The Last Jedi arrived at the perfect time, puncturing the creeping cultural cynicism with its indomitable message of hope. It brings the franchise full circle with Star Wars’ first outing released forty years before.
In the decades since A New Hope hit screens, the world has grown increasingly more surreal. The political intrigue of the prequels showcased a senator manipulating the Republic he claimed to serve, to leverage himself into a position of ultimate power. Having witnessed how a businessman turned jumped-up reality TV star positioned himself as head of the biggest country in the free world adds a layer of realism to Palpatine’s rise which George Lucas couldn’t have anticipated.
Geopolitical tensions continue to escalate. Nuclear paranoia, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the Cold War, has again saturated the media and hangs over us like a shadow. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t want to see the manipulation of governments by despots in Star Wars (or elsewhere) because it’s too close to the shit-show we’re seeing here on Earth, never mind a galaxy far, far away.
I’m sure most fans will cite the escape factor as a key part of their love for Star Wars. The franchise’s early earnest message of hope, and the triumph of good over evil, are needed now more than ever. Remember, the original movie was meant as an antidote to the gritty realism of seventies cinema, with Lucas bringing adventure back to the box office. Yes, shades of grey are fascinating, and we also need villains that are complex and interesting. Yet all that and more can be accomplished whilst also holding on to that bright, beautiful kernel of hope that has sustained the franchise for so long.
The Last Jedi was undoubtedly the dark middle chapter of the sequel trilogy, but it also brought with it acceptance, inclusion and positivity. I’m calling it that Episode IX will be called ‘Spark of Hope’ and that’s exactly the kind of story we all need right now. One that helps ease the burden of the darkening skies around us, but doesn’t let us forget to hold onto hope for better days; that we can each be better people.
As a new parent, it’s even more important to me that I never let go of hope. And so for my sake, for my daughter’s, and for all of you dear readers, let us hope that hope goes on.