This is meant to be a travel blog, I realise. But having watched the new Star Wars film, I simply have to put down my thoughts on it. It’s important to me. Star Wars is part of my identity, my all-time favourite film is the original Star Wars, I grew up with all the toys and the films shapes my childhood.
We’re currently in Gladstone, Australia. We don’t know anyone at all so I was a bit worried that I’d have to go to the cinema alone, which felt like a bit of a saddo thing to have to do. Fortunately Roobs was booked into an all-day martial arts school holiday thingy, so it meant I could take Suewan with me.
Like a banana
When the Force Awakens came out Suewan and I went to see it with Bev and Sam. Suewan seemingly couldn’t remember any of what happened, so we had to have a recap the night before. I explained what happened in the first movie and some of it she remembered. The best part of our conversation came when I explained that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, trained by Luke, but had turned to the dark side – meaning he’d gone bad. “Oh, like a banana”, said Suewan. Precisely.
Before the film I was giddy with excitement. Star Wars still has that effect on me. So, here are my thoughts on the film. It’s not a full review, but reflects how I came out feeling. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read my review if you’re planning to see it. It’s FULL OF SPOILERS.
I had a realisation after watching The Force Awakens. Something that I’d curiously forgotten by the time The Last Jedi came around, two years on. Simply this – Star Wars is not for me anymore. It’s not intended to be, is it? Disney have bought the rights and they are writing for a whole new generation now, not middle-aged men like me. Really, that should have been obvious.
This reality was brought back almost immediately when watching The Last Jedi, the moment Luke takes back the lightsaber that Rey has returned to him after spending a whole film trying to track him down.
This was supposed to be a massively significant moment. This was meant to be the moment we got Luke Skywalker back, after all these years, presented with the lightsaber he lost when Darth Vader sliced his hand from his arm moments before revealing the greatest twist in cinematic history.
But no. Luke tosses the lightsaber away with disdain. And the moment is gone, just like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I realise this is deliberate from the writers. It’s because Luke has chosen this life and cannot face the past – I get how it fits with the way the movie was written. But as I sit writing this, about an hour after watching The Last Jedi, my overwhelming disappointment is the realisation that this film—this trilogy—is not about Luke Skywalker. It’s not about the hero I had as a kid. I so wanted this to be the continuation of the magical story that I enjoyed as a kid, but I accept it now. This Star Wars is not meant for me.
When I watched The Force Awakens, I did enjoy the film although I admit to feeling a bit empty afterwards, after realising that it really was just a rewrite of A New Hope. But I was too excited to be getting the characters from my childhood back to really care. I gave the writers a pass because I realised they had to introduce a new audience to Star Wars, and they did that in the best way they knew how, I guess. But it was still MY story. Han, Chewie, Leia, the droids – they were all there. Yes, we had some new characters, but on the whole they fitted in and were well developed. When you wait 30 years to pick up the story of your favourite childhood film, just to see those characters on screen again was enough for me.
The Force Awakens repeatedly teased us with Luke Skywalker, and eventually he wasn’t even in it. OK, we can wait, you’ve built up to it, now deliver us our hero. The Last Jedi… Luke Skywalker.
But then Luke tosses the lightsaber aside and we come to understand. This story isn’t about Luke. It’s about Rey, and Kylo Ren, and Finn and Poe Damaran.
Only now do I realise how desperately I wanted this film to be about Luke – it could have been so, so great.
Oh well. At least The Last Jedi wasn’t a complete rewrite of one of the original films (although it did feel oddly like watching The Empire Strikes Back in reverse sometimes). Kylo Ren is a great character actually. Trained by Luke, the son of Han and Leia turned to the dark side. A formidable opponent for our hero, Luke Skywalker. A fascinating continuation of the Skywalker story that started for us with Luke and Darth Vader, with a shadow of the story of Obi Wan and Anakin to draw from too.
I even quite like Poe Damaran – he’s an adequate replacement for Han Solo, which we needed because Harrison Ford was done with Star Wars. It’s great to see a bullet-proof pilot character doing what he does best. And I actually enjoyed how he trolled General Hux at the beginning – although it was a little out of place, it made me laugh.
Finn was an interesting character in the first film – like Kylo Ren, he demonstrates that actually nothing is black and white (or dark / light). Often situations and feelings can be grey – this is a concept that the new Star Wars films communicate really well.
But in this film Finn, along with the Chinese character (Rose) – well their mission is all just boring filler, in reality. Alongside that rogue character from the casino, they don’t really serve any purpose and just make the film overly long, in my opinion. There’s even the miraculous return of Captain Phasma. Obviously brought back because of complaints she suffered a lame death in the first film, she returns right at the end, only to suffer another lame death!
Anyway, I’ve got sidetracked. Let’s come to Rey. In this film Kylo Ren tells Rey of her parentage, revealing her to be of no importance – her parents sold her and then died on Jakku. Nothing special, so she doesn’t fit into this universe, she’s not part of this story. Now, this may well be Kylo Ren’s way of misleading her, and perhaps the twist reveal will come later (my money was always on her being his twin).
But if you think of it from Disney’s perspective, they’ve actually pushed quite hard on the message that you don’t need to be a Skywalker to “sense” the force, that actually the force connects everyone (even small slave boys dreaming of becoming the next Jedi… ho hum). And you can see why Disney would do that. They don’t need to continue the Skywalker legacy, which was always George Lucas’s child. They just need the Star Wars franchise to continue, and that’s easier to do if you no longer need Skywalkers or Jedi.
If what Kylo Ren says is true, Rey really doesn’t fit into this story – not the one of the Skywalkers, anyway. So she’s just annoying fans by using the force with no training! During the film, I found myself thinking that the only thing that would redeem her character’s involvement (for me) was if Rey had joined Kylo Ren and they became a joint force that Luke had to defeat. But come on, this is Disney, that kind of twist was never going to happen.
Moving aside from Luke, even the other beloved characters from my youth are reduced to bit-part players. We get cameos from Chewbacca and C3PO, even Yoda makes an appearance. And that moment where R2D2 plays the original message from Leia – wow, that was the closest I’ve ever come to crying at Star Wars. But it’s all just lip service to the old fans, who like me, should know better by now and realise that this film was not for them.
Princess Leia plays a bigger role in the film but there’s always a sense of her trying to step back and let the new generation lead. In hindsight, the writers should have rewritten the film and killed her off in this one, that’s obvious. What we actually got was some bullshit force tomfoolery when she should have been blown away along with Admiral Ackbar and everyone else on board with her. I wonder how they’re going to handle writing her out at the start of the next film?
I’m 38. I should know better now than to spend time analysing a Disney film. But Star Wars is so much a part of my life that I can’t help but want to have my say. This film purposely stripped away the characters that I grew up with, so it’s not really Star Wars to me anymore. I couldn’t really care less about what happens next. They wrote Luke Skywalker out in a really untidy, and deeply unfulfilling way (honestly, I couldn’t even work out that he’d died, they had to spell it out as it was so confusing).
Disney have left us with a new bunch of good guys, a new enemy, and a smattering of fan service so we’ll all tune in for the next one. Oh, and even cuter side characters, who will no doubt end up with their own spinoff movie. I suppose even George Lucas wasn’t immune to that.
Before I finish, I have to point out the absolute hilarity of Adrian Edmondson being in this film. In the last film there were complaints about the First Order being overly representative of the Third Reich. But in this one they go and put an actual Hitler on the command ship! Amazing! (Well, I found it distractingly hilarious, anyway…).
OK, I’ve had my say. I feel better now. It’s time for me to grow up and move on.
If young kids sit down and watch this new version of Star Wars, and fall in love with Rey, Poe and Ben like I did with Han, Luke and Leia – then good for them. I hope they get as much enjoyment from these films as I did from the original trilogy.
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