The other day I watched The Last Jedi (mainly because I wanted to see the Praetorian Guard part again) and as I was watching the movie I realized that while the movie, of course, focused on every character the overall heart and soul of the film was provided by Kylo Ren. Rian Johnson has said many times that Kylo Ren was the character he was most excited to tackle and you can totally tell. He provided a compelling storyline to the Star Wars villain that helped incorporate him into the trilogy in a fascinating way while most of the other characters weren’t treated with as much care and attention. And I love that!
When J.J Abrams introduced this new villain in Kylo Ren I liked him but he ultimately felt too much like a ripoff of Darth Vader’s iconic character. He needed a little more substance and identity so that I could look at him and not immediately see this Darth Vader-wannabe. His best scenes in The Force Awakens were the scenes that involved him without his helmet because not only did we get to see him as his true self but Adam Driver is such a fantastic actor that you want to see his face and his emotions when he’s experiencing things. Rian Johnson knew this so he had Kylo Ren destroy his helmet within his first five minutes in The Last Jedi. Brilliant! That was the first step to his ultimate transformation and a sign that this movie was going to approach this character much differently.
Secondly, we got a truly heartfelt final moment between Ben Solo and his mother, Leia Organa. That was another important scene in the film that helped spur the story along in a rather epic fashion and created some empathy for his character.
Then we get the various Force connections between Kylo Ren and Rey. Each Force connection is shown from Rey’s perspective but they aren’t really evolving her character. Those connections are slowly shifting the way we see Kylo Ren and craftily shining a new light on the “villain” as he confesses to her dark secrets that have haunted him for years and provided new insights to his character. By the last Force connection between them on Ahch-To when they touch hands we don’t think of Kylo Ren as the murderous villain that he was at the end of The Force Awakens but instead, as this victimized man who’s looking for a bit of understanding.
The next sequence of the story, once again, doesn’t revolve around Rey but rather Kylo as he prepares to kill Snoke to save her and begin a new galactic order with him and her at its helm. And he does manage to commit the treasonous act but not without its repercussions as Rey doesn’t end up joining him like he had envisioned. Now the movie shifts into a darker side of Kylo Ren and once again we are made to despise him as he turns on the villainous path once more.
The final sequence of The Last Jedi heavily focuses on the Resistance’s last stand on Crait but this is all wrapped around Kylo Ren bringing about this destructive ending to his mother’s rebellious faction. Even when Luke appears to save the day the film focuses more on Kylo’s hatred and inability to see what was really taking place as he confronted his old Jedi Master while everything else with the other major characters was happening around him. Even in the final scene that he shares with Rey in the film, it’s focused more on his feelings at that moment and the end of his journey throughout the movie. Not Rey.
You see, Rey had a legitimate storyline in The Force Awakens that involved a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end. In The Last Jedi, while the movie did try to focus on her character’s evolution, it honestly, to me, feels like she’s in the same position at the end of the movie that she was at the end of The Force Awakens. The only difference was that by the end of The Last Jedi we know who her parents are. That’s the only blaring evolution of Rey through The Last Jedi.
Kylo Ren, however, is definitely not the same man that he was at the end of The Force Awakens and the way he’s left at the end of The Last Jedi is leading, on a somber note, into Episode IX. And that’s why this movie is not at all as good or well-written as The Empire Strikes Back.
The Empire Strikes Back focused on each character’s stories equally and by the end of the movie it feels like every one of the characters has been on an emotional journey that perfectly leads into Return of the Jedi.
Even the marketing for The Last Jedi was red, red, red and while that was because the film was sticking to the theme of Crait the color red in Star Wars also symbolizes the Dark Side. So that’s even more proof that this movie was basically designed for Kylo Ren and I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I LOVE it and that’s why I’m SO excited to see Kylo Ren return in Episode IX. But here’s a question. If The Force Awakens was basically Rey’s movie and The Last Jedi was Kylo Ren’s film then will Episode IX be Finn’s movie? I’ll have to wait and see. (I hope so.) 🙂
I thank you for reading and I hope you have a fantastic day. May the Force be with you.