The Star Wars sequel movie trilogy has been deemed the worst in the franchise. But could the Star Wars sequel trilogy's meta elements redeem it just a bit?
The movie trilogy is often criticized for appealing too much to nostalgia and repeating many of the story elements of the beloved movies that came before it.
From a certain point of view, these criticisms are valid. But there could be a reason for this beyond fan service and nostalgia; the new filmmakers are making meta-commentaries about the franchise and its pop culture landscape.
Here are the 10 Reasons Why The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy is Secretly Meta. Warning: Spoilers up ahead.
The Repetition of Star Wars Tropes
The Star Wars sequel trilogy is often criticized for repeating familiar Star Wars tropes, but perhaps the repetition is a conscious choice to comment on neverending war.
What no one realizes is that the characters within the trilogy notice these repeating tropes too.
When Rey is handed the lightsaber, what she realizes is that she is the new Star Wars main protagonist, like Anakin and Luke Skywalker before her. It is that giant pressure that makes her run from the lightsaber in the first place.
Luke himself realizes that he is just repeating the mistakes the Jedi order has made before him. They made a Darth Vader then, and he made Kylo Ren years later.
The trilogy is making us intentionally aware of the never-ending and repeating nature of the Star Wars franchise and paralleling it with the cyclical nature of war. For when a war ends, another will always take its place.
There is always a dictatorial power taking the talking points and dogma of the previous ones, so there should always be a rebel force to take them head-on.
No one is more familiar with this cycle than Maz Kanata due to being old enough to see it all keep repeating. First the Sith, then The Empire, and now the First Order.
She has lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people and knows full well that Rey comes from a long line of heroes the galaxy needs every new generation.
What is Star Wars about? Here's a hint, it's in the title, and we are not talking about the stars.
Rey is A Star Wars Fan
There are no Star Wars movies in the Star Wars universe. What the characters do have is actual stories of people and events that became legends across the galaxy.
Rey is like the children of Canto Bight - knowing she is helpless in the middle of nowhere, she became enthralled with tales of heroes and sabers.
Rey is an in-universe Star Wars fan in this context. This is why she is revealed to have Star Wars memorabilia inside her home.
S0e wears an X-Wing helmet as she looks up at a passing ship in the sky. Her eyes glitter with the tales of The Resistance, of the force, and of the legend of Luke Skywalker.
This is why Han Solo is like a father to her. She knows Star Wars Trivia like Han Solo's achievement in the Kessel Run.
When Finn says "The General", Rey says "The Smuggler" because that is how a Star Wars fan would remember Han Solo.
By the time of The Last Jedi, Rey tries to act like a stereotypical Star Wars hero in front of Luke and Snoke.
Rey proves to be familiar with the events of the original trilogy and makes decisions in turning Kylo Ren based on what she knows.
By the time of the end of the trilogy, she names herself, 'Rey Skywalker', consolidating her status as an in-universe Star Wars fan.
Kylo Ren Is A Dark Side Fanboy
Kylo Ren is a Darth Vader fanboy. He can be defined as a Darth Vader cosplayer. He doesn't really have an edgy name. He doesn't need to wear the helmet or need to sound inhuman. He is not the new Darth Vader.
He is just an impressionable youth who wants to believe he is a Sith Lord and makes tantrums every time he feels like he does not live up to the legend.
Darth Vader had a spooky mask and an inhuman voice because things happened to him that no one should ever have experienced; he has to wear his suit to keep going; his equipment is like war wounds.
Kylo Ren, on the other hand, wears the mask and uses the voice as if it is a fashion statement -- used to obtain by appearance what Darth Vader earned by experience.
It is through this weakness that Snoke knows how to manipulate him. And it is through their shared fandom that Rey and Kylo Ren are unspoken kindred spirits.
It is appropriate that Kylo Ren is a fan of the grandfather he can only meet through stories, but cannot equally idolize the parents who are more real and flawed than the legends about them would suggest.
Both Sides Are Cosplayers
On the side of the light is the Resistance. They look almost exactly like the Rebel Alliance, sound exactly like The Rebel Alliance, and have the ideals of The Rebel Alliance, but are not The Rebel Alliance.
On the dark side, we have The First Order. They look almost exactly like the Empire, sound exactly like The Empire, and have the ideals of The Empire, but are not The Empire.
If they are not the Rebel Alliance and they are not The Empire, what are they? Well, from a certain point of view, we can call them, cosplayers.
It's Star Wars fan wars and guess which teams Rey and Kylo Ren end up on?
The faith of the galaxy lies in the hands of those who like to dress up as their favorite team and take their Star Wars pretend games to great lengths.
In the annals of history, the new parties representing the old ones are sometimes just 'cosplaying'. Neo-Nazis are exactly that, repeating the same mistakes of the old.
Luke Criticizes the Impact of Star Wars
When we meet Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, he is no longer a wide-eyed youth, but a very jaded old man, who looks back on his life with great disappointment, seeing the pointlessness of his achievements.
Rey meeting Luke is the equivalent of a Star Wars fan meeting Mark Hamill and asking if he is going to be in the new Star Wars movie, only for the actor to tell this fan no, and say he regretted starring in any of the movies.
It is as if Luke Skywalker has watched all the Star Wars movies, looked into them with a more critical eye, and judged that they are not as good as everyone thinks.
In The Last Jedi, Luke spouts out what every film critic said about the prequels:
How the Jedi's teachings are terrible advice for impressionable youth; how they are elitist, and -- if we look closely -- responsible for the birth of both The Emperor and Darth Vader.
Luke followed all the things he needed to do to be the best role model he could based on Jedi teachings and still made the same mistake with Kylo Ren.
If Kylo Ren represents an overly entitled fan Luke created, then Luke in The Last Jedi feels responsible that he shepherded the franchise that gave a generation terrible life advice.
This is not the moral of The Last Jedi, though. It is only the mindset Luke needs to break out of. There is a lesson he must learn, a lesson we have yet to talk about.
The Second Movie Subverts Star Wars Tropes
Rey is like Anna from Frozen. Where Anna is a gullible and naive girl that believes the world is run by fairy tale tropes, Rey is a gullible and naive girl who believes the world runs by Star Wars tropes.
This is why she is so quick in trusting mentor figures and gets so close to Kylo Ren.
This is the set-up in which The Last Jedi subverts all expectations.
Whatever Rey expected to happen, what fans themselves theorized right before the release of The Last Jedi.
Like the fans, Rey expected Luke to be some all-wise and powerful Jedi. Like the fans, she is shocked he isn't. Like the fans, she expected to be trained by Luke.
Like the fans, she wants to believe that she is special and theorizes that she is part of a noble bloodline. Like the fans, she makes theories that Kylo Ren will turn to the light.
In all these, she is wrong. Just because the handsome bad boy is following the patterns of Darth Vader, he is not Darth Vader.
Life is full of disappointments, nothing is to be expected, and you are not a chosen one. But not everything is bad news.
Because the double edge saber that runs until the end of the trilogy is that if characters are not defined by the roles life puts on them, then they can flip the script for the better.
Poe Dameron got out from being a spice runner, Finn can be more than a stormtrooper, even nobodies can be heroes, and an evil man's granddaughter does not need to be defined by her evil grandfather.
Commentary on Star Wars Merchantizing
Many thought correctly that the Canto Bight sequence is about war as capitalism.
That war is never-ending because there are always people who make a profit out of war and, to them, it does not matter who suffers or dies in the process.
It's not just the evil bad guys with the guns we have to fight, but also those who provide those guns to advance themselves and ignore the rest, who lose their homes and families because of the chain reaction they started.
If we look a little more closely, the sequence also suggests the reason why Star Wars never dies is that there is always money to be had in making them.
As it continues on, DJ appears and hammers the point further.
He shows Finn a hologram of an X-Wing to be mass-produced by a weapons manufacturer, only to then surprise Finn by saying the manufacturer is also supplying TIE-Fighters.
Reading between the lines, DJ is not talking about weapons here. He is talking about toy merchandising.
It does not matter if it is an X-Wing or a TIE fighter, both can be sold to Rebel Alliance and Empire cosplaying fans alike.
Canto Bight just told us that Star Wars is never-ending because it is a huge merchandising juggernaut. Good guys, bad guys, made-up words. - labels invented to categorize an aisle.
Trying To Forget Star Wars
When Kylo Ren destroys his helmet in a fit of rage, it is an emotional rejection of his idolization of Darth Vader.
A puppy huffing and puffing to convince himself he is done with his toys and make-beliefs and is all grown up.
As The Last Jedi goes on, Kylo Ren shows a rejection of anything that has to do with Star Wars.
His talks with Rey are akin to a fan telling another that the legendary characters of Star Wars will do nothing but disappoint.
That any preconceived notion that Rey is special is th e kind of false hope Star Wars gives to poor impressionable youth.
So "let the past die. Kill it if you have to."
A lot of people came out of The Last Jedi thinking that "Let the past die" is the message of the movie.
But Kylo Ren is the villain. We are not supposed to listen to him.
Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is having similar feelings about the same topic and learns in the end that it is not true.
Kylo Ren is a hypocrite -- he talks about shaking things up but he is essentially doing what any dark lord is doing before him. Because killing the past means passing out from the things we could have learned from it.
To hammer home that "Let the past die" is not the message -- when Kylo Ren reaches out to Rey, telling her it's time to let the old things die - Snoke, Skywalker, The Sith, The Jedi, and the rebels, Rey answers no.
Many say that with all the big talks of changing Star Wars, The Last Jedi did not deliver.
But in a meta-narrative perspective, in a movie where everyone agrees that the theme is failure, changing the status quo is exactly what Rey and Kylo Ren fail at.
A Lesson About Filmmaking
The message of The Last Jedi is not "let the past die" because the real message came from the wisdom of Master Yoda:
"Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is."
At the onset, it is a lesson that tells viewers that we should never forget our failures no matter how hard it hurts because it is through the failures that we learn to be better people.
From a certain point of view, it is a message for all future Star Wars filmmakers and fans with a camera out there.
Maybe Star Wars is not perfect. Maybe nostalgia is blocking us from really seeing some bad choices in storytelling.
It does not mean we should be ashamed of it or see it with lesser value. We should learn from the great iconic moments but also acknowledge its biggest mistakes without denial.
Learning from the flaws of past movies is the key to making Star Wars evolve... And maybe, once in a while, a great Star Wars story will come our way.
In an ideal scenario, even the original trilogy is what we should grow beyond. That is the burden of all historically important films.
With that note, Luke's faith in the franchise is restored. Ready to be the legendary Luke Skywalker once more.
Luke’s Last Stand
The Luke Skywalker that appeared in Crait at the finale of The Last Jedi, is the idealized Legendary version of himself.
That is why he looks younger in Crait. That is why he has the blue lightsaber.
It proves later on that Luke is not actually in Crait. It is an illusion, a motion picture if you will. A motion picture of the legendary Luke Skywalker walking out with a laser sword and facing down the whole First Order.
While Luke has never been a wish-fulfillment fantasy, generations of fans hold him to a high standard to the point that he is expected to be an all-powerful and wise mentor once we see him again.
Luke Skywalker knows this and knows that he did not live up to the hype. In the end, instead of being ashamed, he weaponized his legend to inspire the Galaxy and future Star Wars fans.
Many say that The Last Jedi is trying to promote the new characters to the detriment of the original characters.
But the boy with the broom looking up in the sky did not recreate Rey lifting the boulders, he recreated the legendary Luke Skywalker facing the walkers.
Are there any other meta-narratives in the Star Wars sequel trilogy you think we missed?