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Will The Last Jedi destroy everything we think we know about Star Wars?

Will The Last Jedi destroy everything we think we know about Star Wars?
April 18
18:43 2017
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The history of Star Wars has seen almost as much conflict between director and cast as between the dark and light sides of the Force. Harrison Ford once told George Lucas that the film-maker had no skill for writing dialogue while filming the original trilogy, and Mark Hamill has spent most of the past two years cheekily pointing out the errors he believes were made in 2015’s The Force Awakens. Luke Skywalker should have caught that flying lightsaber after Finn’s defeat at the hands of Kylo Ren, not Daisy Ridley’s Rey; the Jedi knight ought to have been present at Han Solo’s death, and he certainly should have turned up before the final scene.




Hamill admits he’s been wrong at times, but fresh comments the actor made at the weekend are worth consideration. After reading the script for forthcoming sequel The Last Jedi, Hamill revealed he told director Rian Johnson: “I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character.”

What could have made the 65-year-old star so annoyed? Well, we have a pretty good idea thanks to a much-discussed line in the first trailer for Johnson’s film, which was released on Friday. “I only know one truth: it’s time for the Jedi to end,” says Luke, cryptically.

Many fans have suggested that the trailer is employing sleight-of-hand to make it seem as if Skywalker is speaking, when the line is in fact being uttered by someone more logically ill-disposed towards the Jedi: Kylo Ren, perhaps, or even Supreme Leader Snoke. But Hamill confirmed in the same ABC interview that his voice is the one that can be heard.




Ridley, meanwhile, has said The Last Jedi represents Johnson doing something “different” after the fan service of JJ Abrams’ Force Awakens. This confirms the sense that the middle instalment of the new Star Wars trilogy is veering towards distinctly leftfield territory, just as 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back did more than three decades ago.

We should not forget that Lucas took a huge risk with his follow-up to the film that ushered in the blockbuster era. The Irvin Kershner-directed Empire was bleaker than its predecessor, with its dark revelations about the true parentage of Luke, and that doom-laden title. By the end of the movie, Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, the Empire has indeed struck back, and Skywalker has been defeated and dismembered by his dear old cyborg dad. Where the original Star Wars made audiences want to cheer and holler in victory, the sequel encourages you to curl up in the foetal position and hope desperately for better days.

All indications are that The Last Jedi is heading into similarly risky territory after the warm comfort blanket of The Force Awakens. At the very least, it seems likely that Johnson is about to start breaking some serious Star Wars laws. In previous movies, those who speak ill of the Jedi are usually firmly entrenched in villainy or at the very least well on their way: one thinks of Palpatine’s toxic antipathy towards Luke in Return of the Jedi, or Anakin Skywalker whining about his treatment at the hands of the Jedi council in the prequels. But here, in the new trailer, is a figure we trust implicitly – the central hero of the entire original trilogy – telling us everything we think we know about Star Wars is wrong.

Quite how far Johnson is prepared to go remains to be seen. Perhaps Luke wishes only to replace the old order with something new: a looser coalition of the willing to bring down the First Order and Kylo Ren’s Knights of Ren, rather than the training of a new generation of Jedi. After all, he is living proof that you do not need to be tutored from a young age to achieve high levels of skill in the ways of the Force. Moreover, the monk-like existence of the Jedi always seemed like unnecessary abstinence: Anakin’s own fall stemmed from his passion for Padme Amidala, without which neither Luke nor Leia would ever have been born. Had the Jedi council not insisted on celibacy for its padawan, the future Sith Lord might have avoided the path of betrayal that eventually led to him joining Palpatine. Is it any wonder Luke has come to question whether a better way might be found?

Moreover, all the wisdom of the Jedi did not stop Yoda failing to predict the rise of Palpatine in the prequels. Nor did it help cure Obi-Wan Kenobi’s inexplicable myopia when it came to the obviously rotten Anakin Skywalker. Luke himself, despite his victory over Vader and the dark side in Return of the Jedi, was later unable to halt Ben Solo’s transformation into Kylo Ren. For all their piety and single-mindedness, the Jedi have a history of screwing things up, over and over again.

If Luke simply wants to build a new, more modern order, who could argue with that? But wouldn’t dismissing the Jedi in such a manner rather undercut the original trilogy, in which Yoda and Obi-Wan are presented as untouchable paragons of virtue? If the order’s central doctrine is meaningless, then both of Skywalker’s mentors are little more than fools. Johnson will have dug deep into the foundations of Star Wars in an effort to break new ground, and should perhaps not be too surprised if the walls come tumbling down around him.

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Photograph: AP

On the small screen, it’s not uncommon for producers to deliberately destroy a show’s essential furniture as they seek to shake audiences out of their comfort zone. The movies are beginning to follow suit in the era of the “cinematic universe”, with its sudden need for rapid narrative fluidity. Disney’s Marvel films originally set up superhero agency Shield as the epitome of good, then revealed just a few movies later that the entire operation was a cover for evil Nazi cult Hydra. The last Bond movie, Spectre, even exposed the black canker at the heart of Her Majesty’s previously spotless Secret Intelligence Service.

But the Jedi somehow seem more fundamental to Star Wars than either of the above examples. The entire original trilogy was about Luke’s path from farm boy to powerful exponent of the Force. Are we now expected to accept that this journey was a false one, that he was obsessed with reviving an order that had long since fallen into ineffectuality, guided by a pair of elderly diehards still clinging desperately to long lost grandeur?

It might just be that Johnson’s leap into the unknown is exactly what Star Wars needs to take it forward. Rogue One proved that the saga can thrive even when the Jedi are nowhere to be seen. But, if The Last Jedi goes too far, and cuts the floor from under the saga’s feet, it could find itself destroying not only the future of Star Wars, but also its glorious past.




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