'The Last Jedi' And The Art Of Hope In 'Star Wars'
One Of The Funniest Scenes From 'The Last Jedi'
Thank You, Rian Johnson, For 'The Last Jedi'
Where to begin with The Last Jedi?
I know it seems a bit backward to be talking about the previous Star Wars film when we are still simmering in the aftermath of The Rise Of Skywalker, but there have been so many conflicting emotions regarding both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker online that it seemed necessary to take a look at the oft-maligned precursor, Episode VIII.
I loved The Last Jedi. I truly did. Perhaps I felt a little more of an emotional pull toward this film as it was released so shortly after Carrie Fisher had suddenly died. Perhaps I was looking forward to seeing what Luke Skywalker was like so many years after Return Of The Jedi; there's nothing quite like a hero who suddenly feels as though he has somehow failed. I know that Daisy Ridley as Rey was definitely a highlight for me, as I thought she was a perfect fit for the role of the new Jedi in training.
At any rate, I thought The Last Jedi was full of humor and really made our favorite characters actually human. For years, Luke and Leia, in particular, had always been idealized, which is not too hard to do when you're talking about a pair of individuals who have been gifted with Force sensitivity and have saved the galaxy. In The Force Awakens, we saw a Leia who was coping with the fact that her son had chosen the path that her father had originally taken, even though she was determined to work toward his redemption. That's pretty much motherhood defined, isn't it? No matter how badly our kid might screw up, we will always, on one level or another, love them and try to bring them back around to the good kid we once knew. Even though her own son was wreaking havoc on the galaxy, and she was beyond exhausted from the weight of command (once again) and the weight of knowing what her son was doing, she was hopeful that he could be redeemed and that made her seem all the more human.
It's much the same situation with Luke's character. He is Kylo Ren's (aka Ben Solo's) uncle, and even though Luke went through the wringer with the idea that his father Darth Vader was bent on reshaping the galaxy so that all would bow to him, Luke never stopped believing in the good in his father. By the end of Return Of The Jedi, Vader had been redeemed and Luke was once again a hero. However, when his nephew chose the dark path during his own training, Luke had to have felt as though he'd failed not only his sister and his best friend, but he had to have seen what was coming. The Luke we see by the time The Last Jedi starts up is embittered and exhausted and with good reason. His ego has taken a definite hit, and Luke as much acknowledges that in the film. It's good to see our heroes get reminded that they, too, are human, and that's probably one of the best things about The Last Jedi.
Hope is also a pervasive theme throughout the movie. Luke's hope is shattered by the time Rey gets to him, and he is convinced, in spite of how badly his sister needs his help, that things will only be made worse if he were to get involved in the conflict this time. Rey spends a good lot of her time trying to convince him otherwise and trying to convince him to train her. Seeing her talents reignites his hope, but that's soon dashed when he realizes that she is strongly tempted by the Dark side of the Force as well. As for Leia and the Resistance, they keep holding out hope that everything will work out in their favor until it almost looks to be too late. By the end of The Last Jedi, Leia turns to Rey, who is concerned about how the Resistance will defeat the First Order, particularly after the lightsaber she'd been using had been destroyed. "We have everything we need," Leia assures her.
Hope is something of a lost art in films lately, but it's a theme which the Star Wars franchise specializes in. Yes, The Last Jedi is a dark film that throws the entire future of the galaxy into question, but it also a film full of humor and hope even in the direst of circumstances.
So, in spite of what some might say about the film, it's important to recognize The Last Jedi for some of the most heartwrenching and heartwarming scenes in the Star Wars franchise, and for reminding us about why hope is so very important, even in the darkest times. Thank you, Rian Johnson, for that.