"Welcome to Great Zimbabwe..."

It has been explained to me that every point in the universe appears to be the center of the universe. Where ever you go, the center is where you are. One physicist described this as being in a container of milk: Where ever you move in it, you see the same thing. But the universe is not contained or limited in a way we understand. The concept of a border collapses much like our mathematics does when approaching the first moment of all we know to be. It also appears as if the universe expanded from a quantum event. This means that everything in the universe is related, and functions by the same laws.

It is this relatedness that the first film in the Star Wars series attempted to obscure with the idea of immense chronological/spacial distance. The events described in the franchise's first movie in 1977 happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The narrative function of this distancing was to make the story and its creatures so strange to us that we had to suspend belief in our customs and values. And the more powerful the spectacle of spaceships, laser blasters, and planets that are defined by one climate (snowball globes, endless deserts, total tropics), the more we submitted to the illusion of chronological/spacial distance.

The spectacles in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are some of the most powerful and believable in the franchise.

Luke Skywalker's dark island (the creatures on the island, the monsters in the surrounding sea), the interiors of the First Order's battleships (the super-polished black surfaces, the steam and robots in the laundry room, the star fighters entering or exiting the immaculate docks), the space battles (the release of neatly ordered bombs, the elegant trajectory of long-range missiles, the galactic sublime of this and that explosion). The audience is completely captured from their own galaxy and thrown into this distant one, with its operatic narrative.

But what do we find once our surrender has immersed us in this distant galaxy, with all of its troubles, its wars, its suffering and struggles? A scene that's recognizably pro-vegetarianism; a sophisticated (and I would argue even academic) critique of the destructive, elitist principle of the Jedi religion; a feminist rejection of male impulsiveness and a celebration of rational, thoughtful female leadership; and a political economy that springs from the idea that much of the problems of this galaxy might be related to its laissez faire market (a distended military-industrial-financial complex, the casino ideology of the men and women who produce weapons of mass destruction, child labor as a consequence of the absence of regulation). All of this is in the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a film that may disappoint Trump supporters but will certainly be enjoyed by every other human in this galaxy. recommended