The next and eighth “Stars Wars” entry, “The Last Jedi,” promises to improve upon its predecessor, “The Force Awakens.” These are some of the main reasons why.
Echoes of “The Empire Strikes Back”
In the original trilogy, the first film, subtitled “A New Hope,” gingerly introduced the Star Wars mythology; and the second, “The Empire Strikes Back,” dug deep into its darker implications. The sequel toned down the melodrama, making the characters’ dilemmas realistically human despite the fantastic setting. The most memorable parts of “Empire” take place in a shadowy swamp whose stink you can smell. The dying Jedi master Yoda trains a green Luke, who fails his first challenge by allowing his fear of (becoming) his villainous father weaken him, casting doubt over the entire enterprise.
“The Force Awakens” follows a new rising star, Rey, who is introduced to the world of the Force and realizes she bears the same powers as the Star Wars legends before her. “Force” ends with Rey continuing to follow in Luke’s steps by venturing to an obscure hideout where she finds a Jedi master to train her. In the teaser trailer for its sequel, we see the now-Jedi master Luke training Rey in the ways of the force. This time, however, master and initiate are likely parent and child—a possible revelation echoing the one in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Because it no longer needs to toot the horn of its own legend or bring its characters up to speed on the stakes, as in “Force Awakens,” the upcoming film will be able to explore darker, gloomier, less saccharine territory. It has the freedom to be as surprising and daring as “Empire.”
Director Rian Johnson
“The Last Jedi’s” director and writer Rian Johnson is indeed relishing the opportunity to dive beneath the surface of the preceding film. According to NME, he said, “I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory. Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now — let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.”
Johnson caught the attention of the indie world with “Brick” (2005), a stylish and smart teenage noir. In 2012, he made the science fiction drama “Looper,” an intimate fantasy tale with special effects but also strong emotional undertones. His adept interweaving of genre, particularly fantasy and thriller, and original storytelling is strong evidence that he’ll hit all the “Star Wars” glory notes while offering engaging dialogue, with touches of dark irony and light romance.
Cast – returning and new
“Force” was appealing in large part due to its charming cast, including newcomer Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac, all of who will be back. Plus: the talented and charismatic actors Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern are slated to join. (Tom Hardy is also mysteriously listed as playing a “stormtrooper.”)
Relative unknown Kelly Marie Tran, whose standout credit is working for the web on College Humor, has also been cast in what is called the biggest of the new roles, adding more diversity and providing the first prominent role for an Asian American actress in the “Star Wars” saga.
While “The Force Awakens” retraced the same plot lines as “A New Hope,” “The Last Jedi” offers a genuine new mystery with its title and the words spoken by Luke in the teaser trailer. What does it mean, exactly, for the Jedi to come to an end—and for this to be our hero’s goal? The Star Wars universe has been dominated by a desire to preserve the Jedi order and fight the Sith against its extinction. However, this is positing something quite different, and the true meaning behind Luke’s words will be unraveled in promisingly compelling ways.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.