*Warning: Massive Spoilers in this Article*
Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi (my review here) has become a much debated and polarizing adventure. Some praise the bold vision, others retort it does not feel like a Star Wars movie; many applaud the twists and surprises, while others lament the same twists claiming they erase and confuse the preceding storylines. Why is this film so divisive? Were the film-making risks worth it? What motivations led Lucasfilm as a company to take the paths less chosen?
Since this will be a longer entry, here’s the order of contents so you can scroll to the section most desired:
1) a polarized culture (assessing the polarization in America on a cultural level)
2) Poe vs Hodo
3) Luke’s lack of Saber use
4) the Death of Snoke
5) Rey’s Parents reveal
6) Yoda vs Obi-Wan
7) Leia’s use of the Force
A Polarized Culture
First, let’s acknowledge a room-sized elephant: America as a nation has become polarized – politically, morally, ethically, and spiritually. Therefore, it was only a matter of time for such divisiveness to creep into Star Wars fandom. Roses’ words of wisdom should be heeded by people on all sides: don’t destroy what you hate, save what you love. Such an approach will help people to talk with humility rather than rage with arrogance.
Now for the movie itself…
Poe vs Hodo
Many a comment has been shared about the conflict between fan favorite Poe and Vice Admiral Hodo. The comment: if she would just let Poe in on her plan, all the conflict and mistakes could have been avoided. Reason behind the passion: Poe is shown as struggling with authority, and the fans want him to be a hero in the right.
Why did Hodo not let Poe in on her plan? To understand Hodo’s lack of explanation one has to think through the mind of the military. An admiral never has to explain her/himself to a lower-ranking officer. A soldier is to hear the orders and obey the orders. Society at large in Western Civilization craves independent thinking and desires to know all around them. Such is not the case in the military. In times of war, the leaders make a call and the soldiers must respond in a trustworthy manner without hesitation. Poe was out of line in his questioning of the Admiral as he struggled with pride, and had to learn how to serve under authority well in order to learn how to lead well.
Luke Not Fighting with a Saber
It appears Luke lost his green saber when Kylo destroyed the temple. Being exiled on an island without force crystals meant Luke could not forge a new saber (and he cut himself off from the force, meaning he would be able to construct a saber anyway). Still, many were disappointed with Luke’s final battle being without a single saber clash against Kylo Ren.
Signs of a true master: not having to fight at all. For some 1980s nostalgia, look back to the original Karate Kid (parts 1 & 2). Miyagi was able to beat Kreese without ever lifting his hand. A master is truly a master when they can make a fool out of their opponent with simplicity. Luke was able to defeat and make a mockery out of Kylo without even being present – what a true master of the force!
Death of Snoke
This was one of the biggest surprises of the movie. Most people expected Snoke to be the big baddie, the Emperor equivalent, the one Luke or Rey would have to defeat in episode 9. Come to find out, Kylo is the big baddie.
Why did Kylo eliminate Snoke in 8? Kylo Ren told Rey to get rid of the past, kill it if you have to, as such is the only way to become who you’re truly meant to be. Snoke and Luke were all who remained in his past, so killing them was what he thought it would take to achieve his destiny. Therefore, knowing Snoke’s background is rather irrelevant (from a storytelling point of view), as he is but a macguffin for Kylo.
Rian Johnson stated in an interview why he chose Rey’s parents to be nobody of any significance. In short: to move a character’s arc into a deep and emotional path, their greatest quest must be met with the worst possible answer. For Luke in Empire Strikes Back, the worst possible answer was for Vader to be his father; in The Last Jedi, the worst possible for answer for Rey was for her parents to be junkies who sold her for booze money. Such a reveal pushes Rey to find meaning and significance in something other than her lineage and heritage (a introspection everyone has to make at some point in their lives).
Yoda vs Obi-Wan
Some wonder why Yoda and not Obi-Wan appeared to Luke on the island. First, there’s the issue of logistics: Alec Guinness died a long time ago, and Ewan McGreggor’s appearance would be a little weird and distracting (even with makeup). From a storytelling point of view: Luke spent more time learning the force from Yoda than Obi-Wan (see both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and notice the content of interaction between Luke, Yoda, and Kenobi). Therefore, it made most sense for Yoda to give Luke a final kick in the pants.
Leia Poppins (Leia’s use of the Force)
Part-way into the film, Leia’s ship is attacked, there’s a massive hull breech, and Leia was jettisoned into space…only to force fly (Mary Poppins style) back to her ship. This one was the weirdest part for me, personally, and took a little reading, thinking, and second viewing to accept it (though it still stands as a little weird). Rian Johnson himself explained this controversial decision.
To summarize: Leia was always strong with the force. In fact, in the book “Star Wars: from a Certain Point of View,” it I revealed Yoda planned on training Leia to be a Jedi, not Luke in Empire Strikes Back (and was surprised to see Luke). Second: Johnson had hear of many stories where people would summon extraordinary strength in times of extreme crisis – like a parent lifting a car which had rolled over their child. Johnson wanted a similar motif in The Last Jedi concerning Leia, which a time of extreme crisis allowed her to have a force-adrenalin-surge allowing her to temporarily display Luke-level mastery.
I do believe this covers the main divisive beats of the film. If there are other thoughts, concerns, etc., feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be glad to peacefully interact and dialogue. Harsh and vulgar comments will be removed. 😊