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The Ultimate Rebel: Kylo Ren and the Truth That is His Family

kylo-elevator

“You have too much of your father’s heart in you, young Solo” snarls Supreme Leader Snoke at his apprentice, Kylo Ren, in the wake of the younger man having just murdered Han Solo. It is a clear taunt, part of a broader litany fired at the troubled Knight of Ren by the Supreme Leader – a dressing down that informs the character’s behavior for the rest of The Last Jedi. As part of that same passage, Kylo Ren is compared yet again to his grandfather, Darth Vader. It is a comparison invited and encouraged by Kylo, and the idea that he might not measure up to “the most hated man in the galaxy” is an easy way to wound him, as we have seen on multiple occasions.

Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo, does not only draw his inspiration from the iconic Darth Vader however. Whether he likes it or not, the influence of his parents is indeed apparent in his behavior and his choices, as suggested by Lor San Tekka when we first met the character in The Force Awakens. It is these alternate influences that make Kylo Ren such a dynamic, exciting, and perhaps more terrifying villain than anything that has come before in Star Wars. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in many respects, and as the character channels his resilient mother and particularly his unpredictable father, we see the emergence of a new kind of challenge for this new generation of heroes to overcome in Episode IX. » Read more..

Nobody’s Perfect: In Defense of Rey From Nowhere

reycave

As Episode IX steadily approaches, a year and a few months away from release, debate around the parentage of Rey has continued almost unabated, arguably intensified by The Last Jedi’s “surprise” revelation. Some fans still seem to want an easy way to connect the dots from Rey to the core family of Star Wars, even indirectly, as if the term “Skywalker saga” was a mission statement rather than a convenient identifier.

Part of this stems from how the information is revealed in The Last Jedi: a terrific anticlimax, prompted by Kylo Ren. Prompted…but not issued. The text of Rian Johnson’s film builds this up and suggests it through Rey’s tendency to look for parental figures wherever possible, even when those whom she latches onto are inadequate in some way. The “reveal” isn’t some fake-out gotcha, it’s a natural progression from what we’ve already been given, albeit couched in Abrams’s typically coy storytelling tendencies in The Force Awakens. We’ve been conditioned to expect reversal, so much so that a greater surprise comes from straightforward progression.

In a way, The Last Jedi fleshes out the thread that can make the sequel trilogy a truly essential addition to the epic of Anakin and Luke Skywalker: a story of individuals within the galaxy far far away interpreting and reconciling the tales that have come before to carve out their own path. And perhaps the best torchbearer for this journey of interpretation, emulation and discovery is someone who is a nobody from nowhere, someone without the baggage that weighs so heavily on the new arch-villain Kylo Ren. Rey, as it turns out, operates very differently from her predecessors, the Skywalker boys. She is grappling with entirely different types of problems – no more or less difficult, but complex in a different way. To that end, the scenarios in which we find each of Star Wars’ three core protagonists when first introduced to them (chronologically) hugely inform their stories to follow, both in nature and resolution. In some ways, Rey is far ahead of the Skywalker boys when we first meet her. In other ways, she isn’t. It is this contrast that helps drive this new generation forward, and helps reshape what it means to be a Jedi with “the most serious mind”, and the appeal of a nobody in the galaxy far, far away. » Read more..

Second Look: Doing/Talking: The Importance of Being Rose

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

rose-speeder

“The biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other” are words uttered by one of the more barbaric characters in the Star Wars canon. But freed of their heavily ironic context the sentiment remains at the core of what drives the story: conflict and action. That’s not unique to Star Wars by any means, and neither is the quote attributed to that character’s daughter in the original film’s novelization: “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” Both thoughts, however, would serve as highly appropriate taglines for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, particularly when it comes to the newest addition that roster of heroes, Rose Tico.

Much has been made of The Last Jedi’s shunning of the typical conceits and objectives that drive people in Star Wars — this is of course done knowingly by Johnson as he comments on motivation and character throughout the feature, across all story lines. With Rose, he starts with as little as possible: she’s stuck on the boat with everyone else, her remit is extremely narrow (don’t let people inspect escape pods from the inside) — she has just lost her sister, yes, but there no natural outlet for action or resolution in the way that, say, Luke has Obi-Wan waiting for him back at the sandcrawler, or Rey has First Order troops hunting for BB-8. In establishing Rose’s involvement in the plot, Johnson inverts a key moment from The Force Awakens: the meeting of Poe and Finn. In that instance, individuals from opposing sides band together for practical purposes, in the interest of survival. There is of course the gag of Finn liberating Poe because “it’s the right thing to do.” Poe cynically sees through this and recognizes it for what it is, identifying Finn’s true need immediately.

Rose, on the other hand, is drawn into the fight because it is indeed the right thing to do. Her insight and knowledge grant her the opportunity to go along for the ride, rather than the luck she sheepishly attributes it to. Whether she or Finn are fit for purpose with regard to the mission they eventually go on is material enough for an entirely separate piece, but for her to earn her seat at the table on merit rather than potential, duty, or coincidence is a refreshing change. There is a lure of the swashbuckling derring-do that she (initially) so breathlessly admires Finn for, but her core drive is an idealistic one. This makes her a fine counterpoint to Johnson’s transformation of Kylo Ren into an ideologically-driven big bad for this particular trilogy, and lies at the heart of how this film propels the saga out of its dynastic dogfight and into something more essential.

» Read more..

Doing/Talking: The Importance of Being Rose

rose-speeder

“The biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other” are words uttered by one of the more barbaric characters in the Star Wars canon. But freed of their heavily ironic context the sentiment remains at the core of what drives the story: conflict and action. That’s not unique to Star Wars by any means, and neither is the quote attributed to that character’s daughter in the original film’s novelization: “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” Both thoughts, however, would serve as highly appropriate taglines for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, particularly when it comes to the newest addition that roster of heroes, Rose Tico.

Much has been made of The Last Jedi’s shunning of the typical conceits and objectives that drive people in Star Wars — this is of course done knowingly by Johnson as he comments on motivation and character throughout the feature, across all story lines. With Rose, he starts with as little as possible: she’s stuck on the boat with everyone else, her remit is extremely narrow (don’t let people inspect escape pods from the inside) — she has just lost her sister, yes, but there no natural outlet for action or resolution in the way that, say, Luke has Obi-Wan waiting for him back at the sandcrawler, or Rey has First Order troops hunting for BB-8. In establishing Rose’s involvement in the plot, Johnson inverts a key moment from The Force Awakens: the meeting of Poe and Finn. In that instance, individuals from opposing sides band together for practical purposes, in the interest of survival. There is of course the gag of Finn liberating Poe because “it’s the right thing to do.” Poe cynically sees through this and recognizes it for what it is, identifying Finn’s true need immediately.

Rose, on the other hand, is drawn into the fight because it is indeed the right thing to do. Her insight and knowledge grant her the opportunity to go along for the ride, rather than the luck she sheepishly attributes it to. Whether she or Finn are fit for purpose with regard to the mission they eventually go on is material enough for an entirely separate piece, but for her to earn her seat at the table on merit rather than potential, duty, or coincidence is a refreshing change. There is a lure of the swashbuckling derring-do that she (initially) so breathlessly admires Finn for, but her core drive is an idealistic one. This makes her a fine counterpoint to Johnson’s transformation of Kylo Ren into an ideologically-driven big bad for this particular trilogy, and lies at the heart of how this film propels the saga out of its dynastic dogfight and into something more essential. » Read more..

Put Down That Weapon: Luke Skywalker, His Masters, and Acts of Instinct

tlj-saberhandoff

Of the myriad moments in The Last Jedi that have caused an uproar among the fandom, it is Luke Skywalker’s actions in Ben Solo’s hut that have proved the most divisive. Given the Rashomon treatment, we see the scene three times, with Luke withholding key information in the first telling – namely that he had ignited his lightsaber with the briefest view towards murdering his nephew.

Understandably, a sizable portion of fans feels betrayed by this moment, and that it is out of character for Luke, a man who saw the good in his fallen father when nobody else believed, the man who threw away his lightsaber while staring down pure evil, proudly declaring his allegiance and heritage as a Jedi. A figure of warmth and optimism would not, could not contemplate such a barbarous act… surely?

The Last Jedi is many things; among them it is a comment on Star Wars and Star Wars fandom itself – a concept that is already being explored more than adequately. It is also, within the narrative, an examination of what it means to be a Jedi, and what values that involves. Writer-director Rian Johnson, via Luke, is explicit in his view of the classic, prequel-era Jedi Knights: that they were heinously derelict in their duty and allowed Darth Sidious to create the Empire while exterminating their order, but is only an invitation to dig deeper into the film’s (and Luke’s) view on the differing ideologies of the saga’s other two key Jedi characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. » Read more..

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