It is a fact that the events of Sequel Trilogy are very bleak when viewed through the eyes of the Original Trilogy’s main protagonists. In fact they are bleak when viewed through the eyes of many Star Wars fans.
In the two films released to date Han, Leia and Luke have watched as the galaxy they envisaged at the end of Return of the Jedi, burns to cinders – literally burning as Starkiller base eradicates the heart of the New Republic that they fought so eagerly to build. Readers of the Star Wars novels know that in the post-Endor reconstruction era governance was not established easily. The Aftermath Trilogy of books showed how difficult it was to establish the New Republic. The events of Bloodline showed how difficult it was to maintain. The Force Awakens showed how easily and quickly it could all be destroyed.
In The Force Awakens we saw how the heart of the New Republic’s government was destroyed in the Hosnian Cataclysm. The aftermath in The Last Jedi saw the Resistance forces transform into a Rebellion once more, presumably an indication of the fact that the First Order is now the controlling force in the galaxy. The remnants of Leia’s cohort now form a second Rebellion against a new Order, it’s small scale underscored at the end of The Last Jedi by the lack of response to the distress signal from Crait. The First Order too is in a state of flux following the events of The Last Jedi, with Snoke’s death at the hands of the volatile Kylo Ren. The Supreme Leader is dead…Long Live the Supreme Leader.
More so than any other period of Star Wars films we have seen, this is an era of turmoil and tumult. No ruling Republic Senate and Jedi Order, no Empire holding control, No New Republic. Instead the toppling of the Supreme leader has taken place in the First Order’s first days of control. This is a Galaxy in a state of turmoil, the like of which hasn’t been seen on our screens. The events of The Last Jedi also leaves a blank canvas for the closing installment of the Sequel Trilogy now free to take the galaxy in a number of unpredictable directions.
After my second viewing someone asked me how I felt about The Last Jedi. I replied that while it might not be my favorite Star Wars film, it was a film that is of its time. Then over the last few days I also stumbled across a quote from George Lucas taken from a 1987 interview, tellingly Lucas stated the following:-
“The idea is not to be afraid of change. There are bad robots and good robots, aliens and monsters in all forms. Star Wars shows progression. You may be frightened – and its sad because you are leaving something behind – but go forward. That’s what life is about. You can either have a good attitude towards change or a bad attitude about it. You can’t fight tidal waves, you can only ride them. So the best thing is to get your surfboard and make the best of it” George Lucas, 1987.
Although Lucas was talking in the context of the films, they are also interesting ideas to consider in the context of the psyche of our Original Trilogy heroes.
Luke, Han and Leia have, in the Sequel Trilogy to date, had to witness the dismantling of the world order they created in their youth and worked hard to sustain during their most vital years. Think then of Han’s face as he watches the devastating red fury from Starkiller base pass overhead in The Force Awakens, the fear in Luke’s eyes when he sees Rey and Kylo connect in The Last Jedi, and likewise Leia watching out the window of the transport vessel to Crait as her troops are systematically destroyed one by one by one.
The trio’s faces are now aged with experience. Impossible to cast sight upon them though without remembering the fiery energy of their youth, their energy distilled through the battle against the Empire which has become ingrained within Star Wars‘ fans minds. A pure fight one of good against evil, which underscored their authenticity. When we hear the names Luke, Han and Leia, we immediately revert to our default memories of the three in their youthful prime, creating legend through their actions.
Seeing them in this Sequel era so many years on brings to mind the words of WB Yeats:-
“WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
W.B. Yeats, When You are Old
On my walk home from the cinema, after my second viewing of The Last Jedi it was another of Yeat’s poems that came to mind. My comment that Rian Johnson’s film was of its time came because we now live in a world where all the old “certainties” of Western society are being dismantled of one by one, as we enter a new and potentially frightening period. The Last Jedi represents this both in terms of how it threw away many of our expectations of what a “Star Wars film” looks and feels like, but also because the characters within that film are shifting towards a new and frightening dispensation, one where the Skywalker saga looks to have been largely dismantled.
The poem that came to mind is one which has been dusted off quite a bit over the last year or so by political commentators. It is of course Yeat’s extraordinary The Second Coming. That poem opens with the following text:_
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…”
WB Yeats, extract from The Second Coming
We live in a world where increasingly “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. On our screens too the same applied, the best – our very best, Luke Skywalker our hero from the Original Trilogy, for the majority of The Last Jedi lacked all conviction, while his former protégé Kylo Ren, the worst in many ways, was full of passionate intensity.
I think it was The Last Jedi’s initial depiction of Luke which unsettled me and which unsettled other viewers. Remember though that need for accepting change that Lucas spoke of, that need to grab a surfboard and ride that wave of change. As an audience we move towards that change, but as events in the story changed so we also saw Luke begin to change from the stance he adopted at the beginning of The Last Jedi. The ending of the film, was an uplifiting return to the Luke we knew in earlier days.The message of the film was that our heroes may disappoint, but to have faith in them coming through for us.
Luke took his stand to inspire a new generation with his heroics. In a world that looks more and more like a place where the falcon cannot hear the falconer (indeed “the Falcon can no longer hear Han” were we to stretch this metaphor), and the centre looks like it cannot hold while things fall apart, the ending of The Last Jedi was important. It gave us a sign that however bleak events were, “hope” – that word which is so important to Star Wars – would live on.
It is over to a new generation now, our Original Trilogy heroes have played their role on the stage of galactic affairs. It’s over to Kylo Ren and Rey now to shape the future for better or for worse.
May The Force Be With You
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