If nothing else, the internet has shown us in the last month that there are a lot of feelings over Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’m no different. However, in contemplating my review of this movie, I realized that my thoughts weren’t going to the details of the movie that I loved or hated – trust me, each of those lists exists – but in looking at what is trying to be accomplished by the story, and by Lucasfilm/Disney. Of course, this is my own ponderings as I don’t work for Lucasfilms/Disney so I can’t say THIS IS WHAT WE ARE DOING. Just putting that disclaimer up there for all of you. Also remember that these are my personal thoughts, and may not be the same as the rest of the staff of ThreeIfBySpace.
That said, there be spoilers beyond this point. Please bookmark this article and come back to read it after you’ve seen the movie if you don’t want to be spoiled.
“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” – Rose
It’s Not Star Wars.
Yes, we’re going to tackle the monster right out of the gate. This is by far the biggest complaint I see on the internet, and I have to say that it’s wrong. This movie is a Star Wars movie; it says so right in the title. In reality, it is the sentiment that it’s not “my” Star Wars is really what people are saying with this complaint – which brings us to a murkier area.
If a person believes that it doesn’t feel or read as what they believe is Star Wars to them, then yes, they are correct and have every right to that opinion.
Star Wars has been a major focal point of my life for the last 23 years. Heck, my life goal is to one day write within their world like my mentors before me. Being a member of the Star Wars community, I learned that this movie has impacted a lot of people, and each person sees this series differently based on how it relates to them.
Breaking that down further, you then have to be aware that there are multiple generations at play:
- The Original Trilogy Generation – these are the fans who came into Star Wars when it was first released up through the early 90’s. All we had were A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Everything that was “Star Wars” to this generation was based on the story lines of just these movies and nothing else. Some of these folks would move on to pick up an EU novel, but their foundation on what “Star Wars” meant to them is already set.
- The Extended Universe Generation – these are the fans who, after watching the movie at home on DVD, dove hardcore into the books anytime between Heir to the Empire (HttE) to the NJO, Legacy, and Fate of the Jedi series. The world became richer, and these fans got a taste of how the heroes of the Republic (Leia, Han, Luke, etc) were not the perfect characters. They had vices, flaws, and failed. They are the fans who were angered when the HttE series wasn’t chosen as the sequel trilogy, and more so when the EU was designated into the “Legends” cannon and the movie verse was going into a different timeline.
- The Prequel Trilogy – these are the children brought into the Star Wars fold from the prequel era. They were too young for the EU books, and their first experience with seeing Star Wars on a movie screen wasn’t the original trilogy, but these three. Now in their late teens to early 20’s, this generation holds those prequels dearly even if they admit that they aren’t the best version of those stories they could have been given.
We are now at the dawning of a new generation of fans. These are children, ages 0 – 13, in which The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi will be the first Star Wars movie they will see in theaters (because let’s be real, Rogue One is NOT a kid’s movie but a war movie made for the previously three mentioned generations).
I want you to stop and think back to your first Star Wars movie viewing. Think back about the love you felt that turned you into a fan. Think about how you connected to your favorite character. Think about how you would pretend to be them, writing adventures in your head or on paper. Think about how you would insert yourself into the Star Wars world and create your own stories there. Remember how you felt in that moment.
That feeling is what Lucasfilms/Disney is giving these children right now. These kids are getting to have the same experience we’ve already had. Where we had Vader, they have Kylo. Luke? Rey. Leia? Poe. Han? Finn. And for the ones who go for minor characters like I did (Wedge Antilles forever) – they have lots of choices including Rose.
So why is the story presented differently? Because these kids don’t take in movies and stories like we did back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. They are more like the prequel generation in needing more humor in their stories to keep them entertained. They need – and deserve – diverse characters who represent the world they live in.
Lucasfilms/Disney are making a new generation of US. They are making a new set of fans who will hold the stories of these characters close to them, and will have actors who will be around for a long time to meet and identify with. They will have their own series of novels when they get to be old enough to read the adult aged books to discover. They will have their own experience and it is not our experience to have, and because of that, yes, it’s not “my” Star Wars.
It’s theirs, and that’s something the Star Wars fandom has yet to understand.
There are plenty of throwbacks to the original trilogy and prequels for us to embrace. No one is saying “this isn’t your playground anymore”; they would be stupid to do that. However, they also know that for the longevity of the franchise, returning to the basic formula can create a new generation of US that will give them another 40 years of demand.
In another 40 years, if we’re around to see it, I expect we will see them do this exact same thing again. This Sequel generation will have to watch their children get a new story line and new heroes that are meant for their kids, and not them. At that point, they will realize what their parents and grandparents were muttering about with these movies.
I know it’s hard to say this, but no, it’s not your Star Wars. Technically, it was never ours to begin with, because Star Wars belongs to everyone. But I know what you mean, and honestly, this is a good thing and I hope you will understand that when you look at the bigger picture here.
Retelling of the Same Stories
To be fair, I heard this complaint a lot more with The Force Awakens than with The Last Jedi, but the sentiment is there. There are big elements of both Empire and Return of the Jedi in this new movie, but they are there for a reason – to link these stories between the generations.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “history repeats itself”. If it’s true in our world, it’s absolutely true in any world, including fictional worlds. Star Wars has always been a story about politics and the theme of good (Republic/Rebellion/Resistance) vs. evil (Empire/First Order). The political story reflects the politics of the time in which it is written.
What happened in the 70’s? Vietnam and Watergate. What’s happening now? Middle East and Obama/Trump. So I ask you, how could these two generations of movies not have the same political feel? They are both being born in similar political climates, with similar problems, just with different heroes and villains.
Sound familiar to some reviews on how these new films repeat the original story lines?
But there’s more to this than just rebranding. Go back again to your feelings on the original trilogy. Now think of the premise I stated about the new generation. It makes sense that they would go back to that similar format. They know it works, they know how to write it, and they know how new fans will react to it! Why fix something that isn’t broken (like they tried to do in the prequels and for the most part failed)?
The character archetypes still exist, but they have been shuffled around. As matched up before, the Vader role is given to Kylo, the Jedi/Luke role is passed to Rey, the leader role (Leia) is being groomed by her into Poe, and the vagabond (Han) is totally Finn.
Yet there also are changes in the characterizations. Finn is the vagabond, but he also carries the naive mindset that Luke held. Poe may be a leader, but he’s also a cocky hothead who wants to blow things up and doesn’t think before he acts (something Han did often). Rey may be the Last Jedi, but she is very determined and focused on what she believes that calls back to a princess who led a rebellion.
Rose is a representation of us, by the way. More on that later.
Our original heroes are taking the roles of characters from the prequels (and their own pasts). Han, while he isn’t physically in this movie, lives on the Skywalker twins, Rey, Chewie, and Kylo in a way that is reminiscent of Alderaan’s destruction: a significant destruction that the ripple effect spurs on the fight, and yet remains a reminder in those left behind. Han caused the conflict in Kylo, a father figure to Rey, a best friend to Chewie, a husband to Leia and a brother to Luke. Their worlds changed internally at Han’s death, and they will never be the same.
Luke’s death is pretty much reminiscent of Obi-Wan’s from A New Hope, just with a bit more humor. Obi-Wan failed Anakin, and Luke failed Ben. Obi-Wan made the choice to sacrifice himself for Luke to escape. Luke sacrifices himself for Rey and Leia. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a blue ghosting Luke in the next movie because Rey still needs guidance even if she has all the tools – and books – she needs. Luke’s story is important to the theme of The Last Jedi, which Yoda drives home to him. We pass on our strengths, our knowledge, and our successes, but we also pass on our failures because that is how we learn.
Empire was a movie about failure just as much at The Last Jedi. Luke gave up on trying to lift his X-Wing – “That is why you fail” Yoda told him then. He rushed to face Vader and lost his hand. Leia couldn’t hold down the Hoth base. Lando wasn’t able to make the deal. Han got turned to carbonite and taken by Boba Fett.
Failure and loss is what my generation learned in Empire, and people hated it at first. Yet it was a necessary plot point that needed to happen for the victories in Return of the Jedi to have meaning. That is what is being built here. The Last Jedi is the middle movie of a three movie arc, and therefore this is where the downward arc happens. Things are not left wrapped up nice and neat, but wide open to give the next movie the chance to show the resolutions.
We can predict that in the next movie, Poe will think before he acts as he becomes a leader. Finn will fully commit to a cause – and hopefully either Rey, Rose, or Poe. Rey will rise up from her failure in saving Ben and either confront him again to kill him, or succeed and bring him back from the dark side.
If they don’t end up in these exact directions, it will be somewhere in the ballpark. We’ve already seen them heading there at the end of this film. Their final destinations are going to be a surprise, and will be the jumping off point for the rest of the franchise whether it’s through books, tv, or more movies.
What is Rose’s Purpose Anyway?
We can sit here and talk about how important having a female POC as a character is, but that is obvious and shouldn’t even be a thing we talk about. In my honest opinion, it shouldn’t be a big thing and just a common casting choice to begin with. The fact it’s not is the reason this is important.
What I want to talk about is Rose’s purpose. Finn grew up as a sheltered, detached soldier. Poe is a legacy child from two heroes of the Republic and is following in their footsteps. Rey is a loner, treated like a third class person.
Rose is not a Mary Sue as she has a fully developed backstory, character arc, flaws, and motivations. She never advances her importance level in regards to the hierarchy of major vs. minor characters. Her story line is intended to guide main characters, always supporting the story.
Could anyone else do what Rose did in The Last Jedi? Yes, of course, but she was in the right place, at the right time, and with the right skill set to do what needed to be done. She didn’t back down or run away, but stepped up and did her part. This is why Rose is important – because she is a soldier and does her job.
Rose is the everyday person who is trying to find meaning in her life. She has lost her sister, is dedicated to her job, and looks up to the heroes of the Resistance while hiding herself behind pipes. She rambles, she is proud of what she does, and wants to help people. She has seen the best and the worst of the world, and isn’t fooled by lavishness and beauty at the expense of those who are hurt in the path to get there.
Rose is us, the viewer. She is our insight gap between our world and the galaxy far, far away. She is the one who reminds Finn to look closer beyond the pretty images and see what’s really happening in the world. She is the fangirl. She is the reality check. Rose goes from a commonplace character into a hero in her own right. Most of us can find an aspect of Rose to identify with, more than we can with Rey, Poe, or Finn, in our everyday lives. That is what will pull in the everyday people who never felt special and see that you don’t need powers or training or a legacy to be great. You just need to be yourself, and people will appreciate you for that, and everyday people can also be heroes.
There is still so much more I can talk about, but I will save it for another time as there are a lot better articles and Twitter threads out there about Luke’s motivations, the debate on if Poe is a villain in this movie, reasoning about Rey’s unimportant parents, and Kylo’s high-waist pants.
But I would love to get some discussion going on these topics, so please hit me up on twitter at @aliskyrichards or @ThreeIfBySpace, or in the comments below. And remember folks, you don’t choose the porg life. The porg life chooses you!