This article titled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi: the Force, the Porgs and the future – discuss with spoilers” was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Saturday 16th December 2017 16.39 Asia/Kolkata
Fan theorists were certain that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi would be to The Empire Strikes Back what JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens was to the original Star Wars, a movie full of Jedi training sessions on remote planets, rebel backs against the wall and darkling, curveball plot twists. In the end that was only part of the story, for this was a movie that gave us, in the words of Luke Skywalker in one of its earliest trailers, “so much more”. New Force powers, abundant alien creatures like nothing we’ve seen before, and a complex, yet satisfying return for the galaxy’s greatest hero.
So what did you think of this latest episode in the long-running space saga? Was Luke’s triumphant and poignant last hurrah your personal highlight? Did Snoke deserve to be written out so ruthlessly, a mere pawn for Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren to access his full dark side inner rage? And what was going on with Leia’s space walk? Here’s a chance to give your verdict on the movie’s key talking points.
The Marvel-style humour
Rian Johnson is not known for sparky one-liners (though 2008’s The Brothers Bloom had its moments). Of the American director’s best-known films, Brick was slick and sharp as a vintage sheath knife in its high-school noir stylings, if not exactly funny, while Looper was brooding and serious from the opening credits. And so it comes as something of a shock that The Last Jedi is packed with comedy thunderbolts designed to provide sweet relief from the horrors of space war, while occasionally papering over the cracks of a creaking, multi-stranded plot (just like Marvel then – well, Lucasfilm and the comic book studio are both owned by Disney).
Johnson even resorts to barely concealed tomfoolery to avoid having to deal with the six million dangling threads left to him by The Force Awakens’ JJ Abrams. What will Luke Skywalker do with the lightsaber – once his dear old dead Sith Lord dad’s – that has been returned to him from another world, we all wondered for two years. And why did the Jedi Knight’s laser sword “call” to Daisy Ridley’s Rey last time out at Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana? We’ll never know now, because Skywalker used his first 10 seconds of screen time to chuck the weapon over a cliff, as if dismissing the enigma for another day.
By the final scenes, the audience I watched The Last Jedi with had become so conditioned to getting a laugh every few minutes that Luke’s invincibility in the face of First Order firepower in that impressive endgame on Crait drew guffaws rather than awe. I’m not certain Johnson intended it that way.
The creatures, robots and aliens
The Porgs were clearly supposed to get on your nerves – they pretty much succeeded. But what did you think of Crait’s vulptices (crystal foxes), and Ahch-To’s nun-like Caretakers? How about BB-8’s evil twin BB-9E, or the giant, racing goat-monsters of Canto Bight? Why was Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata featured so briefly, and will she play a bigger role in Episode IX?
Let the past be the past
Star Wars’ traditional penchant for major twists and Abrams’ refusal to give much away in The Force Awakens has encouraged a billion fan theories and YouTube channels dedicated to dreaming up back stories for Rey, Snoke, Poe Dameron et al. But the only tale Johnson seemed interesting in telling in The Last Jedi was about Kylo Ren’s teenage battles with Skywalker after the latter discovered that his student had been turned to the dark side. We didn’t even get to meet the other Knights of Ren – though we can perhaps assume these were the fellow Jedi padawan who Skywalker said had left with Ben Solo after their spat on Ahch-To.
Ren suggested during the scene in Snoke’s throne room that Rey’s parents were nobodies, and the one-time Jakku scavenger looked as if she believed him. Did you buy this anti-climactic epiphany? Or is the big reveal still being saved for part three?
How about Snoke? Will we ever know who he was now that the giant alien freak has been rudely cut in half by his student in the dark arts? Some may turn to Star Wars novels and comic books to find out more, but (on the big screen at least) Andy Serkis’ tortoise-faced First Order big bad turned out to be pretty small fry.
The shifting nature of the Force
Star Wars surely needs to keep evolving if it is to last another 40 years. But the introduction of what we’ll call Force “projection” in The Last Jedi throws up all manner of potential problems. If Luke was able to project himself across the galaxy to Crait while never actually leaving Ahch-To, then what abilities might even more powerful Jedi have been able to master? Perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi never fought Vader in 1977’s Star Wars, but simply “projected” himself all the way from his cave on Tatooine. He might still be there, enjoying his retirement and doing Taco Thursday each week with the local Jawas for all we know.
Likewise, we can now see that powerful Jedi are able to link psychically across vast distances of space. This, of course, was hinted at in the original trilogy, where Luke and Leia were able to connect. That Rey and Ren appear to have upgraded the process from a nebulous nagging feeling to ultra-HD video comms suggests either that the original trilogies’ heroes were not doing it right or that the next generation is somehow far more powerful than any of its predecessors.
Leia’s powers and Carrie Fisher’s elegant swansong
We’ll never get to find out what other abilities Leia might have picked up since the original trilogy, but it was exciting to see that she’s capable of using the Force to transfer herself across dead space and come out the other side just about alive. Fisher played the role of the Resistance’s leader with rare charm and considerable humility. It seems likely the princess turned general will now get an off-screen death in Episode IX, which is certainly preferable to the mo-cap ghosted alternative.
Where to next?
If The Force Awakens left threads dangling, The Last Jedi has added millions more. Is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren really ready to be the Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine of this new Star Wars trilogy? Will Rey end up restoring the Jedi order, or will she follow Luke’s lead and set up her own Force movement, perhaps one that is equidistant between the dark side and the light? Is anyone else feeling a little nervous that Episode IX will once again be overseen by Abrams, otherwise known as the creator of Lost? That show was after all, famous for never quite bothering to resolve a number of its most vital enigmas.
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