Bonus Review: The Last Jedi

It’s impossible for me to be objective about Star Wars, if only because so many of my memories from childhood on are Star Wars-adjacent. My mom painting the face of my Boushh / Leia action figure because she thought that would make it look a little less cheap. My little brother puking in the car as soon as we parked to see the Empire Strikes Back re-release, and the selfish fury that 6-year-old me harbored for years because a 3-year-old who ate too many Doritos obviously made me miss Empire on purpose. Me lugging a trilogy of VHS tapes back and forth between court-ordered visitations with a father who might as well have been Darth Vader, but without the redemption arc.

I grew up with Star Wars — at this point, who didn’t? — and my love for Star Wars changed as I grew. First, a child’s introduction to a galaxy far, far away. Then, a pre-teen’s obsessive love for the prequels. Later, a teenager’s distance upon realizing that they weren’t very good. Now, an adult’s bittersweet joy as Star Wars finds its balance once more.

Star Wars has always been there for me. It is the mythology I cling to, the story I’ve returned to more than any other for comfort and escape and hope. Above all else, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi knows this, and it knows why.

Rian Johnson has done something incredible with the middle chapter of the new trilogy, blowing J.J. Abrams’ extremely literal redux of A New Hope out of the sky. As both writer and director, Johnson found the exact balance of new and familiar that was missing from The Force Awakens and made every single version of me, from rapt and bratty child to world-weary adult, feel like I was home.

So, how can I write a review of this movie that is “objective”? How can I possibly review it at all? Everything about it triggers an emotional response, and apparently I’ve reached the age when every time I feel anything, I just start crying. (Alternatively, this might just be a quality I inherited from my grandpa — which, upon consideration, is definitely preferable over the traits Kylo Ren inherited from his.)

I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that I’ve never considered “objective” synonymous with “critical.” I can point to The Last Jedi’s flaws if you really wish. For instance, it’s probably a little too long for some people. And there’s at least one jarring movement of a character from one location to another where you can feel the seams of a deleted sequence. Some dialogue is a little too on-the-nose, verging on the cheesy side.

But honestly? I just don’t care.

I don’t care because Rey stands her ground when friends and enemies alike tell her to move out of their way, and because she is brave even when she’s alone. I don’t care because Finn, Poe and the new character Rose all learn the price of being heroes, and they keep fighting anyway. I don’t care because the conflict in Kylo Ren is so real — he is me, after all, if I had never chosen to accept the betrayals of my youth and rise above them. I don’t care because Luke Skywalker, the greatest and last Jedi, is a failure, but his failure doesn’t make him any less of a legend.

I don’t care because Carrie Fisher may be gone, but she gave us a gift before she left.

There is no Star Wars movie like this particular Star Wars movie. I don’t think there will be again until we see whatever Johnson’s brand-new trilogy, divorced from the Skywalker Saga, will give us. The Last Jedi is so wonderful on every level that I left feeling … complete. Like if this were the last Star Wars movie, I wouldn’t be upset. When is the last time you could say that for the penultimate chapter of anything, let alone an ongoing story of a family and its struggles, writ large across the galaxy?

All this and so much more encompasses why I can’t write about The Last Jedi like I normally write about movies. I can’t separate the parts of me that have lived and breathed Star Wars for 27 years from the rest. And anyway, why should I? I loved this movie. I want to explain why, but I can’t — or, more accurately, I won’t. Words are inadequate, spoilers unhelpful. To feel what I felt watching The Last Jedi, you have to see it, too.

So what are you waiting for? Into the garbage chute, flyboys and girls and persons in between. Your heroes await.

Aly Caviness is an administrator of Midwest Film Journal, possible witch, and lifelong film obsessive. Through Lynch, her grandmother taught her how to spot “The Girl,” and through Frankenstein, her grandfather taught her how to love in spite of fear. She blames Jack Sparrow for her MA in colonial Atlantic history and Guy Pearce for her marriage. By day, she works and writes in the Archives & Library at the Indiana Historical Society, which possesses such artifacts from Hoosier film history as James Dean’s high school yearbooks and posters from the 1997 classic, “George of the Jungle.” By night, she mostly cries about Laura Palmer.

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