Star Wars: The Last Jedi just turned a year old, which means it’s a great time to revisit one of its best scenes and dig into what makes it so special.
The analysis here comes from Script to Screen, a fantastic Twitter account that yesterday posted a comparison of the end of the film’s Throne Room sequence, with the final, emotional confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren amidst the wreckage of Snoke’s former seat of power. Watch it: on the top, the scene as it plays in the film, and on the bottom, the script’s version.
— Script to Screen (@ScripttoScreen_) December 14, 2018
First, the obvious difference: In the script version, Luke’s lightsaber is on for a lot of the scene, whereas in the film it’s deactivated as soon as the battle’s over. It’s an elegant change for the better, I think. While having it on foregrounds it in the viewer’s minds for Rey’s eventual decision to reclaim it for herself, it’s a lot more subtle and, frankly, logical, for it to be off the whole time.
What’s really striking, though, about this comparison is how minimal the script is. It’s all in the dialogue, and the strength of the scene comes down entirely to the emotional, desperate, yearning performances of Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. There are a couple ways to interpret this scene.
The first is that Ben is simply manipulating Rey, negging her in order to push her to join him. The other is that Ben really believes what he’s saying, as cruel as it is. He calls Rey nothing because he authentically believes the galaxy has rejected both of them, and he wants to let her know that he cares about her, that he finds meaning in their connection when no one else does.
It’s still a revealing, hurtful line, but a tragic one. Ben’s fatal flaw is how he sees himself and his place in the world, and he fails here by imposing that perspective onto the one person trying to help him.
Driver, in my mind, absolutely sells that second reading, and Ridley reacts to it with just the right amount of pain and pity. Their performances take what could have otherwise been a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back into something raw and tragic. This is what good acting can do.