The Last Jedi feelings dump (SPOILERS)
Okay I’ve now seen The Last Jedi three times, and I feel ready to REACH OUT WITH MY FEELINGS and put my thoughts on paper.
Some intro if you don’t know me: I loved The Force Awakens, I am 100% here for my girl Rey, like, you do not understand how much I adore her, I grew up with Star Wars movies as my parents were always huge fans, but this new trilogy is the first time the movies have felt like they belong to ME in a personal and deep way.
Right off the bat: I loved this movie. I loved it the first time I saw it, and I have loved each repeat viewing. I have a few critiques I’ll get into, but a lot of good to say, so buckle up kids, this is gonna be a long post.
First, I just love everyone’s character arcs and growth through this movie. To me, this has set up all of our main new characters to be the people that they need to be for the final showdown, good and evil alike. We were introduced during the first movie, and this was truly the movie of growth learning (mostly through failure, as wise Yoda points out it is an excellent teacher), and I anticipate the final movie will be the earned fulfillment of each character’s “destiny” so to speak.
This movie is obviously Poe’s movie, and I am 100% here for that, and it didn’t bother me at all that he was obviously the A plot to Rey’s B plot. Poe has the most obvious and apparent character growth in this movie, and the most necessary one. He starts the movie reckless, trigger happy, and completely blinded by wanting to “be the hero” and save the day, without thinking at all in terms of the long-term vision and sustainability of their efforts. He gets an entire bombing fleet destroyed and countless killed on a mission they could have avoided. “There were heroes on that mission” “Yes, but no leaders.” He then sends his friends on a ridiculous, half-baked, idiotic plan (the C plot) that was never going to work, and has to listen to them get captured and know that he sent them essentially to their death.
The entire C-plot has feelings of frustration because WE COULD HAVE AVOIDED ALL OF THIS IF YOU HAD JUST DONE WHAT YOU ARE TOLD POE!!! I’ve seen some argue that Admiral Holdo should have told him, which on the one hand, sure, yes, but ALSO the lesson that Holdo AND Leia both wanted Poe to learn was to learn to take an order, trust leadership, look at the bigger picture, and not get so obsessed with thinking only he can be the hero and save the day with an epic, daring, showy, heroic plan. But he doesn’t listen, he goes against direct orders, acts like he knows everything he needs to know, when he doesn’t know anything, and he is just a captain (Holdo is right that Leia DID demote him, and for good reason) and he does not have the authority or information to be making such risky decisions with no input. The C-plot is partially important, because we need it to see Poe fail, and fail hard.
And it was so exciting to then see him call off the suicide run when he sees that it’s costs are greater than its far-fetched potential benefits, and especially when he realizes that Luke is facing Kylo Ren for a specific reason, and is able to step back and realize what it is and lead the remaining group to safety and escape. Leia’s verbal passing of the baton at the end of the movie (“What are you looking at me for, follow him!”) is well-deserved, and he’s finally ready to be the leader the resistance will need.
I’m going to jump to the C-plot next, because it’s tied into Poe’s. The C-plot gets the most critique, and I agree that this movie ran just a tad too long, and the C-plot is where it should have been trimmed. We didn’t need quite so much on Canto Bright- I believe part of this reason is likely that this young boy or these young children are who Rian intends to base his spin-off trilogy around, which would explain (if not justify) the reason he was unable to trim this more.
However, I feel like the time on Canto Bright offers some important things. It makes the world richer and more real, it helps us see how the rest of the universe who isn’t directly First Order or Resistance is living, helps us step back and consider the complexity of the universe. It also is important set up to how the Resistance can and will rebuild after the end of this movie. Again, it could have been tightened, but the movie would have lacked substantially if the entire C-plot was cut.
Let’s talk about Finn. Finn last movie was 100% interested in saving his own skin and getting as far away from all this fighting as he can. This movie, he’s pretty much immediately right back there, with the caveat of also protecting Rey. He is the Resistance hero who wants nothing to do with it. Then, through meeting Rose, he slowly comes to the point of wanting to fight, wanting to do something. He ends the movie being where Poe was at the start- gungho to join the fight no matter the cost, and being a little too ready to jump into a suicide run- but this is good for him, because it’s growth- and he’ll continue growing from there. Especially with Rose’s words to ruminate on.
Which of course brings us to Rose. She has less of an arc this movie, as we’re just meeting her and figuring out who she is, but she is the necessary ingredient our group was missing. She is the heart of the Resistance. The person who understands for real why we’re doing this, what the cost is, and is willing to bear the cost and do whatever she can to protect the spark. She is dealing with the pain of losing her sister, but is still fully committed to the Resistance. Her line about winning not by killing what you hate but saving what you love is the theme of this movie, and I think will continue to be the theme of this trilogy. Finn and Poe both needed to see her and learn from her example, and be grounded the way she is grounded.
I’m going to jump now to the B-plot. Luke, Rey, Ben/Kylo. Man oh man, first off, I LOVED Luke. I loved his sassy snark, I felt like he was so perfect. And what a beautiful arc he went through this movie. The cynic, who’s closed himself off to the Force completely, to coming in and saving the day in the most epic way, before finally having a peaceful death full of purpose, as he reunites with the Force completely.
I loved his Force lessons. The Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi, it has existed before the Jedi and will continue to exist after, and it belongs to everyone. The Jedi just tapped in and used it and were extremely connected with it. And the Jedi are deeply deeply flawed. Oh man does that need to be said. He is completely right that at their height, they allowed a path for the Sith and created Darth Vader. They are culpable. We need to turn a critical eye are our history, at the things that we deemed “the good old days” and ask “was it really, though?” We need to ask the hard questions, and discover the hard truth that what was considered our best days led to some of the worst evil the universe has seen. This really struck a chord with me, and I think it’s phenomenal that they highlighted this lesson.
We never learn what Luke’s third lesson was going to be, but the third lesson the movie teaches is Yoda to Luke. To not be afraid of our weakness, because failure is an excellent teacher. And boy, Luke failed. I loved the layered complexity, knocking the hero, the legend, the myth off his pedestal and reminding everyone he is HUMAN, but then him remembering that he is ALLOWED to be, he didn’t need to be perfect, and he doesn’t need to stay closed off because of his past mistakes.
And I loved the added complexity of the reality of the fallout between Luke and Ben adds to Kylo’s character. Yes, he was being seduced by the dark side, but then his teacher tries to kill him, and sure, Luke had hesitated, but I truly believe that Ben did not know that, and that this was the push that led him to believe all of Snoke’s lies were true, and run straight to him for further teaching and far away from Luke. It’s just so… real and messy and complicated and I love it.
And boy oh boy did I love the dance that Kylo and Rey did throughout this whole movie. They start with such dissonance, such hatred, anger, disdain… but their forced intimacy through their Force connection (can we talk about how COOL the editing on those scenes were? Like, amazing, I loved it so much) gave them time and space to sift through their reactions to the other. Then they have this powerful moment where they touch, and both feel confident they understand the other, she goes to him, and it turns out she was totally wrong — or maybe she was totally right??? And they have this one scene of beautiful harmony, it is a glorious and breath-taking fight sequence and then immediately after it ends, they ricochet off each other like opposing magnets, both propelled directly into the roles they were destined to fill. Kylo fully ensconced to the dark side, Ben forever lost, Rey to the path of the light side, no longer looking to anyone else for salvation or hope.
I must admit I’m curious what would have happened if Rey had taken his hand there. I feel confident that Ben would not have gone full Supreme Leader, but that he was hoping to build something new and different. Still something that was taking advantage of power and not good, but I think Rey’s rejection is what drove him into full on choke hold until you submit or die Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.
I love the scene where he turns on Snoke. He’s just had Snoke admit to his face that his intentionally encouraged his inner conflict to manipulate him, right after saying that he keeps a weak man like Hux around because weakness properly manipulated can be a powerful weapon. Kylo finally realizes that, in fact, everything that Luke and Han and Leia told him about Snoke, that he was using him, it was all true. And he DOES complete his training by killing his true enemy, the man who was manipulating and using him.
And what about sweet, pure, good-hearted Rey? This has been the longest week of her life, for starters. This movie was about breaking Rey down, facing her deepest fears, and coming to the other side. I have a lot of thoughts about Rey and I’m going to do my best to break them down.
First off, Rey has spent so long looking outside of herself for hope, salvation, redemption, a rescue. She has spent most of her life waiting on Jakku for parents who may or may not be coming back for her. Sure, she is totally self-sufficient and competent at taking care of herself, but she is still waiting, to the point that she finally escapes indentured servitude but she still wants to go back, because WHAT IF her parents finally show up? She has to be there. Well, she eventually let’s that go in the first movie, sort of, but immediately places her parental desires onto Han, who is immediately killed, causing deep anger to build in her for Kylo, and causing her to redirect her focus on Luke. Luke will be the one to explain everything, to give her purpose, to help her understand, to make her feel whole again. And Luke completely lets her down. He is a flawed, broken, cynical man who has gone into hiding and completely shut himself off from the Force. So then she looks to Ben, who maybe she can still save, maybe that’s what she’s supposed to do. And boy oh boy is she wrong. She was tricked and manipulated by Snoke, is tossed around the room like a rag doll, and was as good as dead until Kylo realized that Snoke was his true enemy, not Rey. And for a fleeting moment she thinks that Ben has come back and she actually did it. And then she realizes… nope. Ben is GONE. And this was a fool’s errand.
I think Rey has finally realized that there is no one else who is going to turn the tide. It is up to HER to do that. And Snoke gave her a great gift when he says that the Force is so strong with her because it needed to balance Kylo. Who would have thought it would be Snoke who would finally “show me my place in all of this?” And with that, and with the crushing realization that she has a LOT left to learn if she wants to actually be a master of the Force… you KNOW that my girl is about to go do some INTENSE RESEARCH with those original Jedi texts that Luke never read. If she can read every instruction manual for every ship of Jakku you know she’s reading each of those things cover to cover. And I LOVE that. I love that because I truly believe that there is something in those texts that has been lost through the years of Jedi training. A central, important truth that has been forgotten. And I have a hunch to what it is.
Because here’s the thing. Rey entered the dark place. Yes, it called to her, yes it was trying to tell her something… it was pushing her deepest, darkest fear… but she went down there, confronted it, and walked back out. Luke sees her even CONTEMPLATING listening to what it was saying and immediately walks away from her, disappointed that she so quickly would listen to the dark side of the Force. But I think this is KEY here. Luke is afraid of the dark. Ben/Kylo is intoxicated by it, the way Anakin/Vader was before him. The Jedi has a long history of shutting themselves completely OFF from the darkness. Do not engage, do not interact, do not even think of it, because it is DANGEROUS and BAD. And that of course has led to some of their strongest being completely drawn in and overcome by it.
But what if they’ve been wrong all along? What if the darkness was never something that were meant to shut out? What if they needed to be open to it? Rey is. Rey enters into it. But she is not overcome by it. Yes, she is afraid of it, but I think in the same way she’s afraid of the Force in general. But that moment when she sits on the rock and fully connects with the Force for the first time, she sees it all, I’ve gotten chills every time during that scene because it is so beautiful. Luke immediately is threatened when she explores the darkness, but Rey knows that there is something there that needs to be uncovered.
So what happens when she goes down there? Into the dark place. She has to come face to face with her deepest longing and deepest fear. Who am I? Does anyone love me? And she does not get the answer she’s looking for. She doesn’t get an answer at all, really. But she doesn’t allow it to break her. She walks back out.
Have we ever seen anyone else this Force sensitive interact this closely with the dark without being overcome by it? I’m not sure we have. Anakin was told to turn away from his anger… but what if he had been shown a way through it without being overcome by it?
This to me gets to an important truth about life that I feel the movies are echoing here. We need to enter into our pain and our fears. We need to unpack them, expose them, and learn to no longer be threatened by them, so we can move forward stronger, happier, healthier. There is great strength in looking your deepest fear in the face, having it be true, and then realizing that it didn’t, in fact, break you, but that you can still stand up tall and take another step forward. When we deny ourselves the chance to confront the hurt and the pain, we deny ourselves the healing we need. We pack away the pain in boxes that say “fragile, do not touch” and build a wall around it, compartmentalizing and covering what we needed to expose.
This has been my work in therapy, and it’s my work as a nurse, too. Sometimes we have to debride a wound before it can heal. Sometimes you have to prune a tree so it can grow healthy and strong. We need to enter into the darkness. We need to confront it face to face, we need to honor the pain and hurt in life, but also learn that it does not define us or control us. There is life and beauty around it, in spite of it, and BECAUSE of it.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is not where they’re going with Rey’s story, and the story of the Jedi vs the Sith vs the Force… but I know that at least for me, this is why Rey’s story continues to be so powerful and important. And I cannot wait to see where she goes from here.
The themes of this movie seem clear: 1) failure is an excellent teacher, so let’s make them all fail so that they can grow 2) we need to save what we love, not kill what we hate. We see each of our characters, especially Kylo, Rey, and Finn, all overcome by their hatred and anger to the point that it blinds them and distracts them… and we see Finn and Rey begin to let that go, and Kylo drive himself deeper into it. 3) Let the past die, kill it if you have to. We are stepping into new territory and that is GOOD and necessary.
For all the angry talk about this movie not playing by the rules, though, I have to admit that I never felt that once this movie. It hits on several emotional beats that Empire has — from our heroes trying to save the day and making everything SO MUCH WORSE and playing right into the evil mastermind’s trap… the evil mastermind getting killed by his apprentice(okay, that’s one movie too soon but it’s still a familiar beat), the offering of the hand to join the dark side, which is then rejected. Jedi training that is cut short for a plan that was really a terrible idea. Being told to search yourself for the truth you already know. Trusting a third party who ends up selling you out. The beats are there. But so are the twists and misdirections so that I spent the whole first viewing having NO idea what was going to happen next, and I LOVED it. That’s how Star Wars SHOULD feel. That’s the heart of the story. It was always controversial and unexpected. So why should we expect any less? Like Luke said, we made the originals legends, but they can’t help you now.
Some other random thoughts…
I don’t know if Kylo is lying about Rey’s parents being nobody. He is definitely using this information to try and manipulate her… but Rey had already confronted this truth in the cave, so it wasn’t a complete surprise for her. Maybe he also made it up, or maybe he’s just leveraging truth… but in the end, I don’t think it matters. I hope it’s true, because I like the powerful statement it says that Rey’s parents are no one, and it fits into the themes already hit in the movie, that the Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi, and it certainly doesn’t belong just to the Skywalkers. The movie ending with the little boy on Canto Bright being Force sensitive and looking up to the sky dreaming of joining the Resistance fight drives this point home, just as much as the characters of Finn and even Rose push it home that this is every man’s fight and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, you can make a difference.
But at the end of the day. Rey’s parents don’t matter anymore, because they don’t matter to her anymore. She desperately needed to know who they were last week, but at the end of this week, two movies later… she has the answers she needs, and that knowledge or lack of it no longer defines her.
Speaking of “last week” my biggest complaint for both of these movies is simply that the events of both of them combined cannot be more than a week. TFA is what, 3–4 days? It is a nonstop movie, and it’s exhausting thinking about it. And then this movie picks up RIGHT WHERE IT LEFT OFF with no break at all… and it, again, cannot have been more than 3 days. We don’t know how long the days are on the island with Luke… we don’t know how long they were in hyperspace on the ship, but we do know that once Finn and Rose started their trip to Canto Bright, they only had 18 hours before the needed to be back. So from that point to when they pack up the escape pods is about 18 hours, and then however long they were on Crait. It is not a lot of time, and I want more than anything for our characters to get a chance to BREATHE. We have done the set up and the growth, now they need some TIME to really own the roles they’ve been placed into. I liken this to my experience finishing up my degree and completing my RN. I had EARNED that title, but it wasn’t until getting a year or so of experience that I OWNED the title. That is where all of our kids are right now. They’ve earned their titles… Leader, Hero, Heart, Jedi Master, Villain… but they don’t quite own them yet.
So, give the kids some breathing room, please. I’m begging you. They all need a nap.
I also certainly agree that this movie was packing in a LOT. It’s not just how quickly it all happens but how much happens. Other than trimming down the C-plot on Canto Bright by 5–10 minutes, I don’t see where else they could cut, though. It was all important. But it certainly is overwhelming, especially combined with the fact that on first viewing you just have NO idea what’s going to happen, and the editing is keeping you guessing and tense while it cuts back and forth… Because of this, I truly feel like you cannot fully process and appreciate the movie with only one viewing… which I think you can argue is a significant flaw.
Some other random things I just loved…
Again, the dual lightsaber battle with Kylo and Rey teaming up. It was just glorious and magical and I loved all of it. I loved Rey using Kylo’s lightsaber, Rey tossing him the lightsaber at the very end to kill the last guy. The way they go back to back and seem to both sense the others movement before they do it so they’re moving in perfect unison to counterbalance the other. It was poetic.
The Luke/Kylo showdown. I love how obvious it is that Luke isn’t there once you know (I mean, they show a close up of both of their feet grinding against the surface, and only Kylo’s turns red). I think this is part of why they focused on the Rey/Kylo connection throughout the film, including the part that they CAN touch during it- which explains why Luke was able to touch Leia. They even add in the line about “You can’t be doing this, the effort would kill you.” which then leads to Luke doing it, and well, yes, the effort did end up killing him. But it WAS peaceful and purposeful, and I’m so glad we got the battle and the final moment of peace. Also the fact the he no longer had grey hair and a much neater trimmed beard. Luke is like “yo, this is how I wanna be remembered, this is gonna be my space ghost, y’all!” and it’s lovely. If you want to say “the force can’t do that!” well, why the hell not?
I will say that the Leia pulling herself back in from deep space was… confusing. It certainly sets the tone for the movie, but I agree that that specific choice was maybe a BIT of a stretch. BUT, to be fair, from what I’ve read, while you lose consciousness within 15 seconds or so, you don’t actually DIE for a couple of minutes, so I think that even this does deserve a… well, why not? challenge.
I loved Admiral Holdo, I loved her dress and her hair and her calm, commanding approach. I loved the editing on her cut to lightspeed through the ship, it was completely stunning. I loved that we got a glimpse of Phasma’s face and eye behind her mask just before she died. I loved seeing Billie in so many more scenes and getting to be with her mom. I loved Rey and Poe FINALLY meeting. I loved the strong sisterly bond between Paige and Rose.
Oh, speaking of important bonds, I love the look of peace and joy that fills Rey’s face as soon as she is hugging Finn again. I may be biased because I do ship them, but it’s less about whether it’s romantic for me. Rey and Finn have such a strong, pure, loyal bond to the other. Finn came back for Rey, he’s the only person who ever has. And Rey protected and saved Finn’s life, when he’s the one who go her mixed up in all of this to begin with. And now neither will ever abandon the other. They are each other’s home, their safe place. Maybe it’s not romantic, heck, these kids don’t have time for romance right now anyway, but it is lovely and good and pure and I am SO HERE FOR IT. Rey is the Hufflepuff Hero we deserve. (Oh, and can I mention how much I love her simple joy at getting to experience rain?!)
I will say that I love that literally everyone is in love with Finn. Rey, Poe, Rose, heck, I bet Kylo even secretly is at this rate. I do want to point out that the Rose/Finn kiss 1) Rose thought she was dying and 2) Finn definitely did not kiss her back. I’ve been arguing with my friends about Rey’s face when she sees Finn covering Rose with a blanket. Some say that she seems happy that he’s found a person, but I argue that it’s a sad smile. But, again, ultimately how the romance does or doesn’t shake out isn’t that important, especially right now. There’s plenty of fodor for fic writers who want to explore any of those relationships. Heck, I’m even glad that they Rey/Kylo shippers have a playground they can run off in. No judgement here, it’s okay, friends.
I also loved the humor in this movie. I didn’t feel like it was too much, but just right. It kept things light, but it didn’t prevent it from getting serious when it needed to be. It felt like… Star Wars.
Okay, those are all my thoughts for now… I’m sure I have more I’ve left out, and I am totally up for responses and deeper discussion on all of this because talking about this movie is GIVING ME LIFE right now, you don’t even know.