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 Post subject: Re: A Guided Tour of The Last Jedi (revised version on p.6)
PostPosted: Mon January 08, 2018 2:39 am 
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The Resistance Retreat: We cut back to Resistance, Poe ordering the ships to fly faster – more because he feels helpless and wants to do something than because he expected this to be useful tactical advice that hadn’t occurred to the pilot. It’s a useful reminder that the stakes are still high, that despite the death of Snoke and Rey/Ben’s triumph the Resistance is still being destroyed

Inside the Dreadnought Finn, frantic, confronts his alter ego. DJ, calmly, dismisses his rage.
“Take it easy, big F. They blow you up today, you blow them up tomorrow. It’s just business.”

Finn, doubling down on his principles, his only weapon in this moment, assures DJ “you’re wrong.” To which DJ shrugs, “maybe.” And we should understand that response as dismissive, not a question of doubt. It’s a refusal to even enter the moral space Finn finds himself, a space where questions like that might matter. A space Finn fully occupied before he met Rey (and Rose).

I do hope we see DJ again in Episode IX, but I hope his character stays exactly the same. Entirely self serving. Characters like him are necessary to help give moral clarity to the people around them.

Throne Room: The fight against the guards, is well underway and while there is a ton of cool visual stuff happening here (the imagery is wonderful – the weapons, the throne room on fire, the red ash from the guard incinerated in the fan) I don’t have much in the way of commentary. It is worth highlighting how violent Rey’s fighting style is, as she screams and snarls her way through it – a reminder that the dark side is alive and well within Rey (compared to the placid combat we have come to expect from Jedi)

I’d also like to praise the choreography. The two big lightsaber duels we’ve had in the new trilogy have been outstanding, and here in particular we really fuse the strengths of the OT fights (the emotional intensity) with the far more advanced choreography of the prequels, but instead of the slick martial arts quality (and frankly too much casual waving of sticks) we have something much more grounded, visceral, brutal. These fights hit hard, and the people involved in them hurt.

And by getting basically one lightsaber fight per movie they feel special. The battles serve as major moments, not punctuation sprinkled throughout a movie.

The fight ends with Rey throwing her light saber at Ben so he can defeat his final opponent (mirroring the way it began by Ben doing the same for Rey), and it says something that Rey willingly disarmed herself. She now fully trusts in Ben, trusts in his conversion. But they’re both in very different head spaces after what they went through.

Although Rey wanted to save Ben and sensed his conflict, he is not the center of her world. There is still the Resistance, and her thoughts go immediately to the battle at hand, as she starts pleading with him to call off the attack on the shuttles.

But Ben is somewhere else entirely. He has destroyed Snoke, a major link to his past. He understands he is now the most powerful person in the First Order, and likely its Supreme Leader. Rey came to him, fought with him, supported him, believed in him. For Ben this moment has everything to do with him finally having (he thinks) cleared away the wreckage of his former life and attracted to him the person, the support, he needs to redefine himself, to figure out who he needs to be and become them. Rey is the one person in the galaxy who can start this journey with him, the one person who understands what it is like to have the power he does, and the need to free yourself from what has come before.

“It’s time to let old things die
Snoke, Skywalker, the Sith, the Jedi, the Rebels, let it all die.
Rey,” (extending his hand, uncertain but determined, knowing this is what he needs and not knowing how she’ll respond) “I want you to join me.
We could rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy” (the chance to not only let the past die but remake the world that hurt him over again – start over and ensure he never hurts again).

Rey, for the first time in this whole Throne room confrontation, begins to understand that she may have misread him, and misunderstood the conflict within him. Luke was right. This is not going to go the way she thinks. She looks truly defeated. And in tears.

“Ben, please don’t do this. Please don’t’ go this way”
“No, no, you’re still HOLDING ON! Let go!”

Ben’s temper gets the better of him, infuriated that Rey doesn’t understand, needs her to understand, can’t fathom that Rey, unlike Ben, has at this point largely let her past die. She’s not holding on to her past. She is embracing her present. The Resistance isn’t a relic of a failed history (as it is for Ben). It is home.

Ben plays the last card he has, bringing up her parents, dredging up memories that Rey had suppressed. And we have the reveal that Rey is not a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or anyone special. Her parents were no one important, and they abandoned her for their own selfish ends. They’re dead, never to return (Maz warns her of this in TFA). There will be no reconciliation with them. It’s a devastating moment for Rey, because it’s a painful memory, and Ben hopes to use that pain to his advantage. It is nakedly manipulative, but it’s all he knows.

“You have no place in this story. You’re nothing. You come from nothing.
But not to me.
Join me….please”

We’ve had the join me to rule the galaxy moments in Star Wars before, but I’m not sure we’ve had one with this sort of naked desperation (perhaps Anakin makes a similar plea to Padme, which would make sense since it’s a similar dynamic in play, but the scene is far more compelling here) It’s a powerful moment, but one that Ben misreads. A child of privilege, of a world historic lineage, the idea of coming from nothing would be a crushing blow to Ben, who always knew he was a major player in a larger story. Stripped of that meaning Ben offers her love, and a place to belong. But Rey never needed her parents to validate who she was, or who she is. In the she just wanted a family, to be loved. And she has a place to belong. Settling the fate of her parents, confronting that truth, enables Rey to leave behind the part of the past that was holding her back, and fully embrace the family she has. And it is this family that Ben solo is destroying.

The truth is that Ben will always need Rey because she is maybe the only person left in the galaxy who can glimpse the conflicted, wounded child underneath the monster. But Rey will never need Ben. Not in the same way. She may pity him, she may want to save him, she may be attracted to and compelled by him, as maybe the only other person in the galaxy who can understand what it means to have her power and her responsibilities. But she is complete without him in a way that Ben will never be. Rey has confronted her past, and grown beyond it. Kylo seeks to systematically destroy it to avoid confronting it, and as such he’ll never escape it. His hatred of it, his inability to let go, the way the violence committed in the service of escaping that past, all of it defines him. Luke warns him of as much during their confrontation on Crait.

His hand is extended as he begs Rey to take it, and she does extend her hand, before pulling her lightsaber (in Ben’s possession) towards her. It’s a devastating moment for Ben, and he doesn’t recover from it. Going forward we are dealing only with Kylo Ren. For the second time Rey is pulling a lightsaber from Kylo’s grasp with the intention of harming him, and this time she does so right as he opened himself up to her, expecting him to take her hand. They are both immensely strong in the force, and instincts kick in before he can process what each of them experiences as a betrayal. Each reaches for the lightsaber, fighting against the other, hating that it has come to this.

Dreadnought Hanger: Our three major stories (Rey/Ben, Finn/Rose, Poe/Resistance) are converging on one moment, and this whole sequence is masterfully edited. Phasma gives the order to have Rose and Finn killed and, in typical Bond villain fashion, decides that shooting them is too good and orders a more painful decapitation, buying our heroes a few precious seconds.

Resistance Cruiser: We see the Resistance Cruiser turning to face down the First Order (and since this is Poe’s arc, note the parallel to the opening of the movie with Poe, in his lone X-wing, facing down the First Order). Leia’s daughter notes to Poe that she’s running away. Poe, now fully in awe of Holdo, senses her true intention moments before they become apparent to the First Order.

In a wonderfully framed shot we have our solitary cruiser on one end of the screen, the entire First Order fleet arrayed against her, and at this point the audience starts to realize what is about to happen.

In an absolute panic Hux orders for the ships to fire on the cruiser. We cut to the throne room and see that Kylo and Rey are ripping the lightsaber apart, and that it is about to explode. Rey and Ren scream, Phasma gives the command to execute, the lightsaber explodes and Holdo, using what is left of its power, engages the final light speed jump of the Raddus.

This is, I think, the most powerful visual effect in all of Star Wars. Obviously in a series defined by its visual iconography this is a contestable claim. The first ever shot of a Star Destroyer is incredibly iconic, and there are some beautiful images in Rogue One. But this is incredibly powerful – in utter silence white beams of light literally rip the First Order fleet in two. Stylized shots, unusual angles, there is something utterly otherworldly about the sequence – understanding that a franchise which blew up a planet an hour into its existence finally had something new to show us. It is a breathtaking moment, and then the speed of sound catches up with the speed of light and the screen rumbles with a sound somewhere beyond an explosion and something more akin to the sounds we should have gotten when the Death Star destroyed Alderaan.

Cut to Leia, Poe, and 3PO bearing witness to Holdo’s sacrifice as the few surviving transports make their way to Crait, leaving behind them the ruins of the First Order fleet

Dreadnought Hanger: It says something about how truly massive this ship is that, ripped in half, it still somehow survived (parts of it, anyway). Rose is dragging Finn from the wreckage, having spotted a working shuttle, but blocking their escape, wreathed in smoke and flame, is Phasma and First Order Stormtroopers. Phasma calls Finn a traitor (echoing that storm trooper he fought on Maz’s planet and speaking to the fanatical loyalty she has to the First Order – that all of Finn’s sins against the First Order simply abandoning them was the worst) but before the First Order can finish off our beleaguered heroes an AT-ST turns and opens fire. We quickly discover it commandeered by BB8/Chopper, with echoes Chewie’s actions in Return of the Jedi. The storm troopers move to deal with BB8, leaving Finn and Rose free to face down Phasma. We learn that Phasma’s armor is blaster proof, and Rose is forced to take cover, leaving us with only Finn and Phasma, as it should be. It’s a brief but savage fight, backlight against the destroyed hanger. Phasma embodying Finn’s hatred of the First Order. Finn, escaped storm trooper and hero of the Resistance who keeps thwarting the First Order in their moment of triumph embodying the truth that, for all its pretenses, the First Order is not actually in control.

Phasma looks really intimidating in this fight, and I’m glad they gave her these moments – both in terms of her invulnerable armor and how cool it looks against the flames, but also by how large and intimidating she is, hulking over Finn who, while overmatched, refuses to surrender. Not to her. Not anymore.

Phasma knocks him into an elevator shaft and turns her attention to Rose (who assumes Finn is dead), only to have Finn ride up one of those elevators (like we saw in the Death Star hanger in a New Hope) to lay out Phasma with a blow to the head, fueled by his hate (it’s oaky if you’re not a Jedi), power enough to split apart her invulnerable armor. As the ground shifts under Phasma and she realizes she is about to fall to her death, she curses Finn as scum. Smiling, satisfied, Finn owns the insult, transforming it into a badge of honor ‘Rebel Scum.’ Finn’s arc within the movie is almost complete, as he’s now fully identified himself with the cause, but there is one more lesson he needs to learn.

Phasma falls, and BB8, Finn, and Rose escape in a shuttle (Rose greets him with a ‘need a lift’ which, in a nice callback, is the same thing DJ says to him and Rose when they escaped Canto Bight), in a beautiful shot flying through the wreckage of the fleet. I presume (and hope) Phasma survives since she’s in her armor, and the Dreadnought doesn’t actually explode. If they wanted her dead we would have seen her die.

Throne Room: We cut to Hux in the wreckage of the Throne Room, staring at the severed corpse of Snoke, its lower half unceremoniously falling to the floor. He is thunderstruck at what happened, completely at a loss. He sees Kylo unconscious and senses an opportunity to settle a score (reaching for his blaster), but changes his mind when he sees Kylo twitch. He’s seen him stop blaster bolts with the force and understandably doesn’t want to take that chance.

Ren tells Hux that Rey killed Snoke, and assumes command of the First Order. Hux, in a fit of self-righteous spitting pique, contests that leadership until Ren, in his most Vader like moment thus far, force chokes Hux into accepting his command.

Looking on the wreckage of the fleet out the window (now that the curtain wall has burned away) we get an insight into Ren’s state of mind. He wants the First Order as a tool, but primarily as a tool for vengeance - something with which he can finish the destruction of his past and take revenge on those who wronged him. His first concern is with how many troops they can get down to the planet to punish the Resistance, and punish Rey (who he now refers to as ‘the girl). In fact, the Resistance is primarily a means to an end - a way to get to Rey. When Ren calls to ‘finish this’ he is referring to Rey, not the Resistance. Ren is practically in tears, raw, wounded, angry, hurt, and unbalanced. The way he felt after killing Han Solo and being deprived of the promised closure. The way he no doubt felt the night he destroyed Luke’s temple. Once again Kylo Ren has been betrayed by someone he trusted. Rey’s may hurt the most, since she was a kindred spirit intended to guide Ren into becoming whoever it was he was meant to be (as he would have done her in turn).

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 Post subject: Re: A Guided Tour of The Last Jedi (revised version on p.6)
PostPosted: Mon January 08, 2018 2:42 am 
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Crait: We see Leia standing at the door (and by door we mean a fortified hanger door that may well be hundreds of feet tall) looking out over the salt flats of Crait, no doubt reliving Hoth, except this time there is no evacuation – just the hope that they can hunker down long enough for someone to save them. They made it to a defensible position, but with only a tiny fraction of the already tiny resistance, and the First Order knows exactly where they are.

She orders the door shut and we see a pack of native crystal foxes run in as an imperial shuttle and an advance wing of tie fighters barrel down, the shuttle making it through the door before it closes. We learn that the Tie Fighters were in fact trying to destroy the shuttle, which contains Finn, Rose, and BB8.

We get a brief return of the irrepressible Poe from TFA, who is overjoyed they aren’t dead and has a happy reunion with BB8 (again treating him like a dog, to the point of giving him tummy rubs. It’s kind of adorable). He’s on the ground, and he’s trapped, but he can fight again, and so his old spark is returning.

Rose asks the sobering question “is this all that’s left” which is important coming from her given her final lines in the film. If this is all we have left it becomes that much more essential that we protect it.

They set up a makeshift command center to defend the base and broadcast their distress signal. Leia instructs them to use her personal code and let them know “if there are any allies to the Resistance, it’s now or never”. Leia is staking her reputation on someone coming to help. Rose reveals the assets that are left in the base, and they aren’t impressive. While the rebels were always outgunned, for the most part their equipment could hold its own against the Empire. Here they are hopelessly outclassed in the fight to come.

Poe, having learned from Holdo, is not contemplating an attack, and understands that they just need to hunker down and wait for help. They feel the dropships landing First Order equipment and see new and improved walkers (with extra plating around all the places that the rebels exploited during the battle of Hoth) and a battering ram cannon that could cut through the door. They won’t be able to hide. They begin contemplating escape, and discover that there is no way in or out of the base other than the main door.

This time it is Finn who gives the inspirational speech – telling everyone that people believe in Leia, and they’ll come as long as they can hold the door. But to do that they’ll need to destroy the cannon. Poe gives a subtle smile, happy to commit to an engagement, especially one that honors Holdo’s sacrifice. Rose smiles much more broadly, proud of Finn and what he is becoming.

The Resistance soldiers set up some basic trench defenses, and we learn that Crait is really a red planet covered in a sheet of white salt. The Resistance launches their skimmers, and these are just rusted out pieces of garbage (Poe kicks through the floor of his. There isn’t even a cockpit shield). They don’t have the firepower to defeat the First Order. But they don’t need to win. They just have to draw out the big cannon and destroy it.

Although they are garbage ships the design of the skimmers is something we haven’t really seen before, and this is a beautifully shot sequence with the salt kicking up and exposing the bright red lines underneath.

This is the first time Finn has self-consciously engaged in a fight as a Resistance soldier, and while he’s nervous and a little lost, he is also clearly proud of himself and his choice. Rose on the other hand (a mechanic, not a warrior) is terrified, but steels herself by touching her necklace, reminding herself of her sister, and why she is fighting.

Hux and Ren are onboard Ren’s shuttle, overseeing the assault. Hux counsels that they clear the light craft before engaging (it seems that the sobering decimation of his fleet has made him less cocky and perhaps started to turn him into a better commander – he will need to be if he and Ren are going to have an interesting dynamic in Episode IX. Ren won’t suffer a fool). Ren, obsessed, orders them to ignore the craft and push through. He wants the door down, the Resistance destroyed, Rey punished. Tunnel vision born of a desire to reciprocate his pain..

The skimmers scatter under the bombardment of tie fighters. They are hopelessly outmatched (and can’t even fire back), but again the point is not to win. It is to stall long enough to get a shot at destroying that cannon.

Rose is about to be overwhelmed when we see the triumphant return of the Falcon to the Resistance/Rebellion (piloted by Chewie and some adorable porgs, this time with Rey in the gunner position), unexpectedly swooping in to save the day just as it did at the end of A New Hope. It’s the only piece of Resistance hardware on the battlefield that can handle the tie fighters. But more importantly, it is a symbol of Ren’s past, a testament to of his failure to truly vanquish his father, a reminder that the spirit of his parents still opposes him, and he orders all the First Order air support to follow it. “Blow that piece of junk out of the sky.” It’s also possible that he senses Rey on the ship. In either case, it is not the tactically sound move, as it gives the Resistance time to regroup and eventually retreat, which would have been next to impossible under the unanswerable fire the Tie Fighters were unleashing.

The Falcon draws off the tie fighters and Finn, cheering, gets the great line “oh , they hate that ship” which I love insofar as the Millennium Falcon itself is practically a character, a thorn in the side of tyranny for two generations. It's also a powerful piece of symbolism insofar as the Falcon, a piece of junk ship, is nothing special in itself - but it's been made special by the people who cared for it, believed in it, fought with it. If a Dreadnought or Death Star is a product of a large, terrifying military industrial complex, the Falcon represents the scrappy DIY spirit of the rebellion

Chewie leads them underground, gradually losing/destroying the ships in the underground caverns of Crait. It is a fantastic hero moment for Chewie, as this flying looks about as difficult as anything Han ever did, and Chewie is flying without a copilot. Han was clearly holding him back.

Crait: The surviving speeders approach the massive cannon. They’ve drawn it out, but they can’t get close enough to destroy it. The First Order’s suppressing fire is too strong. Realizing they’re all going to get destroyed before they can reach their target (which has armed itself and begun to fire) Poe calls off the attack, privileging the survival of the group over the hero play. Poe gives the order to retreat, echoing Leia from the opening battle. Finn, like Poe earlier, refuses to listen. Whereas for Poe his stubbornness was about what makes a hero, for Finn this is personal. The First Order is the embodiment of everything he stands against. Determined, resolute, and furious, ready to die to prevent the First Order from destroying the Resistance he yells “I won’t let them win.” Rose begs for him to retreat and, crying at the profound unfairness of the universe and determined to stand against it, Finn rips off his headset (similar to what Poe does at the start of TLJ and when Luke shifts off his targeting computer during the first Death Star trench run).

The cannon starts destroying the hanger door, shaking the complex. Finn, flying underneath the blast, sees his ship start to melt. He’s left with no choice but to sacrifice himself by crashing the ship into the cannon and hoping that maybe this is enough to disable it. It is a hero’s martyr moment (the music, the lighting and the entire scene is played this way), and the audience is prepared to see Finn die to save the Resistance (a satisfying enough arc for Finn) until, at the last second, Rose crashes her ship into Finn’s, knocking them both clear.

Finn goes to pull Rose from the wreckage of her speeder, not understanding what just happened. “Why would you do that? I was almost there. Why did you stop me” Rose smiles.

“I saved you, dummy.
That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love”

And Roses kisses Finn and passes out as the door to the Resistance base is destroyed behind them.

It’s a powerful line, and a wonderful encapsulation of the central theme running through the story of Finn, Rose, Poe, and Holdo. That this is not about punishing the bad, but protecting the good. Preservation, not destruction. It’s the light side philosophy behind resistance and struggle and a message that resonates really powerfully (with certain audiences) in our current political climate.

It is also the moment that concludes Finn's arc thus far. He has both identified with a cause larger than himself, and allowed that cause, and the values within it to define him, rather than his desire to punish those who have wronged him.

The kiss moment does feel slightly abrupt and unearned, but the seeds are scattered throughout the movie. The Rose/Finn story had the most cut scenes so it’ll be interesting to see if this feels more organic when we see those scenes.

Crait: Staring through the wreckage of the shield door Ren orders the advance. No quarter. No prisoners. Ren’s past ends here. Inside the base there is a moment of desolation. The distress signal has been heard, but no one is answering. The door is compromised. There is no way to fight back, no hope of survival. They look to Leia for answers, but even she has surrendered to the despair.

“We fought to the end, but the galaxy has lost all its hope. The spark is out.”

Leia staked her reputation on this distress beacon, but Leia, in the end, is not mythic. She is just a person. Inspiring, brilliant, but in a war against something like the First Order they needed something more powerful than that – a symbol of power and resistance that transcends mere physical might (the First Order is unchallenged there). No doubt Leia had allies, but if they came how could they get past a First Order fleet. How might they be punished for helping? The momentum is with the First Order. They destroyed the Republic, they crushed the Resistance. It would be so easy to give up, to look after your own, and carve out what space you can for yourself in their order. No one wants to surrender to tyranny. But fighting requires a belief that you can somehow transcend the strength and authority of what you’re fighting against. The Jedi, and especially Luke Skywalker, were a symbol of that – the possibility of triumph against impossible odds that, when enough people believe, makes the impossible possible

And it is at that moment, at her lowest, that Leia senses Luke’s presence, sees him reveal himself at the moment when Leia, and the galaxy, may need him the most.

Luke and Leia have their reconciliation. Leia forgives Luke for what happened to Ben, and takes comfort in his presence. She can possibly sense that he’s not there (it isn’t clear at what point she realizes this), and from Leia’s perspective this is a comforting farewell at what she assumes is the end of her life. When he reveals that he is going to confront him, and that he cannot be saved, she seems genuinely surprised, but also gives Luke her blessing. She knows that her son is gone, and that whatever’s left isn’t him. To which Luke responds that no one’s ever really gone.

It’s a line that speaks to multiple contexts and multiple meetings. It touches on Luke’s probable impending death (and the existence of force ghosts). He hands her the dice he pulled from the Falcon, a symbol of Han’s spirit (living on in the people whose lives intertwined with his), and although Luke can’t save Ben, he doesn’t indicate that Ben can’t be saved (just that he can’t do it). And the nothing that is ever really gone, in this context, is referring to the part of her son that is still in there. It may just fall to someone else (Rey) to be the one to save him.

Luke winks at Threepio, and then the legendary hero, the remains of the Resistance looking on in awe, strides out through the wreckage of the door, preparing to face down the First Order. It is theatrics, but for the people watching it is the kind of moment that stays with you forever, that inspires you to keep fighting long after you’ve given up. By simply walking out to meet them, Luke restores the Skywalker myth, and with it, restores hope to the galaxy.

Crait: Ren is shocked to see Luke, deeply disturbed, unsettled. He gives the order to stop and the First Order war machine grinds to a half. With a deathly calm he has Hux“order every gun he has to fire on that man”. Luke stands tall, awaiting his fate, and we wait to see what our legendary hero is going to do. One enormous gun fires on him, and seconds later the entire line of walkers commences their bombardment. The destructive force unleashed is immense, but Ren is a man obsessed, seething, fists clenched, begging that do even more, as if in this explosion he can finally cleanse the last remaining open wound of his past – as if he is going to come out of this exchange somehow healed.

The visuals are striking, the red tower of red dust on white salt creating a hellish landscape. The Resistance watches, unsure what they can do, and Hux calls off the barrage so they can finally finish the Resistance. Ren sits down, shuddering, emotionally drained, not feeling the relief he keeps expecting at each of these moments, the healing that never comes.

The red haze clears, and emerging from it is the unbowed figure of Luke, casually knocking some dust of his robe as if taunting the First Order. This should be impossible, and Ren knows it, but he’s too emotionally invested in this moment to think clearly. Ren, with a calm coming from the edge of sanity, decides to go down to confront Luke, and orders the First Order to cover the door but not otherwise intervene. Hux, wisely, questions the wisdom of this move, and Ren violently force shoves him against the wall. I can’t help but wonder if Ren would have had the same reckless hate for Luke in this moment if he hadn’t also felt that Rey betrayed him, especially given the way Rey and Luke are linked.

The Resistance sees that Luke is going to face Ren, alone. Finn’s instinct is to help, but Poe understands the larger play here. Luke is buying time for the Resistance to escape, for this story to spread, to launch the Rebellion. Poe gives us the great line from the trailer, a play on Holdo’s words to the Resistance upon taking command.

“We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down. Skywalker is doing this so we can survive” They are the spark, but they are not the fire. Not yet. They need to live long enough to become it. It’s not even that this is a fight Poe and the Resistance can’t win. It’s a fight that serves no purpose, because fighting is not their mission.

With greater clarity Poe doubles his focus on finding a way out. Skywalker got in, after all (well, they presume). They notice that the crystal foxes have left, and they find one to follow, hopefully leading them to a way out. Poe takes command, but the group looks to Leia. She responds “What are you looking at me for. Follow him.” It’s a passing of the torch moment, Leia acknowledging that Poe has completed his arc, that he is ready not just to be a warrior, but a leader.

Cut to outside, and we see the Falcon scanning for life, looking for the beacon Leia wears. They see the Crystal Foxes and set the Falcon down. But the pass out is blocked by a landslide. The foxes can squeeze out, but the Resistance can’t. They’re trapped. Rey finds the rockslide on the other side. One woman facing down an impossible obstacle, while Luke stands against Kylo Ren and the First ORder

Crait: “Did you come back to say you forgive me. To save my soul,” Ren sneers, leaning into the monster he thinks the world wants him to be, that he no doubt thinks Rey believes him to be.

“No” Again, I think it is important to note that Luke isn’t necessarily saying Ren is beyond saving –just that he can’t be the one to do it. For an astute audience member it is also quite clear now that Luke looks much younger. I know the first time I saw this I had just assumed he had cleaned himself up, that it was a physical manifestation of renewed vigor and purpose.

Ren ignites his saber (crackling, reflecting his inner turmoil), and Luke his as the two stare each other down, preparing for the epic showdown we’ve waited an entire movie for (arguably two). Ren, typically, is seething. Luke is determined, wary, but a picture of stillness (except for one wry smile) We see Ren dig his feet in for traction, kicking up the red dirt, reminding the audience of what happens when move upon this ground.

Ren charges, attacks savagely. Luke ducks the attacks, but does not engage – seemingly letting Ren’s rage guide him, perhaps hoping for a mistake. They face off again on the white desolation of Crait, positions reversed. Luke slides his foot, and this time there is no dust (another indication that something unusual is happening, and something I completely missed the first time. I didn’t understand how Luke survived the barrage from the walkers, but I assumed it was some new force ability (that I thought was way overpowered - One of the reasons why this confrontation plays out so well the second time is that you’re not distracted by how it works). Ren attacks again, Luke agilely ducking out of the way, moving as we’ve never seen him move before. He continues their conversation.

Luke, with regret, and ownership, voice cracking. “I failed you Ben. I’m sorry.”

Kylo, petulantly “I’m sure you are!” Misunderstanding why Luke is sorry, and the nature of his failure. Kylo can’t fathom that Luke is sorry for what he did to Kylo. He assumes he is sorry that he lost.

Kylo continues, spitting mad. “The Resistance is dead. The war is over. And when I kill you I will have killed the last jedi.” Kylo is desperately attempting to purge something from himself here – as if by killing Luke he will have finally freed himself from his past, and from the pain that comes from not confronting it (as Rey and Luke were eventually forced to do, in both cases, interestingly enough, triggered by confrontations with Kylo).

Luke, adopting what is no doubt his teacher voice, illuminating with just the slightest hint of disappointed condescension, responds with what seems to be his favorite snarky phrasing (having used it on Rey earlier).

“Amazing. Every word of what you just said is wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today”

We cut to a shot of Leia and Poe, light illuminating their face, awestruck.

“The war is just beginning.”

Poe, with the same illumination, the same look.

“And I will not be the last Jedi.”

We see Rey exhale, and then look around her, dumbfounded by her own power, as she lifts the entire rock wall, the Resistance fighters fleeing the cave to see Rey framed by light and debris. It’s an exceptional feat of power, achieved because her family needed her help, and she could not let them down. Rey is fundamentally a modest person, but from the way the shot is constructed, and the reaction of the survivors, they understand that today the Jedi are reborn in a meaningful way – both through the legend of Luke Skywalker and the reality of Rey. It is not that Rey (or Luke) can in themselves destroy the First Order. But the hope, the awe, they inspire, will be precisely what lights the spark that will turn Leia's private army into a galactic rebellion.

Rey and Finn have a tearful reunion, overjoyed to see each other. It is deeply affectionate, but not romantic as they are each now linked to other people (and their relationship wasn’t particularly romantic in TFA either). They don’t say anything. Finn is fighting back tears of relief, and Rey has a blissful, peaceful smile on her face as neither wants the embrace to end. It is moments like this that they are fighting for.

Ren is infuriated by Luke’s response, responds as a child lashing out. “I’ll destroy her, and you, and all of it.”

In response Luke closes his lightsaber and makes, if not his final attempt to save Ren, at least tries to steer him from the path he keeps venturing further down.

“No. Strike me down in anger and I’ll always be with you. Just like your father.”

There are echoes of Obi Wan here, but whereas Obi-Wan’s warning to Vader was about how killing Obi Wan would not defeat him, Luke is pointing out the fundamental flaw in Kylo’s attempts to heal himself. He is trapped in a cycle of stacked grievances and psychic hurts, and every time he tries to violently purge himself of a wound he simply exacerbates it further. Again, Ren, through his link to Rey, ultimately shook Luke from his cycle of doubt, shame, and self-recrimination. He forced him to confront his biggest failure and learn from it. Ren forced Rey to confront the truth about her parents, and by doing so letting go of them. But Ren can’t see that. Instead of dealing with his pain he kills it, or tries to, and then the guilt of it further amplifies the pain.

Ren strike and this time (knowing that the Resistance has escaped) Luke stands there and lets him cleave him straight through. The audience expects, a la Obi Wan (Ben’s namesake) for this to be the moment Luke lets go and reunites with the force. But after Ren’s attack Luke turns around to face Ren again, seemingly fine. This is now two impossible attacks we’ve seen Luke survive, and the audience realizes (if it hasn’t already) that something impossible has happened. Kylo realizes it too, running Luke through again. Luke stands there, unaffected, and we cut back to Ahch To, Luke hovering above the mediation rock, concentrating intensely.

Ren, furious, realizes what Luke has done, but cannot believe it. Luke bids him farewell with a “see you around, kid, a Han reference that, even if Kylo didn’t get Luke would have found satisfying. He disappears, and Ren is confronted by his failure, realizing that he was bested by his former teacher, that the Resistance escaped. In what seems to be a family tradition he lets out a soul crushing nooooo. On the day when Kylo Ren assumed command of the First Order he stands utterly defeated, betrayed by Rey and still haunted by the ghosts of his past.

Ahch To/Crait/Falcon/Canto Bight: Luke abandons the image and falls, exhausted by the intensity of what he just accomplished, one of the most straining and difficult uses of the force we’ve seen in Star Wars. As Ren acknowledged earlier, even attempting to bridge their minds from a great distance could have killed Rey, and what Luke did was far more impressive.

He looks up, gazing into the Ahch To sunrise. Rey and Leia pause on Crait, sensing Luke. Luke sits up, and looking out into the sunrise he imagines the twin suns of Tatooine, which began and will close his journey. The force theme plays and he understands that this is his moment. He has redeemed himself. He has saved Rey and the Resistance. He has reconciled with Leia. He has restored hope to the galaxy. His labor completed, his journey is now, finally at end. He lets go and joins with Obi Wan, Yoda, and his father, the last of his generation, but not the last of the Jedi.

It is a beautiful moment, and is about as fitting an end as you could write for Luke. It was the heroes end we wanted as he faces down the First Order, saves the Resistance, saves the Jedi, and reignites the spirit of rebellion that had been nearly snuffed out. And while he did not do it through a direct physical confrontation, in the end it was his mastery of the force that won him his victory, and made him worthy of his legend. From a story perspective any other confrontation is not nearly as satisfying. If he beats Kylo he undercuts the primary villain of the series. If Kylo beats him then Luke goes out having lost. Here he wins in a way that is true to the characters journey and faithful to the spirit of the OT. Luke is impulsive. He is emotional. He will make mistakes. But in the end he does what needs to be done, and he does it the right way.

Rey senses his death, but she also understands that her teacher (such as he was) died on his own terms, and at peace. A good death, and a far cry removed from the broken man she left on Ahch To.

Ren stalks into the base, confirming the Resistence’s escape. (Hux desperately wants to say I told you so but knows if he does he’ll be killed). He sense Rey, as the two of them, now under their own power, have connected again. Their story is not over. But this time Rey closes the door and turns her back on him, and Ren is left alone with his failure, his past, and his guilt, holding the golden dice of Han Solo until they too, fade away.

On board the Millennium Falcon there are tearful reunions and people reveling in the impossibility of their survival. Chewie and Leia share the hug that should have happened at the end of TFA. Rey is reunited with BB8, admiring his new antenna (the first thing she ever did for him was fix his old one). R2 and 3PO are together. Poe meets Rey, and Poe’s reaction to Rey speaks to her soon to be legendary status.

“I’m Poe”
“I’m Rey”
Poe, kind of awestruck “Yeah, I know”

Rey is still the unassuming girl from Jakku in her own eyes, and it will be a while until she fully grows comfortable about her own legend.

Opening a door to get a blanket for Rose we have a brief glance at the Jedi texts that Rey took from the temple before leaving (that Yoda knew she had). Rey looks at Finn tenderly taking care of Rose, happy for Finn but it is a bittersweet happiness, tinged with longing – probably less for what she could have had with Finn and more about whatever conflict she feels about Ren, and recognizing that this sort of love, powerful in its mundanity, is likely something she will be forced to leave behind. Leia sits down next to her. The two share a moment about Luke’s passing. Rey, a symbol of hope but needing some herself, looks to Leia, slightly lost.

“How do we build the Rebellion from this?”
Leia smiles, taking Rey’s hand holding Luke’s shattered lightsaber.
“We have everything we need.”

And we cut to the Falcon flying through hyperspace.

This would have been a perfectly acceptable way to end the movie. The core players are alive on the Falcon. They have a Jedi. They have the story of Luke’s final stand. They have a dream and a story, and if they tell it enough people will listen, and believe, and hope, and from there anything is possible.

Instead we arrive back on Canto Bight, reunited with the slave kids. One is telling the story of Luke’s showdown against the First Order (we see a toy Luke and toy walkers), his legend renewed and more stirring than ever – a story of resistance against impossible odds made possible through the heroism of a mighty Jedi. The children are awestruck, inspired. Their owner (perhaps sensing the danger of slaves who dare to dream) chases them off, and one boy rushes outside.

He casually uses the force to call his broom to him and starts idly sweeping, dreaming that perhaps someday a nobody like him could grow up to be a great hero like Luke Skywalker (or Rey). He looks out space and its vast possibility. The force theme plays as he he sees a shooting star. We see he wears Rose’s ring, a slave bearing the symbol of Resistence, and he slowly turns his broom up, imagining it as a weapon against tyranny, a lightsaber. Hope survives in the lowliest of places, and the seeds of a better world are planted. And in time, they will bear fruit.

Thank you Rian Johnson for your stunning achievement, and if you made it this far, thank you for reading.

_________________
So many tournaments, so little time


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 Post subject: Re: A Guided Tour of The Last Jedi (revised version on p.6)
PostPosted: Tue January 09, 2018 3:44 am 
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Fantastic write up stop, this was a great film.


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