‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: A spoiler-filled conversation

Chatting with writer Michal Schick about this weekend's box office smash
By Esther D. Kustanowitz   \ Michal SchickPublished on 12/18/2017 at 9:13 AM EDT

Hey Grok Nation – if you’re like me, and I know that some of you are – you’ve already seen “The Last Jedi” – the latest installment in the epic Star Wars saga…perhaps more than once! I went on Friday midday and was thrilled with the movie: I felt very connected to it emotionally, since it was Carrie Fisher’s last film, and also seeing Luke back in a major role was very powerful for me and for others who grew up on the original films. Coming out of the theater, I knew I had to consult some of my Star Wars experts to find out their reactions to Episode 8. Michal Schick, who previously wrote for us about NerdFitness and Wonder Woman, answered the call, in detail. Here’s our conversation about this incredible film. And yes, spoilers a-plenty. Last chance to turn back….well, we warned you! – Esther K.

Esther: On a scale of Ewok (low range of the furry scale) to Wookie (tall end of the furry scale), what would you rate this film? (The furry scale is not at all well-known as I have just created it for this question…) 

Michal: I can’t rate it yet! The Last Jedi left me feeling like I had been made to eat chocolate cake for 24 hours – I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I couldn’t figure out what parts I found truly delicious, and what I really didn’t like. I will say that it is much better than the sad, bald Ewoks of the prequels, however.

Esther: Personally, I liked the Return of the Jedi Ewoks – I never understood why people hated them so much. But now I kind of dislike the Porgs (a.k.a. Star Wars Tribbles), so now I kind of get it.

Michal: I was all hyped up to HATE the porgs, but I actually thought they were used well as an occasional humorous accent. The crystal foxes are still vastly superior, however — they saved the whole Resistance!

Esther: Totally. Crystal foxes for the win. What was your favorite scene or most poignant moment?

Michal: I love Rey and Kylo Ren’s evolving relationship. Their conversations were shocking and heartfelt, and I thought it was a neat way to force two enemies to confront each other through words, rather than violence. (The device also lets us get to know the real Ben Solo hiding under Kylo Ren. We were able to hear his side of the story without justifying his behavior or his choices, and get a better sense of the truly tragic arc of his transformation.) The way those conversations culminated in Snoke’s throne room took my breath away — it’s been so long since we’ve seen two people wield lightsabers together for the same purpose, and even though I’m no “Reylo” shipper, Rey and Ben presented such a unified front in their mutual power and loneliness that I couldn’t help but hope that Rey would succeed in bringing Ben back home so that Leia could give him a hug (and then a well-deserved slap on the tuchus.)

Esther: “Reylo” (letting Rey hook up with Kylo Ren) is a terrible idea, but one that will undoubtedly be well covered in fan fictions to come…and yes, I agree, part of me wished for a Ben Solo homecoming, but the scene of them working together to take down Snoke’s guards made me believe it was more likely Rey would join Kylo than the other way round.

Michal: I thought that could happen, but the promotion for The Last Jedi put so much emphasis on Rey’s possible fall to the Dark Side that I figured she would stay with the light.

Esther: I worried it would be the opposite – another case of the trailer telling us too much about the film…but glad I was wrong.

Michal: It would have been an interesting development, but ultimately I still felt that each of their conclusions were well established and perfectly in-character. For Rey, Luke’s failures and successes could only lead her to the light, while Ben’s quest for dominance and control could only lead to the dark.

Esther: I heartily agree. A reversal from Kylo Ren into Ben Solo might have emotionally satisfied us for a minute, but his darkness in opposition to Rey’s light is necessary for narrative.

Michal: The darkness rises, and the light to meet it!

Esther: Here’s hoping…Let’s move on to my favorite Star Wars character (played by the iconic and much-missed Carrie Fisher who I considered my “Matronus”) General Leia. I was a “one-issue voter” on this film – if Leia didn’t have a good story and a chance to show strength, I would consider it a failure. And Rian Johnson faked me out with Leia getting sucked out into space – my tears became weeping and I felt utterly betrayed by this “death” – “how could it be so soon?” – when she came back, using the Force, it was amazing. And it made me wonder if Carrie could do it too. 

Michal: Matronus — I love it! I was also totally shocked when the bridge was bombed to smithereens, and I really thought that Johnson might decide to cut Leia’s story off there, in the light of Carrie’s passing. I was so gratified when the story returned to her, and though I wasn’t super keen on how the floating looked visually, it was also incredibly exhilarating to watch Leia FINALLY use the Force. It breaks my heart that it’s the last time, but I’m grateful that Star Wars fans were able to experience that after 40 years of wondering.

Esther: Leia wielding the Force was very powerful, and it’s an image I hope to take with me. I also thought that the shots of her drifting in space seemed to invoke Carrie’s desired epitaph: “She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.” (Except without the bra-strangling part.)

Michal: I might be crying a little bit now.

Esther: I am not in any position to judge anyone crying about Carrie, Leia or any part of this movie. I used up my entire “purse pack” of Kleenex on this movie. Any thoughts on the new characters, especially Amilyn Holdo and Rose Tico, and the slicer? Did you feel that they all contributed to the narrative?

Michal: I absolutely adore Rose, and I’m thrilled that she’s part of the Star Wars universe. The sequel trilogy is taking the time to prioritize characters who used to be invisible in Star Wars, and I think that both Finn and Rose prove that this is an incredibly worthwhile venture. I love that Rose is skilled but not flashily so, and I love that it’s her sheer, positive will that propels her and Finn through their adventures. And even if it’s a little cheesy, I love her simple statement at the end of the movie – that the Resistance’s victory comes not through the desire to destroy, but the will to save and preserve. It’s the exact thing that Leia and Amilyn Holdo are trying to force into Poe’s thick skull the entire movie, and it’s beautiful how naturally this idea comes to Rose, who herself has experienced so much loss.

Esther: I loved Rose, too – she’s kind of like a Finn fangirl, reflecting all of us who are Star Wars fangirls. 🙂 But what you’re pointing out – Rose trying to get through to Finn, and Leia and Amilyn trying to reach Poe – seems like it might be a gender divide in the approach to war. Rey flirts with that line on Ach-To with Luke, working through a lot of anger and an urge to destroy, but in the end, we see that she is embracing light, and Kylo is embracing darkness and destruction. I feel like maybe this is the most feminist – and most diverse and inclusive – of the Star Wars films. But I look forward to the think pieces that will prove this pronouncement wrong. 🙂

Michal: I agree. I know that some people felt like all the female characters have to sacrifice themselves, but for me it felt very in-character. And there are whole scenes in Rebel command that are JUST WOMEN – how cool is that??

Mother and daughter, Carrie Fisher & Billie Lourd, in a Vanity Fair photo taken a few months before Fisher died (via

Esther: It’s true. I saw a lot of X-wing pilots and flight deck crew who were women. And Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, playing Lieutenant Connix, also brought up some tears; I’m so glad Billie and Carrie have this movie together. What about Amilyn Holdo – she was new to this film, and now she’s dead. (Sounds harsh to write it that way but it’s true…) In the Leia: Princess of Alderaan book, she’s a friend of Leia’s in their Senate internship program. I love that we got a little scene of that friendship toward the end of the film, before Amilyn’s big sacrifice.

Michal: I also really like Amilyn Holdo. She’s another character that people have deemed useless, but for me she represents the diversity of power in the Resistance. I’m seriously sad that she’s dead, but the way she goes out is up there with the Top Five Star Wars Deaths for me. And that moment of validation when Leia storms onto the bridge and stuns Poe is just delightful on so many levels. I do wish she had something else to do beyond look forbidding on the bridge for most of the movie. I do think that the length of The Last Jedi is not kind to a lot of its storylines, and Amilyn suffers from the lingering. Still, I love it when she is validated by Leia’s blaster, and I think her death is up there with Top Five Star Wars Deaths for me.

The only new character I didn’t like was DJ the slicer. He represents a lot of the movie’s excesses for me. Finn and Rose to go all the way to Canto Bight, accidentally find a helping hand, and come so close to their goal only to have DJ betray them, meaning that both the entire trip AND Holdo’s escape-pod-plan are almost entirely useless. Benicio del Toro is great in the role (obviously!) but the character and his accompanying dilly-dallying might just be at the bottom of my list.

Esther: Fair enough. I had hoped he’d be more involved, either becoming a part of the Resistance or revealing a past connection with one of the characters. (Chewbacca, as the right-hand man to Han Solo for decades, would have been a likely choice.) There is so much to discuss in this movie. And I’m sure we’ll have more to say in the days ahead and as we go to our inevitable second screenings! But, overall, did the film meet your expectations? 

Michal: If I’m being honest, the movie hasn’t met my expectations — yet. I walked out of The Force Awakens elated, and I left The Last Jedi confused, sad, and sort of dissatisfied. (Also tired. This is a long movie!) The Last Jedi was deliberately built to defy our expectations on pretty much every level and it does that powerfully, but that’s not always easy to appreciate or even understand on first go. Everything – from Luke’s extremely rough edges, to some of the humor, to Rey’s incredibly strange vision, to the world of Canto Bight – had me off-balance and uncertain. It’s not a great feeling even if it was intentional on Rian Johnson’s part, and while I know that there are lots and lots of layers of this movie to explore, I still wish I’d been able to experience the pure, Star Wars high that I felt with 2015’s TFA.

Esther: I felt really satisfied by this film. I keep thinking of more and more details that I need to talk about…I think part of it was giving Luke such a powerful and varied storyline, and how far he’s come as a character (and probably how far Mark Hamill has come as an actor too) since he was whining on Tattooine about going to Toschi to pick up power converters. And to see him “go out” saving his family – both biological and ideological – and watch twin suns set as he did in “A New Hope,” was iconic, heartbreaking and fitting, giving me some comfort and resolution that he’d found peace in his final act of protecting the people he loves.

Michal: It was an amazing movie for Leia, and a very powerful (if hugely premature) final performance for Carrie. I’m sure we’ll see Luke as a Force Ghost again, but I need more time to come to terms with the fact that his story (and Leia’s story, and Han’s story) are over.

But the good thing about Star Wars though, is that no one viewing is definitive. We grow into the films and they grow into us. While it isn’t sitting perfectly right now, l will come to enjoy the whole thing more as I incorporate this movie into my Star Wars reality.

Michal Schick is a writer, podcaster, and pop-culture obsessive based in New York City. She has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and an unbridled obsession with nail polish. You can find her writing about television, feminism, and Star Wars at, and listen to her thoughts on the podcasts Nice Jewish Fangirls, Level 7 Access, and others.

Esther D. Kustanowitz is an editor here at GrokNation, and longtime Star Wars (and Leia) fan, but you already knew that. What you may not know is that she got a new roommate for Hanukkah, pictured here. Or rather, a roomm-8. 🙂

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