“Let the past die. Kill it. If you have to.” Kylo Ren used those lines in the feature trailer for The Last Jedi and we all had our own ideas on what it could mean in the lead up to the film. Obviously it was foreshadowing for what would come while also representing a meta commentary for the Star Wars saga as a whole. The Last Jedi successfully (or unsuccessfully to some) manages to let the past die while also somehow keeping it alive at the same time.
*Spoilers for The Last Jedi*
One of the main thematic points of The Last Jedi was to let go of the past and the things that hold you in place. Move toward the future and embrace the change. It is incredibly difficult for the characters to do even when they are actively trying to do it. Kylo Ren tries and tries and tries to do this throughout the film and achieves it in some fashion but also still holds on. The struggle that he experiences when attacking the Resistance flagship after locating them through hyperspace is evident. He can not bring himself to fire on his own mother after sensing her presence through the Force. There is something in him that is holding him back that we don’t see exercise itself until later in the film. When he brings Rey before Snoke in his throne room, Snoke goes on his “evil, tie-the-girl-to-the-train-tracks” villain monologue and preaches that Kylo is going to kill the one he hates, the one holding him back. He kills Snoke which thrusts him on his path for the rest of the film.
Rey goes through her own journey of letting go and not letting go. Carrying over from The Force Awakens, one of her biggest questions is who she is and who and where she comes from. She tries to find the answers from Luke before finding them on her own with a “Dagobah cave” moment that is probably the trippiest thing we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. She is no one. Her parents were just drunks and junk traders who left her and she had built up this wall of denial that needed to be knocked down. While Kylo is also one to show her who she is due to their Force bond, he does it in a very manipulative way that does not serve her character. By the end of the film she is ultimately ready to look forward with the Force knowing what sacrifice Luke made.
Then we get to Luke Skywalker himself. The entire film is about him letting go of the past while still holding onto it. He left the galaxy after failing with Ben, to live on this island and cutting himself off from the Force. He tells Rey that the Jedi need to end and that they were the ones to allow Sidious to take power and that it was a Jedi master who taught Anakin. All the while holding onto the ancient Jedi texts! Luke, buddy, c’mon. It’s only when Yoda comes back to school him does he realize what he was doing wrong. Sure, he was going to burn the tree down himself but he was also going to grab the books when Yoda says they don’t need them anymore. (In an act of subtlety, Rey took them with her to store on the Falcon.) Luke’s arc throughout the film is about letting the past die while simultaneously holding onto it. He can’t let himself forget about Ben at the same time he forgets about the Force and even worse his sister. People didn’t like this Luke Skywalker but I was so energized to see a different and contemplative Luke. It was like a breath of fresh air.
What about you? Did you pick up on the film trying to let go with one hand and trying to hold on with the other? Rian Johnson gave us something we had never seen in a Star Wars film and I’m absolutely intrigued to see where it leads next.
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