Rian Johnson is one of my favorite directors, and I am really honored to write something about him for #SavingWhatWeLove week. Prior to writing this piece, I had seen many of his major motion pictures, including Looper, Brick, The Last Jedi and Knives Out. Generally, Rian’s movies are engaging, fun, and make the viewer think about some things while not being heavy. My favorite far and away is Knives Out, and The Last Jedi is my favorite of the Sequel Trilogy from Star Wars. Needless to say, if you have not seen both The Last Jedi and Knives Out, go no further, as spoilers abound.
My overall favorite thing about both The Last Jedi and Knives Out is Rian’s promotion of women by giving them real, emotional, and strong arcs. Rose Tico is the emotional heart of The Last Jedi. I felt the connection between Rose and Paige, felt that sacrifice so deeply in my soul despite Paige only having been on screen for a few moments. Rose is the often overlooked every-person in the Resistance (similar to Wedge in the Rebellion), representing everything good and pure about Star Wars and I could go on about it for years. She had that amazing “saving what you love” line, which can be applied to so many things both within the fandom and outside of it. As for Leia, I felt like Rian elicited a wonderful, stronger, quieter performance from Carrie Fisher in TLJ. It was the first time we were able to see Leia as both a leader and a Jedi. Rian’s introduction of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo was masterful in its obfuscation as to her trustworthiness and the complexity in how we view her based on those varied perceptions of other characters. Plus, her death is so powerful and awe inspiring it that will NEVER be forgotten.
Knives Out is challenging in its own way about perceptions and is very much a commentary on privilege. Marta in Knives Out is a more overt bow to women, especially women of color and from a less privileged background. She is the absolute antithesis of Harlan Thromby’s family and she is rewarded for her work ethic, caring nature and kindness as a person. Additionally, her character cannot lie without becoming physically ill, so watching her work within that structure to follow Harlan’s plan is spellbinding. Her working relationship with Benoit Blanc is delightful and his defense of her goodness, despite his knowledge that she is involved in something nefarious, is vehement. Marta leaves the film LITERALLY looking down on the rich, kind of racist, very privileged children and grandchildren of Harlan, and is the undisputed victor in a tale of betrayal and murder. Overall, it is such a fun and smart movie and one I encourage everyone to watch.
Perhaps my favorite thing about a Rian Johnson movie is the complexity of them. Every one of his movies has made me want to immediately re-watch and reflect. This urge to examine and grow is probably Rian Johnson’s greatest gift to those who watch his movies, though they can be enjoyed strictly at face value as well. Thank you, Rian Johnson, I wish you a Happy Birthday and humbly request more Benoit Blanc in my life.
PS That thigh grab gave me (and every Reylo) LIFE.