The Last Jedi: We can see ourselves in the radical politics of Star Wars
December 14, 2017 14:01:01
Luke Skywalker: Trying to bring down the two-party system. (Supplied: Lucasfilm)
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The Last Jedi might be the most 2017 film of the year.
Let me explain. Star Wars has always been a fascinating reflection of politics in the real world. When I was seven and first saw Star Wars, even I picked up on the fact that there was something hinky with the guy in the mask chasing down a princess. Weren't princesses royalty?
Couldn't she just have him … you know … expelled from her ship with a wave of her hand?
The Star Wars universe is ostensibly one beset by fascism, and depicts a small group of people whose moral outrage has evolved into rebellious guerilla warfare.
The Rebel Alliance are a driven, defiant pocket of the galaxy who refuse to submit to a lightning-spewing emperor, because this is a democracy, dammit!
Or, rather, it was. Because while the prequels were the cinematic equivalent of stepping in warm daschund poop on your morning walk, they did one thing well — they depicted a society grown so stale and complacent that they could democratically elect a monster into power.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi official trailer
Too comfortable to see disaster coming
I despise that Lucas painted the Jedi as a sprawling, dispassionate group with their heads so far up their arses that they couldn't see what was coming.
They should have been a group of noble, kind, penniless ronin, or monastic knights of the round table.
But I love that people grew so comfortable that they let their own demise smother them with niceties.
I like it because it's accurate — we let politicians, even the downright evil ones, sweet-talk us into oblivion.
And sure, Donald Trump has never cackled during a senate hearing while screaming UNLIMITED … POWER! But be honest. You're imagining it now, and it doesn't seem entirely out of character, does it?
The original trilogy depicted the last-ditch efforts of the rebels to take down the empire before they started euthanising planets.
If there's one thing that has become more and more apparent, especially over the past year, it's that protesting an evil action being undertaken by a democratically elected government is healthy, and right.
It's like antibodies attacking an infection: it gets messy and phlegmy, but if it works, it stops the whole thing dying.
Does The Last Jedi reflect us?
Kylo Ren: Another former Jedi seduced by the dark side. (IMDb: Lucasfilm)
So what about The Last Jedi? Is it, too, politically prescient?
The Last Jedi presents an assertion, albeit clumsily, that I've felt since I saw the prequels — that Jedi and Sith are problematic and need to end.
Sure, it's about the son of Han and Leia, Kylo Ren, being the apple that fell very far from the tree.
But at its heart, it's about Luke (played beautifully by Mark Hamill) insisting the age of the Jedi is over.
He rejects a binary, two-party system because it has bred a never-ending conflict. Sound familiar?
And you know what? He's right.
The almost eternal galactic conflict driven by Jedi and Sith, locking horns, is also about as close to an allegory for church and state as you can get.
The Jedi don't seek to rule and aren't evil at all, but just like with religion, they're used to prop up existing power structures.
And when people in power decide they have a mystical impetus to steer the fate of people, things get very bad very quickly.
Luke is in exile after his student wiped out his academy, and when Rey (the wonderful Daisy Ridley) arrives asking for him to teach her the ways of the force and help the resistance fight off the first order, he says no.
And who can blame him? End the cycle, I say. I won't go into spoilers, but other characters raise the same idea: tear it down. It doesn't work. We keep going back and forth like this, and there's not going to be anyone to rule.
Leia knew evil wasn't defeated
Princess Leia: doesn't believe evil is gone for a second. (Supplied: Lucasfilm)
The head of the resistance, Leia (played by Carrie Fisher superbly in her final role), has seen all of this before.
Interestingly, between Return of the Jedi and the new trilogy, Leia helped cobble back together a functional galactic government and to put democracy and peace back on the board.
But she also had the wherewithal to not assume that evil had sodded off permanently, and so she kept a pilot light burning in the form of the resistance. The bad guys will never come back, people claimed.
She knew better. Watching her being pissed off but ultimately correct in her assumptions in The Last Jedi is edifying, true, but tragic.
The Star Wars movie 2017 deserves
Despite how overlong and at times messy The Last Jedi is, and despite how many plot points are confusing and fumbled, it's probably the most politically apt film in the series.
It's about bad guys who were defeated long ago inexplicably coming back with a vengeance.
It's about those bad guys wiping out a civilisation that grew soft after decades of peace, a civilisation who assumed cartoonish villains obsessed with racial purity and clad in very shiny uniforms could never remerge from whatever orifice spawned them.
It's about how some people are just plain evil, no matter how much goodness surrounds them.
And despite the fact that it regularly falls flat, I can't deny that for all these reasons, it's the perfect Star Wars film for the year that is 2017.
Because this year has been a litany of baffling moments, horrors and trials when it should have been wonderful.
This year has been a mess. But this year has been punctuated with the potential for hope.
That's The Last Jedi and the year of Trump in a nutshell.
Paul Verhoeven is an author, broadcaster and comedian.
December 14, 2017 12:24:41