Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi – Ominous Warning or Clever Marketing?

Well Star Wars fans, this weekend the Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi poster was released, and it is a darker departure from the exciting or uplifting titles that we usually get from Star Wars films. This, on top of the downer ending of Rogue One and recent loss of Carrie Fisher, provides us a compelling but somber tone for Star Wars films going into the year (even though we are hot off the best episode of Star Wars Rebels this season with Kanan training a darksabered Sabine and more Mandalorian lore!) Carrie was a great actress, writer, personality and comedienne who had a unique voice and story, and helped define a cultural movement, especially for women, that spanned multiple generations.

Technically Leia is not a Jedi, she is a force sensitive character, and now, though her Episode VIII scenes have already been completed, we know she can’t film any for Episode IX (unless they CGI her form into it, like Rogue One). This means that not only will Episode VIII feature whoever the last Jedi may be (more on that later), it will also be the last of Leia in the films. How will the writers provide her a meaningful and satisfactory conclusion to her character arc? Will she help guide Luke back to a destiny of leading the Jedi? Will Luke face a dark end and force to Leia step into the role of the last Jedi? Will she be sacrificed for the purpose of driving Luke to a darker destiny, perhaps fulfilling the meaning of the terrifying title? With the loss of Han Solo in Episode VII, we could definitely imagine Luke being driven to the edge if anything happened to Leia as well. Will Kylo try to finish off any temptation of being drawn to the light side, which seems to be his greatest fear, by removing his mother from the picture as well? There are so many ways that it could go!

And what does “The Last Jedi” even mean? Does it refer to Luke, or will it refer to Rey, should Luke end up training her? Will Rey even take up that mantle? After her flashback scene when touching Luke’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens, she is averse to any dealings with the Force or the saber itself, until she faces Kylo Ren after Finn is overcome by him. And when she finds Luke at the end of Episode VII, she hands him the saber as a first gesture, offering the mantle of the Jedi back to him. We have yet to see if Luke takes it, or if she has the strength to take it on herself. And let’s remember that the word “Jedi” can also be plural, so they both could be “The Last Jedi” if they wanted to team up and start to rebuild the Jedi Order again. Tricksy singular plurals!

However, given Luke’s previous failure to restart the order and the secrets he may have found in the first Jedi temple that he was reputedly searching for, perhaps they will decide that they will be the last of the official Jedi who are trained on those principles as a part of an order of any kind, instead becoming light side Force users. And don’t forget, there could always be a new character introduced who could turn out to be a Jedi. That’s what’s amazing about the Star Wars universe: so many possibilities! What’s also amazing? That a franchise can get an author to write an article about a topic like this a year away from the film’s release with only a poster!

And let’s look at the poster and title itself, from a marketing perspective, for clues. The Star Wars title is red, a HUGE departure from the usual bright yellow, so we already know that it will be related to the dark side, thus hinting at some type of doom for the Jedi. We also know that in the architecture of trilogies, the second act is a rising action that usually has the antagonist and protagonists facing their most difficult inner demons and decisions in parallel with the increasing stakes, which are all then brought to the forefront and resolved in the third act. This is usually the darkest and most exciting installment (insert argument for the superiority of The Empire Strikes Back, also a dark sequel title, here). So Disney and the writers are staying true to that form and Star Wars history itself (though one could argue that Episode III had a darker title and action [#killingyounglings], Episode II saw the decisions and actions that led to the grievous fallout depicted in following film). And we know that given the brutal impalement of Han Solo in Episode VII, in order to be more intense and darker in line with the trilogy architecture, things must become even more vicious and dire, so another death or two and the (temporary?) end of the Jedi line is not out of the realm of possibility. Again, so many paths the plot and characters could take!

And finally, it has been suggested that the titles of Episode VII, VIII and IX, themselves spell out a phrase, which would be a novel and innovative first for Star Wars and film titles in general. “The Force Awakens The Last Jedi” … to what? To where? Ugh! So many questions! Try to finish that phrase, NerdFunnelers, and keep the theories going! Only 11 months to go! May the Force keep us going until then.