Posting from Tintagel

The Last Jedi - post cinema reflections

January 06, 2018 | 9 Minute Read

I was raised on the ‘old Star Wars’ trilogy (ep. IV, V, VI). Started as a child when I saw The Empire Strikes Back posters hanging up in front of the local cinema and dragged my parents there for the movie which they were completely not interested in and it was necessary to ask the cinema attendants for a balcony place because they had to read aloud all subtitles for their not-yet-fluently-reading kid (my native language is Polish). That kid wasn’t scared of Darth Vader at all. It ended up on the rest of the Original Trilogy being re-watched multiple times (way more than Neon Genesis Evangelion in late 90’s). To put it bluntly - The Last Jedi is the first ‘new Star Wars’ movie which I would watch one more time, or more times.
Director, screenwriter and author of the episode VIII is Rian Johnson - beginner director (few episodes of some TV series) and actor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (cameo appearance, one of the imperial technicians). George Lucas is no longer involved with - sequels and anthology - Star Wars movies. The distribution process is officially labeled by Lucasfilm Ltd. founded by George Lucas himself (1971), then later acquired by The Walt Disney Company (2012). He was replaced by his Lucasfilm co-chair Kathleen Kennedy, president after Walt Disney acquirement. This time the role of Kathleen Kennedy’s co-producer didn’t fall to J. J. Abrams (responsible for the rest of sequel trilogy) but to Ram Bergman instead - an Israeli film producer (Brick, Looper), Rian Johnson’s collegue. That whole shuffle can make a Star Wars fan suspicious. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures supervises the Star Wars sequel trilogy and anthology films, not 20th Century Fox - a film studio with its characteristic fanfare composed by Alfred Newman in 1933.

“You are no Vader. You are just a child in a mask.”[1]

Force-sensitive the Supreme Leader Snoke managed to articulate my up till now unspoken words before he appeared indisputably powerful but not wary enough to leash on time his impulsive chosen apprentice with the Dark side of the Force. Sharing my first impressions right after coming back from the cinema I said that ‘Kylo Ren’s character evolved’ - indeed, he took off the mask, literally. Moreover, he progressed among the story-line not abandoning his primal anger and making his own individuality more complex with every Jedi retrospection. Against this background, raw Rey - in pair with her Force awakening - is the mirror and opposite side at the same time. During the spectacular fight against Elite Pretorian Guards, Kylo’s hesitation leads him towards Rey. After her refusal to “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”, Kylo shows no respect to Jedi inheritance anymore doing it in his natural furious way, before he decides to face Luke in the final duel.

” I will never train another generation of Jedi. I came to this island to die. It’s time for the Jedi to end. “[2]

The First Order is a religious descendant of the fallen Galactic Empire. Its military looks like the remains of the Imperial Navy joining their forces in the name of rebuilding a previous absolute power. After years, they visibly count every lost Star Destroyer or TIE starfighter (not mentioning the absence of the legendary Death Star), finalized - for example - by regulars of the casino city Canto Bight on the planet Cantonica and not such independent as before. On that background the cynic, irritating, likewise comic Armitage Hux completes rampageous Kylo Ren - the next self proclaimed Supreme Leader of the First Order.
The situation of the Resistance is similar to their adversary. They bite but have to run away desperately, to survive at any cost. Same as the ‘return of the Jedi’ turns into ‘the last Jedi’, ‘a new hope’ appears to be ‘a spark of hope’. And then we receive an epic candidate - Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and her majestic kamikaze suicide by jumping into lightspeed using empty Raddus Star Cruiser through Mega-class Star Destroyer (flagship). Her heroic frozen in time sacrifice - a moment of silence - unquestionably goes down to history. It made people at the cinema stay as silently frozen as the mineral planet reached by the resistance transports thanks to that bravery.
The idea of the salt-covered Crait seems to be evident reference to the ice planet Hoth, together with all the walking AT-AT and wild animal beings living/running on their own. Battle of Crait is taking a place of the Battle of Hoth in Star Wars sequel trilogy, TLJ was even settled there in the middle like Empire Strikes Back. Yes, I liked The Last Jedi mostly because of references.

Luke Skywalker: What do you see?
Rey: The island. Life. Death and decay, that feeds new life. Warmth. Cold. Peace. Violence.
Luke Skywalker: And between it all?
Rey: Balance and energy. A force.
We can define the endless Force by the prism of the ecosystem and use the circle of life as the key. The method by which TLJ creates new - or just introduces existing - species in the Star Wars universe.

  • Vulptex

Fox-like - probably pack and/or social, if predatory - wild creature, white crystalline fur coated. Their natural habitat are burrows and tunnels (same as cages, abandoned mines, or a rebel outpost) of the small Crait planet, entirely surfaced white-colored salt with red-colored mineral base of amirite underneath, in the remote star system (of the same name).
Vulptex as a species was inspired by Arctic fox - Vulpes representative, an animal resident in the Arctic regions (Northern Hemisphere) and Arctic tundra, resistant to low temperatures and used to extremely harsh environment. If it really was, it’s an animal possible to tame or even to domesticate. To be honest, my personal first thoughts went to the Ethiopian wolf - visually similar species, native to same limited territory and the same way endangered because of human activity escalation.
Vulptices were designed especially for Star Wars episode VIII. Their creator is Neal Scanlan - British special effects artist (also Rogue One and The Force Awaken), Oscar nominated (The Force Awaken) and co-prized with Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1995 (Babe). According to wiki sources, one of Lucasfilm Story Group creative executives - Pablo Hidalgo - suggested naming the new creature by merging together Latin name of Canidae genus and geometrical concept of ‘vertex’ as a definition of an angle and description of a shape of crystal.

  • Fathier

A domesticated quadruped animal combined a cat (head, muzzle, ears) with a lion tail, a dog (some human focused behaviors) and most of all a horse (limbs, mobility, racing abilities), brown fur coated.
Those herd animals (in wildlife), most obviously herbivores, were trained to race on the special tracks but besides suffered abuse. Worth attention that no animal was shot during escape from Canto Bight, including the last one who took care of both fugitives until the end and was finally unsaddled later to run free and join to the herd.
Fathiers were based on a canon novel Aftermath: Empire’s End (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) written by Chuck Wendig, where they were first time mentioned.

“No one is ever really gone.”[4]

My expectations were huge. Luke Skywalker was my childhood idol. The Last Jedi should be like a reunion. I was not disappointed, I was moved by its nuanses and parallels.
Luke was influenced by both his Jedi masters. He fairly aged (like expected watching TFA ending scene). His sense of humor and behavior connoted bizarre vital old Merlin Yoda and collected Obi-wan as well. Every time everything reminded that he is not a young Skywalker any longer and that he choose to be alone. Decision about the return makes his ultimate face off with a row of Imperial Walkers - and one Lambda-class Shuttle - an extraordinary experience thanks to his personal Force reunion as it should be - the twin suns, like on Tatooine, somewhere on the Ahch-To island (Binary Sunset playing at the background). Also inseparable R2-D2 entered the combatant path getting the reset in an very sentimental way. Time of BB-8 has come cleverly rolling by the action scenes giving them some fresh android comic gags and vitality.
We visited the cinema to watch TLJ exactly at Carrie Fisher first sad anniversary (27.12.2017). Would be impossible to see Leia Organa on the screen and not feel for a while that the ‘old Star Wars’ cast is leaving the stage and the new cast is coming. Princess Leia - obligatory in pair with Han Solo - was a very important person for me as a youngster. Now, she became an icon.
Watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2D was an exceptional experience - an option uncovering the nostalgic Ghost in the StarWars Shell. Official poster includes everything what is necessary - Luke Skywalker’s shadow guide, two clearly opposite Force sides, Kylo and Rey unintended cooperation spirit, new generation of astrotech droids, retro rebel soul of the Resistance, mirror and balance, blue light and Sith sabre red. Sadly, no Holdo and no animal creature. Something Ends, Something Begins. “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” - Frank Herbert, “Dune” author, source inspiration for George Lukas when Star Wars took their birth.[5]

[1] Supreme Leader Snoke to Kylo Ren
[2] Luke Skywaker to Rey
[3] Jedi training, an island on the planet Ahch-To
[4] Luke Skywalker to Leia Organa, preparing to the final battle
[5] Dune 50th anniversary article
helpful source: wookieepedia