What ‘The Last Jedi’ Teaches Us About Story

What 'The Last Jedi' Teaches Us About Story“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

That’s the quote I kept thinking of as I watched The Last Jedi. Someone must have been channeling Friedrich Nietzsche because the meaning of his famous quote is woven throughout the 2.5 hours of cinema paradiso that is Star Wars VIII.

This blog post contains no spoilers, and I’m not going to say review the movie because I don’t do that for a living. The movie isn’t just a story, it’s a visual delight. I even caught a very specific visual reference to classic scene in the old Wings movie. You’ll know it when you see it.

One thing you’ll probably notice about The Last Jedi is how it goes back to basics, like the James Bond franchise did with Casino Royale and Skyfall. I suspect this will turn out well for them and to that, I say ‘bravo.’ Star Wars is amazing. You know it, I know it, let’s move on.

What I do want to discuss what ‘The Last Jedi’ has to teach writers about story. As another writer friend pointed out, Star Wars is all about mythology. ‘The Last Jedi’ continues that tradition. In a nutshell, this is an able, faithful execution of powerful, ancient myths in a sci-fi fantasy context. Behind the action are very powerful statements about the battle between good and evil, the good intentions that can be turned against us, and the need to let go of the past.

I won’t go into specifics (#MayTheSpoilersRemainInYou), but when you see The Last Jedi you’ll know what I’m talking about. Anyone who becomes a hero becomes tied to the myths and expectations about themselves. Anyone who goes out to defeat evil must also defeat the evil within themselves. In every opportunity, there also lies danger. The Last Jedi spends every frame of the movie reminding us that you don’t need a Death Star to be powerful, you just need an idea.

So take that lesson home for yourselves – you don’t have to look far for good stories. They’re all around us. Instead, find good ways to explore those ancient themes. Grab your audience’s heart. Apply Rule #14 of the Pixar Storytelling Rules and tell us why you must tell this story.

When in doubt, remember what Luke Skywalker said in the Last Jedi trailer: Breathe. Just breathe. Now reach out. What do you see?

Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple. Never let anyone accuse you of having a story that ‘is not a page-turner.’

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