By The Collectress
I have done my best to keep this review spoiler-free and will tag any potential spoils with **.
It’s been a long two years since The Force Awakens stirred new life into the Star Wars fandom. While the first appearances of Rey (Daisy Ridley) on the Millennium Falcon brought us joy and perhaps nostalgia, the middle episode of the new Star Wars trilogy makes us painfully aware that we must let go of the past and embrace new beginnings, a passing of the light saber, as it were.
Yet, while the franchise from a galaxy far, far away moves forward, it has never been more obvious who truly is at the heart of Star Wars.
A simple summary of the film is this: The Last Jedi begins not too long after The Force Awakens ends. The resistance is fleeing their base, hedged in by The First Order. Their numbers are depleting and they’re on the verge of extinction. Only a few acts of desperation might save the day. Finn (John Boyega) is still unconscious and healing. Leia (Carrie Fisher) is still beautiful and bad ass. And Rey? Well, she’s found Luke (Mark Hamill), and **we finally hear what he has to say: Go away.
Although Leia has pinned her hopes on her space twin coming to save the Resistance from her conflicted emo son, Luke is far from the bright-eyed and eager young Jedi that we last saw in The Return of the Jedi. In fact, Luke’s codger-ness is a clear indicator of how just much time as passed since Episode VI. His reluctance to aid the Resistance or to train Rey is the crux of conflict in the film.
For all that the franchise is changing, it still feels familiar, like an old friend who comes into town after many years apart. There’s a kind of beautiful symmetry to the narrative: a cocky headstrong pilot has to prove himself vital to the Resistance (and to Leia), a young Jedi has to learn the ways of the force, and stormtroopers still have really bad aim. The training of Rey feels like Luke’s days on the Dagobah system, and wiping the slate clean between Ben Solo (Adam Driver) and Luke Skywalker feels a lot like Luke’s showdown with Darth Vader in Cloud City.
The symmetry is not in the narrative alone, however. Director Rian Johnson has gone to great lengths to paint the world in hues of red and blue, darkness and light. Some of the most beautiful moments in the film were utterly silent as a solitary ray of light pierced otherwise darkness. These shadows and highlights surround the characters, embrace them, enhancing characteristics so we know their story without them uttering a word. Where Ben Solo is dark, Rey is light. Where Luke is recalcitrant, Rey is eager. Where Finn and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are headstrong and overeager, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) are more cautious. The musical score–as always by the great John Williams–reflects these nuances, growing more somber when Ben Solo appears, more harsh when the First Order marches, and hopeful, always hopeful when Leia is on screen. The music, just as much as anything else, evokes symmetry to the original trilogy.
This symmetry revolves on one central figure, one that cannot be replaced.
Somewhere around the third time Carrie appeared on screen (incidentally, also the third time I cried in the movie), I realized that though there could be another Jedi, another cocky pilot, and another cheeky droid, there is no replacement for Leia. Our space princess has been my longtime hero, but The Last Jedi reinforces that while Luke may have been the legend for defeating Darth Vader, it is Leia who brought hope, Leia who inspired Rebel forces to fight against all odds, and it is Leia now who brings the spark to ignite the flames of Resistance throughout the galaxy.
Tonight, when I sat in the theater, I was ready to say goodbye to our space princess, our general. I left knowing that I will never have to.
Leia is the tie that binds together the franchise, because, if you think about it, what part of Star Wars could have happened without her? Even in the The Last Jedi‘s poster, it is Leia at the very center of it.
It has always been Leia at the heart of Star Wars.
The Last Jedi is lovingly dedicated to our Princess, Carrie Fisher. It is in US cinemas on December 15.