The Last Jedi: Lessons in Failure

**WARNING! This article contains MAJOR spoilers for The Last Jedi!

If you have not seen the film, please DO NOT read this article till you do!

Just go watch the film, then come back here ok?**

I think we are all probably still processing The Last Jedi. In fact, I think we will be processing The Last Jedi for a looong time. After years of waiting and endlessly speculating, the time has finally to come find out why the Jedi must end.

The Last Jedi is a film where nothing seems to go to plan. Whether it’s Rey’s wide-eyed, hopeful quest to seek a wise mentor to teach her the ways of the Force and become a father figure to her, or Finn and Rose’s doomed mission to Canto Bight…nothing goes to plan. The theme that struck me the most throughout this movie was that of failure. Every character in the film fails in their missions at some point. Whilst this might initially leave us scratching our heads wondering maybe what was the point in all that, I think it actually sends a powerful message.

Yoda’s surprise lesson to Luke was of the fringe benefits of failure. That it’s not necessarily the fact that you have failed, but what you do about it afterwards that is more important. Take Finn and Rose for example; they both set out on a daring mission to Canto Bight, to slice their way onboard Snoke’s flagship undetected and give the Resistance fleet a chance of escape. They didn’t manage to do this and the fleet did not manage to jump to the freedom of untracked hyperspace. Instead they were captured, taunted by their enemies and narrowly avoided execution. This would break many characters’ resolve. Finn and Rose could have chosen to wallow in self-pity. Yet neither of them did this – they took the painful lessons they had learned, whether from the callous DJ or a confrontation with an old, hated boss, and they got back up again. They picked themselves up from rock bottom and used their mistakes and failures as a foundation for their growth.

I’ll never forget the following quote from J.K. Rowling - and it seems particularly resonant to this film. “It is impossible to live without failure, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. By which case you fail by default”. I think this applies so well to The Last Jedi, particularly to Luke. When we finally meet Luke again on Ahch-To, he is failing by default. He is crippled by guilt over Ben Solo and fear for Rey. Yet Luke finally realises that although he may have failed Ben, he need not fail Rey. That perhaps, no-one is truly without hope. Maybe there will be a chance that Ben Solo can come back from all this, maybe there won’t. But in the end that doesn’t matter to Luke. What matters is what Luke chooses to do about his mistakes. Luke’s story in The Last Jedi goes to show that it is never too late to learn from your mistakes. At any time, you have the power to pick yourself up from rock bottom and carry on. Luke was needed in the present (as Yoda constantly reminds him) and when he finally put his attention to where it needed to be, he was able to save the lives of the remaining Resistance fighters, to protect that tiny, precious little ember of rebellion.

In the meantime, Poe learned the hard way about the fringe benefits of failure. His hotheadedness in the opening scene, whilst successfully taking out a First Order destroyer, came at such a high price to the Resistance. He then badly misjudged Admiral Holdo’s strategy, thinking he knew best, questioning her, undermining her and ultimately rising up against her. He was not able to accept leadership and was completely cast adrift without his X-wing. Grounded, Poe wasn’t in control of his surroundings, probably not something he has felt before. Yet throughout the course of the film, we see a change in Poe, whether from Holdo’s steadfast, calm example, or through Leia’s patient (and sometimes impatient!) guidance. He realizes his past errors, in not trusting his superiors’ judgment – and takes heed of this on Crait. He holds Finn back, putting his trust in Luke – finally able to take his eyes off his targeting computer and see the bigger picture. I think Poe will learn from all of this and go on to become a better leader because of it.

Even the wily General Hux learns that it is better to throw in his lot with Kylo Ren then to challenge the new Supreme Leader (whilst he’s conscious anyway!). In fact, the only person who doesn’t from his mistakes is Kylo Ren himself. He constantly underestimates Rey’s commitment to the light side of the Force which even a devastating revelation about her parents couldn’t shake. Kylo should have realized that he is at his best when his intention is clear, as it was in Snoke’s throne room. When he is blinded by his anger he is wild and impulsive, lashing out with his rage and never looking at the situation in front of him. This is why he fell so completely for Luke’s ruse on Crait. Until Kylo realizes that he must focus on the situation in front of him, and not yield completely to his passion, he will continue to fail. But then again, some people never learn do they?!