Now in its 40th year, the Star Wars franchise is back and better than ever with newbie director Rian (“Breaking Bad” meets “Looper”) Johnson’s The Last Jedi. TLJ is the longest Star Wars movie to date, clocking in at 2½ hours, but time flies by, thanks to Johnson’s deft direction, composer John Williams’ never-gets-old musical score, and an original story that provides new takes and refreshing insights on George Lucas’ original “space opera” brainchild.
Watched literally, The Last Jedi is a metaphor for our time, pitting the rag tag multi-racial (and multispecies!) rebel Resistance against a powerful imperial First Order, whose army of angry (mostly) white guys with planet-destroying weapons look like they came straight out of Trump/Bannon central casting (with more than a few not-so-subtle nods to the Third Reich). In this reading, TLJ’s most intriguing character is a minor thief named DJ, played by Benicio del Torro, who makes clear that his only interest in life is to amass huge profits by selling weapons to any and all sides and watching them destroy each other. Note to discerning citizens of our US Empire – a truer metaphor for the world’s central banksters and the US military-industrial complex would be difficult to find.
But heck – it’s the holidaze. So, in the spirit of the season, here is a TOP 10 list capturing the apolitical best of The Last Jedi.
- Snoke – Ground-breaking motion-capture actor Andy (Gollum/Caesar) Serkis is back and at his best portraying the best bad guy in years, in a genius mix of smarm and charisma. Just as cool, Snoke’s stripped down red-drenched throne room pays homage to both Buddhist monasticism and a Robert Palmer “Addicted To Love” MTV music video. Might as well face it, we’re addicted to Snoke.
- Millennium Falcon – How is it that a single vessel exudes such personality and longevity over four decades? Solo and Chewbacca’s ship, with its unique lines and ragtag flair, saves the day in The Last Jedi, over and over again, with super sexy spaceship appeal.
- Yoda – He’s back! Sorry for the spoiler. Missed him so, we did.
- Multispecies Supporting Actors – Crystal cats, jockey antelopes, and beyond. The Last Jedi pays its respects to the late great Muppeteer Jim Henson (Google him , kids!) in spades with a remarkable cast of multispecies supporting creatures, making the cantina scene in the original 1977 ‘Star Wars” film look like kindergarten by comparison.
- Luke – Mark Hamill has aged well, and Luke brings a wonderful mix of down-and-out self-deprecation and rise-to-the-occasion courageous heroism to his role in The Last Jedi.
- X Wings – As a Star Wars geek from way back, I’ve been in love with the rebel fighters for forty years. They’ve never looked better in intergalactic combat then they do here.
- Rey – Daisy Ridley’s Jedi-in-training really comes into her own in our new story, and reminds us that we all have to make hard choices as we mature. I don’t buy Kylo Ren’s line about her parents. My prediction? Ren and Rey are twins separated at birth.
- Kylo Ren – Actor Adam Driver is a beast physically, but psychologically, his Kylo Ren is a study in indecision, and his nuanced and poignant relationship with Rey promises more twists and turns in the stories that lie ahead. See my prediction in #7 above.
- BB8 – this little dude of a rolling robot out droids even R2D2 and C3PO, for the second time on the silver screen. Who could possibly have imagined that two metallic rolling balls could exude so much robo-charisma?
- Resistance – so let’s speak honestly for a moment. The REAL Empire exists, and it’s known as the United States. The Last Jedi celebrates the younger generation of up-and-comers, particularly in the film’s final scene.
Watch closely, and prepare your children for what is to come. A new century that is already looking very little like the previous. Be the Resistance! Happy New Year.
Dr. Rob Williams lives in Waitsfield, Vermont; teaches media, communications, and global studies at Champlain College and the University of Vermont; and publishes www.vermontindependent.org.