We are what they grow beyond

We are what they grow beyond

 

Thirty-seven years ago, a Jedi Master looked a would-be learner in the eye and scolded him on the perils of looking to the horizon. Mass audiences the world over were taught that a Jedi does not crave adventure or excitement…that our minds should be on where we are, and what we are doing.

Yoda was right; longing for the future is dangerous…every bit as dangerous as longing for the past.

THE LAST JEDI begins hot on the heels of THE FORCE AWAKENS.

The Resistance is in disarray, with The First Order delivering a crushing blow to the hierarchy of the galaxy. This new rebellion is now but a few bodies, and only several ships. What’s more, an early aggressive attack by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) depletes their force all the more.

The rebels, gathered in but a few ships and led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), now flee The First Order, with precious little fuel and few options. Poe, acting against orders, enables their best hope. He dispatches Finn (John Boyega) and a fiery engineer named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to enlist a codebreaker talented enough to hack The First Order’s ships, and give The Resistance a chance at escape.

Meanwhile, on The First Order’s Star Destroyer, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is in crisis. He is dealing with the fallout of his failures to corrupt or defeat Rey (Daisy Ridley) when they last did battle, and is quickly growing consumed with his anger – thanks in no small part by the taunts of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

At the same time, Rey is on the island of Ahch-To where she has found Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). She pleads with him to tutor her in the ways of The Force, and join The Resistance. Luke, despondent over his failure to teach Kylo Ren and his role in unleashing the monster, refuses. He believes that the old ways should die with him, and be it as it may, that it’s time for The Jedi to end.

 

Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi

 

THE LAST JEDI is unlike any Star Wars film we’ve seen before. It does not follow the usual beats, subscribe to the dogmatic gobbledegook, or aim to meet fan expectations. If anything, it is out to scorch the earth we know and finally – after many years – move the needle forward. For more than forty years now, this galaxy far far away has been about escapism. This latest instalment is the first to deny audiences the escape and instead say “think on your sins”.

The series and the audience are so much the better for it.

This film wants people to take a long hard look in the mirror, and examine how they identify themselves. Luke puts a point on it when he underlines to Rey that at the height of The Jedi’s power, they enabled the greatest darkness the universe had ever known and were virtually wiped-out in a single stroke.

Fans of this franchise like to identify The Jedi as the protectors – the source of light and good. Meanwhile, the facts remind us that these “protectors” were so filled with hubris, that they made a colossal miscalculation. So were they, in fact, the heroes we all believe them to be? It’s a key question because nobody wants to see their heroes smeared. Nobody wants to realize their idols weren’t what they believed them to be, because what does that say about those who believed in them?

THE LAST JEDI is clear about that; these heroes were so very flawed that they unwittingly brought about great pain to so many. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A group of like-minded people believing that they are standing up for “what’s right” and instead unleashing something so completely wrong?

The harsh reflections don’t end there. This movie also keeps calling attention back to Poe Dameron and his continual defiance of leadership. He is constantly insubordinate, defying the chain of command under the impression that he knows better. To him, being guarded is equal to being weak. It stands to reason that many will see themselves in his actions; many will hear him chirp about how Resistance leadership isn’t leading the right way and hear themselves in his tone of voice.

Leia tries to drill it into Poe’s head – and likewise into ours – that sometimes the cost of a victory actually makes it a loss. The good news, as she likewise teaches, is that a loss doesn’t have to be a failure.

THE LAST JEDI is about taking a loss and moving forward.

It’s not how we celebrate our victories that defines us, but how we gather after our losses. In these moments we are the most frustrated, the angriest, the saddest, and the most afraid. In short – we are at our very worst. When that happens we could send ourselves a few turns further down the spiral. We may want to overcompensate or prove that we aren’t as weak (like Kylo). We may act on impulse and refuse to consider our options (like Poe). Or we may turn inward and close ourselves off to the world (like Luke). None of these options are particularly helpful, and all of them suggest that we deserved the loss we were handed.

Perhaps then, instead of being fixated on our mistakes and how they happened, we should strive to learn from them. Perhaps the THE LAST JEDI wants to remind us that life is about remaining in motion…and that if we remain in one place, we invite the darkness to eventually overshadow us.

If we hold tight to a notion about what something is “supposed to be”, we close ourselves off to the possibilities of what that thing can become. We need to be able to let go.

Or, as this film’s villain puts it:

Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be…

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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