spoiler warning: the following article contains spoilers for star wars: the last jedi, in theaters now.
star wars: the last jedi is a lot like the empire strikes back. in many ways, this was expected. following in the footsteps of the force awakens, the rian johnson-directed film borrows heavily from its counterpart entry in the original star wars trilogy. while — let’s face-it — force awakens was pretty heavy-handed in its ode to a new hope, last jedi’s echoing of empire strikes back is way more subtle, and done to a greater effect. instead of recreating the arguably most critically-acclaimed second star wars film’s arc beat for beat, last jedi centers around one all-important shared theme: faith.
empire strikes back was all about faith. it’s about letting go of facts and logic, about simply believing in something, resisting what education may tell you. this message is hit home with luke’s training from yoda on dagobah. the centuries-old jedi master essentially teaches young skywalker religion. he wants luke to resist the urge to follow his logical impulses and dig deeper for wisdom. of course, luke — like a lot of us younglings — doesn’t listen. he chooses to (attempt to) save his friends while foregoing his training with yoda. and guess what? he screws up, royally.
this is repeated in the last jedi. rey fills the shoes of a young luke, while the aged skywalker is now much like his former master. luke wants rey to stick around on his private island and receive more jedi training, while rey — like young luke — goes against her master’s wishes. she thinks she can bring kylo ren back to the light side, thinks she is strong enough to face snoke, thinks she alone can restore balance to the force. she doesn’t believe luke. as a result, she screws it all up, just like skywalker before her.
empire and the last jedi are all about making mistakes. thinking you can face something alone, without belief in a higher power, and the consequences that come with a refusal to have faith. isn’t that what star wars is all about, really? while star trek concerns itself with logic and rationality, star wars takes a different path: one of belief. there’s a reason why empire, and now last jedi, are considered stronger entries in the star wars saga. they concern themselves with pondering faith, the message at the core of star wars itself.
this misstep — not having a core belief — is essential to character development in star wars. yoda knows this, and he explains it to luke very blatantly in the film. you must fail, make mistakes in order to grow. more importantly, a master has to let their pupil (or padawan) fail. this failure, in the case of star wars, is not having faith. it’s what empire and the last jedi are all about. it’s what star wars is all about.
written and directed by rian johnson, star wars: the last jedi stars mark hamill as luke skywalker, daisy ridley as rey, john boyega as finn, adam driver as kylo ren, oscar isaac as poe dameron, andy serkis as supreme leader snoke, domhnall gleeson as general hux, gwendoline christie as captain phasma, anthony daniels as c-3po, lupita nyong’o as maz kanata, benicio del toro as ‘dj’, kelly marie tran as rose tico, laura dern as vice admiral amilyn holdo, and the late carrie fisher as general leia organa. the film is in theaters worldwide.
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