One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which scene from Star Wars: The Last Jedi stands above the rest.
Leia using the Force to pull herself to the Raddus is the best scene, says Amy.
Leia Organa, general and princess, knows life or death situations. This is the woman who has ferried the Death Star plans to safety, escaped an Imperial attack on Echo Base, and so much more. She’s faced her end before our eyes, but it never seemed as certain as it did in The Last Jedi, when First Order fire upon the Raddus‘ bridge caused Leia to careen into space, unprotected and alone. But she wasn’t truly unprotected; she had the Force.
I lost track of the number of times Episode VIII made me cry — I do so easily — but Leia using the Force to pull herself back to the ship, back to life is the best and one of the most emotional scenes in the film.
We know Leia has a connection to the Force. She’s powerful, too. The short story “There Is Another” from the book From a Certain Point of View (not related to this column) revealed Leia was the one Yoda wanted to train, not Luke. Yoda longed to turn her disciplined mind to learning the ways of the Force; he looked askance at Luke’s immaturity and impatience. Yoda must have thought she’d do just as well as Luke, if not better. We’ve seen her in tune with the Force, too. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, she connects with Luke through the Force and uses it to find her brother dangling in the air in Cloud City. She uses the Force to reach her unborn child, Ben Solo, in Aftermath: Life Debt. We see that she feels Han’s death through the Force in The Force Awakens.
These moments, which may not be as epic as Jedi using the Force in battle, aren’t little. They illustrate what she’s been able to achieve with the Force on her own and through some guidance from Luke. They set the stage. We understand Leia can use the Force, even if it’s not a cornerstone of her life the way it once was for Luke. For Leia to draw upon it to save her own life in such a spectacular way wasn’t the biggest shock. It was only a matter of time.
Leia connected with the Force to move herself out of death’s cold grasp in space. She still sustained serious injuries, but she survived. To watch her draw upon such strength when she had been so physically weakened…it’s hard to describe how much the scene meant to me. I’m a fan of Leia. I’ve been proud of how she’s grown in the decades after the Battle of Endor. I’ve been heartbroken over the losses she’s endured. I’ve felt triumphant in her moments of victory. I feel like I’ve been by her side for so many years. To see her accomplish such a feat with the Force, underscored by John Williams’ quietly mighty use of “Princess Leia’s Theme” combined with “The Force Theme,” is one of the most meaningful things I can imagine for a character I care so deeply about.
And not just because the Force pull meant Leia avoided death, though I was pleased about that, too. It was Leia once again saving her own skin. The Resistance didn’t have the capabilities to pluck its officers out of the vacuum of space. Leia couldn’t rely on anyone else in that scene, which part of her must have known. She used the means she had available to her in order to return to the safety of the cruiser, and it was more than enough. The scene represented how Leia has and hasn’t changed; she was a self-rescuing general.
Then there’s the factor of Carrie Fisher’s death. I can’t ignore how her passing figures into the effect of this scene. She’s delivered more than a few unforgettable scenes — telling the flyboy to get in the garbage chute, talking to Han about their son, and on and on — but it’s such a joy to see Fisher get to use the Force in this grand fashion, particularly in a moment when it seemed like Leia was lost.
Yoda’s last lesson to Luke is the best scene, says Dan.
It’s hard to argue Amy’s choice. There’s no doubt that Leia’s use of the Force to save herself is a powerful moment — emotionally, visually, and because of everything Carrie Fisher means to us. There’s also just never really been anything like it in a Star Wars film, an element about it that I appreciated immediately.
But there’s another scene that means the most to me. It taught me something about life, it broke my heart for characters that I love, and it conversely uplifted those characters, and myself, at the same time. It just wrecked me, I found it so moving and beautiful. It’s the scene when Yoda appears to Luke, burning the sacred tree on Ahch-To and offering his student one more lesson.
Much of The Last Jedi is about failure. In fact, most of the characters in the film — heroes and villains alike — see their best laid (or spontaneous) plans go to waste. Poe, Finn, Rey, Kylo, Snoke, whoever. Pick one. Things don’t work out neatly in The Last Jedi.
When we meet Luke Skywalker in the film, he’s been hiding from his failure — the fall of one student to the dark side, who destroyed everything he worked to build — for years. He’s disillusioned with the Jedi, closed off from the Force, and he has no desire to get back in the game. “I came here to die,” he tells Rey, refusing to teach her. What we come to learn is that the truth about his student’s fall — that of his nephew, Ben Solo — has a much more complicated truth. Ben was going down a dark path, and Luke failed him in a very real way. The guilt crushed Luke.
In Luke’s lowest moment in The Last Jedi, he decides to burn the sacred tree on Ahch-To, and ancient Jedi texts with it. He will truly end the Jedi. As he approaches the tree, torch in hand, Yoda appears to him. Luke doubles down on his intent, advancing and ready to set the blaze…but he can’t follow through and just hangs his head in shame. What does Yoda do? He takes the burden from his student’s shoulders, summoning a bolt of lightning and destroying the tree. He cackles with glee as it burns. Luke is shocked, as was I. But he misreads his master. “So it is time…for the Jedi Order to end,” Luke says.
“Time it is,” Yoda replies, “for you to look past a pile of old books.” To look past the past.
This is not funeral pyre. This is a cleansing fire. A fire of rebirth.
Luke faces himself, saying, “I was weak. Unwise.” But he reiterates that he cannot be a teacher to Rey, or the legend she grew up believing he was.
Finally, Yoda claims that Luke did not heed his words back on Dagobah. “Pass on what you have learned,” Yoda says. “Strength, mastery, but weakness, folly, failure, also. Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”
A look of understanding, of peace, washes over Luke’s face. You can see a change in him, the weight of needing to be a perfect legend gone, the past accepted and let go. Yoda settles next to Luke, and they watch the tree burn together.
“Luke,” he says. “We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
This scene, to me, encapsulates so much about The Last Jedi and so much about Star Wars overall. It’s about forgiving yourself and others. It’s about the importance and cyclical nature of teaching and mentoring. It’s about failure, and why we must accept our failures as part of our journeys and learn from them. It’s about helping those we love when they need us. And it’s about doing all those things for the right reasons. Kylo Ren said, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” That’s a selfish, even violent, way of moving forward. Yoda’s lesson is so similar, but his is about acceptance and hope. Luke lost Ben Solo, yes — but they still have Rey.
There’s so much more I can say about this scene. Mark Hamill’s performance is layered and masterful. Notice how, with all the history he carries with him — in Star Wars, as an actor — his demeanor changes instantly to that of student in Yoda’s presence. (The presence of, in reality, a puppet, making that change even more impressive.) His eyes tell of shame and then, when it hits him, hope. Luke’s arc in this scene alone breaks me, and that’s largely thanks to Hamill’s gifts.
And it’s a wonderful Yoda moment, full of wisdom akin to his lessons in Empire — with a bop on Luke’s noggin for good measure.
As a human being getting older, I have plenty of failures in the rearview mirror, some I probably need to let go of. That’s another reason why I love this scene so much. Like the best moments in Star Wars, I don’t see a movie. I see myself.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now on Digital and via Movies Anywhere, and comes to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and On-Demand on March 27.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.