The Last Jedi But Not the Last Star Wars Movie

Caution: SPOILERS.

The Last Jedi was a lot of fun. The adventurous spirit of the Star Wars saga was maintained well; the movie was full of action sequences, lightsaber battles, and even some wisdom from the old Jedi Master Yoda. But those traits might have also been the movie’s downfall—it was an awful lot like every other Star Wars movie, which is what some critics have complained about. That didn’t really bother me.*

One of the hallmarks of the Star Wars series has always been the complexity of the relationships between the characters and how they affect the series. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker is reminiscent of the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi back in the first three episodes: we have a very angered young man, strong with the force, who feels a pull to the dark side, and a Jedi master who is powerless to stop him.

I also feel as though the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey could become similar to the one between Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Padmé/Queen Amidala. The “ship” of Kylo Ren and Rey is already pretty contentious among the fans because many are still convinced that the two are related by blood,** which would make a potential relationship incestuous. I’m a sucker for villains/bad boys, so I’m hoping that Kylo Ren and Rey end up in a relationship, and she is able to “turn him” to the light side as she predicts. However, other fans see this as a potentially abusive relationship and damaging to the movie’s image of the “strong woman.” That would be reminiscent of Anakin and Padmé because Anakin turned to the dark side, became Darth Vader, and even used the Force to choke Padmé while she was pregnant with Luke and Leia. (But was Padmé a “weaker” woman because of that? I don’t think so.)

Is there enough of the light side left in Kylo Ren that he can be changed? I think so. There’s still not enough explanation for why he turned to the dark side and became so angry, and his anger still seems more along the lines of teen angst/mood swings and not truly justified. Because his anger is so petulant, he may very well be able to turn to the light. He’s not as steeped in darkness as Anakin was, and in my mind, he doesn’t have a good enough motivation to keep toward the dark side, especially since his mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke, has been killed.

Some critics were complaining that the movie was essentially a left-wing spiel about left-wing values, like feminism and diversity, but I don’t agree (or at least, I don’t agree that this is something new). Females were always given powerful roles in the Star Wars series, and by virtue of being a space opera and taking place in planets all over the galaxy, the characters had to be diverse. It only makes sense. Star Wars characters have been diverse from the beginning of the saga.

Would I recommend the latest Star Wars? Absolutely. It is quite long (about 2.5 hours), but it doesn’t feel like it’s that long because it’s 100% pure fun from the first moment to the last.

*There is really nothing wrong with The Last Jedi being like every Star Wars movie because God knows, in real life, situations repeat themselves, humans make the same mistakes twice, and that lineage of error affects entire generations. I do hope that there is closure in the ninth episode in the saga (supposed to be coming out in December 2019) and that Kylo Ren turns to the light side simply as a reversal of what Anakin/Darth Vader did in the first three episodes. Reversals do happen in real life, too.

**I’m really hoping that they’re not blood relatives, but at the same time, I feel like Kylo Ren lied to Rey when he told her that her parents were “nobodies.” At least one of her parents has to be somebody important. She’s spent so much time wondering about her parentage that it seems weak to just leave it at “they were nobodies who sold you for drug  money.”

Nerd Novel of Nostalgia

SPOILER ALERT!

I had been hearing rave reviews about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, so I finally got the chance to read it this past week. It’s an interesting sci-fi mashup of 1980s pop culture, Ender’s Game, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and total nerdiness. The novel is set in 2045, and the world is basically a huge video game called the OASIS (which is like the Internet, Second Life, and World of Warcraft all rolled into one). When the creator of the OASIS died, he hid an Easter egg somewhere in the worlds of the OASIS, and the lucky person who finds the egg by completing a series of video game–like quests would win a fabulous prize. Our protagonist, Wade Watts (AKA Parzival), is only 17, but he’s been immersed in the OASIS all his life and made it his life’s mission to study the work and mind of the OASIS’s creator, his greatest role model. Wade would appear to be well positioned to win the egg if not for a gang of evil corporate drones that are out to kill him, win the egg for themselves, and use their newfound power to absorb the OASIS into their own company and use it for their own ends.

There was a lot to love about this book, especially if you grew up in the 80s and knew all the video game and pop culture references. I was clueless about most of them because I was born in the late 80s and can’t remember anything from that decade, but the book still grabbed my attention because of the meticulous detail the author put into it and the obvious love he had for his subject. (And the author did mention Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best anime series ever, and Quake, a 1996 video game and probably the Greatest First-Person Shooter of All Time.) I don’t typically read science fiction because I find the worlds difficult to get into and the scenarios hard to envision, but the world this author created was not much of a far cry from the world we live in today, so it was easy to become immersed in it. Because of that, the book’s pacing was very quick—it sucked you in and kept you interested all the way until the end.

A few dislikes: I didn’t care too much for the romantic subplot because I felt as though it didn’t add much. Wade falls in love with one of his competitors on the quest for the egg, a “girl” (well, her avatar is a girl) called Art3mis, having never met her in real life. The author had a wonderful opportunity to expound on the dangers of getting romantically involved with a person you know only on the Internet (or, in this case, the OASIS), but the romance totally worked out in the end and thus was boring and predictable. (I would’ve liked for Art3mis to secretly be part of the evil corporate entity out to destroy Wade.) But people are probably not going to read this book for the romance, so I guess that’s OK. The characters’ dialogue and banter sometimes seemed a little stilted or cheesy, but I suppose that was because it was the author’s first novel. There were several redundant phrases such as “yellow in color” or “and also” that bothered me because a good editor should have caught them.

If you’re looking for a few hours to kill with a fun, adventurous book and you love the Internet, the 80s, and/or video games, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of Ready Player One. (At some point in the near future, this is going to become a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which might be good if it isn’t destroyed by too much CGI.)

Mission: Find Luke

SPOILER WARNING!

You knew this was coming: the inevitable Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens post.

I didn’t expect to be impressed by the movie, but it was highly enjoyable and faithful to its predecessors. It was more than two hours long, but it felt like it moved much more quickly; slow moments were few and far between.

The lure of the Dark Side must be strong indeed for Han Solo and Leia’s son, Kylo Ren (AKA Ben Solo), to join and commit heinous deeds in an effort to become as powerful as his grandfather, Darth Vader. Even so, he came off more like a spoiled teenager with a bad attitude problem and anger issues than a villain to be taken seriously (not unlike young Anakin Skywalker). It was hard for me to believe that Rey, one of the main protagonists, could defeat Ren with powers of the Force that she had discovered only a few scenes prior.

The movie wrapped up nicely, but I was left with many questions that will have to wait for Episodes VIII and IX before they are answered. I was wondering about exactly why Kylo Ren’s obsession with Darth Vader started and why he chose to turn to the Dark Side. This was explained a little bit in the movie, but Ren struck me as such a weak antagonist that I wanted more explanation. I got the feeling that Rey, because she is so “strong with the Force” is somehow related by blood to the Skywalker family. I wasn’t sure who Maz Kanata was, but she seemed to play the same role as Yoda had in previous Star Wars movies: the old sage with knowledge of the Force. I hope she appears in future films.

In short, J.J. Abrams kept the series faithful to the universe that George Lucas had created, and he gave us several interesting characters to watch in future movies.