Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Observations
Kol Drake created the topic: Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Observations
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“This analysis is not going to go the way you think”
Over at bittergertrude.com, Melissa put the Star Wars in historical and cultural perspective.
Star Wars has always had its finger on the pulse of the cultural fear of the moment. In the original trilogy in the 1970s and early 80s, it was The Man – an evil establishment that needed to be purified by a younger generation. In the prequels of the 90s, it was evil corporations secretly colluding with a corrupt government to create endless war.
Now, in early 21st century America, the villain is an unstable young white man who had every privilege in life, yet feels like the world has wronged him. Unbeknownst to his family, he finds and communicates with a faraway mentor who radicalizes him with a horrific, authoritarian ideology. By the time his family finds out, it’s too late, and now this unstable young white man has this horrific ideology, access to far too many weapons, and the desperate desire to demolish anything that he perceives as a threat – or is told to perceive as a threat.
Star Wars has always pushed at the boundaries of its culture. Princess Leia was mainstream filmmaking’s first self-rescuing princess, and the films were unstinting in depicting her importance to the military strategy of the Rebellion, reflecting an incipient 70s feminism. The prequels were clear that we were all complicit in a corrupt system whether we admitted it to ourselves or not, symbolized by noble Jedi finding themselves leading an army of slave clones that were purchased from part of a massive military industrial complex. For all the films’ faults– and they are legion– this was a stunning accusation, and played to the 90s’ growing concerns of big business’ influence on government.
The new films are again at the vanguard of cultural concerns, but push harder and more subversively than any of the previous films. Above all else, The Last Jedi is about smashing patriarchal white supremacy – smashing it to the ground and starting over– and I am here for it.
While the earlier films were about the need to purify corrupt systems, the new ones are about smashing everything and starting over.
This is a fair assessment. Movies do tend to reflect our views on society, etc. What 'worked' for the original Star Trek series (wild west, fists and finally, coming to a compromise) probably would not survive long in the era of The Next Generation (diplomacy over fists first). Hard boiled spies of the 60s have to be more nuanced in the 20-teens. We change; they change. We go to 'see' what we hope and expect to see.
Expectations and Point-of-View are a major part of TLJ. (imo)
Kol Drake replied the topic: Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Observations
In TLJ, Rian Johnson pretty much took all the messy strings laid down by J. J. Abrams and tossed them over the cliff -- much like Master Luke did when Rey presented his old lightsaber. Not that RJ went 'fully rogue.' He had some nice 'tip of the hat' moments to the original trilogy with R2-D2 playing the holographic recording from Princess Leia. The New Order (Sithian) Throne room had a similar flavor to Palpatine's haunts. Rian asked us to 'remember' instead of Abram's efforts to 'just mirror the old stories'.
This installment was not what I expected.
As I stated, it seems to me expectations are a recurring theme. Luke is not the Legend Rey expected. He even says he's a flawed person which, for me, makes Master Skywalker even more epic. He knows he has feet of clay instead of buying into the 'Savior of the Galaxy' hype. Long, long ago, we were told that the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice and could do no wrong and yet, Luke Skywalker has some really good and valid criticisms of the Jedi order. Their dogmatism, hypocrisy, and hubris not only allowed Palpatine to rise to power but also helped to create Darth Vader.
For many, these stories were supposedly about the Skywalker bloodline – Anakin to Luke and Leia to their children.
(That's how it was in the books Disney turned into 'alt history' – 'Legends.') Rian Johnson has Luke talk about how he believed his great Skywalker blood made him a legendary Jedi Master, but it was just hubris. Supreme Leader Snoke saw something in Kylo Ren. He not only saw pure, untamed power, but something truly special -- the potential of his bloodline. But bloodlines do not make people truly special. Our actions and our deeds make us special. And Snoke 'assumed' the Light that would rise to counter his and Kylo's Dark would be Luke Skywalker. More 'expectations' shot to heck.
Luke isn't the hero / legend Rey expected to find. Nor the 'teacher' she wanted and expected. (( I loved the implied reference to old movies about 'getting into temples'… having to be rejected; sticking to the decision even when it meant camping out on the doorstep in the wet and cold; stubbornly staying until they open the gates and allowed you to train. Very old martial arts movie influence… another tribute to the original trilogy? ))
Poe expected to be rewarded for being a hot shot pilot even though their entire group of bombers and support fighters got wiped out. Poe 'expected' a large victory would bring reward and 'mean something'. But, as George S. Patton stated –
“No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”
While it was 'one blow' against the New Order, it killed way too many people and wasted scarce resources they could ill afford to lose. Wars are more than 'micro victories'. Having some military background, I thought Poe got off easy with a simple slap, tongue lashing, and a demotion.
But Poe had his own expectations. He knew Leia supported his antics before. He thought he could do no wrong. Hot shot pilots are like that. In Star Wars and in real life. It seems to be part of the genetic code for being great pilots. Poe's inability to see beyond 'the battle of the moment' cost lives. And alienated him from the command structure at a critical time.
It is odd though… Poe never gave the order for the fleet to attack, he simply disobeyed orders and attacked it by himself. How then did the fleet join the battle alongside Poe to destroy the dreadnought when they were originally attempting to escape? Only the military commander can give that order – General Leah. She effectively sacrificed half the rebel fleet for one man, her best pilot, Poe. Then Leah and all the other rebel leaders blame Poe for losing half her fleet. There has to be some Point of View-ness in that bit.. but might have been left on the cutting room floor?
Again, my own view regarding military stuff. Vice Admirals and Generals do not HAVE TO tell their subordinates all the plans. The subordinates are told what they NEED TO KNOW to get the job done. The top level officers are playing the larger game; trying to see beyond the edges of the game board. As a leader of the pilots, Poe should have been given SOME information but he did not need to know all the mechanisms going on. BUT, I supposed that would not have given as much 'DRAMA' and character friction to move the scenes along. (( though it might have kept the 'mutiny' from happening later? ))
Heck, Poe 'expected' Vice Admiral Holdo to be some legendary military leader after her victory at… whatever that place was - I forget. He expects Holdo to be as dynamic as Admiral Ackbar and as charismatic as General Leia. Expectations. And, news flash – not ALL good (or great) military leaders are charismatic, dynamic figures. General George S. Patton did NOT look like actor George C. Scott. Patton was a whip thin guy you wouldn't give a second glance if not for the uniform and stars on his collar.
Vice Admiral Holdo echoed words she had shared with Leia. She was speaking nearly the same words but, due to expectations, the impact of her 'speech' was negligible. Folks walked away going, “so, why did we listen to her?” Holdo looks like some tall drink of aristocratic water who does not know her elbow from an X-Wing. Expectations smothered any 'spark' her speech may have kindled.
Kol Drake replied the topic: Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Observations
(( BDT's character I hope to see in SW IX – maybe the 'new version' of Lando Callrisian… learning that being 'bad' doesn't pay as well anymore ))
We as the movie viewing crowd had 'expectations'.
We expected to see a Light versus Dark showdown. We got Kylo Ren vs Luke Skywalker. When Ren shifted his feet to prepare for his attack, the salts beneath his feet moved the white and exposed the red material below the surface. Anyone else notice, when Luke 'shifted his feet'… no salts or sands moved? No 'red material' showed? When Luke's lightsaber lit up it was blazing white. Anyone else 'notice' it was not the green lightsaber he had been using but the one 'legacy' saber Rey had carried to him? AND, since that family lightsaber was already torn in two – there was no way he would be using that one? EXPECTATIONS. They can spur us forward but also blind us to the obvious which we might 'see' in 20/20 hindsight.
“Many of the truths we cling to greatly depend on our point of view.” – Obi-wan Kenobi (ROTJ)
Remember when Force Ghost Obi Wan Kenobi finally had to 'fess up to Luke about his father?
LUKE: Ben! Why didn't you tell me? You told me that Darth Vader betrayed and murdered my father.
OBK: Your father... was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be the Jedi Anakin Skywalker and "became" the Sith Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So, what I told you was true... from a certain point of view.
LUKE: A certain point of view?
OBK: Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Anakin was a good friend. When I first met him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.
We got a great example of 'from a certain point of view' with the Skywalker / Ren flashbacks. Luke tells Rey about how he went to confirm his growing doubts and confront his student Ben Solo, but Ben had turned on him and left him for dead. Then Ben burned the Jedi Temple down and killed some of his fellow students. That was Luke’s version of the story from his point of view. But Kylo Ren had a different point of view. He tells Rey that Luke came to kill him in his sleep and that he had to defend himself against Luke and escape. Luke later admits that while he did have that one moment of weakness and ignited his lightsaber to kill Ben Solo, he realized that it was the wrong thing to do and became ashamed. Both Luke and Kylo Ren have their own point of view and they are all true.
The casino was very fleshed out. I suspect because we shall see it again for the 'young Han Solo' trilogy of movies. Finn and Rose 'expected' them all to be slimy creeps but, they all looked like high class folk. (expectations) And let's toss in point of view. One view might be, these folks are enjoying the pleasures bought by their hard work. Another view is that they are all warmongers; making all their cash selling to the New Order. Finn is shown ANOTHER view. That many are selling to BOTH SIDES in the conflict. Bad for selling to the New Order but 'good' for selling to the Rebellion? Del Toro's character was the most pragmatic one of the movie. “You blow up them today; they blow you up tomorrow…”
Rey and Ren POVs. They 'touched' and each 'saw' their futures. Rey saw Kylo turning to the Light Side. Kylo 'saw' Rey joining him on the Dark Side. They were 'seeing' actions during their epic 'throne room' fight. Rey standing side by side with Ren vs eveyone else might have seemed like he 'joined her'. Ren 'seeing' Rey help kill his foes and even tossing a weapon at the last moment must have seemed a 'sure sign' she was taking his side.
Kol Drake replied the topic: Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- Observations
“The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda (TLJ)
Rian Johnson took everything we thought we knew about the Jedi and showed that they were failures. Even Yoda was a failure. This is something I loved about Revenge of the Sith. Yoda lost against Sidious because he acted out of anger, fear, and aggression. He learned his lesson and passed on what he had learned to Luke in ESB and ROTJ. Johnson reminded us of that.
Luke failed; a fact that he can’t stop telling us about. I admit, that was drilled in a little too much. He failed Ben Solo by fearing the Dark Side. Fear, as we know, leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. Nod to Phantom Menace there.
Every philosophy and organization has problems, but things only get better if you engage with these issues and try to improve them. However, Luke has lost all hope and purpose, and doesn’t even make an attempt to make things better. His pessimism and shame has clouded his better judgement. Even after finding out that his best friend has been murdered and the Republic he fought so hard to build has been destroyed, Luke rejects the call to adventure ( of the Hero's Journey mythology) three times:
* When Rey first offers the lightsaber to Luke in the beginning of the film.
* When R2 plays Leia’s message to Obi-Wan, which was Luke’s original call to adventure.
* When Rey again offers Luke the lightsaber right before leaving Ahch-To.
It is because Luke rejects all three of these calls and gives very little constructive advice to Rey that she turns to Kylo for advice. There was simply no one else that could help her. If Rey did not have such high moral character, she may very well have turned to the Dark Side because of Luke’s neglect. Or, is that 'our' expectation of how the Force works?
“Time it is for you to look past a pile of old books…Lost Ben Solo you did. Lose Rey we must not…Pass on what you have learned.” - Yoda (TLJ)
“The greatest teacher failure is.” - Yoda (TLJ)
“We are what they grow beyond.” – Yoda (TLJ)
Ah, Master Yoda. Truer words were never spoken. Our expectations of what constitutes 'being a Jedi' and 'what the Force is' are thrown in our face in this movie. We are asked to 'grow beyond' our early (movie) roots and ideas. Even Yoda knows Luke couldn't stay awake trying to read those 'sacred texts' of the Jedi. Snore-fests.
This film has grown beyond the original Star Wars Saga. Forget The Force Awakens. Kill it if you must. The Last Jedi has taken us into a bold new direction. Just as Luke grew beyond Obi-wan and Yoda in the Original Trilogy, Rey has grown beyond Luke. She isn’t tied to the Jedi Order. She isn’t beholden to sacred texts or arcane rules. While she is now that last Jedi, the Jedi have become something different. Even what it means to be a Jedi has grown beyond what a Jedi once was.
The past had to be laid to rest so the future could grow from the ashes.
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Now, I know I did not cover everything. I didn't mention the Porg. Or, kudos to Rian Johnson for going back to 'hand puppet' Yoda versus questionable CGI Yoda. Or, the 'Dark Side' cave and Rey's experience in there.
Plenty for others to discuss and toss out. We all have our “expectations” and “points of view” on this installment of the saga.
- Academy Principal