I’m going to throw out a scandalous premise: “The Last Jedi” deserves to take its place among the best of not just the Star Wars universe, but of films in general. There’s some divide on the merits of this movie, even among dedicated Star Wars fans, and I think they’re wholly undeserved. “The Last Jedi” is the Star Wars movie we wanted, the one we needed, and absolutely more than we deserved.
The film’s tone is markedly different from “Rogue One’s.” There’s no need to dispute this, and the deliberate pivot is refreshing. There’s campy humor, pithy one-liners, and the film certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s part of the charm, though, and is a solid reason to see the movie instead of a reason to avoid it.
Unrelenting sorrow and horror is wearying, and darkens the mood in a way that makes a franchise family unfriendly. Interjecting banter into the movie lets you turn away from the despair of good versus evil when evil seems to have the upper hand. That resilience is actually a skill that millennials are often picked on for lacking.
There’s a lot of death and destruction in the movie. Monumental mistakes and miscalculations are made, and the vibrant Rebellion of “Return of the Jedi” is nowhere to be seen. A desperate midpoint is an inescapable plot device in a sweeping space opera series such as Star Wars. Without that desperation and buildup, there wouldn’t be the anticipation for the next movie.
Losses from the Empire and the Rebellion are legion, and things need to be rather grim for the protagonists to set the stage for a sweeping victory in the final installment.
Instead of staring unflinchingly at the insurmountable odds, though, “The Last Jedi” offers us hope. This hope is a reoccurring thing in the Star Wars universe, and it’s as timely now as it was in 1977 when “A New Hope” was released. G.K. Chesterton is famously attributed as saying, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
Star Wars is for many a modern fairy tale that has been with us since childhood. The Dark Side is our dragon, our stand-in for the danger and pain in our own lives. Seeing it rise and be vanquished reminds us that the evil in our daily lives and in the world around us can and will also be conquered.
Are there moments that defy all attempts at plausibility, and require setting aside one’s knowledge of science? Certainly. That’s not the point of Star Wars, though, and never really has been. It’s not a musty textbook, but a moving, ever-changing storyline rich with characters that we’ve loved for decades and new ones that we are coming to care about.
Seeing the movie to poke holes in it rather misses the bigger picture, and the charm and importance of the franchise. Consider it more fantasy than sci-fi, and inconsistencies might grate less, if you’re not able to just let them roll off your back.
Watch “The Last Jedi.” If possible, go see it on the big screen. If your kids are of a reasonable age, take them to see it, too. There’s no gratuitous gore, nudity, nor repetitive swearing. It’s not a movie of gross excesses, because it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it’s a movie about modern-day dragons, told in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago.
The fights between the Dark and Light sides of the Force are real for us, because we need them to be. We need our heroes to be complex people, from troubled families, with all of the hope and love and promise of the galaxy behind them.