The Last Jedi: evolution of the force

Star Wars is considered to be a cult movie series by its fans. However, the last one of the series, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, has brought upon divided opinions on itself. Are those opinions reasoned enough or deduced from a fan’s biased perspective? Zarin Rafiuddin speculates the matter at hand.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a tour de force packed with action, socio-political criticism, mediations on philosophies and deep characterisations. This may be an unpopular opinion but I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There has been criticism that the film had elements that some fans did not agree upon. I personally believe that fanfare can be critiqued for making their own assumptions on a piece a tad bit too early. The Last Jedi carries itself very well considering its length and the twists and turns it presents throughout the run.


The film braved itself by giving Rey, Finn, Poe and the newcomer Rose their own arcs. This is based on the idea that wars are not won or moved forward by one singular hero rather heroes. We see all the characters’ strengths and weaknesses, them grappling with their weaknesses. Poe Dameron is a versatile and impulsive force in the film, a bit too hot-headed at times. His arc is very well structured from his excellent flying skills commandeering an X-wing, his natural chemistry and friendship with BB8 and Finn and his relationships with General Holdo and General Leia Skywalker. Poe treats Leia as his foster mother and tries to do her proud. Their dynamic is the mother-son dynamic that unfortunately Ben Solo-Skywalker and Leia may not have had.
Despite criticism of fans in social media, I do believe the film showed the growth and development of Finn into his own philosophies and the Resistance. Finn has been Rey’s best friend and ally. So much so that he sometimes forgets about the Resistance. This all changes when he meets Rose Trico. Rose and Finn start out their own journey to help the Resistance. Finn questions the nature of Good and Evil. It may not be as simple as it seems but by the journey he encounters in this film we see him really having a strong bond with the Resistance.


Rose Trico is an intelligent and determined Resistance member. Unlike her sister, who is introduced earlier in the film, she is just a small security guard within the ranks of these revolutionary forces. She shows that she can be much more than that. Through her eyes, we see how war creates the hierarchy of rich and poor, how war enables environmental destruction and animal cruelty. Rose is angry that First Order cares little about a planet’s ecology and animal life and only leeches it for riches. The socio-political commentary we get from Rose is one of the firsts in a Star Wars’ film. Rose’s intelligence and compassion is also one of the emblems of the Resistance. Having her in the film was indispensable.


Social media had created a lot of criticism on Kylo Ren and Rey in this film. I will say that fandoms have a tendency to be carried away by their negative assumptions. They wish to portray Rey as a dainty little girl who is ‘feminised’ in this film, only because she wishes to understand Kylo Ren. Pardon me, but the entire original saga of Star Wars is dedicated to Luke Skywalker just doing that for Darth Vader. Despite the Jedi wanting Luke to end Dark Vader and Darth Sidious, Luke desires a conversation with his father, Anakin Skywalker.


I did not see Rey as a victim being manipulated by Kylo Ren. Rather Rey is shown to be insatiably inquisitive about the nature and origins of the force, both Light and Dark. She can get mad and do damage and challenge others around her. This is where her relationship with Luke Skywalker is very important. Luke is disturbed by Rey’s lack of restraint. She does not seem to be repulsed by the dark side of the force. Rey is not like Luke and Anakin Skywalker. She lacks Anakin’s hatred or fear, thus she does not rely on the dark side’s seduction of power. She does not have Luke’s mission in being the optimist. Her interactions with Kylo Ren go beyond just treating him like a monster but also being on her guard.


This is where Kylo Ren comes in. He is not Darth Vader. Darth Vader has unquestionable loyalty towards Darth Sidious. Ren gets frustrated by Snoke’s inability to understand him and his lack of respect for him. Ren does not have the strong sense of loyalty to him because he wishes to understand himself. Like Rey, he is caught between understanding the Force and understanding himself. Certain fans unjustly hate Kylo Ren. They brand him as a fascist and sexist when Anakin Skywalker choke held a pregnant Padme, his wife, in a fit of jealousy. People love Darth Vader and let us not forget that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person. It is severely unfair to lambast Kylo Ren when he is doing the things villains do. He is a villain and does evil acts. I like Darth Vader and Kylo Ren as they are convincing villains. Furthermore, we are treated to Ren’s contradictory nature and vulnerable side as well which is important.


The dynamic between Rey and Ren is important to the story. Some fans hate ‘Reylo’ which is the relation’ship’ between Rey and Kylo Ren. Their reasoning is that as Ren gaslights and abuses Rey, so this is an abusive relationship. But the fact is that Rey and Ren are rivals and are oppositional forces. If they are automatically nice to one another that would be unrealistic. This attitude is another form of sexism. If Ren had been female and Rey male these arguments would be less pronounced. If they were both males it would hardly exist. By suggesting, that Rey is not capable of being on her guard in front of Ren and that her genuine desire to help Ren is gender normative is a form of veiled misogyny.


Are they attracted to each other romantically? Ren is attracted to Rey more. He sees in Rey his equal and she is superior to him in many attributes but he still seemingly desires her company. Rey is less romantically invested in him — there is some borderline physical attraction but that does not get in the way of the narrative. Rey pretty much gives Ren a beat-down if he deserves it. It is just Rey’s nature to give everyone a chance, she acts the same way with BB8 and Finn in the first movie. One can hate ‘Reylo’ but one shouldn’t give reasons out of the air. ‘Reylo’ may not be romantic but it is an important dynamic to flesh out the natures of Rey and Ren respectively.


Now, the eponymous title, who is the The Last Jedi? That is something you have to watch. The argument is very much propelled by Luke Skywalker, who has a certain bitterness of Jedis. A friend has rightfully commented that the Jedis can manipulate him to an extent and hid facts from him. Luke may also be very upset that no one tried to understand his father and essentially helped him become who is. Luke does not like the traditionalism of the Jedi order. The film shows through Luke and Rey if the Jedis can evolve for the better as nothing extreme can be truly good.


This is the last film by Carrie Fischer, the beloved Leia Organa. She showed in this film why there is no Star Wars without Leia. She was always the thunderstorm that pioneered the Resistance. She is an able general, a force sensitive human, a mother, a soldier and a beloved leader to everyone. We will miss Carrie Fischer but Leia Organa’s legacy lives on.


This film had all the characterisations and arc we needed to pull forward to the next. It serves as a great middle movie. We now know where everyone is placed and what they feel for the future. I give Star Wars: The Last Jedi a 4/5.


Zarin Rafiuddin is a freelance writer, reviewer and poet, graduated MA from Leeda University.

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