Sunday, December 17, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS) Adoption Movie Review

There are spoilers throughout this review. Turn back now if you want to avoid them!

The rebellion is in danger of being crushed by the First Order. Rey has located Luke Skywalker and hoeps to have him join the rebellion to infuse their efforts with hope. Kylo Ren struggles with the implications and obligations that his ancestry have on his destiny. Supreme Leader Snoke has the military and aspects of the Force at his command. The rebellion has been reduced to only a few fighters, and though hope is what they need to reignite their efforts, Luke’s grief and guilt over a past choice leave him unwilling to join.


The Adoption Connection

The Star Wars films are immersed in questions of family relationship. Kylo Ren continues to try to live up to his image of his grandfather, Darth Vader, and in a previous film he kileld his father. Now, he is given the opportunity to kill his mother.

Rey has been seeking for her parents for her whole life. In this film, her search is coldly addressed in a manner that could be rough for some pre-teens and teens with issues connected to unknown parents. (SPOILER ALERT): Kylo Ren tells Rey that her parents are no one important, just “filth” and “junk traders.” He says they sold her for drinking money. Kylo tells Rey that she is nothing and that she has no part in the grand story of good and evil; she has no familial connections to the great people of history – but he would let her join the story. Kylo tells Rey that her parents left her, and so, Kylo says, Rey looks for her parents in everyone that she meets.  (END SPOILER)

Strong Points – SPOILERS AHEAD

Luke acknowledges that “no one is from nowhere.”

The film shows several misunderstandings, and it can underscore the importance of not making assumptions. Luke misjudged Kylo. Kylo misjudged Luke. Poe misjudged one of his leaders. These misevaluations were all uncharitable, and all led to dangerously broken relationships. Luke and Kylo each give Rey their understanding of the same event, and we see that neither is lying, but one initially held back some information, and the other misunderstood the situation – his telling is true from his perspective; he is not lying, but he is sadly mistaken. There are some good teaching points here!

Luke asks Rey a question that catches my imagination – why are you here? He’s not asking why her errand needs to be accomplished – but instead, why she is the one to do it? It makes me think about life: sure, I’m a social worker and I do Adoption at the Movies because there is important work to do – but why is it me doing it? Sure, you’re a foster parent because there’s a need – but why is it you? Why do we do what we do? What fuels our mission? I wasn’t expecting this film to be such an opportunity for introspection!

Luke genuinely expresses shame and sorrow for misjudging Kylo. He understands the impact of his error. Rey communicates, “You failed by thinking his choice was made.”

Luke is advised that failure is the greatest teacher. He ultimately finds peace and purpose, and the rebels find hope.


Kylo Ren has an opportunity to kill his mother. Kylo’s uncle thinks about killing Kylo. Kylo tries to kill his uncle. Kylo believes he sees his mother die.

Kylo speaks unkindly about Rey’s unknown parentage and its impact on her. He tells her, “Your parents threw you away like garbage, but you can’t stop needing them. It’s your greatest weaknesss. You can’t stop looking for them everywhere.” He advises her, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.”

Rey desperately wants  to see her parents; for a moment, she thinks she sees them behind obscured glass, but when it clears, she is disappointed. She says, “I thought I’d find answers here; I was wrong. I’ve never felt so alone.”

Recommendations – SPOILERS AHEAD
The Last Jedi is one of my favorite Star Wars films. It is a well-made, engaging story that is worth revisiting. I like the messages of hope, peace, and understanding that can be drawn from it. Kylo does say some hurtful things to Rey that could be particualrly painful for some viewers who are touched by adoption, although the lines might go over the heads of younger viewers. Kids ages 7-14 could have challenges with what Kylo says to Rey; parents might choose to skip this on account of those lines of dialogue. There might be value in watching it first and then watching it with your kids, and at the very least, parents should watch it with their kids. I’ve tried to capture most of the relevant, concerning dialogue in the Concerns section. For kids for whom this isn’t an issue, this film does have some violence (one character gets sliced in half by a lightsaber), but it should be fine for pre-teens and teens.

Questions for Discussion – SPOILERS AHEAD

What do you wonder about your parents? What do you imagine about them?
What was Luke’s biggest mistake with Kylo Ren? What was Kylo Ren’s biggest mistake?

What do you imagine about Rey’s parents?

Rey is from Jakku – where are you from?

What failures have you learned and grown from?

1 comment:

  1. As an interracial adoptee, after watching The Rise of Skywalker, The Last Jedi remains my favorite of all the Star Wars movies. Rian Johnson's ability to grasp the intricate nuances of an orphan was emotionally captivating. From the mirror scene in the cave to Rey's anger toward the lies by omission from Luke. Rey's struggle to understand the concept of truth and what it means to exist in a world without a biological grounding was incredibly meaningful. And how, despite the constant changing of her environments and not knowing who exactly her b-parents are, her ability to remain loyal to her own values was one of the many great lessons that came out of TLJ that I think any orphan or adoptee can deeply appreciate. And that it's ok to not have all the answers-it doesn't make you less of a person.

    Moving through the adoptee fog has been a slow struggle. I'm from a third world country but was adopted by American parents who believed in corporal punishment...among other things... It has taken me years to come to terms with the idea that where I'm from or who my birth parents are or what my adoptive parents did to me doesn't define me as a human being. That not having all the information doesn't define me. That even names don't define me. I am my own person.

    And I am super grateful for movies like TLJ that don't beat around the bush on topics surrounding orphans and different types of orphans.


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