A phone conversation with Leo before I could see the movie:
“It is not what SW fans expect
It is doing/starting something else
It is about transmission and the relationships between generations”
A comment by a friend:
“It is amazingly good”
I was prepared—for the best
And I got the best
A work (indeed) centered on dilemmas, inner conflicts/tensions, and choices.
Treating the viewer to the visual wonder of the original space operatic dimension
While performing very bold cultural work in our troubled times.
Reasserting the shared magic of storytelling
And power of archetypal story lines:
Situating oneself in a legacy/appropriating the lessons of the past and moving beyond
Birth/origin and the question of identity
The common good/the collective versus individual self-promotion
Revisiting notions of heroism, on screen and beyond
Hope/ “the spark” and resilience: “if you only believe in the sun when you see it, then…”
Resisting inner forces/urges, and coming to terms with adversity
Cowardice in the face of danger: the Resistance sends calls for help, no one comes to the rescue
Yielding to fear and intimidation
Choose a master narrative or writing your own
Who are my parents? Where do I come from? Why did they abandon me?
Rey’s burden and wound, Rey’s vulnerability. Her tragic flaw.
The question of self-worth: where do you find it? What do you derive it from?
From your lineage and ancestry, or your own deeds?
Ben to Rey: “You come from nothing. You are nothing”.
How do you respond? Where do you (re)start?
In her quest for lost parents, Rey only finds her own image
Our search for identity and filiations brings us back to ourselves, in the end.
Who we want to be. Who we can be. Even become.
Inheriting a tradition/situating yourself within it.
Believing in yourself/in the Force within (stronger than the Force outside)
The tradition/books/words given and betrayed.
And what you do with them:
The true legacy is in the spirit.
Letting go of the past and yet retaining some allegiance to it.
Forms of belonging to be invented and imagined. Beyond loss and indictments.
The glamour of heroism versus silent sacrifice: Poe
To surrender one’s ego for the collective good: Holdo, Leia and Luke
Trio to be opposed to Snoke, Kylo Ren and the rogue merchant.
Sacrificial figures teaching Poe the true definition of heroism
Rose to Finn: “we won’t win this war by fighting our enemy but by saving what we love”
Luke and his sense of failure as a teacher: some of his students have gone over “to the other side”
As a result, he is tempted to destroy his creation in what we can call a Frankenstein moment/conflict
He decides not to act out on his anger
Yet Ben Solo feels betrayed: the student now resents the master.
His original wound?
A legacy of guilt and bitterness inspires Luke’s desire to withdraw.
But, like young Poe, he learns to move beyond individual pride and hubris for the collective good.
Teachers and students are truly bound through their ability to learn
Ben Solo/ Kylo Ren: the ambivalence of human nature.
He has killed his father, breaking the tie to his name/severing the family line.
Yet he cannot bring himself to killing his mother.
The fight Rey/Kylo Ren: she is the mirror image of what he would like to/could still be.
Her resistance/His resistance
He realizes that he has been instrumentalized by Snoke
Their interests are momentarily aligned
They kill Snoke.
Yet their motivations are radically different. Some things differ in radical ways.
Good and evil. Truth and truthiness. And other contemporary pairs.
Appropriating power for his own achievement and progress
He looks to subdue Rey (and the Force she represents) by tempting her with appropriating the world for his (their) own dominion.
A puzzling yet insisting image looms up: siblings competing for lineage…
An urgent question arises too:
Who is the true descendant of the family dynasty?
What is the true nature of their bond?
The Space opera: the epic conflict between opposed forces at work and play
Space: 3-D ballet of interstellar confrontations, the mesmerizing choreography of spatial drifting.
Opera: a new cosmogony, beautiful lines and arias
Returning characters (Master Yoda), props (the dice, the war machines, the original robots) and moments (lifting rocks)
New uncanny protagonists that trigger enchantment and tickle the imagination
The crystal foxes
The owl-looking porgs
The different robots
The caretakers of the island
Sketches of our nightmares, or of our dreams?
The movie proceeds by subtle allusions and suggestions, like sketches on a canvas. It bodies both different motifs without exhausting them. Leaving room for the viewer’s imagination:
Welcome humorous (yet meaningful) moments such as Chewie’s dinner scene. He cannot escape the imploring gaze of the fellow porgs; he cannot erase the fact that behind the roasted meat he is about to enjoy, there IS a creature.
Indirect if powerful plea for the environment?
An Earth Day moment?
And an almost inconspicuous yet highly significant AI suggestion:
BB-8 can drive the machine on its own! Finn and Rose’s amazement voices our surprise at getting the full measure of the enhanced technological achievement and upcoming superiority of the Machine.
The film is also pervaded by the defining issues of our times:
-The weaponization of society and merchandising of weapons as a major source of wealth for a few
Weapons sold to both sides of the conflict without any particular loyalty or idealism. The dazzling glitter of money laundering as emblematized in the Canto Casino.
Yet Rose’s warning to Finn “Look closer” sounds like an oracle.
– A second look discloses child labor and the abuse of the horses competing in ruthless races.
The underpinnings of this fun-loving and party-going world are disclosed
-Cryptography and hackers
The character of the thief who has no moral standards, who sells out to the best offer. No sense of loyalty to any particular cause. His actions are driven only by the money-making business. To a certain extent, he comes to embody the real dark side—trapped in the material logic (and addiction) of greed without any notion of a quest.
-Fuel (and resources) running out
-Sophisticated tracking: “They have done it” (even at light speed): unbelievable (technological and other) breakthroughs beyond current imaginings. For better and worse.
What we see on screen: a (the?) child gazing into the sky, witnessing the amazing force of light.
Inheriting power from Luke?
A nod, perhaps, to another child—Cormac McCarthy’s protagonist in The Road
The shooting star: the vanishing of Luke’s spirit from his human body to inhabit another realm? The passing on of the legacy of resistance?
What we don’t hear or see:
(but keep wondering about, following the lead of the dice as a figure of twinhood)
Is Rey … Ben’s twin sister?
A sequel (definitely) needed…