Kylo Ren’s “Let the past die” is one of the most incendiary lines of Star Wars: The Last Jedi but its meaning is sometimes misunderstood. Star Wars have been around for over four decades and has touched the lives of many generations. It’s the archetypal myth of good vs evil, which launched with a hero's call to adventure -in this case Luke Skywalker - back in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The story has since spread out t0 every medium imaginable, from books to comics and video games.
Star Wars creator George Lucas once vowed the movie series would end after his prequel trilogy, but once Disney purchased the franchise a new era of movies was promised. The first movie out the gate was the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, a fun sci-fi adventure that brought back fan favorite characters whilst introducing new heroes and villains. That said, the movie was criticized for being a xerox of A New Hope, essentially repeating the key beats of the original movie. The response to The Force Awakens showed making a movie that would satisfy the nostalgic needs of the audience while paving a new path would be prove tricky.
It would be an understatement to say director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi divided opinion. Some fans enjoyed how it defied expectations whilst others felt it was disrespectful to both the characters and the fanbase. That debate is likely to rage on in the years ahead, but one line would prove especially controversial. The character of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is one of the most fascinating new additions to the franchise, being a villain who is defined and driven by his families’ history. Ren is really Ben Solo, son of Han and Princess Leia. Ren fell to the Dark Side and originally sought to live up to his grandfather Darth Vader's legacy, but in The Last Jedi, he appears to have had a change of heart.
Ren tells Rey midway through the story she has to “Let the past die,” which some viewers took to be a meta-commentary on Johnson’s view of the Star Wars franchise. They took the meaning of this line to be that the series had to shed the past completely, but neither the movie – nor the character himself – mean it that way. Despite what he claims, Ren can’t let the past die. He felt killing his own father would sever those tie but it didn’t, and when confronted with a chance to kill his mother he couldn’t bring himself to do it. In killing Supreme Leader Snoke he sought to cut all links to his old life but in the end a literal ghost from his past - a force projection of his uncle Luke - confronted and defeated him.
Luke Skywalker himself seemed to embrace Ren's philosophy too, feeling the Jedi are a relic and should be forgotten, but he comes to realize through teaching Rey this isn’t the case. Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn’t preaching the series needs to ignore or kill its past, it’s stating both the characters and filmmakers need to build on what’s come before while learning to evolve too. Rey and Luke ultimately take this lesson to heart, while Ren still can’t “Let the past die,” no matter how hard he tries.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019