3 Stars – Powerful
When George Lucas created the Star Wars universe he made a masterpiece. Although the films are admittedly uneven and created out of order, Episode VIII is one of the best. Joining Lucas in writing the episode, Rian Johnson directed this worthy addition to the series.
Having introduced Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Episode VII The Force Awakens, she continues her journey to both understand who she is and why she has unique abilities with the Force. Sent by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to an isolated island to enlist the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the end of VII, this episode now explains the enigmatic scene of their meeting and what Luke is doing there. Also returning to this episode is Finn (John Boyega), the former Storm Trooper who in the previous episode left the evil empire to join the resistance.
The battle between good and evil, the dark and light side of the force, continues in full. Explaining what most of us realized from the first film in 1977, that the Jedi are as much priests of a religion as warriors, the implication that the religion is dying with Luke raises a deeper message. If the light is extinguished and hope disappears from the universe, then evil wins.
The wannabe sith lord, Kylo Ryn (Adam Driver), who created a mask similar to his grandfather Darth Vader’s, continues to fail in pleasing the Supreme Leader Snokes (Andy Serkis). Although Vader needed the mask after his severe injuries, Ryn is clearly trying to mask his insecurities. However in this episode Ryn develops in several complex ways and creates a relationship with Rey that is in some ways manipulated by Snokes. Where he is like his grandfather is in his will to power. This continues to be a major familial conflict that is part of the story being told.
There are others in this tale that play major parts but the power resides in the simplicity of the battle of good and evil. The genius resides in the fact that this battle is not just between the evil empire and the good resistance, but also within each individual’s heart and soul. This inward struggle is seen most within Ryn and his murderous use of the force, but also in Finn’s love interest Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) when she saves his life explaining that “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” In many ways that is the underlying belief of this cinematic universe and of ours as well.
- When Ryn set himself free from the evil of Snokes what did you expect him to do, stay with evil or turn to the light? Were you pleased or disappointed in what he chose?
- The self-loathing depression that drove Luke into isolation reveals a lack of understanding about the true nature of the struggle with evil, so when Yoda came and explained that his failure was his teacher he begins his return. What have you learned from your failures?
- The next episode is set to continue the conflict between Rey and Ryn. How do you think their struggle will end?