The Last Word Part 6 – Legacy

Finally, I turn to the characters. The thesis is simple: in The Last Jedi, the writers prove that certain features of The Force Awakens were not accident or incident. The writers have gone out of their way to carefully, painstakingly dismantle the legacies of all the original characters.

Luke Skywalker, protagonist, who once dreamed of being a pilot in grand space battles. He fought, suffered, lost, and eventually won. He went from being a would-be pilot to a Jedi Master, and in doing so acquired a degree of wisdom so that his victory was not on the battlefield, but in the soul of his father. Throughout his entire character arc there was a fundamental idealism that never wavered, whether it be in challenging a moon-sized battle-station’s worth of troops to rescue a princess, or being prepared to die rather than kill his mortal enemies in anger. He was Kenobi’s – and Yoda’s – last hope for the Jedi order. At the end, he seems set to do so – there’s a reason the last film is called The Return of the Jedi.

Now consider where he is in The Last Jedi. He’s a failed teacher, who has rejected the Jedi. He, who was so idealistic, we are supposed to believe suddenly decided to kill his sister’s only son in his sleep. This is unbelievably wrong to the character given his behavior with another relative attracted to the Dark Side, namely his own father. The rest of Luke’s madness in this film is icing on the cake to this, because the person we see in the original trilogy could not be the same person as the one who took the action that (apparently) triggered the plot of the new trilogy. This was not mentioned in the section on Luke only because it requires reference to prior movies which, again, I was trying to avoid in that section. Now that I have mentioned it, I judge it an incomprehensible decision.

Next, there’s Han Solo, the pragmatic ne’er-do-well who served as an able foil for Luke’s idealism. By the end of the trilogy, he has earned the love of the Princess, and in doing so some of the cynicism and greed has been rubbed off. He’s happier than he deserves to be, and knows it.

Now skip ahead to the new trilogy. He’s estranged from Leia, and has failed so badly in parenting that his son is an angst-ridden goth who is obsessed with finding a “better” father figure (to wit: Vader in theory and Snoke in practice. Han misunderstands his son so very, very much that he ends up getting killed by him.1 Everything Han earned in the original trilogy is made the basis of failure and pain.

Finally, the last member of the trio – Leia Organa, the Senator who was still fighting FOR the Republic at a time when everybody else in the Rebellion had moved on to fighting AGAINST the empire. In the end she succeeded. The end of the Return of the Jedi is painted as the beginning of a New Republic. She has also found things she hadn’t asked for – a husband and a lost brother.

Skip ahead again. She is estranged from her husband, her son is as described above, her brother blames himself for what happened to her son and is out of the picture (and by confession tried to kill her son). Worse still, her New Republic is shredded, in part by her son. Five key planets destroyed in The Force Awakens, and as the opening crawl of The Last Jedi tells us, the New Order has begun taking military control of what remains. The New Republic’s allies ignore her call for help. Like Han and Luke, everything she fought, bled, and struggled for in the original trilogy is rendered down to nothing.

Now if one sees a single standing wall among rubble, it would be safe to posit accident, disaster, careless neglect, or perhaps the blithe unconcern of a WWII bombing campaign – all potentially unavoidable when a new generation of writers attempt to forge their own path and create the problems a new generation of protagonists are need to solve. If, on the other hand, no stone is left upon another, the basement filled in, the rubble carted away, and the land paved over, you are looking at a careful, painstaking demolition. In this new trilogy, nothing has been left for the original heroes. All their victories are written off as sound and fury, signifying nothing, achieving nothing. The message of the original trilogy was of heroism and good triumphing over evil. What I take away from this philosophically shattered new trilogy says more about its authors.

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1Since Kylo Ren also kills Snoke, he’s actually two for two in killing off living father figures. I don’t think I could ever have expected to be weighing the validity of the phrase “serial patricide”.

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