Last Jedi is not a perfect film, but it is truly great at times. It is the most visually beautiful Star Wars film we have ever seen. It has one of the best space battles and one of the best lightsaber battles of any Star Wars film. It is thematically rich and gives strong interesting character arcs to Luke, Rey, and Kylo. Kylo/Ben Solo is one of the most interesting villains I have seen on screen in the last decade. The Last Jedi features some of the best acting of any Star Wars film as well. Adam Driver gives a mesmerizing performance as Ben Solo. Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley also give very strong performance. I cannot recommend The Last Jedi enough. Some do not appreciate what Rian Johnson did with Luke’s story, but I think it is a magnificent end to such a great hero. I highly recommend The Last Jedi. It is a remarkable Star Wars film, that is both a true Star Wars film, and surprisingly new.
This is the most spiritual of any Star Wars film. Luke Skywalker even refers to “the Jedi religion” (a term not used since A New Hope). There are many things one could discuss from The Last Jedi, but at its heart it is about restoring lost faith and the rekindling hope in the midst of despair.
In the iconic opening crawl, we read in bold yellow script the Resistance is waiting for Luke Skywalker to “return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.” Evil has arisen again. Hope is dwindling. The galaxy is need of something to rekindle hope. Rey goes in search of this hope, but instead of finding Luke, mighty legend, she found a broken man of lost faith.
Luke Skywalker is a man adrift. In a moment of weakness, Luke had contemplated killing his nephew, Ben Solo because he could see the potential of great evil in Ben. Luke ultimately did not give into the temptation, but by simply lighting his lightsaber he set off a chain of events wherein, Ben Solo went over to the dark side and Luke’s other students were killed or joined Ben. Luke had failed himself, his sister, his best friend, his nephew, his students, and the galaxy. His failure led him to despair. He lost faith in the Jedi way and walked away from it all.
Rey begs for Luke to return to the fight. In brilliant foreshadowing Luke ask Rey, what she expects of him, “To show up with a laser sword and face the entire First Order” (the exact thing Luke does at the end of the film). Luke does not think the galaxy needs him anymore, but Rey wisely says they still need a legend.
Later in the film at the moment where all hope seems lost (Leah actually says hope is gone), Luke Skywalker walks into the room. Luke after his time with Rey and some counseling from an old friend, has his faith restored. He will not be the last Jedi. They will continue through Rey. Luke confronts Ben Solo and the First Order to provide time for the Resistance (should we call them Rebels now?) to escape.
In confronting Ben and the First Order, Luke becomes a legend once again. He is the spark that rekindles hope in the galaxy, as is wonderfully shown through the kids telling the story of Luke Skywalker at the end of movie. In a powerful display of the force, Luke sacrifices his life to save the Resistance, Leah, and Rey. In Luke’s final act of sacrifice he has become greater than he was before, and he has brought hope to a galaxy in desperate need of it.
Why would Rian Johnson tell this story? Why do so many respond to this message of hope in the face of despair? We live in a world full of darkness. We hear wars and rumor of wars; racism, natural disasters, and oppression seem to abound.
The world is in desperate need of hope. 2017 was a very difficult year for many people. Despair is on the rise, and all seems lost.
In his essay On Fairy-Stories Tolkien introduces the term eucatastrophe which is a sudden unexpected turn to joy in a story. When Luke arrives at the old Rebel base, The Last Jedi experiences eucatastrophe. All is hope seems lost, but then an unexpected change comes in the story. Luke comes, saves the Resistance, faces the New Order and brings hope to the galaxy. In a same manner the history of humanity has its own moment of eucatastrophe in the arrival of Jesus Christ.
In the epilogue of his essay On Fairy-Stories Tolkien argues that the Incarnation is the eucatastrophe of mankind’s history, and the Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation. When all seemed lost, Jesus the hero of our story has stepped in and conquered evil and the grave for us so that we might have life, light, and hope. I believe as Tolkien believed that Christians should never live in despair, because despair is the absence of all hope, but in Christ we always have a hope no matter how dark things may seem. Our story has already unexpectedly turned to joy.
There is much more one could discuss about The Last Jedi and its themes of hope, faith, and love. However, I will end with two of my favorite lines from the film which beautifully capture the heart of the film.
“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it you’ll never make it through the night.”
“We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”