Month: December 2017

Star Wars – The Last Jedi; Rey Who?



One of the biggest unanswered questions from JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens concerned the identity of the parents of Rey. All we knew about her was that she was left on Jakku as a child and had spent the last fifteen years, give or take, waiting for them to return for her. Was that an unanswered question, though? Okay, so we weren’t told who Rey’s parents were, but was it really one of the big mysteries in need of an answer? I’ve always been of the opinion that the question of Rey’s lineage was a non-issue.

Of course, being a point of fervent speculation ever since Episode VII came out, the issue became one of only a handful of mysteries to be pulled at and talked over, another of which we’ll discuss another time. What happens when there is a hole in the information given in a film or tv show – especially these days – is all too understandable: the vacuum demands to be filled. Because Rey was waiting for her family to return, because it was hinted at that she may be more significant than it appeared at first glance, the internet went crazy, theorising unrestrained over Rey Who?

The answer, we find out in The Last Jedi is nobody. Rey parents were Jakku junkers who sold her for drinking money and buggered off, leaving her behind. As worthy an answer as any, I think. Of course, the fan machine isn’t happy about this. Because she has the Force – indeed is strong with it – she must be somehow related to someone we know, someone also strong with the force. The most likely answer was that she was Luke’s secret daughter. Some fans out there would not be happy with anything but this answer, despite it being the most obvious, least imaginative outcome possible. If not that, then she must be a Kenobi or a Solo because they’re the only other real possible answers. Maybe they’ll shock us, others thought, and do something completely unexpected, making her a descendant of a dark side user! Whatever the answer we were to be given, she had to be someone special, or else how was she so strong with the Force?

This blinkered rationale forgets of course that in the prequels, and for a thousand generations before them, there were loads of Jedi. They were everywhere! Are you telling me they all came from greatness when we know for a fact that they were simply ordinary kids who were strong with the Force, trained to use it as best they can? Until the prequels came along Anakin Skywalker was just a Jedi Knight who went bad. This Chosen One bollocks didn’t really rear its head, on screen at least, until The Phantom Menace tried to shoehorn an immaculate conception into the mythos. Taking the original trilogy on its own, Luke was only special in the sense that he was the baddie’s son.

So when, in The Force Awakens, Maz says “you already know the truth – whomever you are waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back. But there’s someone still could…” I took it as read that her family was gone and it didn’t matter who they were. The story was about looking to the future, not wallowing in the past. Daisy Ridley herself was confused when made aware of the speculation; she believed the identity of Rey’s parents was not only explained but explained away, in that very scene. Her parents were gone, they were never coming back, it wasn’t about where she was from but where she was going. Isn’t that much, much better than “she’s secretly Obi-Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter, born of his secret son we’ve never heard of despite seeing his younger years as a Jedi Knight and his years spent in exile on Tatooine? I think so.

Of course, The Last Jedi is a layered and nuanced piece of work. Does Rey tell herself that her parents were nobodies, as she’s already known, deep inside? Or does she get told that by Kylo Ren? I think it’s clear that it’s the first one. Kylo tells her that she’s always known the truth about her parents. She says “they’re nobody” and he then tells her that she’s correct, that they’re buried in makeshift graves in the desert on Jakku. But nothing can stop the speculation machine: already there are countless YouTube videos theorising that Kylo Ren lied to her, manipulated her into thinking she is less than she is. That the real truth is yet to be told. I suppose it’s a point of debate, but I wouldn’t waste your time on it. So who are Rey’s parents? That was the BIG QUESTION. The answer – as it has always been, if you take what’s on screen and think about it for more than a second (but for less than a week, as that leads to the dark side: online fan theories!) – is “they’re nobody. Forget them.” They aren’t characters in this film. As it should be.

 The very core of this new chapter in the Star Wars saga is that greatness comes from within yourself, it doesn’t drip down the branches of your family tree. The Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi or the Sith, that’s vanity, arrogance, and can lead only to ultimate failure. The Force is in everyone and everything. Broom Kid – the character we see very briefly at the end of the film, moving a broom using the Force, which sporting Rose’s Resistance ring. He’s nobody. He’s symbolic. They show us, right there in that stable, that the Force is awakening, not just in Rey, but all across the galaxy in normal people.

Alas, I fear this humbling message is lost on a generation of fans overfed on the Extended Universe material, bitter now that Disney have declared their favourite minor-player character-study comic book non-canonical. Already there are Reddit threads and 4Chan chats about the biggest question this awful, terrible, franchise-killing film has to ask: Who are Broom Kid’s parents? Is he a Skywalker? A Kenobi? A Palpatine?! Kill me now, before they kick off about never seeing him again.


Star Wars – The Last Jedi; On Failure


Star Wars Last Jedi

I’m going to begin by making a cultural generalisation, which isn’t something I would usually do. I’m one of those right-on libtard cucks that the most vocal corner of the internet (and the White House) hate so much for being nice to others. I hope you’ll forgive me for this: The Last Jedi is suffering at the hands of Americans who have a starkly different relationship to narrative and character than British audiences. Yes, as I’ve said, I’m unfairly generalising. But run with me here for a second.

The Last Jedi is a film about failure. Its main characters disappoint each other and us, make decisions that cost lives and spoil plans, waste opportunities to better themselves and just about always put themselves on the back foot. If you look at the world of stand-up comedy you’ll see that American comedians and British comedians (again, I’m speaking generally) differ vastly in their positioning of themselves. British comedians will tell a story about meeting a girl in a bar, it’ll all go wrong, she’ll end up with the hot guy at the pool table and the British comedian will shit himself through drink on the way home. American comedians will tell a story about meeting a girl in a bar, it’ll all go swimmingly, the jock at the pool table will be humiliated and the American comedian will get a blowjob in the car on the way home. Us Brits love an underdog. Americans love a hero.

In the past, we’ve been given both, in Star Wars – Luke is just a farm boy, BUT WAIT! He’s also the son of the most powerful Jedi in history – the Chosen One – Anakin Skywalker! And I think this is where the issue many are having with The Last Jedi lies… This is a film about good people doing questionable things with the best of intentions, but failing. It’s a film about the importance of hope in legend, but also the essentiality of grounded, rational acts. Throughout The Last Jedi we’re shown the consequences of recklessness and arrogance and blind faith. We’re given a snapshot of impossible odds and the dangers of playing them. We’re told that not only is doing the right thing often difficult, it’s also never clear whether it really is the right thing to do at all.

Within fifteen minutes of the film beginning Poe Dameron, dashing hero of the Resistance, is ultimately responsible for the deaths of countless Resistance fighters. He fails, through recklessness and arrogance. He believes he’s doing the right thing – striking a massive blow against the First Order (and he is!). But at what cost? Likewise, Rey heads to Ahch-To to secure Luke’s assistance in taking on the First Order and to seek his training in better using the Force. He refuses. He’s out. Not interested. Even when he is interested, he’s afraid. And that’s because he’s been there, done that, and failed. When he finally gives in and begrudgingly agrees to give Rey some lessons in the Force, she takes what he offers and opens up to the dark side immediately. She later tried to turn Kylo Ren to the light, after “seeing his future”… She fails, because it’s all been a plot by Snoke, who has been manipulating both Kylo and Rey, laying down bait. But even then Snoke, in his blind arrogance, senses that Kylo is about to kill his true enemy, turning his lightsaber in preparation to strike. He takes for granted Kylo’s loyalty to him. He simply cannot bring himself to even consider that Kylo would be anything but loyal to him. It doesn’t go his way. Snoke fails. He’s struck down and killed by his own apprentice, as is the lot of those who follow the path to darkness.

Failure oozes all over this film – and not in the way the crybabies in the bottom half of the internet would have you think. Luke straight-out says it: “Failure is the greatest teacher” – we learn from our mistakes, are brought down to earth by our failures. I think it’s a wonderful lesson to be given. It’s a pretty meta lesson too, because if those fans who had spent the last two years falling down the rabbit hole of their own increasingly contrived theorising had instead thought “It’s a movie and its production is out of my hands. The chances of them including my theory, from about the millions out there, is incredible small. I should temper my expectations accordingly,” then I believe the vocal minority would be far happier with the movie we were given.

A secondary lesson – though one somewhat subverted by the end of the film – is, to put it concisely, Beware Of Meeting Your Heroes. Luke is a disappointment to Rey, at first, and to the Resistance. Rey wants him to come back, be awesome, kick FO ass and save the galaxy singlehandedly. And he pops that bubble by saying something along the lines of “What did you think was going to happen? Did you think I’d come back and face down the entire First Order with my laser sword?” This is as much a message to the over-analytical streak in the fan theory community as it is to Rey. That’s this movie in a nutshell – even when he literally does this later in the film, he isn’t really there – it never happened. If he’d actually done this, he would’ve failed. Indeed, even when he didn’t do it, what he did do exhausted himself to the point that he died. Throughout The Last Jedi’s considerable, but never noticeable, runtime it is the failures that each character faces rather than their successes that drive the story and take us to our final message (which we’ll come to shortly).

Poe fails, resulting in a situation where Kylo Ren has the chance to kill his mother. But Kylo fails to do so; others have to do so for him. But they fail. Leia survives, through a use of the Force that I adored, but that others may take issue with. In saving herself, the Resistance loses a leader, ushering in the wonderful Vice Admiral Holdo. Who fails to command the loyalty and respect from a portion of her crew. So Finn – who failed to get away from the fleet, and get to Rey – and Rose head off on a mission to find a Master Code Breaker; a mission kept from the leaders of the Resistance. They find the Code Breaker but fail to make his acquaintance, instead teaming up with another who promises that he can give them what they need, for a price. And he does so, but the price fails to be enough. He ultimately sells them out to the First Order for even more money. Meanwhile, the Resistance – dwindling in number – follow the need-to-know plan of Holdo – quickly and quietly evacuate to the abandoned Resistance base on Crait.

Of course, the First Order know this plan – the backstabbing hacker told them – so the plan fails, leading to one of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history, in my opinion: Holdo’s Lightspeed Sacrifice. Because of this sacrifice, Captain Phasma’s attempts to execute Finn and Rose fail, resulting in a fight between FN-2187 and his old boss. She tries to kill him, fails. He tried to kill her, fails. Eventually, it’s their push for victory, and a string of failures, that cause Phasma to plummet to her death. Back on Crait, the Resistance do their best to hold out against brutal First Order bombardment. The FO’s Cannon Ram, however, us just too powerful to resist. Finn tries to destroy it, with a sacrifice of his own, and fails. The handful of Resistance fighters still alive race through the caves on Crait to escape, but their exit is blocked. Rey releases them by using the Force and they escape.

Meanwhile, Luke is apparently giving Kylo Ren what he wants – a chance to kill his old master. But Kylo fails. Luke isn’t there. The First Order fails to snuff out the Resistance. They have escaped. And it’s the Legend of Luke Skywalker, not the man, who is remembered throughout the galaxy. The reignited spark of hope it lit by a lie. Hell, even when he wants to destroy the Jedi texts, Luke fails. Yoda has to do it for him. And even then it’s not done, because Rey has stolen the books. Plus, Chewie fails to have supper in a moment that will go down as either the best or worst in Star Wars humour history.

Sorry to get long winded on you; what I’m trying to say is that failure is celebrated, here. The lessons we learn from the mistakes we make are essential in our successes in the future. How will you know whether something is the right thing to do if you don’t have anything wrong to compare it to? But having something to believe in is also essential. Fail though you might, if you have hope – however dim the spark – you can succeed. Hope, like fire, will spread and the failures you have suffered will be worth every misstep. I think that’s what I’m trying to say, anyway. I fear I might have failed also.

The Last Jedi – My Incoherent Take (SPOILERS)



If JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens was Star Wars playing it safe, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was Star Wars throwing the rulebook off a cliff as quickly and with as much trepidation as Luke did that sabre. Brave choices and the most beautiful cinematography I can remember ever witnessing in a cinema, I think, pushed the saga into places that nobody expected it to go. We had answers to the Big Questions from the preceding chapter: Who Are Rey’s Parents? Who Is Snoke? The answers are Nobody and Nobody. And I’m more than happy with that.

What Johnson has done here, as far as I can tell, is say “you don’t have to be special to do special things” and that’s a message we can all get behind. That is unless you’re one of any number of alt-right crybabies currently losing their shit on a comment thread near you because there are too many strong women and not enough references to obscure fan theories. Whether it was commenting on the hypocrisy of war profiteering, the horrors of animal cruelty or the fact that even whiny wannabes can be dangerous given enough power, this was the most political chapter in the saga, ironic when you think that the prequel trilogy (much maligned, though not by me) was literally about a war, started over a trade dispute, which resulted in a power grab to end all power grabs. It’s not “pro-leftist vegan propaganda” as I saw one commenter call it, but a film set in a universe where important things happen, even off-screen.

The heroes can be split into three groups: the Old Big Three (now Two; RIP Han), the New Big Three and the Newcomers. Mark Hamill gives the performance of his career as a grizzled and green-milk-slurping Luke Skywalker. I love what Johnson did with the character, showing that it’s never a good idea to meet your heroes. The late Carrie Fisher shines as General Leia, capturing the vulnerability of age and the pressures of reluctant power perfectly. I shed a tear or two when we first saw her on-screen and all-out blubbed like a baby when Luke and Leia had their chat on Crait. Killing off Luke Skywalker in the way they did was a masterstroke. Opinion is that he’ll show up again as a Force Ghost – as Yoda did this time around – to keep our hero on the straight and narrow; I’m not sure I agree that he will. I’ll be happy either way.

As for New Big Three, it’s Poe Dameron who stands out. Barely appearing in The Force Awakens, Poe is every inch the reckless rebel in this chapter. An early mistake causing an untold number of deaths weighs heavy and every move he makes afterwards feels like a desperate attempt to make up for that. Oscar Isaac makes what was a fairly two-dimensional character into one of the most compelling characters in the saga’s history. Rey is off on Ahch-To, seeking wisdom and training from Master Skywalker, but she doesn’t get what she expects. Rather than being taken under his wing, Rey is mercilessly dismissed by Luke in scenes reminiscent of the Pai Mei training segment from Kill Bill Vol.2. The call of the Dark Side tempts her in ways she’s never experienced but a string of ‘Forcetime calls’ from a sometimes-topless Kylo Ren sets her on a path to save him from the darkness.

Meanwhile, Finn and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) are shuttled off on a secret mission to save the Resistance by deactivating the First Order’s lightspeed tracker. To do this they must go to Canto Bight, SPACE VEGAS, and find a hacker who can break through the shields of the Supremacy and get them aboard. Things don’t go to plan: they end up with a hacker (but not the hacker), an unnamed-on-screen scoundrel played pitch-perfectly by Benicio del Toro. I loved this whole segment of the film. I think I might be the only one who did. Plot-wise, there wasn’t a misstep, in my opinion. Everything worked, even though everyone failed. This film has a lot to say about failure and our reactions to it. Luke says “failure is the greatest teacher there is” and even he learns that failing a task is one thing, failing a friend is unforgivable.

Villains, then. Kylo Ren is as petulant as ever, but with a new purpose that makes him even more dangerous than before. Snoke meets a sticky end, sliced into at least four pieces, struck down by his apprentice as is the lot of all Sith (he’s a fucking Sith, whatever anyone says), but not before he jumps out of the screen and into our nightmares. What an enthralling, horrific villain! It’s a shame we won’t see any more of him, but I’m so happy with his ending. As for Who’s Snoke? Who cares? He’s just some really evil guy. Phasma pops up again, only to get her arse handed to her by FN-2187 in a scene that some have said did her a disservice. I didn’t think so; she’s a minor character and her demise was fitting – she went down fighting and remains, in my mind, a great addition to the roster of minor Star Wars characters who were bloody awesome. The last battle of the film, the walker attack on the Resistance base on Crait, culminating in the showdown between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker (albeit a younger, fitter, friskier, fake Luke Skywalker) was a visual treat. And if it’s visual treats you want, look no further than the snarky Vice Admiral Holdo’s sacrificial trip to light speed, through the middle of the First Order flagship! I want that image on my wall.

I found myself literally punching the air more than once throughout this film. It was a triumph. I laughed, I gasped, I cried like a baby (twice, when R2 showed Luke the hologram from A New Hope and when Luke finally gave in and became one with the Force, in Peace and with Purpose). At around two and a half hours, this is the longest Star Wars movie ever, but it flew by. I would happily have rejoined the line and gone straight back into the screen to see it a second time. I can’t wait until I get chance to devour this masterpiece again. This hasn’t been much of a review, but it’s the best I could come up with at short notice. I have so, so much more to say that I fear I’ll have to split my thoughts into a few separate posts. But not today. Today, I listen to the soundtrack to The Last Jedi and relive the thrills all over again in my mind.

For being one of the best films – never mind Star Wars films – I’ve ever seen, The Last Jedi gets a strong 9/10. Stay tuned for more from me on this film, coming soon. Ish.