Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, and plan to, this article provides an abundance of information about the movie, which you may or may not want to have in advance.
The Last Jedi is a fantastic movie and a great addition to the Star Wars franchise. It’s wonderfully entertaining storyline and visual effects are complimented nicely by the rich character developments; and, as with any well-told story, personal interpretations abound.
There’s the not so subtle message throughout the movie that women are capable leaders, and men sometimes need to be helped, corrected or even held accountable for their shortcomings – a politically charged and timely message when you consider all of the sexual harassment claims against powerful men that have come out in the news this past year. There’s also the nuanced moral message that sacrificing your life for a greater cause is not necessarily a noble act; also a timely message given what is happening in the world with religious extremists and terrorism-related suicides. And, for all of the Stars Wars movies, the notion of “the force” could arguably be equated with a Divine Power or God with the “dark side” and “the light” representing both the evil and good in life and within one’s self.
Star Wars has also always done a great job of exploring the emotional conflicts of its main characters and the ways in which those conflicts impact their lives and the lives of others. For example, we all know that Darth Vadar is a bad guy to be feared, but we also know his back-story and this makes him somewhat of a sympathetic character — his tortured guilt over his mother’s death, his fragile sense of self in relation to important others that followed, his compensatory hunger for power and the ways in which the Chancellor capitalized off of his emotional vulnerabilities to turn him to the dark side, and his end of life conflicting choice to take over the galaxy or love his son.
In The Last Jedi, Leia and the Resistance are tasked to defeat the Supreme Leader Snoke and his evil henchmen and army in order to restore balance to the galaxy, but the omnipresent message (and arguably the main point of the movie) has more to do with self-improvement, in my opinion. More specifically, several of the movie’s main characters, due to circumstances beyond their control, are forced to make important changes within themselves toward becoming more complete or whole.
There’s Rey, the female Jedi whose latent Force sensing awareness develops while being juxtaposed alongside her personal insecurities; not knowing her parents or family lineage has left a deep hole in her heart that she turns to others (e.g., Luke and the Resistance and later Kylo Ren) to fill. She, however, ultimately learns that the greater sense of belonging, purpose and love she yearned for so badly and for so long was always within her.
There’s Luke Skywalker, the once great Jedi Master. But in The Last Jedi, he becomes emotionally crippled by his guilt over Kylo Ren’s uprising and the destruction of his new group of young Jedi trainees under his tutelage – having a hard life compounded with many struggles and losses probably just added to his disillusionment and defeat. Luke subsequently goes into exile for years as a misguided solution before being found by Rey. His relationship with Rey, albeit a forced one, compels him to face the emotional conflicts that he initially chose to run from. Through Rey, Luke opens his heart and mind to the force and the light again to help the Resistance and to eventually achieve inner peace.
There’s Finn, whose psychology is also about running from the things he fears most. In The Last Jedi, Finn attempts to flee his people vis a vis an escape pod when he fears that the First Order is close to destroying the ship he’s on. In The Force Awakens, where we are first introduced to Finn, he flees The First Order as a Stormtrooper, and later in that movie he flees his new friends at the bar on Mos Eisely when he fears that the First Order is closing in on his position. It’s only through his chance encounter with Rose Tico at the space pod in the most recent movie that steels him to fully face – and work through – his fears and to remain committed to his cause. By the end of the movie, Fin becomes a stronger and better man, and he even goes on to fight and beat Captain Phasma.
There’s Commander Poe Dameron, whose toxic masculinity gets people killed, leads to a mutiny (and a rogue side mission) and to holding commanding officers of the Resistance at gunpoint. Poe eventually learns the valuable lesson, through the firm and clarifying insights and direction of his superiors, Admiral Leia Organa and Vice Admiral Holdo, that true leadership and success relies more on working together as a team than alone in accomplishing the shared vision of the Resistance. Admiral Leia finally allows Poe to lead the Resistance to safety at the end of the movie, but only after he achieves the insight and self-awareness he needs to change.
There’s Rose Tico, who’s forced in the movie to grieve the sudden and tragic loss of her sister while remaining on duty at her station for the Resistance. She could’ve easily turned inward and become depressed, but instead, she pushes through and remains committed to the cause of the Resistance; and, she finds strength and renewed purpose in her new relationship with Finn.
Then there’s you. Okay, okay so you’re hopefully not being hunted down by the Supreme Leader Snoke or Kylo Ren or General Hux and the First Order army for that matter. But there may be some very specific ways in which you think, feel or behave that have interfered, and continue to interfere, with your happiness and wellbeing – or the happiness and wellbeing of others? Maybe you’d like to cut down on your alcohol intake or stop drinking alcohol altogether. Maybe you’d like to lose weight and live a more active and healthy lifestyle. Maybe you’d like to achieve a better work-life balance. Whatever goal you choose to take on, remember that if change were easy, there would be few to any problems in the world. To the contrary, change is difficult – and it’s usually also a process and not a moment, so be patient with yourself as you work through your emotional conflicts and toward your goals. As Master Yoda says in the movie, “The greatest teacher, failure is.”
Another important lesson to be learned from The Last Jedi is that change isn’t typically a solo undertaking. Just like Rey improved in relation to Luke (and vice versa), Finn in relation to Rose, and Commander Poe in relation to his superiors, your personal improvements for 2018 will also be more meaningful and sustainable if you allow yourself to rely on the important others in your life. Having a plan for change is good, but having a support system is essential.
May the force be with you…