How many times have you seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi — Twice? Five Times? Maybe just the once?
Planning on seeing it again?
I’ve seen it three times and I’ve definitely caught new moments or gotten a new take on something I’d noticed before, but thought different about with each viewing. I’m planning on going for a fourth round this weekend and I’m already thinking about some key moments that I still haven’t gotten enough of yet. One thing that can unreservedly be said about Rian Johnson’s maiden voyage into the galaxy far, far away — whether you like what he did or not — is that there’s a LOT to see and think about. From the big spectacle scenes to the punchy one-liners, TLJ packs a Wookie-sized punch into each beat of the story.
Fair Warning: SPOILERS for the Star Wars sequel trilogy abound beyond this point. Please only read on if you’re up-to-date or if you don’t care about spoilers.
Here’s what I’m going to be looking out for the next time I contribute to TLJ’s box office takings…
The Quick List:
“Why is the Force connecting us — you and I?”
“That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”
“You are a monster.” … “Yes, I am.”
“No one’s ever really gone.”
#1. Ben’s Desperate Appeal to Rey
He practically whispers it, but it’s darn-near impossible to miss: bad boy Kylo Ren dusts off his long-lost manners for Rey. Adam Driver is far and away my pick for MVP of the TLJ cast with his spectacular use of expression and nuance to bring the deeper layers of his character to life. He had two personalities to juggle and this moment, coming after the high-octane battle in the throne room, is pure gold. His face is as open and honest as we’ve ever seen it, doing justice to the level of intimacy Ben and Rey achieved over the course of the movie. He’s never been more vulnerable, and it’s by his own choice. A little of Kylo comes through as he tries to manipulate Rey into joining him in ruling the galaxy, but what comes after — that desperately hopeful plea that just breaks your heart — is all Ben Solo.
#2. Where is the “Force Bond” Coming From?
Yeah, yeah, I heard you, Snoke. The villain delights in telling Rey that he was the one who forged the connection that has been bridging the lightyears between her and his young apprentice this whole time. He sells it for all it’s worth, too, given the reaction on Ben’s face. BUT … did he really do it? I mean, reeeally? Accepting Snoke’s claim means discounting major pieces of evidence that contradict it. First and foremost, something tying these two together was established to have existed long before Rey got marched into that red-and-black throne room. Rey’s vision and the interrogation scene from The Force Awakens already revealed it. Additionally, as a number of my fellow fans have pointed out, Snoke’s paralytic hold on Rey broke when Ben pulled his lightsaber switcheroo. If his power is limited by death, then how were Rey and Ben able to connect again during the finale? Snoke = Reliable source? I think not.
#3. Wise Words … That We Just HATE
I didn’t like Benicio Del Toro’s character the first time around, and because I sort of discounted him I missed out on the fact that he’s one of the most groundbreaking characters in the franchise. Shame on me! I paid him more attention during my second trip to the theater, though, and was floored by the philosophical gem he really is. His mantra, “Don’t join,” embodies the sentiments of members of the galaxy who’ve only recently been given a voice: the people who don’t want to take sides, get involved in cutthroat politics, or fight battles over intangible ideals. DJ is not a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” He just wants to survive and get by in the middle of a conflict he can’t see a benefit to becoming involved in. He’s what Finn would have become if he hadn’t gone back for Rey on Takodana, and what Jyn was before joining the Rebellion. More, DJ is who Han Solo would have been but for a pair of Skywalkers.
#4. Wiser Words … That We Just LOVE
Think what you will of the Finn/Rose romance in TLJ, but it delivered one of the movie’s most iconic lines. Rose knows what loss is. Her life had been about hardship, sacrifice, and heartbreak even before she lost her sister. All things considered, it makes sense that she had had enough by the time Finn took it into his mind to take one for the team. It took the punch out of his decision and potentially undermined his chance at finally distinguishing himself as a true hero of the Star Wars franchise, but I still applaud her unwillingness to stand aside and watch yet another person she cares for die. It’s a good reminder that though self-sacrifice and nobility are pivotal elements of these stories, courage doesn’t always have to come at the highest cost … coming on the heels of Admiral Holdo’s defining scene, this is something that we might have really needed here.
And for the Reylo’s out there, feel free to revel in the easy application of the line to another couple we want to see come around to Rose’s way of thinking. Maybe Finn’s new GF can give Rey some earnest nudges in Episode IX…
#5. Does Kylo/Ben Believe He Doesn’t Deserve to be Saved?
This has been a theory since TFA introduced us to Han and Leia’s son — does the still-conflicted Kylo/Ben resist turning back to the light because he doesn’t believe he deserves redemption? His tearful confession to his father that he’s “being torn apart” is even more true in the wake of the heinous act he thought would finally make him whole. Where the love of a parent fails, so too do Rey’s efforts to draw Ben Solo back from the Dark Side, despite the emotional connection that grew up around the Force bond tying them together. Given his elitist little speech to convince Rey to join him, there’s obviously still a certain Palpatine-esque hunger for power and dominance there, but if the character has demonstrated anything in the 2+ hours before, it’s that there is nothing simple about him. As Snoke’s apprentice he perpetrated countless horrors. Not only does Rey have to contend with the influence of Kylo Ren, Ben himself does as well.
#6. Always in Our Hearts
Okay, here are the feelz! We all know that this line, delivered by Luke to his sister, Leia, goes beyond its elegant simplicity. On the surface, it recalls Han back to us as John Williams’ romance theme lilts through the air. There is also (given that Leia was just saying that her son is gone) an opening to theorize that Luke has come to believe Rey, holding out hope that perhaps Ben could still return one day. Beneath it all, though, is the beautiful tribute to an actress who captured our hearts with her bold performance decades ago. The tribute to “Our Princess” is spelled out in the credits — this line says everything we feel, though. It may have been written, practiced, and delivered before Carrie Fisher died, but it resonates deeply as art pays homage to life.
**All quotations originate from Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Credit does not belong to me and they are included here only as reference.**
© 2018 Sarah Easley – All Rights Reserved.