TROS and the questions that were answered

I finally saw The Rise of Skywalker for the second, and presumably last, time in theaters with my wife. It was her first time. She wasn’t a big fan of it (for the record, her favorite of the sequel trilogy was The Last Jedi). I found that I still rather enjoyed it. I’d started to dread watching it again because I recognized so many weaknesses in the story, and I had read so many critical reactions that I found I agreed with. I felt there was no way that I’d be able to enjoy it as much as the first time, if at all. Thankfully, I was wrong on this count.

This very well could be the dumbest main Star Wars film, but it’s full of emotion, a resounding score, and amazing visuals. I wish the trilogy had ended on a stronger note, but it is what it is, and while the story has many flaws, there are a lot of interesting plot threads that can be expanded in future stories. There is a lot condensed into this movie, even as relatively long as it is, and there are plenty of additions to the characters and larger mythology that can be mined for years to come. No Star Wars film is perfect, and the original final chapter in the Star Wars saga, Return of the Jedi, sure had its share of problems. So yeah, TROS can be dumb, and I’ll still incorporate it into my larger appreciation for Star Wars over time (even as I simultaneously become more interested in considering Star Wars in three categories: George Lucas’s vision as told in the first six films and The Clone Wars; the parallel universe created through licensing under Lucas’s rule, which at times influenced his own design and story choices; and the new parallel universe that covers much of the same ground with new stories and claims to provide a “canon” continuation to the original saga under Disney).

I started a post that was attempting to address questions left from The Last Jedi that The Rise of Skywalker answered. Whether one likes the answers provided or not, TROS did at least feel like a response to its predecessor, even if it feels more connected to The Force Awakens. That attempted post was heavy with spoilers, though, and I felt like it would be good to have at least one more view before moving forward. After finally getting that second viewing, I feel ready to share this post, now that the movie’s been out for so long that anyone concerned with spoilers should have seen it already. If you haven’t seen the movie yet for some reason, please beware of the massive spoilers that will follow.

The questions I’m responding to are those I specifically discussed in a previous post before the release of Episode IX. Since I’d raised those questions in particular, it seemed worthwhile to see how TROS dealt with them.

1. What is the fate of Kylo Ren? Will he be redeemed? Killed? Imprisoned? Could you even safely imprison a powerful Force user? And what would redemption look like for such a monster if it doesn’t end in death?

Well, this is sort of the center of the plot of TROS. We learn that he is redeeemed and killed. I guess we don’t know what redemption without death could look like. Ben’s ending works well enough, and his final sacrifice to restore Rey to life is truly a selfless act that is at least on par with Anakin’s own final sacrifice for his son. I think it would have been more interesting to see a version of Ben who has to work to atone for his past actions in some way, but that’s a lot to ask for one already bloated last chapter.

I’ve resumed my rewatch of The Clone Wars with the approach of its new season, and I’ve realized my question about imprisoning a Force user has been answered quite thoroughly in the new canon. We had the Citadel specifically for imprisoning Jedi, and a battalion of clones successfully imprisoned Pong Krell. For that matter, Obi-Wan was successfully imprisoned in Attack of the Clones, and it was only a screwy staged execution and subsequent rescue mission that spared him. Ben seems to be on a unique level of power, but it seems theoretically possible to imprison any Force user.
2. What will Rey do with the legacy of the Jedi? Will she establish a new Jedi Order or something else? Will any of her compatriots be revealed to have Force powers as well?

One of my favorite things about TROS was that Finn was revealed to be Force-sensitive. I guess not everyone registered that on viewing, but it seemed quite evident to me, and I remember reacting excitedly to moments demonstrating his Force sensitivity. His conversation with Jannah did everything but explicitly say, “I feel the Force.” I also read that conversation as indicating Force-sensitivity in Jannah and some or all of her comrades. And on second viewing, I felt the movie may have been hinting at Force potential in Poe (especially given his apparently impossible abilities with hyperspace-skipping). This suggests to me that the broad awakening of Force abilities and inspiration of a new generation of Force users thanks to the actions of Luke and Rey that was suggested in The Last Jedi has been preserved and expanded upon. I think much like the Jedi Exile in KOTOR II, Rey seems to draw unaware Force users to her, awakening their powers as their bonds with each other are strengthened.

Rey has become a Jedi and embraced the legacy of the Jedi. We don’t know, though, if she will actually train others. Her legacy is still up in the air, maybe to be explored further in canon another day.
3. How will this trilogy’s romantic entanglements be resolved? There are quite a few implicit and explicit love triangles. Will Rey end up with Finn, or Kylo, or no one at all? How will Finn navigate his relationship with Rey and with Rose? And does Poe finally come out as gay?

Rey ends up with no one at all, but she seems the closest to romance with Ben, unfortunately. I think the kiss is ambiguous, but it’s certainly there. Of course, they kiss and then he dies, so on the one hand that frees her up again, but on the other hand that could be deeply traumatizing for her. It’s crucial to me that the kiss is between Rey and Ben, not Rey and Kylo–he’s happy and light and good, having cast off his Kylo Ren persona entirely and sacrificed a lot to get there. Still, Ben and Kylo are the same person. Ben never really died, just like Anakin never really died when he became Vader. They have their excuses and dramatic metaphors, but at the end of the day, they chose to do evil. And they continued to do evil at every opportunity. Sure, they found redemption in a loved one at the end, but that doesn’t erase everything they’d done.

Finn doesn’t navigate his relationships at all. (How could he explore a relationship with Rose when J.J. and Terrio barely allow her onscreen?) He’s given a new female companion he spends his time with, who just so happens to be a female black former stormtrooper. That seems a bit too neat, and while they don’t become romantically involved, it feels a little convenient that Finn is paired off with another woman and Poe is as well, as if to suggest that they have heterosexual options and thus need not end up with each other, while also clearing the deck for an uncomplicated Reylo climax. I’m uncomfortable with the racial, sexual, and gender politics in this decision. Jannah is a cool character but underused, and she largely appears in support of and alongside Finn. I don’t think that’s a particularly well-thought-through decision.

More frustratingly, Poe is bonded to Zorii Bliss. Poe didn’t need a new romance story. Poe didn’t even need a new background, for that matter! His subplot and backstory feel incredibly arbitrary, like J.J. and Terrio decided to insert answers to questions that were never asked because they felt Poe wasn’t interesting enough. The inclusion of his history as a spice runner feels like a desperate bid to make him even more like Han Solo–and on this second viewing, I was all too aware of the reactions from fans who were troubled by giving one of the few Latino actors in Star Wars a character with a background as a drug smuggler. On top of this, Poe already had a backstory that was deeply associated with the Resistance and with the inter-generational legacy of the Rebel Alliance in non-film media, so this felt out of left field.

But back to Poe and Zorii. I was really bothered by Poe’s recurring attempts to get a kiss from Zorii. Even though they never do kiss, it felt like an unnecessarily defensive, hetero-normative reaction to FinnPoe. No, folks, not only is he not interested in Finn, he’s actually had an ex-girlfriend he wants to get back together with this whole time. Frankly, Oscar Isaac seems so half-hearted in his efforts that I’ve convinced myself that Poe and Zorii are in fact both gay, and that this is an inside joke between them. They’re just two old friends who know he’d never kiss her even if he could. While this works as a head canon, it’s incredibly disappointing that the filmmakers went in this hetero-romantic direction at all, especially when the only explicitly queer moment in this film (in any Star Wars film, for that matter) involves two background characters briefly kissing in the celebratory crowd at the end.

4. Now that the Supreme Leader has been replaced and Hux finds himself following a man he despises, does he stay loyal to Kylo? Does he lead a coup?

Hahaha! He does not stay loyal to Kylo. He also doesn’t lead a coup. He becomes a spy for the Resistance out of spite, and he gets shot dead like a dog.

5. Who was Snoke? Where did he come from? How did he influence Ben into becoming Kylo? And where did the First Order come from, for that matter?

Snoke is a clone, apparently. A clone of what/whom? I don’t know. Sounds like the comic series The Rise of Kylo Ren is addressing Snoke’s influence on Kylo, but I don’t know when or if we’ll learn more about what Palpatine was really doing with Snoke. And it seems that we still have an incomplete idea of what the First Order was or where it came from, let alone the newly revealed Final Order. Although Palpatine’s weird Sith cult activities and hidden Imperial military might fit in rather nicely with elements of the Aftermath trilogy, there are still a lot of questions.

6. Does Kylo really hear from Anakin Skywalker? Does he suffer from some form of psychosis? Has Anakin become corrupted in the afterlife even after his redemption? Is there someone else impersonating Anakin? Why didn’t any Force ghost appear to Kylo to intervene?

Turns out it was all Palpatine. Why did no Force ghost intervene, though? That’s unclear to me. In many ways, TROS didn’t give a fuck about the mythology of this universe.

Example 1: All the Jedi apparently live on in Rey. They speak to her and give her power in her final battle. But George Lucas had previously established over six films and The Clone Wars that most people, including Jedi, merely become one with the Force on death. Only those who lived selflessly could freely preserve their identities in death, not for personal benefit but so that they could instruct and guide others. Prior to the sequel trilogy, the only ones who preserved their identities after death were Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin, and while Anakin had a great sacrifice at the end, it’s always been something of a mystery as to how he achieved this feat. Qui-Gon didn’t even take his body into the Force. But now everyone’s back, for some reason.

Example 2: Before the sequel trilogy, Force ghosts seemed limited in their abilities. Obi-Wan could not help Luke in his fight against Vader, and he tells Luke as much. Obi-Wan often provides advice and information, but I don’t recall him actually acting on the physical world. The same with Yoda. The Clone Wars and Rebels provided interesting spirits and creatures that were specially in tune with the Force, but these were separate from the Force ghosts I’m talking about. The Last Jedi had Yoda striking the tree with lightning, but this was mystical and calling on a natural element; it’s not clear to me that that suggests he could have lifted an X-Wing or tossed a lightsaber. Luke has such a physical presence in TROS, and it becomes quite curious as to why Force ghosts wouldn’t more directly meddle in putting down evil.

Example 3: Anakin was supposed to restore balance to the Force, and while it was never certain what exactly that meant, it was generally agreed that he did do exactly that by the end of Return of the Jedi. And yet Palpatine wasn’t truly defeated, only deferred. I was more on board when we were dealing with a new awakening in the Force–Kylo rising in power within the Dark Side, and the Light answering with the rise of Rey. It feels like Anakin only inconvenienced the Dark Side for a few decades, in the end.

Example 4: The Sith had never before discovered the power to escape death. It was one of the ironies of Star Wars: if you’re selfish enough to do anything to survive death, you aren’t able to do so. We had Sith spirits in Legends, but even then they were typically bound to a particular physical element–perhaps a temple, a tomb, an amulet, or a weapon. They were not free. The Dark Side, at best, provided them an immortal prison. Now, it turns out that the Sith actually retain some form of immortality by inhabiting their successors. When a Sith disciple strikes down her master, she apparently inherits the spirits of all the previous Sith. This could be a cool thing–and it still bounds the Sith to one physical element–but it doesn’t sit easily with the existing mythology. Also, what is the trigger for this transfer? If Rey would be possessed whether she struck Palpatine down in a moment of anger or in ritual, why is there an exception if she gets Palpatine to destroy himself by deflecting his Force lightning back at him until he dies? How much was Palpatine lying about this? Perhaps he wanted her to kill him in the ritual tradition, and hate alone wouldn’t do it? But then again, wanting someone to strike him down in hate suggests that he would have actually been fine if Luke had killed him in Return of the Jedi, and that’s an interesting idea. Imagine that: Palpatine feels he’s in a win-win situation. No way the Rebellion can win, the Emperor thinks. That leaves three scenarios: (1) Luke is killed, and Vader has nothing left to cling to; (2) Luke kills Vader and turns to the Dark Side, thus becoming Palpatine’s student; or (3) Luke kills Palpatine and is possessed by all Sith, becoming a powerful, young new host body. Luke’s decision to stop fighting, and Vader’s decision to aid his son and defeat Palpatine, are unfathomably remote options for the Emperor. And it turns out he had contingency plans for if everything went wrong, anyway.

At the end of the day, while I find these new bits of lore difficult to reconcile, they are interesting. This is a movie that concludes a whole trilogy about legacy. Appropriately, some of the key new insights into the Force and Force practitioners relate to legacy. The Jedi are able to commune with those who precede them. The Sith literally embody previous Sith, spiritually consuming them. All Sith live within one body, the closest they can come to immortality, I guess. No wonder there can only be two Sith at any one time–and no wonder that the Sith are unique for Dark Siders.

Finally, while not playing light with the mythology, I have way too many questions left about how Palpatine came back. I have only read the first arc of Dark Empire, and that Legends comic seems more relevant than ever now. Certainly, Aftermath also hints at some of the Dark Side occult elements involved in resurrecting the dead. It’s not at all clear to me if this is somehow a reconstructed original body of Palpatine (and this seems unlikely, given how he died) or if it’s a greatly corrupted clone body. How will destroying this Palpatine prevent him from coming back? Are we really sure all Sith cultists were killed in that end battle? What about the Snoke clones in the canisters that were missing by the time Rey arrived? What connection does Snoke have to Palpatine? A lot of questions to presumably be answered some other day.

7. Who are the Knights of Ren?

Kylo Ren’s boy band. “Ghouls.” That’s all. Disney wants us to make sure to read all the ancillary materials, I guess. Star Wars has always seemed larger and deeper because of the references to things that aren’t developed within the movies, but this seems a big thing to leave so blank, especially when they serve as (nameless, faceless) tertiary antagonists in the film.

8. Were there any other survivors of the destruction of Luke’s training temple?

I guess we still don’t know.

9. How is the Resistance rebuilt? What allies join the cause, and why didn’t they respond to Leia’s message?

Again: I guess we still don’t know. Lando assembles a People Power fleet. Maybe people were motivated by the story of Luke’s sacrifice and the survival of the Resistance. Maybe Leia’s message did get through but people couldn’t react in time. The film starts about a year after The Last Jedi, but the Resistance is still more or less in shambles until Lando brings in the cavalry.

10. What happens to Leia? How does she fit into the movie? It seems likely that she was intended to have a significant role, but how much can she really appear in the film with the untimely death of Carrie Fisher?

She appears almost enough for the plot that was ultimately provided for her character. She proves pivotal to the final reformation of Ben Solo. On second viewing, it’s more apparent how little she appears and how much the movie is molded around what available footage they had of Carrie Fisher. Harrison Ford comes back as a vivid hallucination/memory to provide the final push, and I wonder if they would have used Leia in that scene if Carrie had been available. Another bizarre mystery of the Force: why does her body remain until Ben also dies? For that matter, the Leia material offers another example of J.J.’s apparent disregard for the new unified canon: it’s hard for me to reconcile Leia’s training under Luke so soon after Return of the Jedi with her portrayal as someone who had never undergone Jedi training in Bloodline. For the record, I was fine with her display of Force abilities in The Last Jedi because training isn’t essential to use the Force. But having her training basically completed, and then giving up her saber and the Jedi path, doesn’t quite fit with what is suggested in Bloodline. (For that matter, how does she know Rey is a Palpatine? When does she learn this? When did Luke learn this? And if she knew some of Ben’s tragic fate, why did she make the choices she did in allowing him to train as a Jedi?) That said, it’s not explicitly contradictory, either…

As a bonus round, I’d just point out that Lando appeared as sort of a retired trader / elder statesman, but the subject of L3-37 and her final fate is left unresolved. Bummer.

So, those were the questions I had going into The Rise of Skywalker, and those were the answers I took away from it. They weren’t always the answers I wanted to see, some of the answers seemed like very poor options out of the many available choices, and sometimes there wasn’t an answer at all, but it’s still clear that TROS continues on from The Last Jedi, continuing to develop themes and character arcs from that film even while making some course corrections to apparently better align with J.J.’s original vision. It’s very Star Wars of the saga to end with answers that often prompted even more questions!

Hux, Traitor

Just a short post of wild speculation today. Hux is a petty character, someone devoted to the fascist First Order but someone who also seems to be very deeply a pack animal, a dog. He is kicked and beaten and swears loyalty to the abuser. He cannot even comprehend the loss of his master. When there is an opportunity to shift power, he must be abused again to bow to a new leader. And when he sees a chance in the midst of that power shift, he briefly contemplates murder to advance his own ambitions.

Ambition is an odd word for Hux, in a way, because while he seems to crave power, it’s hard to imagine that he’d know what to do with it. He isn’t really leader material.

In the spirit of wild plot twists, my own random speculation for a movie coming out in about two years, which will almost certainly be proven wrong, is that Hux grows tired of working under the new Supreme Leader and decides to defect. Maybe the new film actually allows a jump in time, and we see the Resistance resurgent, winning offensives, giving the strained First Order a run for its money as Supreme Leader Kylo Ren remains fixated on Rey. Maybe we even open with Hux attempting to defect–and maybe that defection won’t be successful.

I’m not going anywhere with this, it’s not critical analysis, it’s just speculation. Anyone inclined to share the vision?

I still don’t know about Kylo Ren

Kylo Ren is not, and probably never will be, my favorite Star Wars character. But damn, Adam Driver delivered an absolutely amazing performance in The Last Jedi, and his acting combined with Rian Johnson’s writing and directing may have been the best I’ve seen in a Star Wars film–certainly the most raw and visceral and nuanced characterization present.

[Spoilers follow]

Johnson wrote the character down quite a fascinating path. By the end of the movie, he’s risen up to defeat Supreme Leader Snoke, and with the passing of Carrie Fisher, it is likely that Episode IX will find Kylo Ren successful in having completely vanquished his past. The only lingering connection he has to the Light is Rey, and she seems to have finally given up on him too by the end of The Last Jedi.

I still have so many questions. Sure, we now see how Luke’s training temple fell, how Luke abandoned the role of teacher and active participant in galactic affairs, how Ben Solo finally embraced the Dark Side, and what happened to Luke’s other students (at least in broad strokes–no pun intended). But it is now definitely confirmed that Snoke had been acting on Ben this whole time, corrupting him. Did Snoke reach out to Ben, opening a psychic link as he did between Kylo and Rey? Did Ben seek Snoke out? Is Ben a religious extemist, someone who felt apathetic and empty and out of place among his family and among the Jedi, someone who was converted by holonet forums and propaganda videos? We know the moment that Luke lost Ben, but we don’t truly know how Ben was corrupted early on, nor how he truly became Kylo Ren. And dramatically, we haven’t needed those answers yet, but I suspect they will play into how the final film of this sequel trilogy proceeds.

Kylo did a good job of eliminating his past over the course of these two films–killing Lor San Tekka and Han Solo and Snoke, attempting to kill Luke, and leaving Leia to fate. He also smashed apart his mask, his connection to Vader, and we see no effort on his part to communicate with Vader.

This gives me even more questions about That Scene in The Force Awakens, when he seeks aid from his grandfather. Is it rhetorical? Or is the strength in fact power infused in the artifact of the helmet? Is it some trick of Snoke’s, who is–or was–so gifted at reading minds and influencing people? Or is Kylo Ren mentally ill? Especially in light of The Last Jedi, where he was prone to temper tantrums but actually acted rationally and more clearly explained his motivations, I think it’s rather unlikely that any form of mental illness will have played a role in shaping who Kylo Ren is, but it’s something still floating around in the back of my mind.

I’ll never ship Kylo/Rey because (a) there’s way too much baggage associated with abusive relationships there and (b) I’m Finn/Rey all the way, but The Last Jedi did a phenomenal job of presenting Kylo and Rey as fundamentally lonely people who found some sense of togetherness and connection in each other, as much as they might not have liked to. I say this because it’s amazing to me how much The Last Jedi has shifted my perception of characters and relationships, especially regarding Kylo Ren. Now more than ever, it seems almost impossible for him to be redeemed; now more than ever, I want him to be redeemed. It will be truly fascinating to see where the final film takes this character, and I’m sure that I won’t be able to predict where that goes.

Second Viewing: The Last Jedi

We saw The Last Jedi again today, at the showing that was supposed to be our first. The Indiana State Museum IMAX is always my favorite cinematic experience. Reasonably priced tickets, drinks, and snacks; luxurious seating; and incredibly immersive visuals and crisp sound. Like with The Force Awakens before it, the ISM IMAX was one of the handful of locations in the nation where you could see the film projected in 70mm format. And with a single-screen theater, you really feel catered to (down to the museum staff member who introduced the film beforehand).

All the above factors made it predictable that I’d like this second viewing at least a little more than the first. The improved visuals and sound certainly helped, and the latter actually helped me catch some bits of dialogue that I’d missed before.

But I liked the film the second time quite a lot more, and more than just those factors discussed already would suggest. Knowing where the story was going, and being able to focus on details and individual moments with the background knowledge of the film’s overarching plot, I was able to get more out of every moment. Things made more sense. I was not just reacting but had the mental space to interpret.

Some moments had a stronger emotional kick. And I recognized plot clues that I’d completely missed on my first viewing. I want to talk about a few of these moments below, and I’d be happy to have a conversation about any of them–or any other moments, for that matter! But recognize that if you still haven’t seen the film, there will be spoilers below, and this is the only warning you get.

There were even more times where I at least teared up a little bit. The entire bomber sequence, but especially Paige Tico’s sacrifice and Leia’s reaction, is a real kick to the gut. That got me the first time, but knowing that Paige was sacrificing herself, and, in so doing, leaving her sister alone, all to try to take out a threat to the remaining Resistance fleet, is a powerful moment. Seeing A-Wing pilot Tallie’s little thumbs-up moments before her end got me a bit, too. Even when a minor character goes down, it feels significant. Every loss matters. Then Leia’s final scene with Holdo, and Leia’s final scene with Luke, are also incredibly emotional experiences that have not faded at all with the re-watch; in fact, knowing what Luke is about to do, that Leia/Luke scene is even more heartbreaking. And wow, “Godspeed, rebels,” is already a new favorite line of mine (I didn’t catch it the first time, but this line is first stated by the captain who’d served under Holdo when he stays behind to pilot the first ship that runs out of fuel, and that makes Holdo’s utterance of it later feel like a very personal, tribal, genuine sort of thing).

I wasn’t sure how I felt about Luke, but watching his journey through the film again, and knowing the decisions he was making and would make, ultimately have led me to decide that I’m very much in favor of what Rian Johnson did here, even if I would never have thought to map a course for Luke like this. Also, while the revelation of Luke’s astral projection was at first shocking and a bit confusing to me, I now recognize that the film heavily telegraphed this–Luke looks like his younger self, he entered the one-way base without being detected, and so on. Knowing that Luke made the choice to ensure the continuation of the rebellion and of the Jedi in a moment of heroic self-sacrifice (and of tremendous Force ability) gives those final scenes with him much deeper meaning, and his brief moment of seeing a twin sunset (or sunrise?) on the horizon is really touching and of course calls back to the original film. Also, I realized that this usage of the Force to astrally project was specifically set up early on in this film, when Kylo tries to figure out how Rey can see him and dismisses the idea that she was projecting herself to him on her own power because the effort would kill her–a nice bit of foreshadowing, in retrospect.

Not only were the emotional moments still powerful, but so were the comic moments. I love the humor in this, and except for a couple moments that defused tense scenes a little too early, I thought it all landed pretty solidly. I certainly have favorite lines here already (though for now I’ll have to paraphrase; my memory’s not perfect):

  • “I can’t wait forever. When General Hux is available, tell him Leia has an urgent message for him. About his mom.”
  • “Incredible. Every word in that sentence is wrong.”
  • “Where are you from, Rey? No one’s from no where.” “Jakku.” “Wow, you really are from nowhere.”
  • “He says I stole the ship. [beat] We stole the ship.”
  • “You were always scum.” “Rebel scum.”
  • “They really hate that ship!”

More generally, there were a lot of funny sight gags, and there were many moments of physical comedy. Domhnall Gleeson’s earnest-space-Nazi demeanor, his cowering and snivelling, his sheer pettiness as Hux is delightful and matched by how he’s treated like something between a ragdoll and an abused dog by Kylo and Snoke throughout the film, and he got a fair number of cute one-liners.

Benicio Del Toro’s hacker character, DJ, is funny too, with his stutter and his sleazy arrogance and his convenient moral relativism. It’s less any specific moment, and more how the character is portrayed. I love his delivery of, “Let me learn you something big, Finn.” It’s not funny on its face, and yet…

Shifting gears here, I’m still thinking about the film’s themes, and I think it’s interesting that The Last Jedi subverts the Jedi/Sith relationship with attachment. Historically, the Jedi viewed attachment as a path to the Dark Side. The Sith cultivated attachment, and it was attachment that drove a kindhearted person like Anakin to the Dark Side. But in The Last Jedi, Rey is attached to Han and Luke and Leia and Finn and hope; Rose and Leia show that we should work to save what we care for, rather than simply sacrificing all for a cause; and it is Kylo Ren who insists that we should “let the past die; kill it, if you have to” and becomes frustrated when Rey rejects his offer to join forces, angrily proclaiming that she is still not letting go. For that matter, Rey, despite being viewed as a model Jedi by the end by characters ranging from Snoke to Yoda, often fights with wild passion and fury; her motivation might be right, but she is definitely guided in the moment by emotion.

Another thing I’m thinking about: where does this film go now? It basically spun an alternate version of events in Return of the Jedi in its climactic mid-film scene. What if Luke had gone to Vader and asked him to return to the Light, Vader and Luke worked together to defeat Palpatine, and then Vader asked Luke to join him to rule together? Maybe something like what happens in The Last Jedi. “The Supreme Leader is dead…Long live the Supreme Leader!” Holy shit! Where do we go from here, indeed? That moment could have been a conclusion to this trilogy, and here we have it squarely in the middle act of the middle film. The status quo has been disrupted for virtually all of the characters by the end of the film. Luke is gone, Han is gone, Leia will probably have to be gone; on the opposite side, Snoke is gone, too. Poe has finally evolved into the leader Leia saw in him underneath his dangerous heroics. Finn is finally committed to the cause. Rey is a Jedi, even if she truly came from nothing, and Kylo Ren has achieved his wildest ambitions. Wow.

All that said, the abruptness of the ending was less dramatic to me. By the end of the film, we definitely had a conclusion. It was a well-told film, and we are not left with dangling threads after all. Maybe that’s what was weird to me. We had so much build-up, and so much resolution of what was developed, and then the film ends without a clear idea of where the next one could possibly go. I still maintain that the very final scene with the kids has some disturbing implications, though I did see this time that the kid uses the Force to pull the broomstick to him, and so could merely suggest that hope has been renewed in a future generation (and not necessarily that this generation will one day have to join yet another bloody conflict motivated by two feuding religious orders).

My opinion has gone up for The Last Jedi, and I’m at the stage where I’m gushing about it (obviously), and I think I need to see it maybe even a few more times before I’ve really processed it. It’s a good film, and hopefully indicates an exciting direction for Star Wars storytelling in the future.


I am not seeing The Last Jedi on opening night. My wife has a work-related function that I’m joining her for. I know I have to work Friday night, and Saturday is my wife’s birthday and we’ll be doing things she most wants to do. But Sunday we’ll be going to a matinee showing at my favorite theater, the Indiana State Museum IMAX.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie. Especially with such favorable reviews, my anticipation is getting the better of me. But I’ll wait. It’s still opening weekend.

I’m not worried about spoilers, though. I’ve never really cared about spoilers. I’ve always felt that a good story will work whether you know the fundamentals of what’s going to happen or not. And seeing an alleged account of a leaked event in a film isn’t the same as believing; no matter how many genuine spoilers there are, there will always be even more misdirections and total fabrications. To be honest, for some movies (especially horror films) and some television shows (especially tense dramas), I’ll spoil elements of the plot for myself to dissipate some of the anxiety of viewing. It’s not a required thing, and I’m not making some claim that I absolutely cannot handle a surprise. That’s absurd. If I’m really into a show, like Mindhunter or Stranger Things, I delight in the tension and am happy to wait for whatever surprises may come. But I don’t really like being on edge, I don’t really get a thrill out of horror, and so I do something about it. On very rare occasions, I’ve regretted spoiling something. And I won’t deny that knowing something beforehand lacks the same quality of experience as when you are surprised–maybe even overwhelmed–in the moment.

I’ve never been angry with anyone for spoiling anything, though. And as for online trolls and such…I don’t know, doesn’t that get back to my comment about credibility? Maybe I’m just not so incredibly Online as others who apparently seem to stumble onto leaks they never wanted to see while wandering the web (in fact, I know I’m not), but I’ve only really ever come across plot-spoiling information when I’ve specifically sought it out.

Isn’t the general hyper-concern over spoilers a bizarre thing, anyway? People talk about unofficial bans on plot discussion as though this is an ancient social norm, even if very few people agree on just how long it is appropriate to preserve such a ban. People go out of their way not just to avoid websites but to mute certain hashtags and conversations on Twitter–and they prominently and frequently proclaim their efforts, too. People who care about spoilers actually, well, spoiling things really do like to make a lot of noise about it.

This might, in the end, merely be reflective of the microcosm of the Internet that I observe, although the behavior has always been there among some of my friends and acquaintances in real life. I’m not judging–well, I’m trying not to judge–but I don’t understand the passion some feel about the subject.

I tried to think about times that I was surprised by something that happened in a film or TV show or book, and about moments that especially stuck with me. I could think of some examples of the former, but nothing of the latter.

How much is an experience worth, anyway?