I re-watched The Last Jedi in its entirety again last week for the first time since before putting the The Last Jedi Case for Rey Skywalker together. The case, combined with other insights and events, made for a very different viewing experience.
Like many people, I was stunned and heartbroken by The Last Jedi when it was released. It seemed as though Rian and Lucasfilm had thrown out everything The Force Awakens developed and not simply abandoned the foundation and iconic characters of the saga, but burned it. Yet, at the same time, I felt a strong dissonance between the straightforward interpretation of the plot, the movie’s presentation of it and the overall story. My fellow bloggers saw many of the same issues I did and started digging deeper. From these discussions arose a vastly different interpretation of the movie from the ones commonly accepted by other fans.
In the following months, our discussions and insights have evolved markedly and I finally had the time to watch TLJ in one sitting in light of them. My reaction to the movie was markedly different this time and I found the story far deeper, more emotional and compelling. That’s not to say I don’t think there are significant flaws in the movie. I find Finn’s journey to be poorly done and Poe’s disagreement with Holdo felt like nothing more than a pissing contest, but the Force/Skywalker storyline was largely rehabilitated. In that vein, here are my observations and thoughts from my re-watch:
- I think Pale’s take on the Rey/Kylo/Luke plot is largely correct. Kylo and Luke both know who Rey is and trying to keep that knowledge from her for very different reasons. Although off balance in the first Forcetime session and the first half of the second, Kylo starts using it to his advantage midway through the second and starts working to drive a wedge between Rey and Luke.
- Luke wants Rey to abandon her past and the Jedi and define her own identity. However, by withholding it, he nearly alienates Rey and nearly drives her to the dark side. He unwittingly helps Kylo who is also trying to get her to forsake her identity and past.
- The movie is an exploration of who Kylo is and how he comes to define his own destiny. Kylo wants to be free of all ties and tries to get Rey to give up her own as well as any claim to the Skywalker legacy. What he hadn’t counted on was Rey’s attachments to Finn and the Resistance.
- Probably the best argument against the interpretation Luke knows Rey is he sounds a little too sincerely curious when he first asks her who she is in the tree. Everything else in the movie works very well with it.
- The removal of the caretaker village scene remains inexplicable to me. I remember when watching the movie for the first time, the third Forcetime sequence was the exact point where the movie’s plot fell apart for me and I thought I had missed a major scene. Turns out the movie was missing a key scene and the plot makes far more sense when we you know about it.
- The mirror cave is a tide cave. The movie is structured as though it were a tide reaching ebb and then moving into the flow phase. Rey enters the cave during the ebb phase which is the precise middle of the movie.
- The spearfishing moment is pretty touching when you think of it in the possible context of where Rey’s mother came from (see our current series).
- I missed this before, but there’s a repeat of the woman’s scream in the third flashback during the transition from the flashback to Ahch-To.
- Yoda doesn’t immediately recognize what’s bothering Luke when he first appears. He starts by berating Luke about being too beholden to ancient Jedi ways, but pauses, chuckles and then completely switches his approach after he mentions Rey.
- I think Leia still knows who Rey is. Watch her expression and reactions when she first sits with Rey near the end.
There’s a fair bit to unpack with Kylo and I’d like to explore that at a future date.