5) I think I just blasted it
In a sequence that lovingly embraces George Lucas’ infamous “Faster, more intense” direction, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia find themselves trapped in a section of the Death Star, with Stormtroopers shooting from above, and a slowly opening door of troops, behind them. With their only means of escape inaccessible, Luke tries to get Leia and himself safely across to the other side.
The short scene is an illustration of Star Wars at its purest, a thrilling Saturday Matinee adventure with a tense cliffhanger and soaring ending. The scene’s briskness and ending with Luke’s and Leia’s jump to the other side (via rope) demonstrates why Star Wars is appealing to the child in all of us. At the same time, the short section encapsulates the dichotomy of Luke’s character. At this stage, he’s someone who sometimes acts without thinking, but can be relied upon for quickly thinking of a way to get out of a situation.
4) Too Many Losses
The Last Jedi miraculously walks a tight rope between showing Leia at her strongest and most vulnerable. This brief scene between the aged General and Vice Admiral Holdo is pivotal for allowing the character to briefly mourn for all the loved ones she’s seen passed. Leia has always been the guiding light, who’s chosen to stay strong for others and the Rebel cause. However, this scene chips away at that strength to reveal someone who’s lost so much, that it’s beginning to weigh on her soul.
The exchange is also humorous and touching, with the proverbial “May the force be with you”, being acknowledged as a phrase that Leia has said too many times, and resonating as Holdo’s last words. The scene ends with the pair holding each other’s hands. The moment speaks to the franchise’s knack for portraying a sense of history with impressive visual power.
3) Jedi Steps
George Lucas once said, “Star Wars films are basically silent movies.” While there’s been a lot of great sequences within the franchise to illustrate this aspect, few have been quite so stirring as the ending of The Force Awakens. With Luke’s lightsaber in tow, Rey makes her way across the mountainous terrains of Ahch-To, to persuade the wizened Jedi master to join the fight again. Watching the scene is akin to witnessing the start of a mythological journey, with Rey making the first of a thousand steps, to achieve a sense of belonging she’s always wanted.
The scene culminates in a series of closeups: Rey’s desperation (while holding out Skywalker’s lightsaber) and Luke’s haunted expression, looking at the lightsaber as though it’s a reminder of painful days gone by. In the film’s most postmodern moment, the characters are framed in a helicopter shot, overlooking a cliff. The moment is a literal cliffhanger and a reminder of the serials that have inspired the series.
2) A Sith Legend
Honestly, I could do a whole blog post on this scene. It’s an effective exercise in atmospheric and riveting storytelling. On the face of it, Palpatine is attempting to seduce Anakin by offering him a way to save his wife (Padme) from dying. However, the scene plays like a lesson in the ways of the Sith. Initially, Palpatine attempts to blur the line between the Sith and Jedi by equating them both as groups who are afraid of losing power. Anakin retorts that the Sith think about themselves whereas the Jedi are selfless.
The scene then transitions into Palpatine telling Anakin about a Sith legend involving an old master named Darth Plagueis. He found a way of cheating death and in an ironic twist of fate, he could not save himself from being killed by his apprentice. The story is a perfect distillation of the Sith’s “Rule of Two”, wherein the master embodies power and their apprentice craves it, resulting in a persistently combative relationship.
The scene is a blend of interesting choices that combine to create a sense of foreboding. John Williams’ score comprised of low male choral chants gives the sense that we’re in the domain of evil. The use of lighting is striking with shadow partly covering Anakin’s face, signalling his flirtation and eventual transformation into darkness. Whereas Palpaltine’s face is in the light, illustrating the Sith no longer hide in the shadows and instead embrace being out in the open.
Above all, the scene is metatextual with Star Wars using its own mythic conventions to expose its central evil to the light.
1) A Certain Point of View
Luke reflecting on Yoda’s death and his subsequent conversation with Ben Kenobi is Star Wars at its best. Featuring minimal Williams’ music and some arresting imagery, (especially the moment where Luke sees the light go out from Yoda’s hut), this scene always makes me feel the burden of Luke’s plight and his isolation in dealing with it.
Ben’s speech about “a certain point of view” is important for illustrating how the truths we come to are based upon our perception of events. Or in this instance, how Kenobi saw Anakin succumb to darkness. It’s crucial for knowing how he views his former apprentice, treating Vader and Anakin as distinct personalities that can never be reconciled.
This is in contrast to Luke who just sees conflict within Vader, believing he can play on this to bring him back to the light. This creates a fascinating generational conflict between the elders, who think evil can never be redeemed, and the younger sect, who think evil can be soothed through compassion. This is Star Wars at it’s most sublime, filtering lofty ideas of good and evil through the prism of family drama. In so doing, it presents the franchise’s archetypical storytelling at its most personal and emotional.