I saw The Last Jedi three times in the first twenty-four hours, and I have some pretty firm opinions about it.
Going to the main series movies three times right away is a tradition my husband and I started back with Attack of the Clones, which was the first Star Wars movie that came out after we met. I’m not sure if we’ll continue it past Episode Nine, but it’s been fun to take a whole day now and then to totally immerse myself in a galaxy far, far away.
My spoiler-heavy take is below.
I went into The Last Jedi with no real expectations, and I loved it.
The story opens with an echo of the evacuation of Hoth, which leaves the audience rooting for a successful getaway that will give the Resistance time to regroup, train, and gather support. Unfortunately the First Order’s shiny new tracking tech keeps the dwindling Resistance fleet under a constant threat.
The slow chase plot gives the movie space to explore themes of hope and hubris. Again and again we’re shown that pride leads to failure and that hope is more powerful than hatred or fear.
The characters make a lot of mistakes. Poe, for example, assumes he’s more capable than someone he knows only by reputation, and Holdo’s own ego keeps her from answering his criticisms. Without Leia there to work her diplomatic magic, their arguments nearly tear the Resistance apart. As hard as it is to watch our heroes flail through each new set of problems, they’re clearly learning from their mistakes. Their struggles bring them a lot closer to being the kind of leaders the galaxy needs.
The good guys aren’t the only ones who learn harsh lessons. Hux loses one of his most powerful ships because he underestimates his opponents. Phasma doesn’t pull off Finn’s execution largely because she makes a big, slow production out of it. And Supreme Leader Snoke somehow thinks he is finally going be the one to convince a Skywalker to free himself of all attachments.
While the Resistance and the First Order battle it out, the young force users affiliated with each side are also thrown into conflict. Rey and Kylo Ren are complete opposites, but their force connection pushes them into a less adversarial view of each other.
Rey’s trip to the First Order flagship is one of the highlights of the movie. She has a vision that convinces her she can turn Kylo Ren back to the light, but then he claims the force has shown him Rey will be the one to change sides. The pair fight Snoke’s guards together, which is likely what their visions foretold. Unfortunately neither one seems to have realized it might be a temporary alliance.
For Kylo Ren, this is a moment of triumph. He’s survived a confrontation with his master (something even Grandpa Vader couldn’t pull off), and he’s taking command of a military force that’s strong enough to reestablish the Empire. But even after everything he’s done to get to this point, his first impulse is to share it all with Rey. It’s worth half the damn galaxy to him to not be alone.
Rey doesn’t seem tempted by the offer. Having someone with Kylo Ren’s pedigree insist that she’s more valuable than her background implies might have been freeing if she was still just a scavenger girl with no family around. She’s already chosen the Resistance though; she’s chosen the light. When Kylo tries to sway her, he’s not just asking her to leave her past behind. He’s asking her to sacrifice the future she’s dedicated herself to.
Kylo Ren can give her anything in the universe except the one thing she wants: for him to give up on the whole dark side thing and go home to his mother. That impasse leads Rey to another one of the movie’s lessons on failure. As anyone who’s ever been fascinated by a bad boy could have told her, she can’t change him. He’s got to be the one to change himself.
I would love to see Episode Nine break the cycle, to have Rey and Kylo move beyond the traditional understandings of light and dark while the rest of the galaxy finds some way to stop repeating the same mistakes. That might be a lot to put on a single movie though. No matter what happens, I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.