“Let the past die; kill it, if you have to.” -Kylo Ren
-Who would’ve thought this line from ‘The Last Jedi’ would be incorrectly stated to be the thesis of the film by many fans after the film was released?
Needless to say, ‘The Last Jedi’ caused much controversy after its release, receiving various amounts of criticism from some fans. But, there is one specific sentiment towards the film that has bothered me since it was released back in December of 2017: “The Last Jedi is about letting the past die”. This has left me scratching my head for ages. How did some fans come away from ‘The Last Jedi’ and think that was the main goal of the film? Where did this misconception come from? Why are some fans heeding the words of the film’s villain?
Well, to answer these questions I think we first need to establish what the film did try to say:
“The Greatest Teacher, failure is.” -Master Yoda
Kylo Ren is trying to rid himself of his past. He views his past self as a mistake––an error that needs correction. His major step in leaving his past life behind was when he murdered his father, Han Solo. The deed broke his spirit but it also sent him down a tailspin of ridding himself of everything that concerned his past life. Instead of owning his mistakes he chooses a path of further evil. Kylo, in ‘The Last Jedi’, wants to create a new path that has nothing to do with his past life. Which is one of the reasons why I think he is so attached to Rey, she has no prior connection to his past.
I think the most prevalent theme of ‘The Last Jedi’ is learning from one’s mistakes. Accepting and moving on from them to be a be a better person. The film isn’t trying to tell the audience to run from our mistakes or let them die in the past, it’s telling us to own up to our mistakes. We become better people when we learn from failure. ‘The Last Jedi’ also shows us what happens when you can’t learn from your failure with Kylo Ren’s arc.
Now, we must ask the question:
Why do some fans believe the thesis of ‘The Last Jedi’ is to “Let the past die”?
Well, I think there’s multiple reasons as to why that may be. The first, more simple reason is that some fans simply heeded the words of the villain over the heroes’. Kylo is a very relatable villain, intentionally so, but I think some fans who critiqued the film wanted to use his goal as a means to criticize the direction of Star Wars as a whole. They claimed his line “Let the Past Die” was proof that “Disney is trying to get rid of the older generation.”
Which, when you pay attention to the film, is very blatantly not the truth. Kylo isn’t the hero of the story, he is the villain. Therefore the audience isn’t rooting for his wants and desires. You can understand where he’s coming from but no one actually wants him to fulfill his aspiration of killing the past.
The second reason, is more deeply rooted in the mindset of fans. The older generations of fans, who grew up with original trilogy feel the Disney era is erasing the legacy of the originals. I believe some fans think the deaths of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are an insult to the characters they loved as children. They think the new films are telling them to “Let the past die” when they see Han sacrifice himself for the sake of his son; to “kill the past” when they see Luke die a hero. The older generation may believe the new characters only exist to replace Luke, Leia, and Han; another example of Disney saying “kill the past.”
Star Wars is for kids
Now, I’m not saying all of the older generation of fans believe this. I’m only pointing out what some believe from what I’ve seen. Fans get so invested with the characters of their childhood that they expect the movies to grow up with them. But, the fact remains that Star Wars is for kids. These new films are for a new generation. To spark a new interest in Star Wars with new characters. If Star Wars was only catering to original trilogy fans, Star Wars wouldn’t live on in future generations.
Star Wars isn’t going to grow up with you
You can’t expect Star Wars to grow up with you, because that’s never going to happen. Star Wars brings out the inner child in us. I think it serves as an escape and serves as a reminder of the days of our childhood. But, you can’t expect the new films to be exactly like the ones you grew up with. If all of the new films were exactly like the original trilogy, focusing solely on the original trio, then you wouldn’t bringing anything new to the table.
So, back to my main issue: Just because the characters you grew up with aren’t the focus of the new films does not mean the goal of the films is to “Let the past die.” On the contrary, Han, Luke, and Leia are passing the baton to the next generation. Han was a huge influence on Rey and Finn in ‘The Force Awakens’ and died trying to save who he loved. Luke faced down the entire First Order to save who he loved and equipped Rey to continue the Jedi. Leia took Poe under her wing to train him as a capable leader.
The sequel trilogy doesn’t have any “agenda” to kill our old heroes. Our heroes serve as a great example of how the older generation needs to equip the younger generation with a bright future. The sequel trilogy has done a beautiful job of using the characters we were familiar with to introduce the new generation. Kids who grew up with the sequel trilogy will be connected with Rey, Finn, and Poe just as we were connected with Luke, Leia, and Han when we were kids.
To summarize my point, no, ‘The Last Jedi’ isn’t telling you to let the past die. It’s telling you to pass on what you have learned, which is the very opposite of letting the past die. ‘The Last Jedi’ tells us to confront our mistakes, learn from them, and to teach others to avoid making the same mistakes as you did.
As Yoda said “We are what they grow beyond.”