Sooooo…. I wasn’t planning on commenting on this film, or indeed any of the movies in the disappointing new Star Wars sequel trilogy. There are plenty of other news sites, blogs and Youtube channels for that. However, after I left the cinema on Friday night I felt deeply bothered by something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
No, it wasn’t the convoluted plot, or the demographic checklists, or the cringe-inducing dialogue or the constant contrived conveniences allowing the characters to escape whatever predicament or difficulty they found themselves in – thus killing off any high stakes and subsequent tension or emotional investment you might have felt.
I was already expecting all of this, having read a bunch of different reviews before going in. I’m going to be completely honest; my expectations were about as low as they could be – I was only interested in seeing the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey play out… And because some friends invited me along and I thought it might be fun.
In preparation, I watched The Last Jedi the day before, which I thought was frankly terrible. Even apart from all the SJW influences, I found it very poorly written and executed. I didn’t care about any of the characters or plot points, apart from Kylo and Rey. Theirs was the only storyline I was emotionally invested in.
As such, I was curious to see where they would go with this, and since I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere else, I’m going to lay out my thoughts on this point here, leaving discussions of the rest of the film to others. Cue my SPOILER WARNING. From here on I will discuss plot points from the entire movie, including the ending.
With that out of the way, let’s proceed.
It seemed pretty clear to me that The Last Jedi, and even The Force Awakens to an extent, were preparing us for a potential ‘Reylo’ ship. And I was in – hook, line and sinker.
I’m not sure what it was about the idea that appealed to me so much, but it was probably a combination of the necessary conflict that must occur in bringing together the two frenemies, the fact that the characters are pretty much equally matched in every way, and the compelling on-screen chemistry Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver share (not going to lie, I do find Driver’s dark, broody Kylo Ren a bit dishy).
And as such, I was interested to see if they would pay off the apparently-promised romance and if so, how believably it would be done. Credit where credit is due, I think they pulled this off very well, overall. The two characters seemed to reach this point quite naturally, between physical duels and force bond conversations, until the point at which Kylo comes to Rey’s aid, and the pair team up against the Emperor.
This is the point at which my feelings become mixed. For those who haven’t seen it, Rey confronts Palpatine, but when she and Kylo are reunited, he drains their combined life force to strengthen himself and come back to a form of his old humanity. Rey and Kylo both fall unconscious, although when the latter wakes up and attempts to come after the Emperor, he throws Kylo off the edge of a cliff.
Eventually, Rey also comes to and rises to confront the Emperor again, this time with the power of all the Jedi behind her (don’t even ask, it’s so dumb). At this point I thought Kylo would fight his way back up the cliff and stand with Rey to defeat Palpatine together. Considering that the fates of all three have been tied up together in this film, this would have made more sense to me. But instead, Rey faces – and defeats – him alone.
This annoyed me, but it wasn’t what haunted me after I left the theatre. That came immediately after.
So after destroying the Emperor, Rey falls down, completely spent, and apparently dies. At this point Kylo claws his way back up the cliff and staggers to Rey. He falls at her side and gathers her into his arms, seeing her vacant eyes. He then puts his hand on her and ‘force-heals’ her back to life (okay, whatever. The force can do whatever the movie needs it to do at this point, it seems).
She takes a breath, her eyelids flutter, and she stares up at Kylo and smiles. His arms are around her, and she reaches up to clasp his face and they share a gaze (at this point I’m literally holding my breath and internally screaming kiss her! Kiss her already!!) – and then at that pivotal moment… SHE swoops in and kisses HIM!
At this point something inside me blasted out a wordless “NO!” of outrage. After all the build-up, the tension, the chemistry – all of it was ruined just like that. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, he then dies straight away! Not from the kiss (lol) but presumably because he used up all his life force to bring her back or something. (Who honestly knows any more??)
This entire scene – the only one I’d really come to the movies for – left me deeply bothered through what remained of the movie and the rest of the night. Why? Why did it upset me so much?
I felt cheated – as if something had been snatched away from me. But in addition to this I felt irritated in the depths of my stomach, like something wrong had been deliberately foisted upon me as well.
It was the same feeling I get through every scene in which all the silly agenda-driven, obvious checkbox-ticking exercise of making sure each racial demographic is correctly represented is shown – not just in this movie, but in general.
Maybe you think I’m making too much of a small thing (which many probably completely missed), but I genuinely believe this exemplifies the larger problem of Hollywood today, which is sacrificing storytelling for the sake of an agenda. Even in something as small as a kiss in a Star Wars movie.
Why was it such a problem for Rey to lean in rather than Kylo, you ask?
Because it wasn’t her initiative to take, it was his. He’s the one who was going through the internal good-vs-evil struggle. He was the one who chose to forsake his thirst for power in order to turn to the good side and ally with her. But perhaps most importantly, he’s the man. The one who pursued her, who won her, who sacrificed his very life for her. Who even chose to take off the strong mask (literally and metaphorically) and become vulnerable, to save her.
But despite all of this, the powers that be decided that this would be a great moment for Rey to show off her “strong, independent woman” side and take the lead. Perhaps the decision for this small but decisive moment was also a result of #metoo, because a man is clearly wrong or predatory for being decisive in kissing a woman (without her verbal consent).
This also upset me for another reason.
Men may not really understand why women love romance literature so much. Why we just eat up Jane Austen novels, obsessively watch every episode of the latest BBC costume drama and rent chick flicks on Friday nights together. It’s because we’re romantic creatures and reading/watching other romances, especially if they’re compelling, believable and well-portrayed, fulfils a certain emotional need that all women have.
It’s why those cheap romance novels are a multimillion dollar industry. Even if we’re in a relationship, there’s something extremely satisfying about seeing a well-written romance play out. And for us single women, it allows us to fulfil that need while enabling us to live, somewhat vicariously, through the characters. For women like me who are single not by choice but by circumstance, this allows us to blow off a bit of steam – some of the pent-up frustration caused by our situation.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly class ‘Reylo’ as a well-written romance (it was still a heck of a lot better than Anakin and Padme’s story but that’s a topic for another time). However, it still had everything it needed: a fraught will-they-won’t-they struggle, believability and, importantly, a genuine chemistry between the actors (unlike Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman).
And even though, as a lifelong fan of the Star Wars franchise, I knew this film would frustrate and annoy me for a multitude of reasons, I knew I could emotionally detach myself from all of that and just enjoy this one storyline. And I did – I really enjoyed it. But it was toppled by the climax, purely because feminism.
This frustrates me beyond words! Not just because it’s so disingenuous, but because it stole the very experience it promised away. I was expecting to feel emotionally satisfied by the fulfilment of this thing they’d been teasing through three straight films.
(Also just as a side note, honest women will tell you they find it extremely unattractive for the man to expect her to take the charge romantically. It’s un-masculine and unsexy.)
But just as Rey stole that kiss, I felt this stupid movie stole yet another expectation from me. Like so many silly things about this film, and the last one, and so many others, it tries to make a point, rather than tell the story.
Speaking of which, they also managed to destroy the innocence of this movie, and the entire franchise, by including a totally pointless, unanticipated, virtue-signalling brief lesbian kiss between two randoms, who you don’t care about in the slightest, at the end of the film – presumably as an attempt to appease the potential ire of the Alphabet crowd.
Of course, like other similar examples of this, by trying to satisfy everybody they will only succeed in pleasing nobody. So, if you have kids who have seen the previous two films and want to see this one too, bear that in mind. Thanks a bunch, Disney!
Like a dog returning to its vomit, part of me wants to go back and rewatch this movie just to see that scene again. To see if I was wrong, or over-blowing the significance of it all in my head. Perhaps it’s all about getting the satisfaction I felt I was promised, rather than continuing to feel as though I was left hanging.
What seems undeniable is that this movie was a huge disappointment. I doubt many men will find this aspect of it anywhere near as bothersome as I did, but this moment was honestly my biggest beef with it. After seeing how awful The Last Jedi was, I had no hope that this was going to be a good movie. All it had going for it, in my opinion, was the Reylo storyline – and they even managed to screw that up.
So please, a slow clap for the Disney corporation for ruining all of our childhoods.