DUMAGUETE CITY – Before the holidays, I got to catch the second installment of the rebooted Star Wars trilogy – Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I watched it twice to cover all bases. And man, was it GOOD.
Now for those of you who did not catch the first film (like seriously, what rock have you been hiding under?), the Force Awakens basically was a view of what happened years after the first trilogy. You’ve got a whole new menace threatening the universe that is the First Order. Han Solo and Princess Leia (now General Leia) had a son, Ben Solo, who became the resident baddie, Kylo Ren. You’ve got the Rebel Alliance desperately trying to fight for freedom. Then you have the new characters. Rey, Kylo Ren’s equal on the Light Side of the Force; Finn, a stormtrooper who experienced a metanoia of sorts; Poe Dameron, XWing Pilot extraordinaire; and BB-8, the adorable droid (who, honestly, is a lot more helpful than C3PO and R2D2).
Fast forward to this film. And if you haven’t watched the movie (must be a giant boulder then), now’s the perfect time to stop reading and look away. Seeing that the coast is clear, allow me to continue. Rey has finally found Luke Skywalker who became totally devastated after his nephew, Ben Solo, turned dark. Solo, now Kylo Ren, displays the ensuing dark sidelight side conflict within him even after he killed his own father, Han. The ever hopeful Rey tries to bring him back to the light and there lies the inevitable cliff-hanger. The other characters also had their own issues to grapple with. Poe Dameron had to learn hard lessons on leadership. Finn finds possible romance in delightful Rose Tico. There might even be a Rey- Kylo thing (Reylo!!!) going on. And General Hux is pretty much General Hux.
For non-fans, I bet you’re thinking I’m talking gibberish but what amazing gibberish the Last Jedi was. Writer-Director Rian Johnson fearlessly breathed new life to the old franchise for better or for worse. Understandably, this caused a rift among Star Wars fans. On one side, there are those who scream sacrilege. Luke shouldn’t be so flawed as to plan the death of his own nephew. Leia, while slightly attuned to the force, really did not enough juice to save herself after being thrown to space. And a developing relationship between Kylo and Rey? Definitely abusive. On the other side, there are those who praise the courage of the creators to create something new while trying to pay homage to the past. The Last Jedi decided to do a ballsy move, that is, to expand the Star Wars ethos as more than choosing between the dark side and the light side. It presented the flaws of heroes. It celebrated the strength of women. It made heroism inclusive by virtue of affirming that the force can also be strong among people who were neither Skywalkers nor Kenobis.
I would say that having watched the movie twice, I lean more towards the positive side. I would even go and say this totally changed the direction of the franchise. It has upended several theories and the possibilities of the third and final film are endless. What makes this film work is the heart-felt commitment of its cast. From the “originals” to the young ones, they each did their part so compellingly that you kind of understand where each one comes from — even those from the Dark Side. This is where the Last Jedi was most effective — showing people as multi-dimensional, that each one has his/her own conflicts, that being good or bad is not predetermined, that no one is beyond help.
All in all, the force is strong in this second installment. It further elevated what this franchise has become and has successfully set the tone for Episode IX which marks the return of JJ Abrams at the director’s helm. Until then, we look to the stars and only guess what could happen in a galaxy far, far away. But be wary of theories and preconceived notions. As Luke Skywalker said, “This is not going to go the way you think.” And I really don’t have any problem with that.