[Reprint] Saving What We Love: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out one year ago today. It quickly became one of the most controversial films in a famously controversial franchise, even as it is the absolute best since the 1980s. A reader recommended I celebrate the anniversary of this great film by reprinting my review, and I liked that idea (thanks, Scott!).

I wrote other things about The Last Jedi – a piece about how Rose Tico’s widely derided quote is the greatest wisdom yet found in Star Wars, a piece about Vice-Admiral Holdo’s smarts and a piece examining the connection between the Jedi and Taoism – but this initial review contains a lot of my thinking on the film, thinking I still hold a year later. 

For Star Wars to live, Star Wars must die. Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a thrilling, layered and goddamned fun meditation on the tension between our need for legends and myths and the ways those legends and myth constrain and reduce us. Star Wars is the film series that popularized the monomyth in the modern era, and Johnson walks right up to old Joe Campbell, kicks him in the nuts… and then gives him a hearty bear hug. The Last Jedi struggles with and embraces the paradoxical duality at the center of the meaning of legends and heroes, leaving thoughtful audiences with more to chew on than any other blockbuster in recent memory.

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STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE INCELS

This short film is, frankly, INCREDIBLE. A parody of BrickRian Johnson’s debut film, but retold through the lens of the vocal minority of fans who hate The Last Jedi and specifically Kelly Marie Tran. As far as I can tell, these are the actual locations from Brickand the filmmaking and acting are absolutely on point. I love this – it’s pointed, it’s funny, and it’s damn well made.

I Love Kelly Marie Tran And Rose Tico

Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and, I’m assuming, upcoming Star Wars movies as well) deleted her Instagram this week. There’s a lot of speculation that she did it because of unrelenting abuse from toxic (male) Star Wars fans who hate her character in a seriously obsessive, unhealthy and unpleasant way. As far as I know she hasn’t confirmed this; some people say Daisy Ridley deleted her Insta because she was getting harassed, but she has said she did it because she was addicted and needed to take her life back.

But let’s assume that Tran deleted because of the abuse. I spent the last couple of days wanting to write at length about how broken fandom is (something I’ve written about in the past) but a friend rightfully called me out on sinking into despair the last few days, and focusing on what’s wrong only leads to more despair. So I want to focus on what’s right: Rose Tico.

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The Tao of the Jedi

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

Among the exciting things that Star Wars: The Last Jedi does for the larger Star Wars universe is that it expands and deepens the mythology of The Force in a way that we haven’t seen since The Empire Strikes Back. And it does so in a way that has learned a lesson from the fiasco of Midichlorians – The Last Jedi returns The Force to its status as a mysterious and truly powerful concept that is far beyond silly tricks like picking up rocks. In fact, it returns it to a concept that is far beyond such silly tricks like violence and physical force in general.

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Rose Tico’s Beautiful Wisdom

Rose Tico has the wisdom of the Buddha.

“That’s how we’ll win,” she tells Finn in The Last Jedi. “Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

Those words echo the Buddha’s in The Dhammapada:

“Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.”

Eternal as in, it’s also true in a galaxy far, far away.

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Oh Holdo

Last night I revisited The Last Jedi with many people’s complaints about Holdo in mind. I ignored the myriad ones that are clearly coming from sexist places (so many complaints about this movie keep boiling down to people having a hard time with new characters who are not white males, but who knows what’s really behind that) and focused on the main one:

Why doesn’t she just tell Poe what her plan is?

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Saving What We Love: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

For Star Wars to live, Star Wars must die. Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a thrilling, layered and goddamned fun meditation on the tension between our need for legends and myths and the ways those legends and myth constrain and reduce us. Star Wars is the film series that popularized the monomyth in the modern era, and Johnson walks right up to old Joe Campbell, kicks him in the nuts… and then gives him a hearty bear hug. The Last Jedi struggles with and embraces the paradoxical duality at the center of the meaning of legends and heroes, leaving thoughtful audiences with more to chew on than any other blockbuster in recent memory.

Continue reading “Saving What We Love: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI”