Alright, then.

Other positives to this movie: Hulk cameo, gladiator fights, and CATE BLANCHETT. She is my favorite. IMDB link and video link for those who live in a hole and haven’t seen the trailer.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Released December 15th

You had to know this movie would be on the list. I am solidly in the Star Wars fandom, and I am so, absolutely ready for this movie. Rogue One was a great appetizer, of course. I had some problems with the Leia cameo, which was goofy and too on the nose. But overall, it was lovely. I hope that they will bring some of that creative energy into this new film.

I also have to pause here and note that The Last Jedi was Carrie Fisher’s last movie. I desperately want it to be good and tie up her character well. There are a lot of hopes riding on this film for me, and it almost feels scary leading up to it, but the teaser trailer looks pretty good so far.

sw-the-last-jedi-tall-B

That’s all for me! Let me know what movies you’re looking forward to. Next time I post, I’ll be married and talking all about marriage things!

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑