With The Last Jedi out in theaters now we can safely discuss some of the finer points without worrying too much about spoilers. Apologies if you haven’t seen it yet but what the heck are you waiting for?
As we all know, audience reaction to the film has been mixed with casual fans preferring it over the hardcore fans who feel too many liberties were taken with certain mythologies and characters. While I won’t discuss the movie in length I do want to discuss two key moments in the film and that by looking to Star Wars Rebels we can find pretext that will provide clarity about these events in The Last Jedi. So let’s get to it…
In the first third of the film, the resistance command ship “Raddus” is under siege by the First Order. General Organa along with the rest of the high command, including Admiral Ackbar, are stationed on the bridge when a small group of Tie Fighters attack the ship. They blast the bridge instantly killing everyone except Leia who is simply blown into space, seemingly alive but unconscious.
Seconds go by and she begins to “ice” over from the temperature of space. But, she then opens her eyes open and reaches out her hand, gravitating toward the “Raddus” to a nearby airlock where she is rescued by Poe, Finn and Connix. So, based on the music and the context of the scene, it would appear that Leia used the Force to get herself to safety from the vacuum of space. This scene had many crying foul for a couple of reasons but only one in which we’ll discuss. The science is clear; you can survive in space for 15 seconds before losing consciousness and up to 5 minutes before asphyxiation. And we’ll just have to get over the fact that the blast killed everyone but her.
Leia is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker and twin sister to Luke Skywalker. She’s untrained and not a Jedi, but clearly inherently very strong in the force. And while she’s used elements of the Force before to communicate with her brother and kill Jabba the Hutt, there’s no reason to believe she should know how to use that particular ability. However we know from canon material that it is possible for a force sensitive person to pull off such a move whether you agree or not.
Case and point, in Season 3 Episode 3 of Star Wars Rebels titled “Holocrons of Fate”, Kanan Jarrus after being tricked by Maul (formerly Darth), is blasted into space through a cargo hold. He not only survives in space for around 30 seconds but uses the force to “push” himself in the direction of a nearby cargo bay. As ice begins to form on his body, he passes through the energy shield and breaths fresh air and survives his trip into open space. Kanan is a Jedi Master but there’s nothing that indicates he’s as strong with the Force as the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, trained or not.
So we know that a person strong in the Force can not only move themselves in the vacuum of space but also, it’s very likely they can use the Force to delay the effects of losing consciousness. Thus giving them enough time to make their way to safety…case closed.
The next moment that caused a stir was near the end of the film when Luke Skywalker appears on Crait and helps the resistance escape the First Order’s assault. After a brief reunion with his sister Leia, Luke marches out alone and faces down a wall of AT-M6’s in what appears to be a nearly suicidal mission. Kylo Ren orders all guns fire on Luke and after a dazzling display of firepower, Luke is left standing there completely unharmed, not a scratch on him.
Confused, Kylo goes down to meet Luke face to face and the two of them air their grievances and square off one last time. To Kylo’s surprise, Luke as it turns out is nothing more than a projection of himself, impervious to any attack. He fades away promising to return and we cut to the actual Luke still on Ahch-To who has drained of all his Force energy. In front of setting binary suns, Luke Skywalker Jedi Master, disappears from existence and is now one with the Force.
So, just how did Luke do that? How did he use Force Projection to not only appear on a planet very far away but also be able to make physical contact with his surroundings? Before he marches out to face Kylo, during his meeting with Leia, he holds her hand, kisses her forehead and gives her the golden dice that belonged to Han Solo. How is that possible?
Force “ghosts” or projections being able to interact with the physical world is something new in the Star Wars universe but not new in the context of the The Last Jedi. In fact, when Yoda appears earlier in the film to talk to Luke on Ahch-To, he bonks Luke on the nose with his cane and brings lighting down on the Force tree setting it ablaze. So just like that, we have a new ability. Remember, it’s their Star Wars universe, they get to make the rules.
As far as projections go, the films themselves have a history of Force Ghosts/Projections going all the way back to The Empire Strikes Back when we see Obi-Wan Kenobi appear as a ghost to Luke on Hoth and Dagobah. The ability to do so is mentioned even earlier in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith when Yoda tells Kenobi about his former master, Qui-Gon Jinn, and his ability to communicate from beyond…
An old friend has learned the path to immortality. One who has returned from the nether world of the force…
Yoda himself learned this ability in season six of The Clone Wars signaling the end of that series. In the Star Wars timeline, the first time we see Yoda use force projection is again in Star War Rebels, this time during the eighteenth episode of Season 2 called “Shroud of Darkness” where Yoda appears before Ezra at the Jedi Temple on Lothal. Here Yoda expresses deep regret for the way the Jedi foolishly took part in the Clone Wars and how fear and anger lead to their defeat against the Dark Side.
On film, the next time we would see projections and/or ghosts would be during Return of the Jedi where we would see Obi-Wan appear once again on Dagobah and then at the end on Endor alongside Anakin Skywalker and Yoda, both recently deceased.
So, while projections and “ghosts” aren’t new to Force users, certainly doing so for long stretches of time and also interacting with the physical world is something we haven’t seen prior to The Last Jedi. What’s also clear is that the difference between simply projecting and projecting a while affecting the physical world takes a massive amount of additional energy and skill. And it’s clear only an extremely powerful Force user could perform such a task as it even left Luke without enough energy to live.
The Last Jedi takes place roughly 35 years after the events in Star Wars Rebels but we can see how the connective tissue of this universe is infinite and everlasting. One can only hope they continue to use Rebels and The Clone Wars as reference material to establish new and diverging mythologies going forward with the feature-length films. While many fans were upset with some of the perceived changes made, simply by digging a little deeper into the universe opens up a wealth of wonderful knowledge.
Till next time…MTFBWY.