MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher.
There’s something interesting about Star Wars movies: Either you really look forward to them, or you couldn’t care less. There’s good reason for this, borne out by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Basically, everyone knows that these Star Wars stories are simply Good Guys vs. Bad Guys adventures, with new characters/action figures introduced in each installment. In fact, the storyline of The Force Awakens seemed like a light gloss over the very first Star Wars from 1977, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) taking over the Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) role. Fans expected The Last Jedi to follow the story beats of The Empire Strikes Back and lead viewers to a cliffhanging ending and to a darker view of the Empire.
Without giving away spoilers, I am happy to report that The Last Jedi is more original, more joyful, funnier, and less dark than anticipated, while also placing the original characters of Luke, Leia (Carrie Fisher, in her last screen role), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in positions of honor and respect while giving more screen time to Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Darth Vader wannabe who dispatched Han Solo in the previous film.
Many viewers have appreciated creator George Lucas’ theology of The Force, that power from beyond that can be used for good or diminished when a person goes over to the Dark Side. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke encountered both sides of The Force during his trial in the wilderness. In this film, writer-director Rian Johnson is bold in showing several characters struggle between the two extremes as circumstances and relationships change. This film shows ethical decisions in shades of gray. The evil Supreme Leader Snoke is a motion-capture nemesis brought to life by the great Andy Serkis; even his ultimate power is brought into question.
The film also introduces two additional female characters in Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern). Both women are strong-willed and self-reliant, holding their own alongside (when not surpassing) the male leads. BB-8 will meet his evil doppelganger and we will get our first look at Porgs, puffin-like critters with modest brain power that just seem to be along for no particular reason (but in time for the Christmas toy season).
I know that some Star Wars fans were disappointed in this film; I was not. I hope to revisit it again on the big screen.
Four halos: Making moral choices becomes more nuanced in this entertaining entry in the Star Wars canon, which also emphasizes themes of class and status.
Two pitchforks: Much space violence; nothing very graphic in terms of gore, but hundreds of people die in these space battles. Just sayin’.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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