There was lots of red in The Last Jedi, from the blood-coloured soil of Crait, to Snoke’s crimson throne room. And while critics were in raptures – Rian Johnson is an auteur after all – a lot of hardcore fans were left, well, seeing red.
After watching the film on preview night, I came soaring home like Princess Leia through space. VIII had laughs, lightsabers and a brooding Adam Driver.
Yes, it felt like Star Wars. The sequels have humour in common with the originals, after skipping a generation with the prequels. Levity is actually good in a movie like this.
The only thing I hated was Luke’s treatment. I understand from a franchise perspective why his story had to end, but did they have to make him so repulsive? As I wrote before, the only way they could have made him more disgusting would have been to have him hit on Rey.
At least I’m consoled that Luke got a badass final send-off scene: “See you around, kid.” I mean, I still don’t like Rian’s choice overall, but a month after the release I can sympathize with people bewildered by sections of the backlash. Frankly, certain fans needed to get their heads out of their half-cocked theories.
Take Rey’s parentage. Sure, before Awakens, I thought Padmé-lookalike Rey could be Han and Leia’s kid (sadly for them, it was Kylo), and that Kylo was a Vader-obsessed loser (lol true) wanting to continue the bloodline with Rey (also true).
But if trailers hinted at Rey’s Skywalker identity, it was only to protect the Ben Solo reveal. Half an hour in, a wide-eyed, guileless Rey turns to Finn and says: “Luke Skywalker. I thought he was a myth.” Neither Han nor Leia knew her, plus there was that intriguing romantic tension with Kylo.
I watched Flashback Rey and thought: “That kid’s old enough to remember who her parents are.” When Rey told BB-8 her parents would be back, “one day”, you can tell from Daisy’s delivery that Rey was in denial. As Maz said: she already knew the truth.
So going into VIII, I was quietly confident who her parents weren’t. The thing is, there were people who believed Palpatine wasn’t Darth Sidious right up until Revenge of the Sith, so of course some fans were capable of insisting Rey was either Kylo’s twin, or Luke’s child with an unknown woman – perhaps Obi-Wan’s daughter!
‘Cousins fighting’ never struck me as having the pathos of duelling father and son, but these theories got really entrenched. People were so certain, so presumptuous, and ‘Reylo’ shippers got attacked (“Yuck – they’re related!”).
To be fair, some people just wanted an in-universe explanation for Rey’s precocity. But even if Rey were a Kenobi or a Snoke-Kardashian, it wouldn’t explain why Anakin’s lightsaber called to her and gave her visions, or how she used mind tricks like an old pro.
I didn’t rule out (I actually hoped for) a mystical reveal at the heart of VIII that never happened. Rey, Luke, Kylo and Snoke have all now produced unfamiliar feats (not forgetting Leia’s interesting display of her own latent abilities), so we’re simply seeing the Force wielded in new ways to serve the story.
Much else remains the same. When I first saw Return of the Jedi, I couldn’t believe the Emperor got thrown down a shaft. Physically damaged and protected by his guards, Supreme Leader Snoke was a powerful non-human Force user, and like the Emperor, he could be killed.
Yet fan fires were really stoked with Snoke, and like Rey’s parentage, certain theories – he was Darth Plagueis (and/or a force-sucking vampire from beyond the known galaxy, chained for millennia) – were certainties. But it was never about Snoke, just like the originals weren’t about Palpatine. The story is about Rey and Kylo, and in order for Vader’s heir to fulfil his capacity to get worse, he had to smoke Snoke.
I’d buy a ticket for Episode IX just for Driver’s performance alone. If rumours of a time jump are true, we might get a more mature and in-command Kylo Ren – although given his unpredictable nature, it’s up in the air.
Abrams will be back, book-ending the trilogy, although people hoping he’ll roll back the Reylo romance, or still insisting Rey is a Solo(!) might be in for further disappointment. Perhaps there was some explanation for the Kylo-Rey connection held back from Jedi (Rey did make off with those sacred Jedi texts), but I’m not going to hold my breath.
At the moment there are only two theories I’m prepared to stick my neck out for – the good guys will win, and there’ll be another incarnation of the Death Star.