Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi are in play. If you aren't caught up with the latest installment of the Skywalker saga, feel free to bookmark this page for after you're current.
This weekend's release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi seems to have set off a huge discussion between varying sects of the fandom. It was as if millions of voices cried out in either joy or anger, and it doesn't sound like they'll be suddenly silenced any time soon. Arguments for and against Rian Johnson's success come down to one big question: what do you think a Star Wars movie should do? On the one hand, folks are debating that the new film was so off-base that it's a disgrace and should be stricken from official Star Wars canon. But on the other hand, the one I offer to you all today, The Last Jedi is nothing short of a subversive masterpiece because it defies expectations, as well as sets Star Wars: Episode IX to be the grand finale to this latest trilogy.
Now in order to understand how everyone's seething like Kylo Ren after the Battle of Crait, we really need to look into what makes Star Wars: The Last Jedi so different from the films that came before it. To be completely honest, there's still quite a bit of material that calls back to both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi throughout the film. But it feels like those references are made to help set up the overall point of the film: the past may be prologue, but it's not gospel. Or, as Luke himself said, "This is not going to go the way you think."
The Star Wars standards are all present in our trilogy of new leads: Poe just wants to jump into a spaceship and blow stuff up, Rey wants to learn the ways of The Force and find who her parents are, and Finn and Rose set out on a quest to sneak onto a massive Imperial craft and deactivate a crucial piece of technology that is keeping the Resistance fleet in check. If that doesn't sound like Star Wars, then we don't know what does. However, it's in how those events are handled that really shows off Star Wars: The Last Jedi's subversive genius. As it turns out, just jumping into a spaceship and blowing things up isn't always how you should answer the galaxy's problems, the daring plan to infiltrate the enemy doesn't always work out, and you can be the universe's next top Jedi even if your parents are drunken junk traders.
All of those revelations and pitfalls occur during Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it's the challenge of handling those events that defines this film in spades. Rather than just tread the safe and narrow path that Star Wars: The Force Awakens needed to walk in order to properly land, The Last Jedi blazes a brilliant new trail into material worthy of debate. The pinnacle of this argument is epitomized in the subplot involving Luke's training of Ben Solo, which failed to yield a Jedi, but succeeded in bringing forth Kylo Ren.
Rather than be the squeaky clean Jedi that he's always been known as, and instead of the Jedi Order being the end all, know all practitioners of The Force, we see that both the master and his teachings have failed. Luke is compromised after a moment of weakness that almost saw him kill his nephew, and his reaction is a direct by-product of how he was taught a Jedi should act. It's only after his seclusion and self evaluation that Luke realizes that the ways of the Jedi need to end. But it's at the end of the film that Luke learns the big ticket moral of the film: it's not that we need to ignore failure, but we must learn from it and rise from the ashes. So yes, the ways of the Jedi Order need to end, but that's only to give way to the Jedi Order's next incarnation.
But if you step back a couple steps, you'll see that the story that Star Wars: The Last Jedi tells doesn't only apply to the characters in the film, but also in how the films themselves are being made. Yes, traditions in the franchise should be observed and upheld to a certain degree, but much like the Resistance and the First Order seem on a path to make the same mistakes their forebearers did before them, further Star Wars films will slip through Lucasfilm's fingers if they don't continue to push for innovation and variety of story elements.
The cycle of events must be broken, and the status quo must be disrupted, both in Star Wars' universe of story and the process that brings it to life. If anything, Star Wars has built the following message into this new trilogy: the times, they are a'changing. The Force Awakens showed us what the series is when it's at its quintessential best, but The Last Jedi has taken continued steps down the path of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and shown us just what Star Wars can do in the right, radical hands.
In short, The Last Jedi is a subversive masterpiece because it takes the traditional Star Wars story mold and breaks it through several crucial twists that create one different whole. By time the film is over, the galaxy has its latest, best hope for peace, and we, the audience, have a film that could redefine what it means to be a Star Wars movie. Some may say that J.J. Abrams coming back on board for Star Wars: Episode IX is going to be another return to traditional fare. But if the man's as wise as the world has made him out to be, which is a good bet as to why he was hired for this next gig, we may see an explosive finale that takes it all to the end zone, and scores the touchdown of all touchdowns.
We'll see if that's true when Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters in the not-too-distant future of December 20, 2019. But in the meantime, you should probably see Star Wars: The Last Jedi again. It's in theaters now, and you might be surprised how you view it during a second time around.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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