What you can learn about story from the Star Wars universe
Before we get started in on The Last Jedi, I want to take one more opportunity to say:
Okay, The Last Jedi did not disappoint.
Or did it?
Moviegoers seem split right down the middle on the topic and so am I.
So let’s dig into the movie, see what went right, what went wrong, where we go from here and why the Star Wars franchise is so enduring, even when it doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.
After Episode 7, I thought I was done. I didn’t need to see any more. While sitting in the theatre, watching The Force Awakens, a creepy feeling came over me everytime the crowd cheered. I didn’t know why, but the creepy, uneasy feeling got worse as the movie went on. Then, when the crowd cheered for Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber, my 9 year old son looked up at me with confusion.
He wanted to know why people were getting excited (to the point of cheering) for a Lightsaber. He knew what a Lightsaber was, he’d seen the previous movies, he just didn’t understand why they would cheer for it.
Frankly, neither could I.
I understand cheering for the characters, but the more cheers people gave for easter eggs and throwbacks, the more uneasy I felt. People didn’t want a good story, they wanted all the old feels (as the kids would say).
Episode 7 dedicated so much time to it’s past, we didn’t get to fully enjoy the new characters and all their potential. As old as Han, Leia, and Luke are, they deserve a break. I didn’t necessarily need to see these characters again. Star Wars is stronger than a few characters, as I’ll get into later.
With The Last Jedi, we move away from all the nostalgia (well, most of it) and onto new story! We got a lot more of the new cast, and our new central conflict, Rey and Kylo!
Now, the story, and how good it was in The Last Jedi is debatable. There were highs (that epic chase, culminating in that beautiful shot of the Empire’s fleet being shredded by Holdo) and lows (Finn and Rose’s escapades on the casino planet / Star Destroyer).
But overall, I feel the franchise is moving along in the right direction, burn it all down and build it up again, the cyclical nature of life.
Some of the best parts of The Last Jedi, to me, were the multiple retellings of the fateful night Luke and Kylo faced off and the big reveal of Rey’s parents. I almost felt as if the filmmakers were talking to us, the audience, telling us, people see things in different ways and no one is clearly right or wrong with their opinion.
Just like that fateful night with Luke and Kylo and the bluntness of Kylo, telling us to get over it, Rey’s parents don’t matter, that was a trope from the original films, we are moving into new territory.
As much as I hated the whiny Kylo from episode 7, he was much improved in episode 8 as the main villain. Letting go of his past when he smashes his helmet, further telling us to let go of the past.
As matter of fact, there were several scenes telling us to forego the past for the future. For instance, Luke tossing his Lightsaber at the very beginning of the movie, or Yoda, almost literally telling Luke to let go of all those old Jedi books, “Page turners, they were not”!
So, enough talk of the past characters and onto the new cast, how they fared and what their future holds…
I’ll start with our favorite renegade Stormtrooper, Finn, who was marginalized with nothing added to his story. He was probably the most wasted part of The Last Jedi. It’s hard to even think that, after how masterfully he was previously handled.
In Episode 7, Finn’s character was given a great arc, having been a Storm Trooper and then deciding he needed to get away and make a change in his life. A full on Redemption tale worthy of another huge Star Wars character and one of the greatest directors to ever live! (More on both of them, later!)
All the other new cast from Episode 7 leveled up, except for Finn. Poe steps in, as a leader of the Rebellion and Kylo and Rey move on to becoming the pinnacle of Dark and Light jedi, respectably.
Finn (and Rose by association), got the shaft.
Rey, to me, was the weakest part of the new cast, but I have renewed hope for her as our last Jedi. Before, we didn’t know what her motivations were, or who she even was, besides a random scavenger form the desert. Now though, with her connection to the most dangerous being in the galaxy and her newly honed Jedi skills, I’m very interested in where her story leads.
While I wasn’t overly excited with Poe’s hot headedness throughout the movie, he’s still the baddest pilot to ever fly an X-wing and I can watch a whole movie of just that. He was also bold enough to stage a mutiny AND have crew back him up! I just hope he continues to fly an X-wing after they make him an admiral.
Now, with the focus of the franchise shifting more to the new cast, I am excited about the prospects of future Star Wars films.
Although, I’m not quite sure The Last Jedi holds up necessarily, as a good film. There are a lot of moving parts to the Star Wars franchise and I feel like we, as an audience, are at times overburdened with plot and exposition, and not given a chance to enjoy the overall story.
We can’t be expected to relax and enjoy the movie if we have to go through a check list of beats, scenes and shots.
So why is The Last Jedi doing so well? Why is the Star Wars franchise still the hot property it is? With the original films, the filmmakers tapped into a very primal, simple, “good versus evil” tale. Add to that, amazing designs and laser swords… the rest is history.
The simple story arc of good versus evil carries on to the current stable of movies as well, keeping the same overall tone. We still don’t know exactly why the bad guys are bad, but we don’t really need to. And for every piece of excess and shoddy storytelling, we are also treated to some very beautiful scenes and shots that make up for the bad.
I also feel like a large part that keeps us coming back to the theatres, is that inkling of “hope”.
“Hope” is such a strong component of the Star Wars films, that the very first movie was retitled “A New Hope” and the new movies use the term repeatedly, especially Rogue One and The Last Jedi. “Hope”, is enough to keep us coming back for more.
When the foundation of the franchise is so strong in its simplicity, it’s hard to knock Star Wars down completely. One of the highlights story wise, throughout the whole franchise, for me, is Darth Vader’s story. It was such a strong point, that all three prequels revolved around him. It doesn’t matter what you think of the prequels and the taxation plot, the clones, or any other part of the prequels, they were always about Anakin turning to the Dark Side.
Darth Vader’s fall to the Dark Side and his eventual redemption in Return of the Jedi is on par with any of Martin Scorsese’s strong stable of characters and their battle for redemption.
And there are a lot of Scorsese films that deal with redemption! I found this interesting article online for anyone who wants to dig deeper on the subject and one of the greatest movie makers ever!
The redemption tale also plays heavily into Star Wars’ future. Where do the new cast of characters go from here? Where do allegiances eventually lie? Does Rey turn to the Dark Side like Kylo? Can Kylo be redeemed? These are basic story points that are placed on the foundation of strong, previous films that will keep us entertained for years to come.
Whether you enjoyed The Last Jedi, didn’t enjoy it, or fall somewhere in the middle, like me, there is no denying the Force is strong with Star Wars franchise!
May the force be with you!
Until then, Board On!
PS: Now that we’ve had time to really think about it, how did you enjoy The Last Jedi? Let us know in the comments!
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