After months of waiting, the first teaser trailer for The Last Jedi materialized with a somber foreboding, like the ghost of a long-dead Jedi back to tell us something we’re not ready to hear. There was a lot to take in, but the biggest takeaway from the trailer was without a doubt the final line when Luke Skywalker says bitterly, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” It was a great twist, and it’s probably the most interesting thing that’s happened to Star Wars in ages.
Since the title for Star Wars Episode VIII was revealed to be The Last Jedi, fan speculation has gone into hyperdrive as to what the title could really mean. In terms of episode numbers, the Jedi just returned in Episode VI, so why are we getting rid of them in Episode VIII? Because if Luke Skywalker stays serious about what he is saying here, the moral barometer of Star Wars might be permanently altered. And why not? The black and white of the Jedi and the Sith are, thematically, not really something audiences can continue to see happen over and over again.
The original trilogy told a fairly straightforward story of a young generation (Luke, Han, and Leia) cleaning up after the one that came before it. The prequel trilogy showed how the previous generation (Anakin and Obi-Wan) let everything get so fucked up. So, what is the new trilogy saying? In 2015, the promotions for The Force Awakens said “every generation has a story,” but what is that story? We roughly understand what Luke Skywalker’s journey means in the 1980s: have faith, forgive, rise above, and everything will be okay. But that story is over, so what is Luke’s story now?
When Daily Ridley spoke at The Last Jedi panel at Star Wars Celebration on Friday, she implied that Rey hanging out with Luke isn’t going to be all smiles. “Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke,” she said, “and as a lot of people know, it’s difficult when you meet your heroes because they might not be what you expect.” So, what does a bitter and broken Luke Skywalker stand for in 2017?
The new trailer doesn’t answer that question, but it does suggest that a straightforward hero’s return is not in the cards for Luke. When Rey talks about seeing “light” and “dark,” Luke seems to counter, saying “It’s so much bigger!” Ostensibly, they’re talking about the Force here, the Star Wars version of God, morality, and all of life’s big philosophical and psychological questions. We don’t know how the next Star Wars film is tackling those questions, but this attitude from Luke suggests a shift from what we’ve seen before.
Because if Luke Skywalker sheds his good-guy Jedi status, then that means the greatest mythological zeitgeist archetype of the 20th century has also shed the stereotypes of the Joseph Campbell hero model. And if this change sticks, it could mean something truly shocking for Luke Skywalker: He may actually become a three dimensional character.
The Last Jedi will hit theaters on December 15.