‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ A Not Unbiased Look

by Simon Williams on December 12, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rock Fist Way Up]

One of my earliest memories is that of Star Wars.

I couldn’t have been more than five. My mom had friends over and I was bored. I complained and complained I wanted something to watch and after cycling through all of the regular go-tos she finally put in the VHS of one of her favorites. She had to read me the opening crawl. From then I was hooked.

This story is not unique to me. Many people my age discovered Star Wars in similar ways. Most critics you’ll read will have similar near-religious tales about discovering the saga for the first time lest they be distant and less enamored with the franchise in the name of “objectivity”. I mention this not to sound special but rather to make something clear. It’s hard for me to be unbiased here.

Reader, I pride myself on being a unique voice in the critical community on the internet. I revel in my short stories and personal sagas and analyses of businesses and the movement of money. When attempting to write about something like Star Wars I feel as though I should double my efforts, giving a deliciously specific discussion on the nature of the franchise, George Lucas’ legacy and the underlining philosophies of it all. I wrote something like that with the release of Force Awakens, a flawed film that I tried (and probably failed) to discuss early into my career writing about film. I was planning to do the same with Rian Johnson’s new entry, The Last Jedi.

Then I saw it.

WARNING! THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD! Well spoiler, singular.

The Force Awakens purposefully and clearly set itself up as a successor to A New Hope, and takes much from its narrative. The obvious position for The Last Jedi would be as this trilogy’s The Empire Strikes Back, and Johnson is aware you, the audience member, have made this connection. He has decided to subvert this expectation.

The twist of Empire is of Luke’s lineage. The Last Jedi focuses on Rey’s. Luke was, of course, the son of Vader. He has Skywalker blood in his veins. Rey does not. Rey is just the child of nobodies. Abandoned for no great purpose but rather simple, dumb purposes. She was sold. Why is she special? Because she was lucky. She was a force user who just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.

This is, for me, everything fascinating about The Last Jedi in microcosm. We live in a fallen world. Our narratives rarely have happy endings and we rarely get the answers we want to our deepest questions. Often we find ourselves with moral conundrums that have no clear answer whatsoever. We will always, at some point, find ourselves in positions where things seem hopeless and we have no higher purpose giving us answers. I almost want to make a Bergman comparison, and start talking about the silence of God. The Last Jedi, much like the original trilogy, offers a possible idea for discovering hope. In a world devoid of light, we may create our own.

Rey is not the child of Luke Skywalker. She does not get the answers she wanted by going to see him. This does not mean she cannot do good.

The original Star Wars trilogy is about a lot more than many pretend. I have always, always, ALWAYS disliked the argument that Star Wars was meant to be a children’s series and pure escapism. To me they always were about finding one’s place in the universe, how we may discover who we are meant to be. They are about the nature of good and evil not just the fight between them, even the deeply flawed prequels discussed this well exploring how when corrupted and blinded by self-righteousness those supposedly fighting in the name of the light can be just as monstrous as those fighting for the darkness. They were about parentage, how we may learn to understand those who made us and how we may learn from their mistakes and maybe, someday, forgive them.

The Last Jedi agrees with me.

The film isn’t perfect. It’s a touch long and the middle occasionally drags and there’s a few instances where characters just speaking to one another would help the logic of a situation but even these quibbles either come from or lead to scenes and payoffs that are more than worth the contrivances. Rian Johnson has a sense of human drama and a control of making philosophical struggle visual and physical that is both exhilarating and riveting. Each action scene contains character development, each new planet adds dimension, each moment of character reflection is potent and real. Mark Hamill gives the performance of his career, the cinematography is striking and rich, the humor is natural and comes so fluidly you never once think about the writers attempting to develop jokes.

This may well be one of the best films of the franchise, as well as one of the best films of the year.

Rian Johnson’s film is surprising, exciting, complex, gorgeous and… just… so fucking good. I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this film all my life. People will disagree, already one of my dearest friends and editors has begun the siege against my stance but I don’t care. The Last Jedi is everything I’ve ever wanted from a Star Wars film and I’m more than happy to admit that.

Postscript: the Porgs aren’t actually that bad at all.

Simon Williams

Simon Williams is a media critic and filmmaker originally from Columbus Ohio. He makes short films about sad people who don’t speak their minds because he himself is a sad person who does not have that issue.


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