Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director – Rian Johnson
Cast – Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Lupita Nyong’o, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis
When was the last time you had a spiritual experience at the movies?
When was the last time a movie brought you to your knees? It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it reminds us why we put ourselves through this at all — surrender ourselves to strangers and their vision. There is a certain amount of trust involved, but it’s something more than that, something more sacred, more intangible.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a rewarding experience for anyone who has stuck with this venerable series through thick and thin. But for the uninitiated, it could prove to be just as enjoyable as being held in a Force Choke for two-and-a-half-hours.
This image released by Lucasfilm shows Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (AP)
I didn’t grow up with these movies – mine is the Harry Potter generation. I discovered them, like the rest of my friends, years later on TV. I have only the faintest memories of the frenzy that accompanied the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, but I was too young to understand what all the fuss was about. But no one forgets the first time they watch A New Hope – it’s like the first time you listen to the Beatles, or like the first time you’re confronted by the Mona Lisa.
Things change after that.
The Last Jedi will not win any new converts – by now, you’re either in or you’re out, and even if you’re on the fence, you’re hardly going to jump in with the eighth movie – but it will be just the elixir those having a crisis of faith need.
Like Luke Skywalker, who has been living a monk-like existence on Ahch-To – an island that is home to the oldest Jedi temple in the galaxy, where we last saw him in the final scene of The Force Awakens – resigned to the future he has decided for himself.
This image released by Lucasfilm shows John Boyega as Finn in a scene from, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (AP)
He lives out his days in isolation, occasionally yelling at animals, but mostly keeping to himself, biding his time until he dies, away from his family and his duty. Having lost his nephew and protege Kylo Ren to the Dark Side, Luke denounced his religion. In death, he hopes to take with him what remains of the Jedi, refusing to accept that for thousands of rebels, he is their last hope, the only one powerful enough to stop Supreme Leader Snoke.
So when he failed to be there when his people needed him the most, hope came to him.
The Last Jedi picks up right where the Force Awakens left off, on that mountain top on Ahch-To, with Rey offering Luke his lightsabre, a symbol from his past, a plea for help, and a sign of things to come.
This image released by Lucasfilm shows BB-8 in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (AP)
But if there’s ever a moment that will define what kind of movie The Last Jedi is going to be, it is the moment we’ve waited two years to see – on that mountaintop, Rey reaching out to the man who has been deified since his disappearance. In Luke’s reaction to coming face to face with Rey, director Rian Johnson announces the sort of movie he has made – a funny, foreboding and deeply spiritual story of one family, torn apart by the sins of the father.
The Skywalker Saga owes a great debt to Eastern philosophy – most notably Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu texts – but for some reason, after having alluded to it in the original trilogy, creator George Lucas curiously shied away from the very thought of thematic heft in his much derided prequels. The Force, a metaphysical idea that binds the Star Wars universe together was sidelined in favour of something more scientific, and altogether less fun.
This image released by Lucasfilm shows Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (AP)
With The Force Awakens – a movie I love just as much as The Last Jedi, but for different reasons – director JJ Abrams paid due reverence to these concepts, which, for an entire generation of Star Wars fans, were sacred. And Johnson, while adding his own unique voice to the Saga, has continued the pilgrimage.
He takes his time with the story, carefully peppering smaller character moments within the grander scheme of things, aided by his film school buddy and cinematographer Steve Yedlin’s distinct visuals, some fluid editing by Bob Ducsay, and a propulsive score by the legendary John Williams. Even at two-and-a-half-hours long – it’s the longest movie in the series, by the way – there isn’t a minute wasted. Everything is in service of the characters – Rey, Finn, Kylo, Poe, Leia and others – men, women and droids we’ve come to care for.
For what is Star Wars but a story about family? What is it but a story about hope? It’s about seeing light when there is only darkness. It is about how, when faced with peril, even the most rational of us bow our heads and pray.
But what are we praying for? Whom are we praying to? Why must we have faith, when all we see is death and destruction – in real life, as with the galaxy far, far away. There are no easy answers, not even in Star Wars. But as one character says towards the end of the film, we mustn’t destroy what we hate, we must save what we love.
This image released by Lucasfilm shows Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (AP)
So breathe. Just breathe. The Force has always been with you.
Watch the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer here