The Last Jedi Holdo

The Last Jedi is a film about legacy: both honoring it, and also tearing it down. Tearing down a legacy can be scary, but sometimes it’s necessary to move forward. They say you should never meet your heroes because they will ultimately disappoint you, and that’s true here when Rey meets Luke. Rey has had an idealized image in her mind of Luke as this great hero, but instead she finds a broken, bitter man. A man who rejects the Jedi because, when you really think about it, everything the Jedi did ended in failure. Luke is haunted by this failure, particularly the failure surrounding his training of Kylo Ren, AKA Ben Solo. Luke thought he could train Ben to become part of a great new generation of Jedi, but he was unable to help his apprentice resist the Dark Side.

To Rey, Luke was the key to everything. If she could just get him to come back to help the Resistance, maybe all the pieces would finally come together, and the world would start to make sense again. But it’s not that simple. What’s true in real life is apparently also true in mystical space operas: everything is complicated, and there are no easy answers. Hamill is so good here, delivering a quiet, dignified yet somber performance; embodying both strength and weakness in equal measure. I sincerely hope he’ll be back in the next film in some capacity.

Rey isn’t the only person who ascribed to the belief that Luke was the key to everything. Early in the film, Snoke snarls at Ren, “As long as Skywalker lives, hope lives in the galaxy.” In Snoke’s mind, if they can kill Luke, the Resistance will fall. But The Last Jedi rejects this ideology. Instead, it has Luke tell Rey that the Force is bigger than just the Jedi. That the Force belongs to everyone. And so does hope. One person like Luke might become a symbol of hope, but if you tear that symbol down, it doesn’t mean the hope has vanished forever.  

At one point, Luke, frustrated with just about everything, decides to burn down the sacred Jedi tree on his island that also houses books of the sacred Jedi texts. Before he can make this happen, the ghost of Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) shows up for a surprise visit. It’s worth noting here that Johnson and company have rejected the cartoony CGI Yoda so prevalent in the prequels for a good old fashioned puppet, and the results are delightful. Yoda uses his powers to burn the tree down himself, which instantly shocks Luke. “The sacred Jedi texts!” he cries. When Yoda asks if Luke ever even read them, Luke stammers. Here is the philosophy of the film as a whole: it’s okay to leave what you once held sacred behind. At the same time, however, The Last Jedi isn’t entirely letting the past go. In a reveal near the end that happens so subtly and quickly that I’m convinced a lot of people missed it, we see that Rey has saved the Jedi texts and stored them away on the Millennium Falcon.

Like Dunkirk, one of the messages of The Last Jedi is that retreat is not the same thing as surrender. At the end of Dunkirk, a soldier feeling ashamed tells an old, blind man: “All we did was survive.” “Sometimes, that’s enough,” the blind man replies. The heroes in The Last Jedi aren’t winning battles; all they’re doing is surviving. But for now, that’s enough. The Resistance will live to fight another day.

The spirit of this message is most embodied by the series’ most exciting new character, Rose, played with irresistible charm by Kelly Marie Tran. Rose and Finn are drawn together by chance: she catches him trying to escape at one point – an action she finds repulsive. Rose’s sister Paige died for the Resistance, and for someone to flee when the going gets tough is unthinkable. Rose is also the most moral character in the film. When she and Finn end up on Canto Bight, Finn is seduced by the planet’s glitz, but Rose reveals the seedy underbelly of it all. This is a planet of war profiteers; the richest people in the galaxy are those who gleefully sell weapons to both the First Order or The Resistance; it doesn’t matter who, as long as they get paid.

One of Finn’s character traits is that he tends to run away. His whole arc in The Force Awakens began when he ran from the First Order. Here, too, he tries to run several times, but Rose keeps drawing him back in. So much so that in the film’s big climactic moment, Finn decides to finally take a stand by sacrificing himself by flying directly into a battering ram. Here, at last, he’s showing Rose that he’s not a coward who flees. But curiously enough, Rose stops him, ramming her ship into his, endangering her life in the process. I’m sure people will take issue with this: after all, Finn was possibly going to save lives with his sacrifice, so wasn’t it worth it? Not according to the philosophy of The Last Jedi, which is also the philosophy of Rose. When Finn asks her why she stopped him, she utters one of the most powerful lines in this entire goofy, exciting, dramatic franchise: she tells Finn that this is how they win: “Not by killing what we hate but by saving what we love.” I wanted more of Tran in this film, but the time we get with her is wonderful. Just like Ridley in The Force Awakens, the actress is a great find, and deserves a huge career.

Speaking of Ridley, she’s once again a welcome presence here, although she too seems to take a backseat so others can step out in front. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, since the other characters are strong, but I still felt her absence more than I would’ve liked. Nonetheless, Rey remains one of the franchise’s most interesting protagonists. Rey is super-powered, but she’s been alone so long that she doesn’t quite understand her own strength, or her own place in this ever-expanding universe. She had been counting on two specific things to show her the way: Luke, and being reunited with her parents. But remember: this is not going to go the way you think. Luke does help Rey slightly, but not as much as she might’ve liked. She turns away from him with the belief that she can bring Kylo Ren over to the Light, and that they can perhaps find solace in each other. Ren is open to part of that idea, but he has no intention of turning to the Light. He wants Rey to rule by his side in the darkness. Rey rejects this idea, and Ren destroys the last element of hope she has: he reveals the truth about her parents. A truth that he says she always knew deep down inside.

So who are Rey’s parents? Are they Skywalkers? Are they Kenobis? Are they Solos? No. They’re nobodies. They were a pair of scrappers who sold Rey for money as a child, and ended up dead in a junk heap somewhere. “You have no place in this story,” Ren tells her. “You are from nothing. You’re nothing.” Buried in these cruel words is a spark of hope: Rey may be from nothing, but she certainly is more than that. “I will not be the last Jedi,” Luke says at the end, and Johnson quickly cuts to a shot of Rey. She’s the hope for the future. There’s something so refreshing about this. A generation of people raised on Harry Potter, and other Hero’s Journey stories, have come to accept the chosen one narrative. Hell, the original Star Wars itself was guilty of embracing this narrative device. But Rey isn’t a chosen one, in the grand scheme of things. She’s just someone who happens to be extremely Force sensitive, and she can help be part of a rebellion that will burn down the First Order.  

Kylo Ren was a fun bad guy in The Force Awakens. There, he was an angry, sort-of whiny Darth Vader fanboy who hides behind a mask he doesn’t even need. The Last Jedi turns him into something more dangerous. At the start of the film, he smashes that mask of his, which is a clever way for Johnson to suggest that the character is rejecting his villainous nature and will eventually turn back to the Light. Instead, the character is just transforming into something else; something darker. Time and time again, The Last Jedi keeps hinting that Ren will be redeemed. But one of the coolest things this movie does is reject that idea, and reveal that Kylo Ren truly is a villain. He’s a complex, conflicted villain, yes. But he’s still a villain. After an incredibly badass fight scene where he and Rey fight off Snoke’s guards, the audience is keyed up – ready for Ren to embrace Rey and help the Resistance. But Ren instantly smothers the flames of that idea. He doesn’t give a shit about the Resistance, or his mother, Leia. He just wants to be in charge, and he wants Rey to help him. When she rejects him, he’s apoplectic. Adam Driver handles all of this masterfully, creating the most interesting movie villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. I’m sure there will still be fans who want to theorize that Kylo Ren could still be redeemed in the next film. But Leia pretty much puts the nail in this coffin when she tells Luke that she accepts the fact that her son is gone for good.

Speaking of Leia, almost every moment Carrie Fisher is on screen in this film is met with a sort of hushed reverence. I’m sad to say that Leia isn’t featured nearly as much as I had hoped she would, and that the film ends without really resolving anything for her character. I know this isn’t the film’s fault – no one could’ve guessed Fisher would die before the new trilogy had been concluded. Yet it’s still sad to realize that this is the last time we’ll get to spend with Leia. it really seems clear now that Force Awakens was intended to be Han Solo’s swan song, Last Jedi was Luke’s, and that Episode IX would belong to Leia. We’ll never have that happen now, which, quite frankly, sucks.

Still, Fisher makes the most of what she has here. Once again, the actress brings her droll, dry wit to the part, and it’s a hoot to watch her banter with Oscar Isaac’s Poe. “Get your head out of your cockpit,” she tells him at one point. When Luke and Leia are reunited, the emotion of the scene is tempered by Fisher’s delivery of, “I know what you’re going to say – I changed my hair.” (Note: as I’m sure anyone could’ve guessed, Fisher improvised this line.)

Another actress I wanted more of: Laura Dern. Dern’s Holdo is a dynamite character, and The Last Jedi bumbles a bit by killing her off. That said, the character dies in one of the most heroic moments in the franchise, driving her ship at lightspeed through a First Order ship (the audience I saw the film with lost their goddamn minds at this scene; hooting, hollering and shaking the very ground of the theater itself. It ruled, folks). Holdo’s glam looks contrasted with her hard-ass nature are perfectly handled by Dern, and she nails one of the most emotional moments in the film as well. As she and Leia part ways for the very last time, they both attempt to say “May the Force be with you,” in unison, then stop, laughing. “You go, I’ve said it enough,” Leia says (another line improvised by Fisher). “May the Force be with you, always,” Dern’s Holdo replies sweetly, her hand on top of Leia’s. Reader, I wept.

I can’t end the “what works” section without highlighting the stars of The Last Jedi: PORGS. I know there are porg haters out there, and frankly, I want nothing to do with these individuals. The porgs are delightful, cute animals, and I love them and want them to be protected at all costs. Long live porgs.

Continue Reading The Last Jedi Spoiler Review >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net