It’s fair to say that Star Wars: The Last Jedi didn’t take the easy route when crafting its plot, with writer/director Rian Johnson’s new space opera brushing all sorts of fans up the wrong way.
Whether it was the movie’s focus on the reality of failure or its notable lack of badass back-flipping Luke Skywalker lightsaber battles and/or in-depth discussions of Supreme Leader Snoke’s back story (preferably pre-annotated for ease of transcription to reddit), some lifelong Star Wars viewers left the cinema colder than a winter night on Hoth, and made their displeasure known all over the internet.
**WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI TO FOLLOW**
Still, perhaps the most controversial part of the film came in the revelation of Rey’s parentage. Daisy Ridley’s wannabe Jedi – and the fans who had spent years feverishly speculating about her origins – finally learned the truth about her parents, a couple of random drunks who sold Rey on Jakku for more beer money. Inspiration to us all this Dry January.
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“They were filthy junk traders,” Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren tells Rey in the new movie. “Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing. But not to me.”
“The easy thing would be, ‘Yes, your parents are so and so and here’s your place in the world. There you go.’” director Johnson told the Huffington Post.
“The hardest thing she could hear would be […] ‘No, you’re not going to get the answer. This is not going to define you. You’re going to have to find your own place in this world. Kylo is going to use that even as leverage to try and make you feel insecure, and you’re going to have to stand on your own two feet.’”
For me, Rey’s reveal was more dramatically satisfying than her turning out to be a secret Kenobi or Darth Plagueis’ niece, and the twist seemed to speak to a general theme of The Last Jedi: that heroes can come from anywhere (typified by the film’s final shot of a young stableboy becoming inspired by the story of Luke Skywalker).
I loved it – which is why I’ve been dismayed by recent news stories that suggest The Last Jedi might not be the final say on the whole ‘Rey’s parents’ mystery.
For weeks, many fans have put forward the idea that Kylo just lied to Rey for psychological advantage. Now Johnson himself seems to have suggested the next film in the cycle could undo what we’ve seen so far.
“Anything’s still open, and I’m not writing the next film. [J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio] are doing it,” he said.
“With all of these movies, Obi-Wan’s whole speech about a certain point of view always applies, so I think that you have to always think about the context of how information is given.”
Now, I’m sure this is just Johnson idly talking around a topic without actually suggesting such a reworking is really on the cards, but clearly it’s not out of the question that Episode IX will reveal that Rey has some significant back story after all. And like Anakin Skywalker with sand, I’m finding the very possibility rough, coarse and irritating.
Cast your mind back to the poorly-rendered days of 1999, when prequel The Phantom Menace introduced a concept still likely to make any Star Wars fans’ blood boil – Midi-Chlorians.
Without getting too Wookiepedia-like, these were microscopic and intelligent life forms that lived symbiotically in the blood of all living beings, with those who possessed a higher Midi-Chlorian count more able to tap into the Force that connects all beings (and, you know, do cool jumps and move stuff around with their minds and whatnot).
Fans hated the whole thing, partly because it took the previously-mysterious and otherworldly idea of a mystical power binding us all and turned it into a kind of sci-fi STD, but mainly because it put the power of the Force into the hands of the few.
No longer could anyone be a Jedi as long as they were dedicated enough – you had to be genetically predisposed to it. While this didn’t technically change anything (Luke was always strong with the Force – does it matter if it was a matter of biology?) it gave the previously egalitarian world of Star Wars an unpleasant, elitist sheen.
Now we return to The Last Jedi, which resets the dial.
“No, ANYONE can be a Jedi,” it seems to say, with Mark Hamill’s Luke pointing out in one scene that the Force is a part of all living things, not just the province of a privileged few.
Rey’s central role in the trilogy made audiences think she had to be a Skywalker, or a Solo, or at least a lesser Palpatine, but instead she’s a nobody, just some kid who dreamed of the stars and making a difference.
Of course, some fans are already complaining that this is a “plot hole”, with one person I saw online complaining that Rey’s relatively advanced abilities meant she HAD to have had some sort of “Force lineage” (horrible phrase) like Anakin and Luke Skywalker (Anakin conceived by the Force, Luke by the already-powerful Anakin) to explain her power.
But really, it makes perfect sense. Powerful Jedi and Sith we’ve met in the film series like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu and Count Dooku didn’t have significant parentage, while Frank Oz’s Yoda (largely presented as the most powerful Jedi after Anakin Skywalker) hasn’t even had his species officially confirmed.
Just because we had one amazing ancestry reveal in 1980 (“No….I am your father”) doesn’t mean everyone in the galaxy has to be related. If anything, that cheapens the imagination and scope of the Star Wars universe, making it more soap opera than space opera.
I just hope that in Episode IX, JJ Abrams and his team resist the pull of the Dark Side, stick to their plasma cannons and keep Rey’s parents as insignificant nobodies. We’ve had enough family drama in Star Wars – it’s time to open it up to everyone.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now