FULL SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead.
This is an uncritical listing of my favorite elements of The Last Jedi. Upon a single viewing, I have nothing bad to say about the movie. I will see it a second time shortly after publishing this and may discuss any issues that pop up in a separate article.
Faster, More Intense
Finn tries to run away from the Resistance and save Rey so he can take her away from the fight against the First Order. That is what he was trying to do when we were last with him in The Force Awakens. At the start of The Last Jedi, he has just woken up after being knocked out while trying to accomplish that goal. It is a bold and strange choice to start The Last Jedi immediately after The Force Awakens, but I enjoy how it plays out. These Characters are still so new to us. Seeing who they are at the end of the previous movie carry over into this movie in such a direct way is satisfying because of how they are changed by the new people and facts introduced in this story.
Rose Pricks Finn
While Finn is trying to jump ship, Rose zaps him. Despite the fact that she and her sister, Paige Tico had admired his heroism, Rose isn’t afraid to call him out on his cowardice and take action to stop him. Paige died, perhaps because of the hero she knew Finn to be. Rose was crushed to see that her sister had died believing in a false hero. She serves an interesting role that accomplishes a few tasks quite deftly. Rose and Finn have their little adventure in Canto Bight, there he learns of the oppression suffered by so many in the Galaxy. She opens his eyes to a whole universe of people who need help. who need those who can to take action to help them. This culminates in Finn giving up his life to save a score of souls on Crait because he sees that his life isn’t the most important one. He dies not knowing if Rey is safe, but knowing he will likely have saved a bunch of people who were in need, in reach of him.
Rose knocks him off course and saves his life. She admonishes him that he needs to try to live, to not throw his life away because he hates the forces of darkness and oppression, but because he wants to save the innocent and those who would do good. The tension between their outlooks functions as a parallel to Luke’s arc and struggle; the resolution (Finn wants to live on to fight to protect others) foreshadows Luke’s actions at the climax.
Poe V Holdo
The vice admiral shows up and puts this demoted soldier in his place. Poe was and is a fantastic pilot and soldier, but that doesn’t always make a good leader. Again, his character changes in this movie by the addition of a new character. Holdo comes along and kind of pushes Poe off of his course. He assumed that her plan was dumb and that he needed to take action to ensure that everybody stayed alive. I don’t think his plan of sending off Finn and Rose was bad, but had things not happen with Holdo the way they did, the two of them would be dead right now. Poe put their lives at risk for a plan he hoped would work, just like he put so many people’s lives at risk in the beginning of the movie to take down that dreadnaught. He learned about loss and he learned some lessons in how to be a good leader that he will need in the future, otherwise his character would stagnate.
Leia… IN SPACE!!!
It had always saddened me that Leia was never given the opportunity to use the Force. I have a bit of a bias towards Jedi and Force-using characters. They seem intrinsically more interesting to me and that is likely due in part to my focus on spirituality in my everyday life. There was a whole history of books and comic books that got thrown out when Lucas sold Star Wars and Lucasfilm to Disney. In those stories Leia sort-of trained to use the Force, but never really became a Jedi and that’s something that carried over into the new books and comics that have come out since the change in ownership. After The Force Awakens came out, there was a book starring Leia where in she talked about how she decided to not complete her training with Luke. I think she mentions that he taught her a few things but that she felt more comfortable pursuing the arena of politic. There’s even a neat bit at the end where she becomes very upset about something and kind of forgives Anakin a little bit because she understands how the dark side could grip a person who is furious.
Not to belabor the point, but we never get to seal Leia actively using the Force, until now. Perhaps it can be argued that she is instinctively using it to save her life, but that doesn’t really matter to me. After Poe’s mutiny, I’m pretty sure she used the Force to blow away the door before she shoots him with her stun gun. How could she have accomplished these feats with minimal training? I don’t know. But Luke did say to her that she has always been the stronger one between the two of them.
I am sad for Luke. I am happy for Luke. He was so hurt and lost so much, but he accomplished a lot in his life and had a beautiful end. He got to be wrong and make new mistakes. He stayed that good farm boy underneath it all even though he became so much more.
Conversations With Kylo
Rey and Kylo talked. They actually talked! They learned about each other and connected in such an interesting way. Rey actively hated him at the start. In their conversations she got to see him as a person and understand that there was more to him than the mask and the longing for the dark. In talking with him she made great leaps in her development. When she first saw him, she tried to shoot him. She tried to shoot him in the back. After the amazing battle in the throne room, she was full of hope that he would abandon the First Order and join her. She thought she could help bring him back to the light when at the end of The Force Awakens she had wanted to kill him and was close to it.
The connection between Rey and Kylo was made by Snoke in an attempt to lure her to him and kill her so that Luke would come out from hiding and die as well. Apparently years ago before the start of these movies, he had known Leia and Han and Luke and started influencing Ben Solo. He manipulated him to make him an ally in the future. I understand that all this had to happen in order for Lucasfilm to tell this particular story with these movies, but Snoke ruined the lives of three of my favorite heroes and I really hated him for that. Fortunately for me, he became arrogant and shared a little too much in front of Kylo in the throne room with Rey, ultimately leading to his wonderful demise.
The themes of coming to grips with failure, recognizing that our heroes are never perfect and learning to move on from the past were richly explored from so many angles.
When Luke is giving Rey a lesson and he speaks of the hubris of the Jedi and highlights their failings, I almost lost my mind. I have been closely following Star Wars for at least 10 years now and in that time I have come to respect the genius of Sidious and pity the Jedi for their arrogance and how far they must have drifted from their way. The prequels show that the Jedi are flawed and that they are failing to live out their morals and principles. Star Wars the Clone Wars, an animated series executive-produced and overseen by George Lucas himself, shows even more just how far gone the Jedi were and how Sidious was able to get them to destroy themselves and secure his rise to power and the Sith’s conquest of the Galaxy. Taken together Episode I through Episode VI make for a tragic tale of a man’s fall from grace, which parallels the fall of democracy into tyranny. Luke has learned that history and shares it with Rey and any part of the audience who wasn’t aware of that. It a important to remember that our predecessors are human like us and we should learn from their mistakes.