“Selena: The Series,” a Small Disservice to Selena’s Legacy
'Selena: The Series' loses sight of the story's heart: Selena herself.
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I love The Last Jedi. I don’t think there has been a Star Wars movie in quite some time that brought something new, something fresh to the table. It still has hints of rehash and nostalgia to it, but doesn’t reek of it like The Force Awakens or Rogue One. George Lucas once said that Star Wars is more about rhyming than repeating. I think The Last Jedi is a perfect deliverance of that idea. This movie came out and was almost immediately bombed by trolls claiming it was “SJW propaganda” or “killed Star Wars” or that odd argument that “Disney is only in it for the money.” Well yeah, as I said before, Star Wars is the most merchandised out the wazoo franchise I’ve ever seen, this movie isn’t “SJW propaganda” so much as basic representation, and it didn’t kill Star Wars, it elevated it. Thankfully those people are a loud minority of the Star Wars fan base, as I’ve had nice conversations with many people who both liked or disliked the film, but we always found common ground. Figured I’d just address the bantha in the room before proceeding.
Rian Johnson is an excellent director. I think if this movie had been a spinoff like Rogue One or Solo, fewer people would be upset. But…I really don’t care. I think this is by far the best film in the Sequel Trilogy, and the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back. I love Return of the Jedi, it’s a decent movie with fantastic moments. But, The Last Jedi is a great movie with spellbinding moments. The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, but nothing in this film feels inexplicable or inconsistent.
Johnson brings a unique style and narrative focus that The Force Awakens simply lacked. It’s very different in all directions from its predecessor because it built off of something solid (which I understand) and began to explore the Star Wars mythos and these characters more in-depth. This is reminiscent of another sequel to a basic movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Remember in that movie, when Luke could “suddenly” talk to Leia and Vader telepathically with The Force? Or the grumpy old Jedi master who was a hermit after failure? Or the big battle with the AT-ATs on Hoth? And who could forget that massive revelation with no build-up to it previously?
A lot of that is The Last Jedi. But in this film, very infrequently does it ever feel like repetition so much as rhyming. There is purpose to this movie’s use of familiar imagery. There is meaning to these characters. There is a reason for everything, even the casino subplot, which yes, is the weakest aspect of the film. The Last Jedi is a movie that deals with failure. That is the key component, the thesis of the film. There’s a director here, there’s focus, not just a gaggle of producers pressuring their director to churn out nostalgia bait.
The Last Jedi takes off immediately off the heels of The Force Awakens. The Resistance is fleeing the powerful First Order with dwindling supplies and allies. Rey has just met up with the reclusive Luke Skywalker, giving him his lightsaber. It’s seriously that soon after its predecessor.
Spoilers from here on out…jump to the very last paragraph (under the Incluvie score) for my final take.
So, Rey sees Luke. What does he do? He grabs his old lightsaber, takes a glance, spitefully throws it over his back, and walks off. Yes, our blue-eyed optimistic Luke has chucked his legacy over his shoulders, scornfully ignoring the call to adventure, the first step of the hero’s journey. The first step in A New Hope. And it works. Luke has aged several decades. Life can wear you down. And Luke had to deal with the dark descent of his own nephew, Kylo Ren, and the collapse of everything he worked so hard for. Later in the film, it’s revealed it is essentially Luke’s fault that Kylo Ren fell to the Dark Side in the first place. Naturally, he cut himself off in a bout of depression; wanting to be left alone. Obi-Wan and Yoda both also did the same. He’s following his mentor’s footsteps, which he never understood in his youth, but after having suffered a massive failure, not living up to the legend of “hero of the galaxy,” he crumbled. Luke is human, after all. And it’s in character as well.
Yes, Luke was always optimistic; but he was also impulsive. That is why he lost a hand in Empire Strikes Back. Or why he tried to kill The Emperor on the spot and nearly killed Darth Vader in a rage in Return of the Jedi. He’s always leaned uncomfortably close toward the Dark Side, and the Original Trilogy always toyed with that idea after A New Hope. It’s natural that for a brief instant, he’d light up his lightsaber and think of a utilitarian solution to training another potential mass murderer. Luke Skywalker isn’t just acting in character, he’s the most interesting and complex his character has ever been presented up to this point. Whereas Han Solo just sort of popped up in Force Awakens as a means to show how evil Kylo Ren was for killing his own father, Han didn’t undergo a character arc or accomplish anything. Luke in The Last Jedi is integral to the plot, to Rey’s arc, and has his own story as well. And it’s perhaps the best part of the movie.
When Luke Skywalker decides to embrace the impossible legend he built for himself as the greatest Jedi of all time and sacrifice himself to Kylo Ren using the new discovery of Force projection, it’s beautiful. Luke has gone back to his roots of answering the call for showman heroics, without actually technically having done so. He projects himself across the galaxy to look the part of what everyone else thinks he appears as. He acts like a flawless lightsaber fighter, untouchable. He has overcome his failure and inspires people in the Skywalker legend through his buying of time for the Resistance. It works practically and symbolically, is shot gorgeously, and is one of the best scenes in Star Wars history, up there with Yoda lifting the X-Wing in Empire Strikes Back. That scene alone and the build-up to it was so breathtaking.
But of course, that’s not all, folks. The Last Jedi also molds the three leads from the last film, Rey, Finn, and Poe, and gives them more depth and purpose. Rey’s lineage doesn’t define her, and being force-sensitive doesn’t make her ready to win a war herself. Finn is dealing with the trauma of being an ex-stormtrooper and doesn’t feel like a hero, and wants to run, as it worked when he left The First Order. Poe isn’t just diet Han Solo, he’s a bit of a hothead and always somewhat was, but when something doesn’t go his way, he’s got to learn how to lead and not blindly charge. It might be easier to discuss my thoughts on their three journeys here.
I don’t want to ever find out that this kid happens to be a Kenobi/Skywalker/Solo, WHATEVER. Broom Boy is just nobody. Good. No Broom Boy: A Star Wars Story. I’m begging you, Disney.My goodness, this film is just so good. The more I watch it, the more I love it. That scene of Yoda coming back to Luke is so heartwarming and hilarious. It actually feels like Yoda, something the Prequels never were able to do properly. His constant humor and kindness are back. It’s also so relieving to see him as a puppet again, not CGI. This movie is just so gorgeously shot, and scored so well (John Williams), so much passion is put into it. It takes risks, it changes the game, it still has familiar imagery, but most importantly, it has characters with purpose, with arcs, and it has a theme. It’s not just going through the motions of what Star Wars is on a surface level, it’s exploring the Star Wars iceberg.
Now then, let’s talk about inclusiveness and diversity. This is the ideal kind of simple inclusion. It’s not “SJW propaganda”, it’s just…normal. This is the world. People of different backgrounds pop up everywhere. I was pretty clear in my Rogue One review that I liked seeing all the different people because the galaxy just felt larger that way. I’m here for that Muppet representation, too. Rian Johnson always goes out of his way more than many modern directors to ensure his cast and crew are a nice mixture of different people and tends to intertwine that into his tales. Seeing as how this is Disney-controlled Star Wars and he can’t get too political, representation without too much emphasis is the bare minimum, and Johnson certainly did well, and even added a few more female roles and heck yes, a Latino, Benicio Del Toro. He even got a little director representation too; Rogue One director Gareth Edwards cameos as a Resistance fighter. Neat.
Overall, I don’t just think The Last Jedi is a great Star Wars movie, I think it’s one of the best. Honestly, it’s second only to The Empire Strikes Back for me, which is pretty much unbeatable. You have to appreciate that Johnson had a short time to get this film together, right after The Force Awakens introduced a thousand plot threads, and that the Star Wars fandom is ravenous. He also wrote and directed this on his own. And Johnson didn’t just deliver, he bestowed this movie with a mint and “thanks for being here” card. It’s actually so good, I wish it was the cap to the saga and not the middle film in the trilogy. Alas, we can’t always get what we want, but we’ll always have The Last Jedi. Here’s looking at you, youngling.
PS: R.I.P. Admiral Ackbar. Gone, but never forgotten.
-Rafael A. Sarmiento
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