With the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and, more recently, Rogue One, Disney was going to have some pretty big expectations coming into Episode VIII even before the films release. Never mind that it sits as the centerpiece of the current trilogy, which historically has been reserved for the best moments in the franchise (I know Attack of the Clones doesn’t necessarily follow this, but it meant to. I’ll write more on that in a moment). So, after months of silence regarding the next installment in the Skywalker Saga, we finally got some insight as to what we can expect. And it looks DOPE.
Ok, before I go any further into anything, I need to make note of the use of red here. Now red, as you should know, is very clearly a sith color. It’s been the color of every lightsaber used by every sith lord in the entire series, and it is meant to instill that feeling of dread that you should have crawling up your spine just thinking about it. When coupled with the ominous title, it sounds and looks very much like this installment in the series is going to play a similar role as The Empire Strikes Back did in terms of what tone it sets and how it sets up the third film in its trilogy. That’s great, because Episode V is widely regarded as the best film in the entire franchise, due in massive part to the elements that made it so tonally different than the other Star Wars movies, and most movies at the time. But enough gushing about that. For now. Probably.
This new title does raise some questions that I found myself thinking pretty early on after seeing the released title, and I felt the need to expand upon them a bit more in detail. Consider this as me thinking out loud, and share your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments below. But here’s what I’ve got:
1. What exactly is the shelf-life of the Jedi?
While the title succeeds at setting an ominous tone for this point in the series and beyond, it begs asking questions about the expected longevity of the Jedi. I mean, Episode VI was The Return of the Jedi, and that was only a 30-year difference. Now, we’re led to believe that before the fall of the Jedi at the end of Episode III, they had been around for a long, long time. However, not only is any cannon prior to the prequels no longer valid because of Disney retconning it. (Retcon is a fancy word that basically means none of the cannon outside of the movies and one tv show counts for anything anymore.) Before the Jedi council was made up strictly of “light-side” Jedi, there were those that would walk the line between the light and dark side without succumbing to or operating out of either. You could make the case that, in a sense, the old version of being a Jedi was stamped out when the council decided you could only be on the light side, so really, that means the Jedi have been gone and then come back and then been gone again a few times. And either way, even if we accept that the Jedi were around long before the fell at the end of Episode III, they still only made it like 30 years before falling again, supposedly. That’s not a good or long tenure at all. Also, if Disney wants to keep pumping out Star Wars movies into the future, they’re probably going to have to address the Jedi again at some point, so will we really see the “last” Jedi? I’m skeptical. Even Supreme Leader Snoke says in The Force Awakens, “The droid will soon be delivered to the Resistance, leading them to the last Jedi. if Skywalker returns, the new Jedi will rise.” So no, we almost certainly haven’t seen the last of the Jedi.
2. Is Luke a terrible Jedi?
This is more of a general question, but since the Jedi are once again going to be a key focus in this trilogy, it bears looking into. There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not Luke is a good hero or not, and while there’s merit to that discussion, I don’t want to get into it. What I’m interested in answering is: is Luke even a good Jedi? I mean, let’s list his accomplishments:
1. Brought an end to the Sith, kind of, but not really, and also barely. I’ll explain.
2. Had exactly one class of young Jedi before one rebelled and ruined it for everyone else.
3. Disappeared for a long time.
Ok, great. That’s…something? The case can be made that Luke brought an “end” to the Sith (clearly not because we’re still getting movies and the Sith is still very obviously a thing, but at the time it was considered an end). However, did he really do that much? It was technically Vader who was prophesied to bring an end to the dark side, and it was Vader who threw the emperor into that big pit thing in Episode VI. Yeah, Luke opted not to succumb to the dark side and spared Vader’s life, but really other than that and just being Vader’s son, he really didn’t do a whole lot. And then there’s the whole “being unable to adequately train Kylo Ren” thing. I mean, the guy had one teaching job and he royally screwed it up. Like, monumentally. Is Luke even a good Jedi now? Especially years after going into hiding? Was he ever even a good one? It remains to be seen.
3. So who’s going to die in this one?
I mentioned that this movie is giving off some strong early vibes that it will be darker in tone, much like The Empire Strikes Back, and that’s great!…except they just killed off a major character in the last movie. Let me be clear, Han Solo’s death toward the end of Episode VII felt very appropriate and well-timed, but it’s going to be very hard to top, especially so soon. The obvious choice here would be to have Princess Leia die, due to the complications of of continuing the character after Carrie Fisher’s death (may she rest in peace). While Disney doesn’t plan to recreate her character digitally a la Rogue One, I doubt they planned on killing her character off prior to her death anyway, which leads us to wonder if a character will be killed at all. It’s worth noting that no characters were killed at the end of Episode V, but one could technically have been if Harrison Ford had opted not to come back for the third film in the original trilogy. So while you wouldn’t need a character death to give this film the same weight that Episode V had, it almost feels like you’d need to at this point. Because what non-death could carry as much weight as the actual death of Han Solo in the last movie? However, this leads me to a theory….
4. Could Rey be the last Jedi standing at the end of this?
The Last Jedi probably means that Rey is going to be the last Jedi trained under Luke Skywalker, and maybe means the last Jedi to exist (although I’ve already explained why that’s probably not true, due to Disney enjoying making money). But it could also mean that Luke dies and the mantle of Jedi is passed solely onto Rey! That, by itself, would not be that much of a shocking twist, HOWEVER, what if the aforementioned Supreme Leader Snoke also died in this film? What if the end was an epic battle between the he and Skywalker, and the latter sacrifices himself to kill the former? It would technically make Rey the last Jedi, as Kylo Ren was never fully trained as a Jedi before going over to the dark side. This would be a weird and jarring change from barely seeing Snoke in Episode VII to seeing him fight Skywalker one movie later, but it would certainly be a twist nobody would see coming! Albeit probably a bad one!
5. Would any potential twist benefit more from us not knowing another film is coming?
This is just more of a general thought about The Empire Strikes Back, but I think part of what gave the ending so much weight, aside from the twist that Vader was Luke’s father, was the overall uncertainty around Han and the fate of the series. If, after Han gets frozen in carbonite and the credits roll, we saw a big “ALL OF OUR HEROES WILL RETURN” stamped across the screen a la Marvel movies, it would have severely lessened the impact of the ending. And that would have been a damn shame. So, it makes me wonder if anything that happens short of a character dying would even matter all that much, given that we know Episode IX is happening. Is there anything that could happen short of the character dying on screen and then that actor coming out and saying, “no, I’m definitely not in this anymore” that would really mean anything? I guess…maybe? If it’s done well, it can always happen. But we’ll see.