Back in 2017, a film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released upon the general public, and it caused a bit of a stir.
It seemed as though a very vocal section of the ‘hardcore’ Star Wars fanbase didn’t think much of the movie and they made their feelings heard on the Internet.
However, my initial reaction was one of awe. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. I remember turning to my partner and asking her what she thought of the movie.
My partner has watched all the Star Wars movies, but she can’t really be called a Star Wars ‘fan’. She’s not constantly reading up on the movie, doesn’t read the books or the comics and doesn’t watch the Star Wars TV shows.
However, she looked at me with wide eyes and replied: “That was brilliant.” That reaction was what got me thinking. Could Rian Johnson have made the best Star Wars movie ever?
Will it be the Star Wars movie which people will consider the high watermark of the franchise in years to come?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi theories got in the way
I will admit that I wasn’t sure about The Last Jedi when the movie finished. I was a bit confused, no baffled by some of the decision Johnson took for the characters, especially with Snoke and Rey.
“So, what was the point of Snoke, then?” I remember thinking when Kylo Ren sliced him in half with his lightsaber. “Is Rey really not related to anyone of note?” I also thought.
But then, it dawned on me that I had gone into Star Wars: The Last Jedi which my mind made up on what was going to happen in the movie.
Before seeing the movie, I was working for a pop culture website, much like this one, and writing countless articles on what was going to happen in The Last Jedi, so I had already pictured how the movie was going to unfold in my mind, and I believe that’s what happened with most ‘hardcore’ Star Wars fans.
Too many mystery boxes for its own good
The Force Awakens, in true J.J. Abrams fashion, had set up a bunch of questions. It’s a trick that Abrams refers to as his mystery boxes.
He set up lots of tiny little mysteries: who are Rey’s parents? Who are the Knights of Ren? Who is Snoke? Where is Luke? And then people spent months theorising over those questions and everybody came up with their own answers to these questions.
It’s no wonder that people weren’t happy with Rian Johnson’s answers. But, it goes even deeper than that. They didn’t like the way he answered them. He threw out everything Abrams had set up in the first movie, and that’s where the real genius of this movie lies.
Out with the old, in with the new
What Rian Johnson did was basically disregard everything Abrams had set up in the first movie, The Force Awakens, because to him, that’s not what Star Wars should be about.
It shouldn’t be about who’s related to who, or whether Snoke is actually a character from Star Wars’ expanded universe properties (I read a lot of theories that Snoke was actually Darth Plagueis).
No, it should be about developing the characters that we’ve got, and that’s what he did with the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, Po and yes, even Finn.
We love these characters now because of the character developing they went through in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
We don’t love them because they could be related to Obi-Wan Kenobi or even Palpatine.
Kylo Ren and Rey are the most well-developed Star Wars characters on-screen
Just look at Kylo and Rey’s relationship in The Force Awakens and then in The Last Jedi.
The Star Wars saga so much more interesting now thanks to what Rian Johnson wrote in The Last Jedi.
It’s no longer just about a battle against the Dark and the Light. It’s a battle of ideals.
Kylo wants to destroy everything and rebuild, and it’s actually an idea which seems rather tempting to Rey.
However, Rey is a true hero, and she knows she cannot join him in his quest to simply end everything because she sees the bigger picture, and wants to protect her friends.
It makes for a much more fascinating dynamic between the two characters and is one of the main reason why people are so invested in the two characters moving into The Rise Of Skywalker.
It’s a brave blockbuster in an era of safe bets
I would argue that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a pretty safe bet for Lucasfilm and Disney.
Don’t get me wrong, I still greatly enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t really reinvent the wheel.
If anything, it was a mishmash of what came before it in the Star Wars franchise. It’s a dash of Star Wars: A New Hope, a sprinkling of The Empire Strikes Back, and a pinch of Return of the Jedi.
And that’s perfectly fine. It was a good way to kickstart the new franchise, especially after the trainwreck which was the prequels series – I’m sorry George Lucas, those movies stank.
But, The Last Jedi was something truly different in the Star Wars universe. The pacing, the setting, the tone, the themes.
It was all so different from what came before it, and for that reason, I really do see people coming back to it in the future and realising how brave and bold it was.
The Rise Of Skywalker could undo all the good work The Last Jedi did
However, as good as I believe The Last Jedi is, I do worry about The Rise Of Skywalker and how it might undo all the good work Rian Johnson did.
First off, it looks like there’s going to be a heck of a lot of fan service in the movie, which is fine to an extent (The Last Jedi has its fair share of fan service).
However, the fact they’re bringing back Emperor Palpatine, the name of the movie, the amount of callbacks to the original trilogy there seems to be in The Rise Of Skywalker.
It could end up merely take the Star Wars franchise off the course The Last Jedi had set it on, and bring it back to just exploring the same old themes, the same old stories and the same old family.
I worry that J.J. Abrams may attempt to retcon all of the decisions Johnson made in his movie, and I don’t think that would be a good idea at all.
It’s time to let the Skywalker past die
Star Wars needs to be so much more than just about the ‘Skywalker saga’ and The Rise Of Skywalker seems to be solely about the Skywalkers.
I loved The Last Jedi’s central theme of letting the past die and building something new. It’s so vital for the longevity of a franchise.
Star Wars should be allowed to explore new themes, to explore other parts of the galaxy, even explore other movie genres.
Look at what the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even DC Comics movies are attempting to do.
They’re expanding beyond what they started off as, and there’s a danger with Star Wars that they stay in the ‘Star Wars lane’.
Star Wars should keep on building for the future
There’s a feeling that people shouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ when it comes to Star Wars because otherwise the ‘fans will get mad and won’t see our movies’.
That’s not what they should be primarily concerned about. The fans will keep on coming no matter what. Trust me, they will. They sat through the prequels. They can go through anything.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Star Wars fans are strongwilled people, who are open to new ideas.
Let’s treasure the past, but build for the future, which is why I believe that The Last Jedi is not just an important Star Wars film, but an important movie.
And I don’t believe this has been said enough. Thank you, Rian Johnson.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is hitting UK cinemas on December 19th, 2019.
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