That’s right Star Wars nerds, less than a year to go until Episode VIII hits theatres and picks up right where Episode VII left off. If you remember, we left the universe with Daisy Ridley’s soon to be Jedi Rey tracking down self exiled bearded Jedi Master Luke Skywalker on the island of Ahch-To and attempting to hand back to him his original light saber.
Everyone in the world saw The Force Awakens, certainly anyone that would be reading this so there’s no point in treading over familiar territory. Instead we’ll focus on key additions to the next installment and briefly go over what we can expect from a few of our returning characters.
BE WARNED…if you’re the type of person who wants to go in completely cold, then don’t continue reading as this article will talk about character details and possible plot lines.
The key new character additions for Ep. VIII (not including the Knights of Ren) will be played by Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro and Kelly Marie Tran. Details on Tran’s character are sparse but we do know that she is playing an individual named Aya who works as an “information broker” that sells intelligence to whoever is willing to pay for it. By the time we catch up to her she has sold information to both the Resistance and the First Order which makes her intentions a little ambiguous. However in one rumored scene which takes place at a bar, Aya helps Finn evade some Storm Trooper trouble so it would appear she is sympathetic to the resistance or at the very least Finn.
We know much less about Benicio Del Toro’s character. He’s on record saying he plays the villain in this episode and he’s been rumored to be playing either Vikrum Fett or Admiral Thrawn. Lars Mikkelsen has impressed many with his version as Thrawn on Star Wars Rebels so this seems unlikely. On the flipside there are also reports he’s playing Erza Bridger from the Rebels TV show or maybe Rey’s father in some capacity. At this point this is all conjecture and the company has been very tight lipped on this issue. Still with 8 months to go and idle hands being what they are, I’m sure we’ll hear much more in the coming months other than clothing options.
Laura Dern’s still unnamed character seems to be that of a leadership role in what is a fractured relationship between the republic and the resistance. It’s rumored a civil war of sorts has created a rift in the resistance with Dern’s character on one side and General Leia leading the other, more “disruptive” side, akin to Saw Gerrera’s band of rebels. There is a rumored scene involving Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac of course, and Dern’s character in a heated exchange which may indicate whose side Poe is on. Again, this could be just conjecture or hyperbole so take it all with a grain of salt. With that, I feel it would be an interesting story line to touch on and help casual fans that haven’t read the Aftermath books (I recommend highly) understand the current political state of the galaxy. Especially the relationship between the First Order and the Republic itself.
Picking up captains duties where J.J. Abrams left off is writer/director Rian Johnson, who’s filling both roles. Johnson’s claim to fame prior to entering the Star Wars universe was 2012’s feature Looper starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis. While Looper did modestly at the box office it was received very well by critics and movie goers alike who applauded the slick action sequences and unique sci-fi storytelling. As mentioned, unlike the Force Awakens which had a few writers take passes at the script, ultimately going with Abrams/Kasdan’s final draft, this script appears to have been entirely written by Johnson himself. This is telling in that Disney/Lucas Films must have a tremendous amount of confidence in Johnsons storytelling ability to let him reside over this episode entirely. But like all things Star Wars, the creative powers that be are never too far behind.
Of course, Episode VIII will also see the return of our favorite Force Awakens heroes and villains set to continue either their rise to glory or ultimately their path to destruction. Again details are scarce but we can surmise that Rey’s former life of scraping by as a scavenger on Jakku are long gone. Her path ultimately (in this episode or the next) will lead her to both finding out her parent’s identities and learning the ways of the light side of the force, thus becoming a Jedi with the help Luke Skywalker himself. Rumors suggest Rey’s presence finally brings balance to force, and could become the series first Grey Jedi and even involve the Guardians of the Whills somehow. Again these are just rumors so I wouldn’t count on anything other than straight forward storytelling, which after much hyperbole, Ep. VII ended up being.
Speaking of Luke, will he find the redemption he’s looking for by helping Rey with her journey? Will the appearance of a new strong force sensitive person rejuvenate him and bring him back into the fold? All involved have stated, including Mark Hamill himself that Luke has a much bigger role in The Last Jedi, but getting more screen time than 30 seconds shouldn’t prove difficult and it’s no secret he has a major part to play in this new trilogy. Plus with Kylo Ren hot on their heels he may be forced into action sooner than he’d like with old scores that need to be settled.
As for the rest of the resistance key figures, we know General Leia Organa, Poe Dameron, Finn and Chewbacca will return. How Leia and Chewbacca carry on with their lives now that Han Solo is gone will be an interesting avenue to explore. Leia, who is a driven politician with a strong rebel streak will have to find a way to carry on while also dealing with the fact that her son is responsible for the death of her love and his own father. Johnson has stated that no additional scenes were filmed and nothing was removed after the sad and untimely death of Carrie Fischer so we could extrapolate on that and easily predict an outcome. Reports out now suggest family members have given Ep. IX director Colin Trevorrow and the studio permission to use her likeness so expect her journey to come full circle, albeit a CGI one.
As for our old pal Chewie, things aren’t what they used to be. With his oath to Solo no longer applicable, will the wookie find motivation enough to stay the course and seek revenge on Kylo Ren for killing his one time saviour or will he call it a day and return to Kashyyyk? His presence in the resistance is strong so I wouldn’t count on him fleeing that’s for sure. Plus Rey could potentially use a copilot for the Millennium Falcon.
For Finn there is still the matter of his origin story that seems open for exploration. We know Finn comes from his designation FN2187 but not much else beyond that. Who he was before he was taken by The First Order and turned into a storm trooper is completely unknown at this point. And the circumstances surrounding his kidnapping and what happened to his parents are two areas that need to be resolved eventually. Other than that expect him to carry a lot of the load action wise since he’s proven his worth as strong effective resistance member and now that he’s completely done with the First Order his motivation should become more clear this time around.
Poe Dameron will of course be involved anytime the resistance is so expect so see everyone’s favorite leader of Black Squadron in a lot more scenes this time around. He spent most of Ep. VII presumed dead so his role this time around should be beefed up considerably. And if there is a civil war brewing in the republic, Poe will have to choose which side he’s on, although history says he’ll stick with the resistance. Poe is a legacy of sorts in the Republic, both his parents were pilots in the resistance, so it would appropriate to see his backstory explored in some detail as well if there’s time.
Things on the First Order side of business are a little more bleak. They have been dealt a huge blow with the destruction of the Starkiller Base and last time we saw Kylo Ren he had been given a fresh new face scar by a young upstart who showed strong resistance and force sensitivities of her own. Will he show remorse for killing his own father, Han Solo? Will he lead the Knights of Ren into battle against the resistance? A confrontation with Luke Skywalker seems inevitable at this point as those two have a history which can’t be ignored. Will his obsession with his infamous grandfather continue to fester his feelings of fear and hate and drive him further toward the Dark Side of the force? Expect a lot of this to be covered this episode and there’s rumors going around that Kylo Ren visits a very important family local so look for that. Reports are also indicating a bit of a costume change as well.
General Hux and Captain Phasma carry the heavy loads for the military leadership roles of the First Order and unfortunately we know no next to nothing about them. They both evaded death/capture after their base was destroyed and ordered back to Snoke so we know their presence will be felt in some way. The fans reaction to Phasma in particular was strong and demand for more screen time seems to have been heard and Gwendoline Christie herself has stated she has significantly more time on screen this time around. As for Hux, there’s plenty of backstory to tell but with a crowded cast and new villains, doubtful we’ll see much of it. Its likely the continued power struggle between Hux and Kylo Ren will continue to cause a rift between the two and that’s bulk of Hux’s involvement.
The villain which has caused the most speculation up to this point is the leader of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke played by Andy Serkis. We’ve only seen him in hologram form up until now so fans are clambering for a full on look at Snoke in person and start to get an idea of what his background is. The are several rumors currently floating around the internet about his origin but it’s quite clear he is a master of the Dark Side of the Force (Sith Lord perhaps?) and if the Rule of 2 is followed should be the master to Kylo Ren’s apprentice. Of all the characters he is need of the most redemption after Ep. VII since it was an apparent letdown. The reveal on the Emperor from the original trilogy was a slow burn and if a similar path is followed, it won’t be until Ep. IX when we find out all of Snoke’s story.
We will see the mysterious Knights of Ren as well presumably being led by Kylo Ren? In what capacity is anybody’s guess but set reports indicate we’ll see them very early on and in action. If you know how the film begins you could summise the details surrounding that scene quite easily.
Really, after all this the only thing we know about the story for sure is where it will begin. Other than that we really can’t say what the established characters will be facing but basic storytelling dictates the new movie to continue some important plot threads from the previous chapter and create and expand on new ones setting us for Episode IX. The biggest question and what is likely the dominating narrative throughout the 3 act structure, is not much more complicated than the hero’s journey. Much like Luke’s path in Episodes IV, V and VI, will Rey learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like Luke did? If she is indeed a Skywalker as many would suggest, then search your feelings…you know it to be true.
Then there’s the title itself which has caused some discussion as the word Jedi can read both singular or plural. In European markets where the word Jedi translates differently, it’s being read as plural on the promotional materials. Is that a hint at potential spoilers or just semantics? Time will ultimately answer this question but plot machinations tell us there’s more than one Jedi (or soon to be Jedi) at least for the foreseeable future.
But until that ITC Serif Gothic crawl starts with that familiar John Williams score we’re left to our own devices and imaginations. Read all the fan theories and conjecture you want if it helps pass the time, but until then the only thing we can count on is that Star Wars The Last Jedi will be released on December 15 and make a lot of money in the process. We should be seeing a teaser soon to coincide with Star Wars day in Orlando so that will help both clear and muddy the waters for us.
Finally on a high note, Hayden Christensen is confirmed to attend Star Wars day, which says two important things…time to heal old wounds and that he’ll definitely be making some sort of appearance in The Last Jedi. Past time for both…
Until next time…MTFBWY.