(Warning: I’m about to spoil the crap out of The Last Jedi, so if you’re still avoiding spoilers, skip this one.)
In case you’ve stumbled onto this via the Internet and don’t know me at all, you need to know two things about me: I have been a Star Wars fan since I was five years old, sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car watching A New Hope at the drive-in in 1977. And I’ve been in love with Luke Skywalker for about that long. So to say I was a wee bit excited about The Last Jedi is a massive understatement.
The Last Jedi is available to buy today, and for the first time, I’m not diving in to immediately buy it and rewatch it. No, no, come back. This isn’t one of those “Rian Johnson ruined my life” posts. I loved The Last Jedi. I loved it a lot. I was excited about it from the moment I saw the last few minutes of The Force Awakens. I could not wait to see how my beloved Luke Skywalker turned out. When it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and goodness, I was even more intrigued. I wanted to see a cranky, struggling Luke who was coming to terms with a life that hadn’t gone the way he’d expected. And I got it. Mark Hamill was every bit as brilliant as I expected him to be. The storyline was as good as I’d hoped, full of gray areas and good intentions and being human.
But I don’t know for sure when I’ll be able to watch it again.
I’ve cried during movies before, during books. Hell, in high school, I went to see Dead Poets Society with a best friend and we cried through the end of the movie, the credits, back out to my car, and sat there in the parking lot and cried some more. But TLJ was the first time I came face to face with losing a character that I have known and loved for forty years. I wasn’t terribly surprised by it and I thought the way it happened was brilliant and exactly right. But. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t grieve. That I’m not still grieving.
I saw TLJ twice in the theaters. The first time, I didn’t cry when Luke faded away–not much. But the moment the credits rolled and I turned to talk to my friend next to me, I opened my mouth to speak and a sob came out. The second time, I started sobbing the moment we saw that binary sunset and I pretty much didn’t stop until the movie ended. I don’t mean I shed a couple of tears. When I say ‘sob’, I mean body-shaking, trying-not-to-whimper-out-loud-in-the-theater ugly crying. When the credits started this time, I think a few people around me were a little worried.
When TLJ came out, I was a pretty active member of the Star Wars fandom online. (If you really want a link to my Star Wars fanfic and don’t have it, just ask.) In the aftermath of TLJ, I had to step away. Very strong, very different opinions on the movie put me at odds with people I consider friends, so in the interest of that friendship, I stepped away. So I was dealing with two losses, in a way. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I realized I was avoiding everything connected to the Star Wars fandom, including the podcast I helped start.
That’s when I realized I was still mourning the death of Luke Skywalker.
Don’t get me wrong, I know he’ll probably turn up as a ghost in the next movie, and I know there’ll still be books about him to come out–there’s a lot of story left to tell. But after seeing him for the first time on screen almost 41 years ago, and then watching him finally fade away… there aren’t words for that sort of feeling. Outside of soap operas, I don’t know of many media franchises where we see our beloved heroes get old and die, and certainly not those as legendary as the original trio in Star Wars.
It was watching the end of an era and it was also coming face to face with my own mortality, something that’s started happening on occasion these days. I was a five year old little girl when the first movie came out. Now I’m a forty-five year old woman and seeing the passage of time in my favorite characters was seeing the passage of time in myself.
That’s a lot of weight to put on a Hollywood blockbuster.
I still love Star Wars every bit as much as I did. Right now I’m focusing my fannish energy on reading bits of the old books that I never got around to reading before. Someday I’ll be able to come back and enjoy TLJ again, but probably not right now.