It seems everyone has been doing reviews, non-spoiler or spoiler, of the Last Jedi. I was going to give a full review, but then decided maybe instead of a full breakdown of the film and a critique, I thought it would be fun to just focus on a couple aspects of what I found interesting about The Last Jedi and where I think the franchise can go from here.
I should preface this that there are minor (very minor) spoilers.
The things I found most interesting about The Last Jedi nobody seems to be talking about. Like the Mirror scene with Rey multiplying herself, where she breaks through the glass wall to be stopped by herself.
It echoes the Luke training scene on Dagobah when he enters the cave to confront his fears only to discover Vader. Then, slicing Vader's head off with his laser sword, the mask explodes to reveal Luke's own face. Excellent foreshadowing for later in the movie.
But with Rey, her revelation has a different meaning. Whereas Luke couldn't understand the message the Dark Side was showing him, Rey knows that the Dark Side has deliberately withheld the answer she wanted.
Later she has to ask Kylo Ren for the answer. He ends up telling her without any resistance whatsoever.
And that brings me to the most interesting thing about these films. Kylo Ren treats Rey like she's the embodiment of the Goddess. All the way back in Episode 7, right after torturing Poe till he's bleeding out of his eyes and ears, Kylo Ren refuses to harm Rey.
During their fight in the forest at the end of Force Awakens, he offers to train her, even as they're mid-duel (a grudge match of wills, if you please).
Then, in this film, they share a bond through the Force that allows them not only to see one another but to feel one another.
Although Rey Refused Kylo's Offer to rule the galaxy as his equal, he looks genuinely hurt by her unwillingness to take him up on his offer. He even yells at her to let it all go. To let the past die, so they can rebuild something new.
She is saddened by the fact he still only desires power rather than peace, which is true balance.
Unable to persuade the other, they struggle for the lightsaber and it explodes sending them both flying backward. Ren is rendered unconscious and Rey escapes. The interesting thing, however, is that they fought over the saber at all. Ren still had his red lightsaber. He could have easily struck Rey down. He’s trained. She’s not. And this time he not wounded, yet she is. Instead, he tries to stop her from leaving rather than kill her outright.
Also note that each time they mind-link, they catch each other at their most vulnerable. When he’s getting mended up by the medical droid. When she's sitting in bed. When he's getting undressed. When she’s alone watching the ocean.
At the very end, when he's reaching out to find her...you can’t help but wonder. Does he search his feelings for her because he wants to locate the Rebels whereabouts, or because he's worried about her because he has feelings for her?
If the filmmakers are developing a romance for these unlikely star-crossed lovers, they’re taking the long way around. Rey still resents Kylo Ren for killing Han Solo, who Ren rightly noted she viewed as a father figure. "He'll only disappoint you," Kylo said to her in TFA.
But it's Ren who has disappointed Rey this time around, by choosing the Dark Side over her.
As The Last Jedi really doesn't have any cliffhanger, and the story is largely about individual failures, the story could go anywhere from here, really. But I personally would love to see Kylo Ren redeemed in the eyes of Rey. And, yes, I want them to rule the Galaxy together. Maybe not as lovers. But as two parts of one whole--the balanced Force--they would provide an equilibrium for what may come.
Now that the Jedi are gone and only one Sith Lord remains, it seems that Kylo Ren could reshape the very foundations of what it means to be a Sith at the same time as putting an end to the military reign of the First Order and bringing back the political world that, although problematic under Palpentine's rule, actually worked to bring lasting peace to the galaxy--just as Padme had always dreamt.
The Rebels could then integrate back into society without a fight. They'd basically have won the cause. But not because of their terrorist antics. But because Ren became what both Vader and Luke couldn't--perfectly balanced in the ways of the Force.
That would bring the series full circle. And that would be a fitting end. Rey could then rebuild the Jedi temple and Kylo Ren could ride off into the sunset, so to speak, as a kind of Ronin warrior.
I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that we're probably not going to get that. Even though the set up is certainly there. I think we're going to get another massive giant Death Ball, and another giant space battle.
And Rey will likely take front and center in leading the new wave rebellion against Ren, and the two will face off at the end when it is Rey, whose friends step in to save her, who survives. Because she had love on her side, she had people who cared for her, and Ren has nothing because he destroyed everything and everyone who ever cared about him.
Which is also good drama, albeit less interesting of a direction to take the franchise because nothing is learned from it. It's just a repeat of what's been done. But bringing the character arcs as well as the events full circle and having the characters learn from their mistakes--mainly in The Last Jedi--would be really great storytelling.
I just don't have confidence in J.J. Abrams to tell that kind of story. Although a brilliant filmmaker, his stories are typically cookie-cutter, paint by the numbers, granny’s apple pie—same ole formulaic thing. That is, he follows very standard plot devices and doesn't color outside of the lines.
And that seems to be what Disney wants for Star Wars. But true Star Wars fans will know that George Lucas was always bold with his storytelling choices. He dared to color outside of the box. Heck, he dared to think outside of the box. And I think we have too many in-the-box sort of thinking going on behind these new Star Wars films. They're not bad films. But they don't take any risks either. And so there are no moments of genuine brilliance because it's always culled back in the name of playing it safe.
I guess in time we shall see what we shall see.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.