The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last JediThe Resistance, having enraged the leadership of the First Order by destroying Starkiller Base, is now on the run as the former Empire cuts off its supply lines and escape routes. A small flotilla of Resistance ships manages to escape, but General Hux and the First Order fleet are close behind them, pursuing at sublight speed to avoid overshooting their prey. Poe Dameron, still the most daring pilot in the Resistance, defies orders to take out the most heavily-armed dreadnought-class Star Destroyer, but his defiance – and the heavy losses incurred – cost him his rank. Kylo Ren is similarly facing the disdain of his Dark Side master, Supreme Chancellor Snoke, who chides him for not having the singular strength of will that his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, did. Ren leads a strike on the Resistance fleet that almost results in his mother’s death; Leia’s latent Force powers save her life, but she is in no shape to lead the fleet, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo to assume command of what’s left of the Resistance. Finn, losing his nerve during the First Order’s onslaught, considers abandoning ship in an escape pod until he’s dissuaded by a young technician named Rose Tico, whose sister was one of the Resistance pilots killed in Poe’s ill-advised, unauthorized strike on the dreadnought – or, more accurately, Finn is dissuaded by a laser tool Rose is carrying for the express purpose of preventing potential deserters. When the First Order demonstrates the ability to track the Resistance fleet through hyperspace, it suddenly seems that Rose’s expertise in hyperdrive and Finn’s knowledge of First Order ship layouts is a promising combination…if only they can get aboard. A hot tip from Maz points them, with BB-8 in tow, to the luxury planet Canto Bight, where a renowned codebreaker can be found gambling in the casino. But Finn and Rose and their rolling droid stand out like sore thumbs among the Canto Bight elite, and are unable to get close enough to talk to the codebreaker in question before they’re locked up. They meet a fellow prisoner who claims to have the same skills they need to breach the defense of Snoke’s command ship.

During all of this, Rey, Chewie and R2-D2 have traveled to the obscure ocean planet Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker (and various local life forms) tend to the ruins of what’s said to be the first Jedi temple. Luke is not at all happy to be disturbed from his solitude, informing Rey rather bluntly that he has come to this planet to age and die in peace, and to keep the sacred and ancient Jedi texts with him. Rey also discovers that he has forsaken use of the Force: Luke feels that the hubris of the Jedi led to the decades of suffering that resulted from the Sith and the Empire dominating the galaxy. The days of the Jedi, Luke has decided for himself, must come to an end. But shaken by news of Han’s death, and given a reminder of his own youthful yearning to become something greater, Luke reluctantly agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. He discovers along the way that her ability to tap into the Force may rival that of Kylo Ren himself – Ben Solo, Luke’s former protege who turned to the Dark Side. Luke’s fears may be founded, too: Kylo Ren and Rey are able to see and speak to one another despite the vast distances between them. Rey believes Ren can be turned away from Snoke’s influence, and since her mentor refuses to return to the fight against the First Order, she sets off to recruit Ren as an ally. Enraged, Luke sets out to burn down the last remains of the Jedi temple and the texts contained within, only to discover that his own mentor has beaten him to it…and unaware that Rey has already taken the texts with her.

Chewie drops Rey off in an escape pod near the First Order flagship, where Kylo Ren awaits her arrival and introduces her to Snoke, who uses the Force to extract Luke’s whereabouts from Rey’s mind. When she continues to declare her intent to resist Snoke, he orders Ren to kill her, but Ren instead kills Snoke, and a vicious battle with Snoke’s personal retinue of bodyguards ensues, during which Rey and Ren have to fight together. But once that threat is dealt with, Ren reveals that he killed Snoke to ascend to his throne and assume his position of power, not to help the Resistance. Finn, Rose, BB-8 and their new codebreaking acquaintance also sneak aboard the flagship to disable the hyperspace tracker, only for the shifty codebreaker to sell them out to the First Order. Aboard the last surviving Resistance cruiser, Poe Dameron has grown tired of Admiral Holdo’s secretive style of command and tries to mount a mutiny, only to have that uprising personally quashed by Leia, fresh out of the medical bay, still frail, but still fiercely determined. Poe’s point of contention is that Holdo is preparing to order the entire remaining Resistance to abandon the nearly-out-of-fuel cruiser in unarmed sublight transports, which will then limp to a nearby planet and the relative safety of an abandoned Rebel base from the days of the Empire, while the First Order (hopefully) concentrates all of its attention on the cruiser. Admiral Holdo remains on the cruiser to act as a decoy, but the First Order targets the helpless transports and begins blasting them out of the sky, one by one, until Holdo suicidally jumps the cruiser to lightspeed, ramming through Snoke’s flagship. Rey, Finn, Rose and BB-8 escape and make their way to the Rebel base, where Leia has ordered a distress call to be transmitted to allies of the Resistance – a call that seems to be going unanswered as First Order forces surround the base…until Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, appears from nowhere, conferring briefly with Leia before going outside to personally face off against Kylo Ren. The fight does not go the way that anyone expects, and buys the Resistance time to escape…but at this point, the Resistance has been whittled down in size to the point that they all fit inside the Millennium Falcon.

Order the DVDswritten by Rian Johnson
directed by Rian Johnson
music by John Williams

The Last JediCast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker / Dobbu Scay), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domnhall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo), Benicio Del Toro (DJ), Frank Oz (Yoda), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Amanda Lawrence (Commander D’Arcy), Jimmy Vee (R2-D2), Brian Herring (BB-8), Dave Chapman (BB-8), Justin Theroux (Master Codebreaker), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Tom Kane (Admiral Ackbar), Adrian Edmondson (Captain Peavey), Mark Lewis Jones (Captain Canady), Hermione Corfield (A-Wing Pilot Tallie), Veronica Ngo (Paige Tico), Noah Segan (X-Wing Pilot Starck), Jamie Christopher (X-Wing Pilot Tubbs), Paul Casey (C’al Threnalli), Michael Coel (Resistance Monitor), Jonathan Harden (Resistance Monitor), Dan Euston (Resistance Bombardier), Priyanga Burford (Resistance Medical Officer), Navin Chowdhry (Resistance Cargo Pilot), Andrew Jack (General Ematt),
Crystal Clarke (Resistance Transport Pilot), Aki Omoshaybi (Resistance Bridge Officer), Togo Igawa (Resistance Bridge Officer), Hugh Skinner (Holdo’s First Officer), Tim Steed (Holdo’s First Officer), Simon Lowe (Resistance Hangar Captain), Joe Van Moyland (Temporary Command Center Resistance Pilot), Shauna MacDonald (Temporary Command Center Resistance Pilot), Darren Morfitt (Transport Deck Officer), Gerard Monaco (First Order Commander), Kate Dickie (Hux’s First Order Monitor), Patrick O’Kane (Hux’s First Order Officer), Paul Bazely (Hux’s First Order Officer), Orion Lee (Canady’s First Order Monitor), Amira Ghazalla (Canady’s First Order Commander), Ralph Ineson (Senior First Order Officer), Akshay Kumar (Mega-Destroyer First Order Monitor), Michael Jibson (Kylo’s Shuttle Pilot), Luke Neal (Canto Cop), Andy Nyman (Jail Guard), Temirlan Blaev (Stable Boy), Josiah Oniha (Stable Kid), Sara Heller (Stable Kid), Matthew Sharp (Resistance Trench Sergeant “Salty”), Lily Cole (Party Girl Lovey), Warwick Davis (Wodibin), Kiran Shah (Neepers Panpick), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (voice of Slowen Lo), Mike Quinn (Nien Nunb), Gareth Edwards (Resistance Trench Soldier), Jack Greenlees (Resistance Evacuation Officer), Danny Sapani (Medical Frigate Captain), Kevin Layne (Resistance Bomber Pilot #1), Ben Morris (Resistance Bomber Pilot Teene)

LogBook entry and review by Earl Green

The Last JediReview: I try to avoid reading or addressing other people’s opinions or reviews of a piece of entertainment when writing my own reviews, but it’s hard here not to address the polarizing effect that The Last Jedi has had upon fandom. (And I can’t even address that without delving into my increasingly complex feelings about fandoms, which are beginning to mirror my feelings about organized religion.) To put it mildly, Rian Johnson’s entry in the Star Wars saga alienated a few viewers, possibly because it seems hell-bent on subverting expectations, something at which it both succeeds and fails.

The Next-To-Last JediAnd yet it’s that subversion of expectations that made it so appealing for me. Luke doesn’t want to do what Rey (and thus the viewer) wants him to do…and yet, in the end, he does it anyway, or at least it looks that way. His reaction upon seeing his old lightsaber (an item now loaded with importance after Revenge Of The Sith, since it was also Anakin’s) is to examine it thoughtfully before chucking it over his shoulder as if he’s doing a comedy bit with a banana peel. He’s dismantled part of his X-Wing – most of which was ditched in Ahch-To’s ocean – to serve as the door to his hut. Furthermore, despite being the return of the Jedi personified, he now wants nothing to do with the Jedi Order.

The thing of it is, Luke’s not wrong. Contrary to the tiptoe-up-to-it reference to a cloned army in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi validates and summarizes the prequels: the The Next-To--Next-To Last Jediarrogance of the Jedi of old was a key ingredient of the rise of the Empire. The surety of the Jedi in their own moral standing and their command of the Force became a weakness for Darth Sidious (surprisingly name-checked out in the open here) to exploit. If you tally up the cost exacted upon Luke personally by that chain of events – his parents, his aunt and uncle, Obi-Wan, Biggs, and now arguably Han and his son – the hubris of the Jedi is a gift that keeps on giving pain to the galaxy, and Luke’s ready to put it back in the box, with the receipt, and return it for a full refund.

Additionally, Luke is dead wrong. The presence of the Jedi merely as a symbol continues to have power – see: Cassian Andor hopefully inquiring as to whether or not Chirrut is a Jedi in Rogue One – and that symbol is needed now that the First Order is up to the Empire’s old tricks.

Third Jedi From The LeftEach of the new trilogy’s younger protagonists get plenty to do; Rey struggles with the enormity of what she’s learning, while also questioning Luke’s role in Ben Solo’s turning to the Dark Side, until finally she turns against her own mentor. Finn, too, does this in his duel with Captain Phasma (literally the only thing Gwendoline Christie’s character gets to do in this movie). Poe throws off the shackles of the chain of command because he thinks an ill-advised mutiny is the only sensible course of action, only to have his leash yanked back forcefully by Leia. Kylo Ren continues his streak of patricide by eliminating Snoke in an act of patricide-by-proxy: since he feels Snoke is now disappointing him as much as Han Solo did, he’ll happily do away with him. He also sheds part of the identity he’s constructed for himself in the process, doing away with the silly helmet at last.

No SnokingAnd what about Snoke? In the context of The Last Jedi, Snoke becomes a problematic character at best. So enmeshed in the “Emperor” role is Snoke that John Williams even uses the same music for both characters. That Snoke was known to Luke prior to Ben’s revolt against his Jedi training is perhaps even more problematic: it implies that Snoke had access to, and influence over, Ben Solo…while Ben was under Luke’s tutelage as part of a new Jedi order. Snoke’s casual mention of Luke suggests that the two were acquainted on some level, but surely Luke wouldn’t allow Snoke anywhere near his students…unless Snoke was somehow disguising his true nature and intent successfully enough to fool a Jedi Master. It both matters and doesn’t matter, as Snoke is disposed of here almost casually – Johnson clearly felt that there was more value in upping the stakes of questioning whether Kylo Ren can return to the light than in answering those questions (which will no doubt be answered three different conflicting ways in various other media).

Third Jedi From The SunRose Tico, however, is a fascinating addition to the cast, one who I hope survives into the next movie. She places great importance on the legends she’s heard about some of her crewmates, so much so that the reality might be a letdown (i.e. Finn trying to desert). But knowing this, Finn starts trying to live up to what she thinks of him, and becomes more heroic by default. Rose seems to be there, in part, to explain the lengthy detour to Canto Bight, a planet of high-rollers whose luxurious lives were probably paid for by selling weapons to both the First Order and the Resistance. Explaining this, and casting judgement on it, is the absolutely fascinating character played by Guillermo Del Toro. He’ll peddle his skills – and momentary allegiance – to whoever’s making him the better offer at the moment, whether that offer is “more money” or “sell out your friends and we’ll pay you some money and let you live”. I hope this isn’t that character’s only outing (and yet I can’t see bringing him back without shooting him on sight).

WhatThe Last Jedi does quite a bit to redeem the sequel trilogy. While there are some moments that parallel earlier Star Wars movies, even those are played subversively (such as the big set-up of Snoke as the trilogy’s big bad, only to dispense with him almost off-handedly). In the end, that keeps the movie surprising, and really, that’s what brings me to the theater after months of avoiding spoilers by concentrating on Porgs to the exclusion of all else. I understand where the people are coming from who say they disliked The Last Jedi; this doesn’t make them any less of a fan than me, but it does rob me of people to discuss pet theories with. (i.e. Why have we never seen this Force power before? Because nobody’s used it or had a reason to use it in ages, and Luke’s been stuck on an island with nothing but fish nuns, milk-bearing sea cows, Porgs, and the complete 53-volume set of “How To Be A Jedi…For Dummies!” I’d almost be disapppointed if he didn’t show off some new tricks.) The amount of No-True-Scotsman-ing going on in Star No PorgsWars fandom right now is disappointing, and parallels similarly disappointing gatekeeping going on in Star Trek fandom (Discovery is/isn’t real Trek!) and in Doctor Who fandom (the Doctor can/can’t regenerate into a woman!). I’ve stepped off of the train in various fandoms before, usually because I don’t have time to keep pursuing them, though I’m a big fan of connecting the dots, reading between the lines, and doing some retcon guesswork as a fun creative exercise. You can be a Star Wars fan whether you liked The Last Jedi or not – trust me, Disney will keep making movies anyway, and you’re bound to enjoy at least one of them at some point down the road.