‘The Last Jedi’ tackles life’s lessons, striking a balance and finding our way

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017). Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Frank Oz (voice), Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotama, Jimmy Vee, Justin Theroux, Tim Rose, Tom Kane (voice). Director: Rian Johnson. Screenplay; Rian Johnson. Source Material: George Lucas, “Star Wars.” Web site. Trailer.

Finding our place in the world.

Tapping into our source of personal power.

Learning how to balance strength and vulnerability, power and temperance, and when to charge and when to retreat.

All of the foregoing are noble pursuits aimed at helping is get through life and its challenges, be it in both everyday matters and in more heroic ventures. And understanding what it means to be a master of these skills is a venture that defines us and guides us in how we conduct our lives. Those are among some of life’s big questions tackled in the latest installment of one of  filmdom’s most storied franchises, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Picking up where the seventh offering in this series left off, “The Last Jedi” follows the continuing exploits in this epic galactic drama, bringing viewers up to date on the adventures of characters from past episodes and introducing new players into the mix. The narrative consists of several story threads that run parallel with one another and eventually become intertwined for a blockbuster climax.

Given the foregoing, the picture’s plot is somewhat complicated, to say the least, and detailing it would probably reveal too much. In a nutshell, however, the film follows the efforts of a ragtag group of rebel forces led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) waging war with the First Order, an oppressive dictatorship brutally ruled by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his chief protégé, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a ruthless villain who, ironically, is more than occasionally morally conflicted about carrying out his charge. As this battle plays out, one of the rebels’ chief warriors, Rey (Daisy Ridley), journeys to a remote planet to find an aging enigmatic peer, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), to learn the ways of the Jedi, a mystical corps of heroic combatants, in hopes that his teachings will help her and others in their conflict with the First Order. In addition, two other rebel fighters, Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), backed by comrade Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), go in search of a scurrilous code breaker (Benicio del Toro) to help them devise a plan for undermining First Order detection technology.

The missions of the characters in these respective scenarios bring them up against the issues raised above. How they respond depends on who they are as individuals and how they comport themselves when brought face to face with the Force, a potent, intangible wellspring of power that binds all things and connects everyone in the Universe. The Force is theirs to wield, but what they do with it ultimately hinges on their intents and how they approach handling it. Each character is thus left to determine his or her own destiny, a profound introspective process that prompts each individual to examine what he or she hopes to achieve and how to go about doing so, a significant, soul-searching exercise for all concerned.

Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) wrestles with whether or not to continue his mission in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the eighth installment in this storied movie franchise. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

In many regards, this installment in the franchise thus echoes many of the themes first raised in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), in which a young Skywalker is initiated into the ways of the Jedi for himself under the tutelage of supreme mentor, Master Yoda (Frank Oz). In many ways, this film brings that story full circle, particularly where Luke is concerned, who now serves as the master instructing a new generation of would-be followers. It gives the legendary warrior an opportunity to assess what he would like to do going forward, in large part based on what he had done in the past, a track record marked by mixed outcomes that give him pause, particularly where questions of responsibility and intent are concerned. Others struggle with comparable conundrums of their own as well, and their approaches to addressing them mimic those of the Jedi leader, who must now decide whether he wants to rejoin a flight in which he’s unclear about what his role might be.

As the various story lines play out, it becomes apparent that the characters’ struggles with understanding and employing the Force run parallel to what many of us experience as we seek to become masters of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we manifest our reality through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. They come to see that the Force, like conscious creation, is neither inherently good nor bad; it all depends on what we do with it, and that comes down to the implementing beliefs we employ in activating the process. The intents we choose to embrace shape what springs forth from them from the realm of intangible potential and into the materialized world of physicality.

Of course, given the power involved, as well as the potential potency of the resulting consequences, conscious creation and management of the Force both call upon us to recognize the responsibility that comes with such practices. It implores us to choose our beliefs carefully, for errant moves can easily lead to disaster, outcomes that can leave our heads spinning, even with seemingly the best of underlying intentions.

As one of the chief warriors in a contingent of rebel forces, Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks to learn the ways of the Jedi in director Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

At the same time, we must also be careful not to let prudence become a hindrance. Proceeding cautiously might well be warranted, but, if allowed to hold sway, it could also hold us back significantly. Overly timid behavior in our belief choices can paralyze us, keeping us from pursuing opportunities that could well prove highly valuable. But, by failing to follow up on them, we’ll never know what they’ll yield.

Striking a balance where these principles are concerned is the chief challenge that all conscious creation initiates must address, and there are no easy or absolute answers. What’s more, as readily becomes apparent, things are not all black or white, and sometimes even the unlikeliest of outcomes, like failures, can prove to be the greatest teachers. The experiences of Luke, Rey, Finn, Rose, Poe, Kylo Ren and others all fall squarely in line with these considerations, and their odysseys provide us with examples to assess and consider for ourselves. The inspiration and enlightenment of these scenarios could be quite useful in our own endeavors, and we should give them serious thought as we proceed.

These insights help to set “The Last Jedi” apart from most of its predecessors. There’s an intriguing ambiguity that flows through the narrative of this installment, making things a little less certain at times, something that diehard fans of the franchise may well find a little unnerving. However, given the intrinsic nature of the Force – or of the principles of conscious creation – this film’s underlying metaphysical message is thus also more fundamentally realistic, accurately reflecting the notion that we always have access to limitless (if not always clearly defined) possibilities and are not saddled with a more identifiable (yet inherently smaller) set of options for existence. The onus for what manifests is thus placed on the shoulders of their creators (just as it is with the rest of us in our own everyday lives), and that’s a concept some of us (including diehard “Star Wars” fans) may find somewhat unsettling.

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher in one of her last screen roles) leads a group of rebel forces against the authoritarian First Order in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

This outlook doesn’t jibe with the restricted range of pat scenarios that many believe are the only ones open to storytellers or to us in our respective creative undertakings. However, embracing a view of existence based on such innate limitation takes away much of the wonder that accompanies the process of creative discovery that conscious creation (or the Force) makes possible. For my money, I’d rather live with this more expanded view of things, and that’s one of the reasons why I liked this movie so much: It celebrates a view of existence that gives us more choices and holds the potential for far greater fulfillment than what a more curtailed view can possibly offer.

This latest installment of this storied franchise represents a vast improvement over the last two offerings in this series, providing some much-needed relief to a mythology that had been rapidly running out of gas and originality. With a well-crafted, insightful allegorical story line, fine performances by Hamill and Fisher (in one of her last screen appearances), excellent special effects, and a restrained reliance on action sequences to carry the narrative, “The Last Jedi” gives viewers much to ponder while serving up an eminently entertaining saga. Admittedly it’s not perfect – a little overlong (especially in the pacing in the first 45 minutes), a little weak in its use of 3D effects and a tad too cutesy in its comic relief – but these shortcomings don’t significantly detract from the overall product. It’s truly satisfying to see things finally getting back on track.

What it means to create our destiny is a common theme in many films, especially those with heroic narratives like this. And, thankfully, this film provides viewers with much to think about, especially when it comes to discerning our role and realizing that matters aren’t always as clear cut or simplistic as we might like to think they are. It’s an ongoing process in which we engage in ways both great and small. But, no matter what endeavor we’re tasked with undertaking, let us always hope that, as we do so, the Force is always with us.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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