Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Last Jedi: The Second Time

Click here to read my initial thoughts on the film. And yes, both that post and this one have spoilers.

You know something? I think I just might be loving The Last Jedi. Way back when I was still giving early comments on The Force Awakens, I mentioned that I thought it probably wouldn't be my favorite in the new trilogy. And as "perfect" as everyone seemed to find The Force Awakens (and indeed it was generally quite well-crafted), I think I might possibly like The Last Jedi more (which, you understand, is not to mean that I liked every single aspect of it; that would be impossible). (And remember that all of this is separate from whether or not I think this film was "good," that is irrelevant and I won't be able to tell that yet for several months, anyway.)

The Last Jedi is beautiful and terrible--which is kind of the best of Star Wars, if you think about it. Star Wars, to me, has always been encapsulated by that moment when Luke is looking out at the twin suns on Tatooine and you hear that heartrendingly beautiful score playing. That's the type of thing that The Last Jedi gave us.

The moment when this film started winning me over was when we saw Paige there at the bottom of the bomber ship, touching her necklace and trying one last time to get the control to fall down so that she could complete her mission even if she couldn't save herself. That moment was this film. Star Wars is all about war--and war can be great material for fiction, but war is terrible. This film really showed that, though in a completely different way from Rogue One. Rogue One was a war film, so it showed the grittiness and the spying and the killing and the scrambling for your life and still not making it out alive. The Last Jedi shows the sorrow and the tragedy and the difficulty. Paige, young and devoted and now gone. Vice Admiral Holdo, completely uninterested in her own popularity among the ranks and simply looking for the fleet's best chance. Rose, the one who believes.

There is also the beauty that Rey discovers about the Force--what we would simply call Life. Life's companion is death. Rey, explaining to Luke what she sees, comments about all of these polar opposites that come together to create this beautiful balance. That balance is this film.

We saw ships tearing apart and burning. But the cinematography was so beautiful that, not only did I not get bored (like I sometimes do during battle scenes), I kept on internally remarking on how beautiful everything looked, even when it was expressing something tragic. And the tragic is so often, inexplicably, beautiful.

We hear of Luke's failure and suddenly his story with Ben is beautiful, even though it is terrible. Kylo Ren becomes this beautiful figure, the boy who became overwhelmed by the dark power that everyone suddenly feared from him, the boy who wouldn't even have chosen that power on his own because it hurts too much. Rey's decision to listen to him, to see him as Ben and not Kylo, is beautiful: she risks everything to give him the chance to get away, to tell him that she's there. Rey says that she won't let Luke down like Kylo let him down and she essentially also tells Kylo that she won't let him down. People who fail, who inevitably fail as all people do, and are only held up by other people who choose to forgive them and help them up.

And yet Kylo still can't choose the route Rey expected. He used to be in bondage to Snoke; now it is he who holds himself in bondage. The chains with which we bind ourselves.

This film was beautiful and terrible. Kylo tells Rey that she means nothing--but not to him. Rose tells Finn that they fight not for what they hate but for what they love. And on Canto Bight, children are indentured servants who are beaten and yelled at--but who share stories of heroes and dream of being heroes themselves one day, when the times comes.

After using his last energy to allow the handful of remaining rebels to escape and to tell Kylo that he is sorry, Luke dies and fades away into the Force. The boy who looked up at the twin suns at the beginning of his adventures now looks at another pair of twin suns at the end of all of the adventures and at the beginning of all understanding of Life, of the Force.

The Last Jedi was beautiful and terrible.

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