Opinion | Give ‘The Last Jedi’ the respect it deserves

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Photo courtesy of IMDB

Daisy Ridley stars as Rey in “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”. Columnist Talia Duffy believes that “The Last Jedi” does not deserve the hate it gets from the many fans from the Star Wars franchise.

By Talia Duffy, Columnist

*The following contains spoilers for “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”*

When Disney announced their plan for the Star Wars sequel trilogy, I was ecstatic. Just the concept of “new” Star Wars — new plotlines, new characters and new battle scenes — was something I never realized could be possible.

“Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was released around a year later. I loved it; I was swept up in the wave of nostalgia like everyone else. But if nostalgia is the only thing drawing an audience to a movie, is it really new? If a movie relies on old tropes, imagery and plotlines, is it then an imitation of something greater? 

Rian Johnson, director of “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” was faced with questions like this when Lucasfilm passed him the torch for the next installment. He blew those questions out of the water.

Despite all the controversy surrounding its existence, “The Last Jedi” is a great Star Wars movie. It’s quite possibly one of the best. 

Everything about it was wildly different from the general audience’s expectations. I am not saying that Star Wars is usually formulaic or boring — I’m a lifelong fan of the series after all. But it was refreshing to see the universe in an alternate light and uncover fresh facets of old characters.

Director J.J. Abrams established a plot in “The Force Awakens” that was solid but predictable. Johnson threw it all away — literally. Luke’s first action was to toss his lightsaber — which had been dramatically handed to him after the last movie — over his shoulder.

Fans that claim “The Last Jedi” is too different aren’t wrong, but they fail to realize that this is exactly why it’s so great.

Some Star Wars stans claim that Johnson’s Luke Skywalker isn’t true to the character. They revolted at a flashback scene that pictured Luke Skywalker posing to attack his nephew — who would later become Kylo Ren — for fear of him becoming the next great Sith Lord. 

They see Luke as a forever hero: always making the right decision and saving the day. But in “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” Luke exhibits the same behavior when he nearly gives into his anger during the final battle against Vader and Palpatine. He was tempted to kill Vader then, but he chose to follow the light side.

Calling back to this duality between dark and light within Luke Skywalker’s character was brilliant on Johnson’s part. Luke’s disenchantment with the Jedi order in “The Last Jedi” delivered humanity to his character. 

Star Wars has never adhered to dichotomous archetypes and doing so would be boring. The film’s cinematography is beautiful — some of the best in recent years. The stark contrast of the red soil tearing across the white sand on Crait was entrancing. I remember the whole theater gasping and settling into a stunned silence after Admiral Holdo launched her ship into hyperspace through another vessel, causing both to explode into streaks of starry light.

The visual triumphs of “The Last Jedi” add to the mystery and novelty of the plot. No other Star Wars movie has completely enveloped me like this the first time I watched it in theaters.

However stunning the film is, imperfections remain. Johnson should’ve explored the prospect of Finn’s force-sensitivity; “The Last Jedi” only whispers of this sensitivity instead of directly hinting at it like the other two installments in the trilogy.

Rose’s character was underdeveloped. Moreover, the scene with Leia floating through space looked a little odd. But all of these are nothing more than minor details that caused disproportional backlash within the fanbase. 

No movie can be perfect, and the rest of Star Wars most certainly is not. I can point out a million reasons why “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is objectively worse than anything in “The Last Jedi.” Defects don’t stop me from loving “The Phantom Menace” and it shouldn’t stop anyone from seeing “The Last Jedi” for what it is: a reflection of the saga. It encapsulates everything leading up to that point and acts as a springboard for a deeper dive into the universe.

It’s a shame Lucasfilm bowed to fan outrage and reverted to old formulas and tired tropes for “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” — but that’s a discussion for another day.

 

Talia is a freshman in Media.

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