And so it began. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi debuted to a full crowd by Rian Johnson, the director of the film, alongside the theater one-sheet poster. The poster gives us all this information but with one small twist: the logo for Star Wars was in red rather than the classic yellow.
Three small words have given us the first indication of next December’s impending release. That, combined with a change to the iconography we have all grown up with, gives us a new ideas and brand new theories that we will not get to resolve for another eleven months. But what can we glean from this tidbit that informs of us what might happen?
Let’s be honest: Star Wars movies do not exactly have the greatest track record for clever and inspiring naming conventions. After all, the naming of the original film from 1977 is up for relative debate. What should we call it?
- Star Wars?
- Episode Four?
- A New Hope?
- That one from the 70’s?
However you refer to it, the direct sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, are fine if not a bit hit-the-nail-on-the-head descriptions for the events that the films portray. But then the prequels were released and we could all clearly see that the naming of these new films was not a high priority.
The Phantom Menace was not bad in that it evoked duplicity, subterfuge, and perhaps even some danger, but the majority of audiences probably left wondering how the title connected to the events. Phantom Menace would have been more apt to describe the entirety of the prequel trilogy and Palpatine’s machinations overall rather than the first of three entries therein. Did the menace end at the end of Episode I? In fact, it only began with that entry. Attack of the Clones brought back the obvious content-description-style of the classic trilogy, but it was so uninspiring and cliche that the common retort was that it might as well have been Episode II: How Anakin Got His Groove Back. Rounding out the prequels, Revenge of the Sith evoked a respect and nod to the behind-the-scenes happenings surrounding Return of the Jedi. Jedi was originally slated to be named Revenge of the Jedi until Lucas reconsidered, concluding that revenge was not in the toolbag of the Jedi (if they were to be indeed dedicated to peace, justice, and order).
Before The Last Jedi, though, there was The Force Awakens (leaving Rogue One aside, as it is not an episodic entry). The title for Episode VII clued the audiences into some of the goings on in-universe. For the Force to awaken, it must have first been dormant. Presumably, this is intended to let us know that between Episode VI and VII, the Force was a relatively inactive player (or at least a less-involved player?). While we learn that Luke tried to start a Jedi Academy all his own, we also learn that it was destroyed. We see glimpses of the Knights of Ren, Kylo’s group of some sort of Dark Side ruffians, and discover that Kylo Ren’s training is incomplete but can be completed under the tutelage of Supreme Leader Snoke.
Rey’s debut as a Force-wielding young woman changes the game entirely. With no (on-screen as of yet) training in the Force, and such little pushing in the direction of the Jedi, we see her 1) resist a mind probe, 2) mind trick a stormtrooper, and 3) call Skywalker’s lightsaber to her hand. The Force is awake, and back in a big way.
So how does that turn with The Last Jedi?
Yoda prophesied that Luke was the last of the Jedi (when gone, Yoda was), but also allowed that there was another (his twin sister) that could be available as a backup plan if Luke could not survive his encounter with Vader. We clearly see that Luke was not the last Jedi that the universe would see, but it is clear that the lack of actual Jedi training can be disastrous. When Luke abandoned Yoda’s hut, he left beyond 900 years of Jedi experience. Granted, it had to be done for the story to play out the way it did, but that type of naivete comes with consequences. Luke failed in the training of the next generation of Jedi. From what evidence there is on-screen, Leia never developed the type of Jedi affluence that the Legend-canon allowed for. Luke’s lack of confidence led to self-imposed exile, since that was the only example he actually had.
It is difficult to take as small a piece of information as a three-word title and determine expectations, but at first glance there are several potential things this could reference, most of which are colored by the color of the logo:
- Luke rejects Rey’s request to teach her the ways of the Jedi. This would be anti-climactic and certainly counter to the audience’s desires. However, it is not terribly unreasonable. Yoda and Kenobi had lifetimes of Jedi experience and were barely able to train Luke. Luke, who had approximately 2 hours of formal Jedi education, had his Academy murdered at the hands of a former student. Luke may be too gun shy to pick up the mantle of teacher again, no matter the implications.
- Luke establishes a new order of Force users. Is it possible that after Episode VIII, the term “Jedi” will no longer apply? What if Luke casts off the term and the thousands of years of baggage it brings with it, declaring Rey to be the herald of a new age of Force users? What if the Sith and Jedi are dead, and Rey and Kylo Ren represent brand new entities in-universe?
- Luke dies in this Episode, closing the book on the Jedi of old. Just because a movie contract calls for a three-picture deal does not mean the character will survive those three pictures. Granted, we do not know all the terms of Mark Hamill’s contracts, but we must remember that Alec Guinness was in three Star Wars movies (and his voice cribbed for a fourth) while his character died halfway through the very first picture. Perhaps Luke takes the title of the Last Jedi to his grave, and allows Rey to continue on with her own training and teaching.
There’s too much speculation and potential avenues to consider down this road except for one element: I do not believe Luke is long for the living. While the Legends-canon never actually killed Luke, we do know that he passed at some point and had offspring of his own (see the Star Wars comic series Legacy which follows Luke’s ancestor Cade Skywalker; no I am not making that up). But in the new Disney universe, all we know is the Luke at the end of TFA. However, Disney was not afraid to take Han Solo out of the story (likely at Harrison Ford’s insistence), so there is precedent set that main characters may not survive. And with the recent real-world reminder that our heroes are not immune to the passing of time, we should start to prepare ourselves for the possibility that Luke Skywalker may not survive through Episode VIII.
by Drew Brett