Star Wars is dead. Long live Star Wars

The Last Jedi, with its anti-climactic disruptive ending, blares out a dispossessing subliminal message to fans: grow up, go home; show’s over.

Updated - December 20, 2017 07:09 pm IST

Published - December 20, 2017 06:52 pm IST

The latest Star Wars episode is only the second one of a trilogy. But there seems to be no scope for another one. | Flickr / ThoroughlyReviewed

The latest Star Wars episode is only the second one of a trilogy. But there seems to be no scope for another one. | Flickr / ThoroughlyReviewed

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“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That’s the only way you will become who you were meant to be.”

~ Kylo Ren to Rey ( The Last Jedi , 2017)


You know there’s a problem with the franchise when the villain — NOT the hero — and the director are doing exactly the same thing. And thanks to director Rian Johnson, it’s the end of Star Wars as we know it. The show is over. And we can all go home.

While I thoroughly enjoyed watching this entertainer the first time, I had this queasy feeling in the pit of my heart that something wasn’t right. “I have a bad feeling about this,” I told myself when the line that has appeared in every Star Wars movie NEVER showed up. Smart Alec director Rian Johnson, however, has apparently clarified that BB-8 says the iconic line in the opening battle. This is fundamentally the issue with the new Star Wars movie. The Last Jedi wants to be so smart that it’s too much of an inside joke.

The joke itself is a really mean one.



I had to watch the film the second time to confirm what my instincts told me. Rian Johnson probably hates old-world Star Wars. He just wanted to end it all and burn it to the ground. Which is why he went all Kylo-Ren on fans and cut off every bit of connection the new trilogy had with the old. Han Solo was already dead at the beginning of The Last Jedi . Princess Leia will not appear in another Star Wars movie because of Carrie Fisher’s death. And now — Spoiler Alert — Luke Skywalker is gone. Rey, Finn and Po, the new kids, have proved their mettle and have found their place in the story. Anything they do from here on out will be repetition.

Especially since The Last Jedi ends with another spark of hope (a kid with Jedi powers), the story has come a full circle. For a new franchise. So that Disney can sell more cutesy Porg toys. Or maybe a standalone movie for Porgs (featuring Chewie and the Millennium Falcon, of course). But Rian Johnson’s jump into hyperspace with no fuel to power the future was a suicide move that producers Disney didn’t see coming. Or maybe they realised too late that they had given directors too much power and control of the franchise that filmmaker Colin Trevorrow faced the brunt of it. Or it’s just co-incidence that the Jurassic World director got axed from Episode IX AFTER Disney had seen the first copy of The Last Jedi .Most critics, overwhelmed by how entertaining the film was during the early previews, probably missed to put their reviews in the context of the trilogy.

Star Wars fans, however, aren’t as tunnel-visioned. They knew the damage Rian Johnson had done to the bigger story. The ratings on Rotten Tomatoes plummeted to 55% (3.3/5) despite the 93% fresh score set by critics as the film opened to $220 million as opposed to 248 million The Force Awakens collected in its opening weekend . Fans had made their peace with JJ Abrams having already killed off the face of the franchise in The Force Awakens in order to set up the mid-portion for the conflict to play out. What, then, was the need to reboot a franchise that just got rebooted?


The Last Jedi is about breaking out of masks. It tells us that good and evil were not defined by masks. It’s not all binary. It’s business.


The Last Jedi is a fine film in itself. It’s cheeky and entertaining, gets most things right, has the Rian Johnson signature, and wouldn’t have been all that bad if this was one of the standalone Star Wars stories that Disney sparked off with Rogue One . But this was supposed to be what The Empire Strikes Back was to A New Hope . It was supposed to end with a cliffhanger that sets up Episode IX — that would subvert Return of the Jedi . It was supposed to have big reveals about who the characters were. That was the DNA of the original trilogy. Johnson’s big reveal is that there is no big reveal. It’s like going to a magic show to be told there is no magic.

JJ Abrams began the new trilogy with the line: “This will begin to make things right.” ( The Force Awakens , 2015) The new Luke was a girl. The new story wasn’t about saving a white princess. It was about a bunch of people dealing with their masks. When we first met them, Rey was hiding behind the mask of a scavenger, Finn behind a stormtrooper helmet and Kylo Ren had embraced a Vader mask.

In the new film, Kylo destroys the Vader mask after supervillain Snoke calls him out (“You are just a child in a mask”). The Last Jedi is about breaking out of masks. Rey fulfils her destiny of becoming a Jedi despite the odds against her. Especially, an unwilling master in Luke. And Finn defeats his tormentor in stormtrooper mask Captain Phasma.



The Last Jedi tells us that good and evil were not defined by masks. It’s not all binary. It’s business. The Last Jedi looks at the Star Wars universe through the lens of The Matrix . The rebels need to find the Keymaker the Codebreaker, while the original Chosen One must dodge bullets lightsabers, using Matrix moves. And the Codebreaker tells Finn and Rose that it’s all just a machine. Interestingly, Benicio Del Toro’s character is credited as DJ — apparently an acronym for “Don’t Join.” And Captain Phasma calls Finn a rot in the system.

The idea of good and evil co-existing in one person is not a new idea in the Star Wars universe. George Lucas spent three movies (the widely trashed prequels) to tell us how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. And Vader did turn back to the good side of the Force before his death in the original trilogy. So what new story did the new trilogy have?

The new trilogy is Star Wars subverted — the feminist, minority-appeasing version.

Rey, unlike Luke, believed in the inherent goodness of Kylo Ren. She believed it was possible to turn dark warrior Kylo Ren back to former Jedi-in-training Ben Solo and that it was never too late. Leia and Admiral Holdo, unlike Po, believed that it was important to save their own and not seem like a hero, instead of blowing up things from an X-Wing. As Rose, unlike Finn, spells it out. “I saved you, dummy. That’s how we are going to win. Not fighting what we hate. But by saving what we love.” By creating strong women with a voice, the new trilogy was making things right indeed.

Writer-director Rian Johnson continued from where JJ Abrams (Executive Producer and director of The Force Awakens ) left the story but in his enthusiasm to redeem the characters, he went beyond the brief — to helm the middle section, NOT the final instalment of the trilogy. He took the baton from JJ Abrams, threw the baton away (when there’s one more runner still to go) and ran all the way to finish line himself — with one more film left in the trilogy.

Doing the third film as the second film is a great disservice to the franchise. Because you haven’t had enough time to play out the central conflict (twist: there is no new conflict) and are jumping straight to resolve it (surprise: by burning everything). After all the set-up in the first film, especially about Rey’s parentage, the denouement was so anti-climactic that the set-up now feels like a cheat.



Luke Skywalker gets a Deus Ex Machina scene that almost looks farcical (or is a tribute to Rajnikanth movies?) and so out of place in a narrative with scattered heroes stuck in insignificant sub-plots strung together with contrivance. This is forgettable popcorn entertainment that does not age well, as I discovered during the second viewing.

“We are what they grow beyond. That’s the burden of all masters,” says Yoda to Luke Skywalker after burning down the sacred texts of the Jedi religion. This was a political statement for fans of Star Wars who saw it is a religion. Johnson’s way of saying that Star Wars will be what it will grow into from here.

While The Last Jedi is a great finish to Star Wars as we know it, there’s no doubt that the new trilogy climaxed in the second instalment. It will take genius from JJ Abrams, the man who rebooted the franchise, to find a new Star Wars story that we actually give a damn about that also finishes this trilogy. Burn it all down, kill it if you have to… but there better be a good enough story to finish the trilogy, guys. Or maybe the biggest meta-statement from Star Wars supervillain Rian Johnson is another truth bomb from The Matrix . “There is no spoon.”

There is no trilogy.

There is no story.

It’s just business. “It’s all just a machine. Don’t join.”

Or if you have really have to listen to Rian Johnson, the codebreaker, boycott the next Star Wars . Star Wars is dead. Long live Star Wars .

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