Walking the Star Wars Tight Rope Or: Balance in The Last Jedi


There is always a constant shift toward balance in all things, as well as a consistent force pulling things one way or the other.

Is he quoting himself right now? Why, yes, yes I am. And, sure, maybe it’s a little egocentric of me, but coming up with that sentence for the podcast was the impetus behind this whole post, so it seems appropriate. Anyway, there are several different themes and interpretations one can take away from The Last Jedi, but what struck me upon my first viewing and has stuck with me ever since is, as I mentioned, a desire for homeostasis coupled with an inability to ever truly get there. What does this mean? Maybe lots of things, maybe nothing. What’s it mean to you, though? Ah, good question – you’ll have to keep reading to find out…

FYI:  There are most definitely major spoilers for The Last Jedi from this point forward, so, if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read any further – you have been warned…

Darkness Rises, and light to meet it…
DNmpBdNUIAAIUd8The obvious balance point in The Last Jedi, and a recurring theme throughout much of Star Wars in general, is balance in the Force. The idea came about in the prequels with the prophecy of the Chosen One, and then permeated the rest of canon before coming back to the forefront on the silver screen in Episode VIII. Anakin brings balance to the Force by destroying the long-standing, massively light-leaning Jedi, only to have that balance undone by his own hand when he turns away from the dark to save his son; however, the light was once again tipping the scales, so Snoke rose from the unknown regions to tempt Ben Solo and skew things back toward darkness. After the Force awakens Rey to give the light a new hope, The Last Jedi comes around and puts things right back into balance by killing off Snoke and having the legend himself, Luke Skywalker, become one with the Force. But wait! Didn’t we see Leia use the Force in a spectacular way? Doesn’t that make her a Force-user, thus giving the light the edge in the balance? Well, maybe, but I don’t see it that way – Leia is clearly strong in the Force, but I feel like she’s more of a conduit than a wielder of either side. I think of her as a “neutral” Force user (no, not a grey Jedi, calm down). To draw a comparison with another major Force balance point in Star Wars:  Leia is the father (or, you know, mother), Kylo Ren is the son, Rey is the daughter. So, if we’re balanced now, what happens next? Well, I think we’re going to see Snoke’s quote become prophetic:  Kylo will find and train his own dark adepts (or, maybe he’ll just remember that the Knights of Ren are a thing and use them), causing darkness to rise, and Rey will find broom boy and others to train, with the help of Force ghost Luke, bringing light to meet it. Then, in Episode IX, one side (probably light) will prevail, thus ensuring the cycle will have to inevitably start over again at some point further down the timeline…

Dead heroes, no leaders.
DMenLgsUMAAOX6BAnother balance point in The Last Jedi pivots around the character development of Poe Dameron. The movie starts with him in his element as we know him:  a hot shot pilot in his X-wing doing heroic, hot shot pilot things. At this point, as far as Poe can tell, that’s all he ever needs to do. As long as he can be the best, most heroic pilot, always ready to jump into an X-wing and blow something up, he’s doing everything right. We find out, however, that isn’t the case. Poe’s insubordination gets him demoted, putting Vice Admiral Holdo in charge in Leia’s absence when he thinks it should be him (you know that’s what they’re trying to convey when the camera is on him when the announcement is made, c’mon). With his hero-knows-best mentality, he goes along with a one-in-a-million plan concocted by his deserter friend and a mechanic, and ends up doing more damage than good. His demotion taught him nothing, but the massive failure of the plan he mutinied to accomplish, along with the heroic sacrifice of Holdo after doing everything she could, logically, to prevent loss of life, did. Once on the surface of Crait, Poe learns the balance between being heroic, and being a leader. It will be interesting to see how his character grows from this new balance going forward. (As a side note, I think the Poe Dameron comics do some of the best work fleshing out Poe’s character, especially as it pertains to this balance and his relationship with General Organa. If you’re ever looking for an entry point into the new expanded universe, you could certainly do much worse.)

Don’t Join
dj-star-wars-the-last-jediWhile some critics have been harsh on the movie from start to finish, the Canto Bight scenes seem to be taking a disparate brunt of the negativity. To quote Rose, “look closer.” In my opinion, the lavish, high stakes city, and especially its snoozing thief, “DJ,” were the epitome of balance in the galaxy. On one side of the galactic conflict are the vengeful, ex-Imperial zealots of the First Order, on the other are the rebellious members of the resilient Resistance; in the middle, reveling in whatever happens on either side, are the rich, way upper-class that profit regardless of how the confrontations play out. They win, no matter what. That’s balance. And, just in case that doesn’t hit the nail on the head for you, we get the incredible character of “DJ” to further drive the point home. I mean, his name is literally an acronym for “don’t join.” How do you embody balance in the galaxy? You don’t join either side. You play to win, whatever it takes. But wait, Bryan, “DJ” is a bad guy! No, no he’s not. In fact, he shows that he can be considerate and empathetic when he gives Rose back her precious necklace, but, when the cards are on the table and it’s his life or the cause, he picks his life; he doesn’t join. That’s not necessarily “bad,” that’s indifferent; that’s the middle; that’s balance. (Another side note, I think to really appreciate the opulence and splendor of Canto Bight, you have to have visited Las Vegas. Or, if that kind of depraved adult entertainment isn’t your thing, think of it as Disneyland for super rich adults with a less-than-wholesome idea of fun and excitement.)

Old & New
Empire_strikes_back_oldOutside of the in-universe examples of balance in The Last Jedi, there exists a balance point between the old Star Wars films and the new sequel trilogy. I think it’s safe to say, whether you interpret it as a good or bad thing, The Force Awakens was a fairly safe movie that relied heavily on the nostalgia of the original trilogy, specifically A New Hope. On the other hand, The Last Jedi has some saying that it treads so far from what we know of Star Wars that it should be stricken from the annuls of canon. As with the stories Rey hears from Luke and Kylo Ren, the truth about Episode VIII lies somewhere in between. If, to once again quote Rose, you “look closer,” you’ll see that there were several callbacks to the original trilogy in The Last Jedi, they just “didn’t go the way you think.” I’m not going to go over every little detail, but a few examples are as follows:  instead of finishing her training with Luke, Rey leaves early because of a vision she’s seen clearly in the Force, while in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke leaves his training with Yoda early because he sees a premonition through the Force that his friends are in trouble; also in ESB, Luke ventures into a cave seeped in the dark side and sees himself in his enemy, likewise, Rey seeks out the dark place on Ahch-To only to find that her identity is tied to herself, not her parents; and, just like Darth Vader does with Luke in Return of the Jedi, Kylo Ren cuffs Rey and brings her to his dark master, Snoke, when she, essentially, turns herself in. So, you see, even though it may feel like The Last Jedi is a huge departure from everything you know and love about Star Wars, it’s really often running parallel to the stories you’re familiar with, it just goes perpendicular at certain junctures to keep the story from becoming stale and uninteresting.

While these aren’t the only notions of balance throughout the movie, these are the main points that spoke to me. So, what do you think? Are you now convinced that The Last Jedi is ultimately about balance, or do you think I’m off my nut and you’re not even sure I watched the same movie you did? Did you pick up on other balance points, or are you struggling to even consider the ones I’ve laid out? Take some time to pour over the film from my point of view (maybe watch it again – I know I’m going to), and see what you come up with…or, you know, don’t, that’s fine too. Regardless of whether or not you enjoyed the film, I’d like to hear what you have to say, so leave a comment below and we’ll get the discussion going…or, again, don’t, that’s still fine. Do what you’d like, don’t join, be the balance. Whatever course of action you take, though, may the Force be with you…


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