About 10 years ago, I lost my faith. One day, I thought of life not as a soul with a vessel, but as a computer with electricity, that can just be turned off. This made so much more sense to me the more I thought about it. What’s even weirder was that I was at a church, just sitting, when I had this thought, completely alone. Is that ironic? Probably.
Now about losing your faith, some people may think of that as a freeing experience. A weight of faith to be lifted off your shoulders, as now you know that a deity isn’t watching your every move. But when I lost my faith, it was anything but that. I was more lost, depressed, and confused. When you don’t have faith of some sort to go on, you wonder about your place in the world, and now that you weren’t part of some grand design, what do you do?
Changing the subject, December 2018, I saw “Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.” I’ve always liked Star Wars, the original trilogy was a lot of fun, and the prequel movies… existed, and have their fans, and that’s cool too! I watched “The Force Awakens” when it came out, and at that moment, I knew that Star Wars did mean something to me as soon as the opening music came on. I watched all the other movies after that, including the prequels (they exist, it’s ok that they exist), and began to be more of a fan after that. TFA was a very good movie to me, not quite great, but very good. “Rogue One” came out, and while a majority of people seemed to love it, I couldn’t get into it (for reasons we aren’t here to discuss). So after being disappointed by Rogue One, and hoping that “The Force Awakens” wasn’t just a fluke, I went into “The Last Jedi” with a group of friends… And…
I loved it.
I thought it was the best Star Wars movie in years! The themes, the action, the characters, the story, the surprises, and their interactions. There was such deep meaning in all the small details to me. My group of friends and I came out of the theater just glowing about how good this movie was! We stood outside for a good hour just talking about the movie, what it means, what happens next, did that sea cow’s milk taste good, all the important questions! While I was going home, I couldn’t wait to go onto the internet to see everyone else’s take on the movie! I couldn’t wait for everyone to love and appreciate the movie like I did! So after reading a bunch of reviews that I’ve been purposefully avoiding (both the positive ones, and negative ones), I went to Reddit, to see all the overwhelming love for this wonderful film.
It wasn’t overwhelming. Like, maybe half of everyone who saw the movie loved it like me. The other half was disgust and hatred.
Seeing all the vitriolic reaction to this movie was something I didn’t really understand. It made me question my taste in movies. I saw the movie a couple more times in the theater, and I loved it more each time. I needed to understand better, so I went into the reactions, because I wanted to see the points being brought up for disliking this movie. Usually when I see a piece of media, I try hard to see multiple viewpoints of why something is good, or bad, because it’s all viable. A lot of hate went to the Canto Bight scene, which while did drag a bit, was not only important to the story, but to the themes of the movie. Another pin of hatred went to Holdo for holding back information from Poe, but A) it’s her first day, and she’s following orders to the letter, to a fault and B) Poe had just been demoted, and his recklessness is a detriment for the entire rebellion, would you tell him anything? I’m going through all these lightening bolts of hate for this movie, and I have a defense for all of them, but understanding why it might not have worked for everyone. But there’s one thing that keeps coming back to rear it’s ugly head, one phrase that that is the lynch pin of all the hatred that this movie receives.
“Not My Luke.”
Let me tell you a story the way that I understand it, and this isn’t a defense, in as much as a viewpoint. Luke begins as a normal dude, growing up with his relatives, and a weird, hermit of a neighbor. But as soon as he buys a couple robots, that’s when his adventure begins, and what an adventure it is! His family dies, he meets some new friends, he saves the galaxy a couple times, he finds his evil father, turns him good in the last minute, and the list goes on. He’s lived several lives in only a few years. Luke is full of hope and optimism, and is more than honored to be a Jedi, so how did he become the sad, pessimistic loner in The Last Jedi? Well, a lot can happen in 34 years.
Basing this only on the movies, I believe that Luke had a bit of a loss of faith. He’s displaying all the signs that I had, and I think it started before he had the thought of killing his nephew. Life keeps changing around him, and that itself changes you, and you start seeing ideas in a different context. The idea of the Jedi is the same idea as religion, it’s a good idea, and it’s comforting, but the deeper you look into it, the more you find out that people use the idea for selfishness, and breeds into toxic exclusivity.
“You aren’t going into heaven, because you don’t pray every day, and you don’t go to church, and if you don’t believe in these particular things that not everyone in the world believes, you’re going to the bad place.”
“You can’t use the force, only people like us can use the force. If you aren’t thinking like us, you’re against us. And we need to take you as a child and cut you off from everything else.”
The Jedi have a history of being selfish. Being elitists, mind controlling people, reckless decisions which create evil, and Luke Skywalker, being the good person that he is, starts to see this and starts doubting his path of being a space wizard. He continues, out of the sake of tradition, and out of not knowing where to go beyond this path, but still questions it. He gets a nephew, who is force sensitive, named Ben Solo. Ben’s mother, Leia, senses darkness in Ben, and wants Luke to steer him towards the light, and Luke is hesitant. It is said as much that he is hesitant in the movies. Any sort of doubt will cause you to ask questions, especially in a belief. If you find something wrong with what you believe in, you subconsciously want to keep scratching, finding more holes in your belief. Leia came to Luke at the wrong time, because I believe she came to Luke to teach Ben something that Luke was beginning to doubt.
When time comes around, and Luke has the thought to kill Ben, I believe that this was the last time that Luke’s Jedi instincts come up to rear their head, because Jedi in the past have kill off enemies, without remorse, and even spouting a joke while their enemies lie dead. Ben at this moment, becomes Kylo Ren, loses faith in Luke, and gains faith in the Sith, and destroys everything Luke has. Instead of going after Kylo, because he’s such a good person, he blames himself, and decide the galaxy is better off without him, and the Jedi. He becomes a hermit, just like Obi-Wan before, but a little bit more effectively.
But here’s the thing, you may lose faith in something, and that happens to us all, and that’s ok, but it’s important to find faith in something else. When I lost my faith in God, it took a while, but I gained faith in art, and relationships, and people, and dedicated myself to understanding things that I don’t normally understand, even when I don’t agree with it.
When Luke meets Rey, she wants him to help, and he (literally) throws away any thought of him helping. Little by little, she gets through to him, before everything falls apart. But before that, he sees something new, something in her that he never saw in a while, hope. Everything falls apart because of Luke’s secrets coming out, and Rey’s insistence if knowing her past whatever the cost. This moment of falling out leads to two revelations of faith. Rey loses faith in legends, and heroes, and gains faith in herself, over and over again. While Luke, wanting to destroy the Jedi texts to wipe everything Jedi off the map, hesitates. Because the Jedi is a good idea, it was just executed poorly, and the seeing Yoda reminds him of the good of the Jedi. Luke loses faith in the Jedi, but gains faith in the future, and the lessons it learned from the past. He gains faith in Rey to be better than he was and is willing to give his life for that. This is a movie of lost people, finding their path, finding something to believe in. Gaining faith. Belief in hope is the spark that will bring down the first order, hence the kids in the stables at the end.
This entire movie is filled with themes, and the use of faith is one of its strongest. It’s not the thesis of the film (the thesis is the importance of learning from failure), but the loss and gain of faith is literally everywhere. Rose Tico lost faith in legends, and gains faith in purpose. Kylo loses faith in authority, and gains faith in power. Finn loses faith in being a lone wolf, and gains faith in being a team. Some of these are stretches, but I think it stands. I think, subconsciously, this is what went through my mind when I first watched this movie. I got Luke’s progression, because I’ve lived through his progression.
Here’s the funny thing, I think original trilogy Luke would have hated seeing what he became, but hindsight is 20/20. This doesn’t make the movie good, and it’s ok if you didn’t see your boy Luke the way that I did, but you can’t say that any portion of this movie was lazy. I’m sad for the people that didn’t like this movie and have been waiting 35 years to see an almost unrecognizable Luke, I understand. But I saw him, especially in the end where he literally uses non-violent means to save the day.
“The Last Jedi” has forced a bunch of people to lose faith in Star Wars but have recklessly used that hatred to vitriolic means of the people who found beauty in it, and that might have been a bit reckless on Star Wars part. It has inadvertently created villains by challenging what it means to be Star Wars. If you don’t believe in Star Wars anymore, that’s ok, it’s fine to move on, but still love what Star Wars meant to you. Because that’s how we win, not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.
I’ll admit, I’m one of the people who left the theatre feeling disappointed in The Last Jedi. However, seeing you describe the movie does give it a new spin, even if I still don’t care for it.
One of the best defenses of “The Last Jedi” I’ve read so far. Personally, I loved out TLJ used Star Wars tropes to set us up for surprises instead of serving us comfort food.