The Cathartic Burden of The Last Jedi

After more than two hours of a movie that has subverted your expectations with slapstick humor, characters who fail, and a destruction of your most well thought out theories, it all plays out on screen. Our erstwhile Rebel hero, the one who helped turn the (second) most evil man in the galaxy back to the light side of the Force, is about to take on his nephew, who has gone to the dark side because of the Rebel hero’s failures. The culmination of The Last Jedi, and effectually the soul of the Star Wars franchise, was about to play out on screen.

If you had made it this far into the movie and still had a shred of hope that The Last Jedi, and by extension Rian Johnson, had not completely ruined your fondest childhood memories, then your deepest fears were about to be confirmed. Rest In Peace, fond Star Wars memories.

The movie has already told us to let go of the past–literally from the lips of Kylo Ren. The final clash between Luke and Kylo on Crait shows the audience just how hard that can be. In Luke we have the past, and not only in an Original Trilogy sense, but also in terms of the Sequel Trilogy timeline with an aged Luke returning to his physical appearance at the time he was training Kylo Ren. Luke is the paragon of hope, the last Jedi (not including Rey), and what made us love Star Wars in the first place. Then Kylo Ren, the seething present, believes he has been wronged by the past–by Luke’s moment of weakness and by his parents not telling him who his grandfather was. In that particular moment of weakness for Luke, Kylo Ren’s future is forever changed. The future Kylo had envisioned having can no longer exist and that, more than anything, is why he has allowed his anger to poison him.

And as these two warriors battle we find that the present is impetuous and incapable; we find that the past is all just an apparition; we find that there is no conclusion. The past comes out victorious in the battle but dies; the present loses the battle but lives. It is a moment of catharsis and also burden for both the Star Wars fan and non-Star Wars fan alike. We will always remember the past as something greater than it was, when everything was fixed by your mother’s kiss or your favorite meal or, yes, even seeing Luke Skywalker swashbuckle his way across the galaxy. But our past is dead and we can never return to it. Our present is tiresome and angry because our dreams from the past never became fulfilled in the exact ways we wanted them to be.

And so the fuzzy warmth of the past will always win in our consciousness despite, and because of, the inability to return to it. All we are left with is the cold, dark defeat of having to continue on, knowing full well we cannot go back, and our grandest dreams for the future have not, and possibly can never, become our present reality.

Just let go.

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