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Cinema in Focus: ‘Star Wars - The Last Jedi’

3 Stars — Powerful

When George Lucas created the Star Wars universe, he made a masterpiece. Although the films are admittedly uneven and created out of order, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Episode VIII, is one of the best.

Joining Lucas in writing the episode, Rian Johnson directed this worthy addition to the series.

Having introduced Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Episode VII, The Force Awakens, she continues her journey to both understand who she is and why she has unique abilities with the Force. Sent by Gen. Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to an isolated island to enlist the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the end of VII, this episode now explains the enigmatic scene of the their meeting and what Luke is doing there.

Also returning to this episode is Finn (John Boyega), the former Stormtrooper who in the previous episode left the evil empire to join the Resistance.

The battle between good and evil, the dark and light side of the force, continues in full. Explaining what most of us realized from the first film in 1977, that the Jedi are as much priests of a religion as warriors, the implication that the religion is dying with Luke raises a deeper message. If the light is extinguished and hope disappears from the universe, then evil wins.

The wannabe sith lord, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who created a mask similar to his grandfather Darth Vader’s, continues to fail in pleasing the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Although Vader needed the mask after his severe injuries, Ren is clearly trying to mask his insecurities.

In this episode, however, Ren develops in several complex ways and creates a relationship with Rey that is in some ways manipulated by Snoke. Where he is like his grandfather is in his will to power. This continues to be a major familial conflict that is part of the story being told.

There are others in this tale who play major parts, but the power resides in the simplicity of the battle of good and evil. The genius resides in the fact that this battle is not just between the evil empire and the good resistance, but also within each individual’s heart and soul.

This inward struggle is seen most within Ren and his murderous use of the force, but also in Finn’s love interest, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), when she saves his life explaining that “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”

In many ways that is the underlying belief of this cinematic universe and of ours as well.

Discussion

» When Ren set himself free from the evil of Snoke, what did you expect him to do, stay with evil or turn to the light? Were you pleased or disappointed in what he chose?

» The self-loathing and depression that drove Luke into isolation reveals a lack of understanding about the true nature of the struggle with evil, so when Yoda came and explained that his failure was his teacher he begins his return. What have you learned from your failures?

» The next episode is set to continue the conflict between Rey and Ren. How do you think their struggle will end?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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