The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is here!
Offering plenty of mystery, suspense and tantalizing clues, the new trailer offers a tone that’s immediately darker than the previews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Like The Empire Strikes Back before it, The Last Jedi looks to delve deeper into the Jedi lore, and explore the relationship between teacher and padawan. But the trailer breaks conventions as much as it honors them, suggesting a different kind of master / apprentice relationship, and a mentor who may not really teach the Jedi way. This is most hauntingly represented by Luke’s final line, “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Clearly, Luke Skywalker is no Yoda.
Let’s dig into the nitty gritty of the trailer, and see what clues we can uncover about ‘The Last Jedi.’
We open on a shot of what appears to be a rocky surface. The image is fairly innocuous, right up until Rey’s hand bursts into the frame. Huffing and puffing, Rey is revealed to be on the rocky planet of Ahch-To, where we last saw her at the end of The Force Awakens. Judging by her frenzied state, she’s going through some hardcore Force training with Luke.
Luke’s calming narration dials back the tension, as we’re treated to a glowing image of Ahch-To at Sunset.
The serenity continues as we’re given an aerial view of the mountain, and Rey gazing over the vast ocean that separates their enclave from the rest of Ahch-To. The setting, and the tinkling bells of the Force theme give the impression of contemplation, with Rey perhaps coming to understand her place within the universe.
“Now, reach out.”
Rey’s hand on the ground, using the Force to levitate some small rocks. Guess Luke never did figure out how to lift the big ones.
“What do you see?”
Rey’s voice now, as the camera pushes-in to give us our only glimpse at General Leia, standing in front of some holographic star maps. She looks to be aboard a Resistance star ship, possibly planning some tactical moves against the First Order.
The mood takes a sinister turn, as John Williams’ Kylo Ren theme is heard, played against an image of what looks to be the remains of Ren’s mask. It was probably damaged beyond repair after his battle with Rey on the icy surface of Starkiller Base.
Behind Rey’s voice, we see two of the trailer’s most intriguing images: The first, a halo of light illuminating a collection of ancient-looking books, nestled in the middle of a whithered old tree.
My guess? The books contain ancient knowledge of either the Force or the origins of the Jedi Order. The tree looks to match the aesthetic of the rest of Luke’s island sanctuary. It seems likely that Luke sent Rey into the depths of the island’s forests, to find this tree, and retrieve one or more of the books.
Since ‘The Last Jedi’ looks to be mirroring the structure of the The Empire Strikes Back to some degree, this tree could be a test for Rey, similar to when Luke was guided to confront his dark side in the caves of Dagobah. Perhaps Rey will have to face her own dark side on the quest for whatever ancient knowledge is contained within these tomes.
The second image, equally intriguing, shows a weathered looking page. Judging by the lighting, this paper looks to be in the same physical location as the books of the previous shot (though this could always be an editing trick). The page itself shows a tantalizing image of the old Jedi Order symbol. This again hints that the books contain lost knowledge of the Jedi, and perhaps this page was found within. The layout of the page hints at an ancient language, and could double as a map to some unknown location.
But wait just a minute! Who’s hand is that passing over the page??
My first impulse is Rey, assuming my theory about her test is correct. Then again, the hand in question appears to be concealed in a brown glove. Up until now, Rey has been bare-fisted. She could always undergo a fashion change in the movie, but it’s equally likely that this hand belongs to someone else. Could it be Kylo Ren, hunting for the lost secrets of the Jedi? Could it be Maz, who wore a lot of brown in The Force Awakens and seems to know a lot about the history of the Jedi? Could it be Luke himself, uncovering the knowledge he needs to “end” the Jedi? So many hands, so little time!
Next, we hear the sound of a lightsaber beam and witness a more concrete image – a beautiful, far-away shot of Rey training with (presumably) Luke’s old lightsaber, while the venerable Jedi master watches her from above.
“It’s so much bigger.”
Assuming Luke isn’t comparing lightsabers, this line probably addresses the possibilities of the Force.
Still, this is when things get BIG.
The Force theme kicks into Operatic gear as a Resistance fighter spouting attractive red fumes crashes into frame. The following shot reveals that this fighter is part of a bigger squadron of ships, all spouting the same red exhaust in unison, as though part of an avant garde X-Wing show. It looks like these fighters just underwent a massive attack by the First Order, or another inter-galactic adversary.
The next shot reveals Finn, presumably in the cockpit of one of these fighters, and fast asleep. Not sure why he’s snoozing in the middle of a battle, but it’s also possible that Finn is trying to get in touch with the Force, much like Luke before his triumphant destruction of the Death Star. It’s unclear yet whether Finn is indeed Force sensitive, though he definitely has displayed surprising lightsaber aptitude. His meditative appearance in this cockpit indicates he might be trying to get in touch with some dormant Force powers.
Then again, maybe he’s just comatose from his fight with Ren.
The action accelerates as Poe Dameron and BB8 race to flee a First Order attack. They don’t quite make it though, as their ship very inconveniently explodes from cannon fire in the subsequent shot. Maybe they can steal another First Order shuttle? The exploding ship transitions into a shot of the Millenium Falcon on the attack, evading enemy fighters.
The trailer centers in on Rey again, as she’s seen fleeing from or running towards a threat, blue lightsaber in tow. The next shot indicates that threat may be none other than Kylo Ren, red cross lightsaber ablaze. He looks ready to avenge that poor scarred face of his.
The context of these shots is intriguing, as it implies that Rey and Luke’s island sanctuary isn’t going to be safe forever. With Ren hunting Luke and Rey like dogs, chances are high that a 2 or 3-way conflict will take place on Ahch-To. Speaking of which…
“I only know one truth”
Luke’s narration takes us into the next two shots – probably my favorites of the trailer. First, we watch a hooded Luke kneeling in despair next to R2-D2, as a large structure burns to the ground in front of them – presumably a Jedi temple. Next, we see Ren emerge through the flames, his army of Stormtroopers in tow, burning everything in sight.
What’s so intriguing here, beyond the story implications of this destruction, is that we’re very likely witnessing our first ever full-fledged flashback sequence in a Star Wars film. The Force Awakens referenced Kylo Ren murdering Luke’s Jedi-in-training, and briefly showed dream images of a scene that looked a hell of a lot like these shots. The setting looks the same, Ren and his troops are outfitted identically, and Luke is next to R2 wearing the exact same robes. So it appears that we’re about to get a scene that fully explores what happened the night Ren turned on his master.
Of course, it’s also possible that the similarities are deliberate subterfuge, and this scene in fact takes place in the present. Maybe Ren and his troops are actually invading Luke’s island sanctuary on a mission to find Rey and kill the last Jedi. Perhaps the burning structure is actually the First Jedi Temple, known to exist somewhere on that island. But I’m inclined to think otherwise, and that we will indeed be getting our first ever Star Wars flashback.
The trailer ends with a couple of traditional Star Wars-y shots of epic space battles, followed by the tantalizing final image. Luke, alone in the shadows of a cave, looking out on Ahch-To – the private hell he’s imprisoned himself in. To someone, presumably Rey, he says the last thing you’d ever expect Luke Skywalker to say.
“It’s time for the Jedi… to end.”
This concludes the trailer on the perfect note of intrigue, making us wonder just what the hell happened to Luke to bring him to this devastating point. Certainly losing his students to Kylo Ren must have helped form this new attitude, but there has to be more. There must be something deeper at play to push Luke to believe that the Jedi order should be finished. There’s plenty to speculate about, but my guess is that it has a lot to do with Anakin Skywalker and his family’s legacy. Perhaps Luke has discovered there’s more of his father in him than he’d like to believe.
Plenty of commentary has been made about the hypocrisy of the Jedi order, and the failure to acknowledge human emotions. It’s this exact failure that drove Anakin to the dark side. If Luke, in his exile, went to the same dark place as Anakin – on top of discovering the very location where the Jedi order began – maybe he realized that the order was flawed from the start. Perhaps what Luke’s line really means, is that the black and white dogma of the Jedi and the Sith must end. Perhaps a new order can form from the Force, neither light side nor dark side. Just… balanced. After all, wasn’t that the Skywalker prophecy from the start? To bring balance to the Force? Maybe Luke will finally fulfill his father’s prophecy, in a way he never expected.
The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi hints at an entirely different kind of Star Wars movie. One that honors the stories that came before, while seemingly subverting them and taking the narrative down a darker and fresher path. While the similarities to Empire are there, it’s clear from examining Luke’s interactions with Rey that he’s not simply training another Jedi. He’s creating the first of something more.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens nationwide on December 15th.