Written by Daniel Smith
Despite the on-going hell-scape that was 2017, we can all be happy in the knowledge that we will most certainly be seeing a new Star Wars film every year for the rest of our lives. Some may say this is a bad thing, and we should have just let Star Wars be with the spectacular “orig trig”, as it is so lovingly referred to. These people have good grounds for saying this; the prequels have been collectively damned and the new films haven’t gone down much better. So why keep making these films if they’ll never be as good as the first three?
This argument, however, is now dead. With the release of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, we see the death of the old ways and the birth of something new and truly wonderful. I know most would still argue that the original three films will always be the best, and I don’t disagree with that. All I’m saying is that The Last Jedi has pulled the Star Wars franchise out of an 18-year slump and is the first good Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi. And there are five good reasons for this.
This is your first and only warning: there will be spoilers ahead.
1) Porgs and Vegetarianism
Okay, I’ll admit it. I hate the Porgs. I wanted to be a fan of these little weird penguins so badly but god damn it, they were annoying and served no purpose but to be a cute toy to buy the kids at Christmas. I know they were included in the film because Luke’s island of perpetual moodiness was in reality a Puffin colony and so it made more sense to just create the Porg instead of editing out thousands of Puffins in every shot. But still – they suck.
Given my reasons for hating the Porgs, it may surprise you to learn that they play a surprisingly big role in making The Last Jedi one of the better Star Wars films. In one scene, we see the enigmatic Chewbacca cooking a delicious rotisserie Porg – something the team over at Cracked predicted earlier this year. As he is about to tuck in to his delicious feast, a group of these crap-sacks come up to Chewie to investigate. While Chewie scares some of them away, one Porg remains, defiant to the end, and makes Chewie question what he is doing. He then puts down his meal and supposedly goes hungry for the night.
This is a small, supposedly comical moment in the film - but when you think about it and dig a little deeper, one realises that this is an important philosophical and ethical statement. Would we eat meat if we had to eat it in front of the animal we were eating? Are we all cowards who only eat meat because we can’t see the horror that is killing an animal for its meat? I’m not a vegetarian; I love meat, but I doubt I could eat a steak in front of a cow. It is clear that Chewbacca – and all Wookies for that matter – are carnivores but there has been evidence of animals turning vegetarian even though they were born carnivorous. Maybe this will be a Wookie revolution that will change the dietary habits of Wookies everywhere. Or it could have just been a throwaway joke.
As such, the Porg is a deep and meaningful inclusion into the Star Wars Universe. In a film about space wizards and light swords we are forced to think about our own ethics and moral behaviours. Something as pointless as Star Wars (yes, I said it was pointless) has the potential to be a flagship for moral well-being.
2) Running out of Gas
A large part of The Last Jedi was spent depicting the most un-thrilling space chase in the, admittedly limited, history of space chases. When the Rebels realise that The First Order can track them through hyperspace, they only have one choice: stay slightly out of range of their canons and hope for the best. Yes, there was more to this plan (good on you, General Holdo) but for the purposes of this section, and to avoid further spoilers, this will suffice. The issue comes when the Rebellion realise that they’re going to run out of fuel and the First Order will kill them anyway.
One now needs to ask oneself what was the point of this ridiculous chase? How could this possibly be interesting to the wide Star Wars fan base who are used to fast-paced dogfights, intricate Light Saber battles, and guns that go pew pew pew? The answer is simple: it’s because it’s novel and it’s real.
Things run out of fuel. Most car chases end in the perp running out of fuel and meeting an anti-climactic demise. This is something we have never seen in the Star Wars Universe before. Somehow, up until this point, every single ship throughout the galaxy has always had enough fuel. This must be a logistical anomaly seeing as, logically, stopping to fuel as a rebellion ship would be a seriously risky move. It is surprising we haven’t seen more incidents like this before.
This adds an element of realism to the world of Star Wars. It also leads to a fantastic final gambit by General Holdo, which not only destroys a massive First Order ship, but also saves a significant number of the Rebellion. I did warn you there would be spoilers.
3) The Arms Business
During Finn and Rose’s rescue mission, once they have hijacked a rich guy’s ship with DJ (played by Benicio Del Toro) DJ reveals that the ship belonged to someone who not only manufactures Star Ships for the First Order, but Fighter Ships for the Rebellion too. This little throwaway line, which was sadly not further developed, is critical in making The Last Jedi such a brilliant film.
War makes people rich. We learn this from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows where Moriarty’s plan is to profit from WWI. There has been a lot of conflict in the Star Wars Universe but no mention of who is paying for the weapons or who is producing them. I’m sure it’s mentioned in the Extended Universe but for all of us who just watch the films, there has been a serious vacuum.
This is one of the first hints that things in the Star Wars Universe aren’t always so black and white. That those who can profit from weapons don’t restrict themselves to one side. I would love to see a spin off film about the Star Wars arms race and those who profit from the star wars. I mean, I know who profits from Star Wars in our universe – it’s Disney – but who is taking all that sweet sweet Death Star money from The Empire?
4) Luke’s Feelings about the Jedi
While this is definitely a major plot point of The Last Jedi, it is still vitally important in making it an amazing Star Wars film. Luke’s feelings towards the Jedi religion are thoughtful, critical and incredibly progressive. And this is amazing.
So many people, including a majority of the Jedi themselves, have this unwavering affinity to the religion, but they forget that, like with most religions, they have serious flaws that can lead to the suffering of others. Luke, on the other hand, realises the flaws of the Jedi religion, and comes to the completely rational and logical conclusion that The Force belongs to everyone, and not just some people who call themselves Jedi.
And he is so right. If The Force flows through all living beings, the only way to bring balance to The Force is by letting everyone have access to it, and dispelling any Jedi Hierarchy of “Master”, “Knight”, and “Padawan”. Yes, some or more Force-sensitive than others, but that doesn’t mean The Force doesn’t flow through everyone.
It is also completely insane to take a bunch of young, angst-filled kids and tell them to stop feeling things because it can lead to The Dark Side. Who does that? Oh right, the Jedi did that. And it always worked out so well for them.
What makes The Last Jedi amazing is that it takes the things we love about Star Wars and it makes us question them, instead of just letting the fallible become infallible because we are blind to their flaws. We are shown that these amazing heroes who can wield The Force are not all that great, and can be made so much better if we just questioned things instead of following them with blind faith.
5) Heroes and Leaders are not the Same Thing
We all love Poe Dameron. He’s sexy, he’s funny, and he’s a bad boy maverick. However, he is a crappy leader. The Last Jedi is great for showing us, through Poe, that a leader and a hero are not the same thing.
When General Organa took a long nap after her ridiculous re-entry into the rebel ship, Admiral Holdo was put in charge. This greatly upset Poe because he thought he would get the gig because he was so chummy with ol’ Leia. He thought this even though he had been demoted mere moments before. Moreover, why was he demoted? Because he exhibited bad leadership.
Continuing on his amazing ability to lead (not), he decides to ignore Holdo’s orders and begin a mutiny. Though he is reasonably successful with his plan, he still fights Holdo right to the end, showing how crappy and unfit he is to lead. Admiral Holdo had a plan. She didn’t want to tell anyone because any objections would just make the kamikaze mission all the more difficult and she didn’t know who the snitch was. In the end, she sacrificed herself for her people, something that Poe had never done.
Poe does learn a lesson in the end, as is shown from his interaction with Finn when Finn tries to kill himself to destroy the First Order’s giant cannon. This is some truly spectacular character development and - as a stand-alone arch – makes The Last Jedi an amazing film.
However, there’s more. Star Wars has always been about rewarding the maverick for doing something insane. It celebrates the mad men and condemns the cautious. Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker. These guys are all considered heroes. The Last Jedi deviates from this in a brilliant way, celebrating tactics and planning and safe leadership; all things normal people would celebrate. If Winston Churchill, or Barack Obama were maverick wild-children who did whatever they wanted without regard for others, you wouldn’t celebrate them, you would hate them, and for good reason.
The Last Jedi is brilliant because it provides the viewer with a realistic depiction of what we want from our leaders, especially in war. I’m not saying that there is no place for the maverick, but a maverick and a good leader are not always the same thing.
There. It’s done now. Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi is a great film that takes Star Wars back to its roots. Those who believe it should be struck from Cannon need to just chill out a bit. Star Wars is brilliant but it has its flaws, even the original trilogy has glaring issues that make no sense. Don’t hate The Last Jedi just because it’s easy to hate. As Yoda said, “Hate leads to suffering.”
It was great to see him again in this film. I friggin loved that part.