If you’re in the business of making Star Wars part of your life, then the two years since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has gone by rather quickly. We have so much “stuff” to occupy our time with that the phenomenon of “standing waves” still doesn’t affects us as much as it would for a “film only” Star Wars fan or just your run of the mill casual fan. But whichever side of the fence you fall on, the time has officially arrived where I get to say that in one month we will see the release of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
Here’s the latest TV spot…
With the release of the latest and likely last full length trailer a month ago, we’re into the home stretch and we’re learning more and more little bits about what we can expect. But I’ll give credit where credit is due, the studio and those involved with the making of the film have been heroically tight-lipped about this film. As someone who’ll consume any information I can get it’s been equal parts frustrating but a welcome sense of relief as well.
I feel like I know less about this Star Wars film than any previous entry and that’s not from a lack of trying. I’ve done my usual daily searches and gone down the rabbit hole in various message boards and sub-groups only to find the same information that’s really been floating around for quite some time. While I have my own theories on where this story will take us, I find myself arriving at the same conclusions each time, that this episode will be unlike any other, that it will undoubtedly split the audience and it will make a butt-load of money.
Take the most recent trailer which came out a few weeks ago. It was full of marvelous content but had enough misdirection in it to make your head spin. I won’t go into a the minutiae of the trailer, for that you can click HERE and get a full trailer breakdown but if you think that you can take the trailer at face value then you have severely underestimated the intelligence of the folks at LucasFilm and Disney.
Just look at the new characters played by Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kellie Marie Tran who all figure heavily into the plot of this film. We know almost nothing about them and the stuff we do know we’ve known for quite some time. Remarkable really in this day and age of technical wizardry that more hasn’t come out. Having said that I realize I may know more than you, but that’s just from spending too much time online, not having any real insider knowledge. Point being all they want us to know, is readily available.
For what we do know about them, check out our 6 month preview HERE where we go into some greater character depth.
One thing Star Wars storytelling has mastered since The Empire Strikes Back is what’s called the “tandem narrative” where you have equally weighted storylines running parallel to each other. The Last Jedi seems to carry on with that narrative structure as we see the Luke/Rey/Kylo/Snoke story playing out as the General Leia led resistance continues its battle against the First Order. There are individual pursuits within the latter with characters such as Hux, Finn, Poe and Phasma but the general conflict rests between the two sides. And we know from the quote below that a focus from director Rian Johnson will be micro rather than macro…
The second film is where we start zooming in on the characters and getting to the heart of them, challenging them, and pushing them deeper.
The journey of Rey, much like Anakin in the prequels and Luke in the original trilogy, is vitally important to the lore of the Star Wars universe but serves as more of an esoteric struggle. The mechanisms of war between not only the First Order and the resistance, but the internal conflict of the Republic between the senate and resistance, have much more of an impact on the state of the universe and its denizens. Rey could turn to the dark side or be the series’ first gray Jedi, but if the resistance can’t defeat the First Order or vice versa then does it really matter? The Jedi have been defeated before and in greater numbers so the resolution of Rey’s lineage, while important to the saga and fans, isn’t necessarily imperative the fate of the universe.
So then what is Episode VIII actually about? Well, it boils down to how you view the universe as a whole I think. If you fancy yourself a mystic and are entranced by the idea behind the Force then Rey’s journey with Luke starting out on Ahch-To, beginning her training and finding out her true path will demand all your focus and attention. The Force is the predominant energy in the universe and all things go through it so if that’s true then what happens to Rey and Luke is of the utmost importance. The trailer’s indicate a dark path is likely for one of them but which one and for how long and as just discussed can we really trust the trailers?
Rian is definitely going to places and investigating things that haven’t really been done in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. For me, it’s so fun getting to explore different things that I wouldn’t have expected in this universe. In some ways it feels like we’re making an independent film. Certain things we get to play with – this kind of intimacy that we get to find – it’s special. It’s been really fun.
Of course there are shiny things to distract us like the fact that Luke is currently wearing a necklace that is thought to be the red kyber crystal from his father and one time enemy Anakin “Darth Vader” Skywalker. By not healing or purifying the corrupted crystal back to its original color does that mean he’s susceptible to the dark side like his father? And did you notice the amount of the color red in the trailers and ALL the marketing materials? Could that just simply be them telling us the importance of the red-sanded planet of Crait? Or is it something more sinister, more relevant.
Or how about Rey’s immaturity? It’s what turned Anakin to begin with so is her weakness the inability to control her “raw power” and that’s what Snoke and Kylo Ren can help her with? The Journal of Whills will figure into this half of the narrative so are we about to see the saga’s first Gray Jedi? Will Rey accept Luke’s crystal and cleanse it making it her own white crystal? See what I mean? Once you go down the rabbit hole there’s no getting out, and this just scratches the surface.
We’ve had two chosen one’s already so frankly the thought of another one is exhausting and a bit lazy so my theory isn’t as complicated as the trailer’s would have you believe. Besides, there is another episode after this one so it’s a bit late to establish a new villain or change the trajectory of one of the series’ main protagonists. This leads me back to this thought in my head after The Force Awakens where after all the wild conjecture and theories, it was a fairly simple and straightforward plot. So are we being fooled? Again?
One thing The Last Jedi is doing is something we don’t see the franchise do that often and that’s time delineate with an either a flashback or dream sequence. In this case we are going to see in some form the event where Kylo Ren, along with the Knights of Ren, destroy’s the Jedi Temple where Luke has been training the next generation of Jedi’s. We’ve seen clips of Captain Phasma and Storm Troopers as well so it’s clearly a First Order led attack and should really open our eyes to events that occurred even before Episode VII.
So that combined with recent reporting that the trailer is entirely meant to be a giant double fake out then you have to be under the assumption that the series will play out in an entirely straightforward manner. One of the bigger illusions being the final shot in the new trailer where Rey is appealing to someone for help, then it cuts to Kylo holding out his hand. This is very clearly two different settings based on lighting and background but people are adamant that this means they are meant to work together…nope.
One thing we can say for certain is that there’s going to be plenty of Star Wars/Jedi lore in this film and that has me excited but cautious as a purist. Expect of a lot of lightsaber training, rock levitating and likely an extremely cool battle between Luke, Rey, Kylo and the Knights of Ren on Ahch-To. As we can see from the photo above, Rey will be fighting multiple enemies at once, whether they are the Knights of Ren or the mysterious Praetorian Guard we’ll have to wait.
Just including the previously mentioned Journal of Whills opens up a whole realm of possible story threads including the original force wielder and the inclusion of Gray Jedi’s. These are ideas that go all the way back to the early 70s when George Lucas first came up with the idea of a “space opera”.
First comes the day, then comes the night. After the darkness shies through the light. The difference, they say, is only made right by the resolving of gray through refined Jedi sight.
-Journal of the Whills, 7:477
I’ve written about the possibility that Rey may or may not be a Gray Jedi (HERE) so I won’t tread on that but if the powers that be were to go in that direction it would be a very smart move as it would open up a whole host of story threads. Remember, there’s still Episode IX to come plus beyond so it’s likely this particular trilogy won’t be the end of Rey’s heroic journey. If they are following Joseph Campbell’s formula she’ll have to come full circle at some point and time is running out on that one.
Another interesting symbol they’ve shown us is that we see a force tree in all the trailers, behind the scenes footage and imagery. But does that mean they will tie it to Poe Dameron’s lineage in particular his mother Shara Bey?
After the Rebel Alliance’s victory at Endor in Return of the Jedi, they still had to deal with the rest of the Imperial fleet and Rebel pilot Shara Bey was involved in several missions to do just that. In one mission with Luke Skywalker they saved a the force tree from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and replanted one of the twigs on Yavin IV where Poe was raised.
This is speculative fiction obviously and doesn’t translate well from comic’s to film being that it would involve introducing a whole new character in an already crowded field. This new timeline of events is uncharted really so they can do whatever they want without stepping on any legends or EU toes. The tree could be from anywhere and what Rey and Luke do with the knowledge obtained from the Journal of Whills doesn’t have to coincide with anything.
A more recent interesting tidbit has to do with Rey’s past and whether that is her real name or not. In a book released by Jason Fry called Star Wars: Rey’s Survival Guide, we learn that the old Rebel pilot helmet that Rey had on Jakku had symbols on it which spelled “Raeh”. The book, which is essentially Rey’s journal has an entry which tells exactly what the symbols mean and where they came from…
The name on it says Captain Dosmit Raeh of the Tierfon Aces. When I was a kid I liked to make up stories about Captain Raeh.
So, did she forget her own name or was she told to conceal it? If that’s the case then she could have easily adopted the name after finding the helmet. Perhaps the helmet belonged to one of her parents and she is simply using the name as a way to remember her mother? It’s obviously way to convenient to think her name was the same as some random helmet she found in the dessert so its likely she took the name for herself after finding it.
And herein lies the rub when you’re trying to decipher what’s going to happen in The Last Jedi, and even to a further extent Episode IX. Rian Johnson and company have created an episode that is part of a larger context of new ideas that were formulated in 2012 by the Lucas story group and Kathleen Kennedy. Sure some things have changed along the way (Fisher’s death, Michael Arndt and Collin Trevorrow “quitting”) but the crux of the idea remains the same. And if the recent announcement that Rian Johnson will be forging a brand new trilogy bears any weight, then we know at the very least Kennedy trusts and is satisfied with his storytelling.
We don’t have the benefit of source material with these new episodes to help us piece together trailer snippets so we either choose to ignore the hyperbole or dive right in. Misdirection’s are powerful allies of the force and if history teaches us anything it’s that Episode VIII will be a journey of good vs. evil, the light side vs. the dark side. All the stuff in the middle is just the fun stuff that makes Star Wars so special.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi opens everywhere on Friday, December 15.
Till next time…MTFBWY.
Check out the gallery below featuring tons of images from The Last Jedi: