How Reality Poisoned the Myth and Killed The Last Jedi
I was one that enjoyed The Force Awakens. For me it in part recaptured the magic, enthusiasm and earnestness of the original trilogy. I could excuse the re-tread of A New Hope and the excessive jokes, and put aside my personal distaste for CGI characters. When Han and Chewie first entered the Falcon I experienced what I can only describe as the joy version of a kick in the guts. I would have been grinning from ear to ear had I not been exhaling so heavily. The Force Awakens was far from perfect, but for just over two hours I was a kid again. Perhaps this explains why I pushed aside the implications of the thread throughout the story. Luke Skywalker had disappeared. In truth I didn’t really question this decision until I watched The Last Jedi. Why Luke had isolated himself, and for so long, was the question put to Rian Johnson. It’s not an easy one to answer. I now believe it should never have been asked. But asked it was and, with respect to the director, answered in a way that completely went against the character developed so beautifully and classically in the original trilogy. Luke slipped in to the tent of a sleeping boy, his own nephew, to confirm his suspicions that the dark side had taken a hold on him. What he saw led Luke to consider murdering him where he lay. Only for a second, but that second cost him dear as Ben Solo overpowered him and destroyed his new Jedi order. And so Luke ran away. Backtrack to The Return of the Jedi. Luke can see the good in a murderer who is complicit in genocide. And wants to help him.
The Star Wars films are Mythology. Fairy Tales. This is not news. It only bears mentioning as, until The Last Jedi, this fact had never been ignored – or broken. The importance of Star Wars adhering to mythology can not be understated. It is at the core of why we hold these stories and the characters within so dear. Mythology is broad strokes. Not topical. The tales told remain relevant down through the ages for the lessons they hold and the archetypical characters. If at the time of creation they were to reflect the then-current state of affairs, they would soon lose all relevancy. There are more than enough films that commentate on the sad state of the world today. And more and more are reflecting the wonderful – if long overdue – movements that are taking place. Regardless, within the genre of science fiction this has long been the purview of Star Trek. The franchise does it and does it well. With subtlety. Not a sledgehammer.
Fairy Tales are for children. Put yourself in the mindset of a child and ask yourself if I’m a goody or a baddy. I go in to a tent at night and consider murdering a sleeping boy. The stuff of legend, for sure. Only I’m wearing a white hat. The original trilogy is beautiful in its simplicity. Heroes are heroes and villains are villains. White hats, black hats. Grey hats falter and land on a side or remain in the background. In his final act, Darth Vader redeems himself to a certain extent. Yet the conflict within would never have been realised if not for Luke’s dogged pursuit of the light that remained. After his final confrontation with his father, Luke lets go of the last of his anger. He looks the Devil in the face and throws down his sword. He had at last become a Jedi. He had surpassed Vader and Obi-wan. Neither in training nor power, but rather in spirit, will and heart. These characteristics hold true for the heroes of fairy tales. They are icons, people for children to look up to and strive to be like. That is what Luke was and should have remained. He had been through his trial by fire and come out the other side. He was, if you will, the ultimate white hat. He had proven himself incorruptible, a shining hero of myth and legend that rose from farm boy to white knight. People change as much as they stay the same. Over thirty odd years you would hope for growth. For a gaining of wisdom. Events shape us. If all that we’ve built is destroyed, it would surely have a devastating impact on our lives. We may even run away. A hero does not. Nor does he abandon his family and friends. And not for even one second does he consider murder. It is to this end that I believe that The Last Jedi has complete disregard for children and we once-children.
We live in a world that day to day becomes a little more cynical. The film industry’s response to this is to throw mud. Make it gritty. Make it dark. Make the characters brooding. To my surprise and joy this was mostly absent from The Force Awakens. And rightly so. After all, surely we can have black and white, white-hat-wearing heroes within a fairy tale. Not in The Last Jedi, it seems. Our white knight does not avoid the mud. He is coloured by today, tarnished by our cynicism. Reality. Our world traversing time and space to a galaxy far, far away and poisoning the myth. Star Wars is, or was, the last great mythology of modern times. It has breached the human psyche to such a degree that it is no longer the property of one man or one studio. It is all of ours. As such, the stories and characters should be guarded with more respect than to give a few individuals complete authority over them and something that means so much to so many. I am not suggesting scripts by committee or looking over the shoulder of directors. Just some guiding principles. Look to mythology. Let us escape this reality and its politics, if for only a few hours. Let us have our fairy tale. And let us have the uncomplicated heroes of our childhood.