The trailer of The Last Jedi has been released less than 48 hours ago and is widely discussed. More like any trailer before however, almost every shot echoes previous films. We’ll take you through some and Spoiler-Speculate what they might say about the story.
The Force Awakens had visual rhymes with near to all movies from the previous 6. Most people immediately recognised the visual rhymes with the Original Trilogy, but there was also plenty with the Prequel Trilogy. In fact, in a forthcoming post we’ll take a closer look at some such patterns between the three trilogy starters: The Force Awakens, A New Hope and The Phantom Menace. In the discussion of the trailer of The Last Jedi I will especially also mention rhymes between the trilogy midpoints: The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, The Last Jedi. But they might not be the most striking ones!
The shot of the huge AT-MC6 walkers (spot the ‘little’ AT-AT about fifth in line) obviously is a call-back to The Empire Strikes Back. With Kylo’s shuttle seemingly hovering there as well it makes it seem very likely that early in the film we will see a ground battle between First Order troops and the Resistance. This is probably the First Order striking back in retaliation for the Resistance’s lucky strike on the Star Killer Base in The Force Awakens. Note that both The Empire Strikes Back as well as Attack of the Clones share two distinct features that set them apart from the other entries in the respective trilogies. Both feature a lengthy chase, on the one side the Empire chasing Han & Leia and, more personally, Vader luring Luke, and on the other side Kenobi and Skywalker first chasing Zam Wessel and then Jango Fett, while on the more personal note it is Ani searching for his mother.
The first shot of the trailer depicts Kylo Ren in a meditative pose staring out over First Order troops. This shot show remarkable similarities with a shot of Anakin from Attack of the Clones. Evidently the differences are also striking. In this shot Anakin is slowly drawing a conclusion from his dreams from the previous shot. His mind is occupied with thoughts of his mother. Shmi‘s fate is drawing him in through the Force. Given the rest of the trailer, Kylo might very well be pondering the same at this moment. His search for, or targeting of, his mother is definitely a theme the Last Jedi trailer tries to push. In Attack of the Clones it ends with the mother‘s death turning out to be a loss that is transforming the son. In The Empire Strikes Back, the son finding the living father also is a transforming event. It seems likely that The Last Jedi will not leave this theme unused.
TLJ-TESB: Leia’s force contact
Son and mother are, as the trailer suggests, evidently capable of sensing each other. In Attack of the Clones we see Anakin sensing something is wrong with his mother while it remains clouded to which extent she actively participates in that. In The Empire Strikes Back Luke reaches out to Leia, though from Leia’s facial expressions it is at least possible that she has been actively trying to do the same. Later in that same film Vader evidently reaches out to Luke, in an active manner, through the Force. Will Leia in The Last Jedi follow her father’s example of actively trying to reach through Space and time to reach her son, his grandson?
TLJ-TESB: Closing Doors
In The Empire Strikes Back Leia faces the tough decision of closing the blast doors of the Rebel base on Hoth in order to secure the site, while leaving her loved ones stuck outside. It seems as if in The Last Jedi she is facing a very similar choice. Perhaps as the Resistance prepares to abandon the base under siege, she is faced with leaving behind people or an opportunity she greatly cares about. We will know in about two months time. But this is another shot that clearly seeks to rhyme with The Empire Strikes Back. There is an interesting analogy here with Attack of the Clones. Leia faces her tough choice early on in The Empire Strikes Back, after Han has gone off to find the lost Luke. In the final part of Attack of the Clones it is Anakin who is told, by Mace Windu, that he should not try and rescue Obi Wan. Leia and Anakin both place their duty above their caring for their friends. In both cases the main character’s ‘love’ however does go after the lost one. In the case of Anakin this leaves him no other choice than to go along. Perhaps this time Leia too has a companion who makes it possible for her to do her duty while still going after her lost one?
TLJ-ROTS: Son and grand son of pilots
Evidently as Han Solo’s son, Kylo’s piloting skills shouldn’t come as a surprise. This shot however, including the subsequent sequence, is a direct echo of Anakin’s actions in Revenge of the Sith‘s opening. Obviously Kylo’s combat-pilot skills have been passed down that line of heritage.
There is actually a whole swath of echoes to Revenge of the Sith. The piloting shot is one, but a far more impressive one that was picked up by many is Kylo leading his troops into what seems to be the Resistance base (based on the red streaks on the ground). Connecting these two scenes could be very meaningful. Potentially it suggests that the entry into the base could either be related to an act of betrayal, or that this is not a mere base but rather a dwelling with a much more fundamental or perhaps spiritual meaning for the Resistance. The Resistance base in The Force Awakens appeared like more of an upgraded ‘airfield’ but not a headquarters. Perhaps this one, however, is!
Another interesting echo to Revenge of the Sith comes from Rey’s dive in the water that is shot in a very similar fashion to Kenobi’s dive in the pools of Utapau at the start of Order 66. In The Last Jedi this seems part of a sequence that reminds one of Luke’s trials on Dagobah and there seems no obvious connection between Order 66 and Dagobah, except for those who have seen season 6 of the Clone Wars where Yoda has an Order 66 vision on Dagobah in the same site as where Luke later sees Vader. Kenobi sees Order 66 unfold after his passage through the water, could it be that Rey sees Luke, after her passage through the water, who will repeat that now is the time for the Jedi to end?
TLJ-ANH & ROTJ: Who is Luke?
If The Force Awakens revolved around the question as to ‘where is Luke’ perhaps The Last Jedi focusses more on the question ‘who is Luke’? Luke has been behaving oddly recently! Is that, as most presume, over his failure to train Kylo properly? Or is there something else?
From the hands of Rey, Luke receives Anakin’s lightsaber for the second time in his life. What emotions and thoughts will that trigger in him? A recollection of his nephew’s failed training? Or will his mind spring back to his father? What did Luke learn in all those years between A New Hope and The Force Awakens about his father and about himself? Surely the way he looks at his father’s lightsaber has changed. In the trailer we see it is the robotic-hand that first grabs the lightsaber, which of course is the hand he lost, when he lost the saber.
The question who Luke is now may very well be the question as to how Luke sees his own past. Are we all assuming to easily that Luke thinks about himself from the recent past? Perhaps his mind is full of the much more distant past! Early on in the trailer we hear Luke say that he has seen such raw power only once before, when he was not scared enough by it. Almost all internet-commenters assume this is a reference to the power he has seen in Kylo Ren. But that is what a ‘short-term memory Luke’ would say.
The ‘long-term memory Luke’ still recalls seeing Vader, for example. In The Force Awakens Rey diagnoses Kylo as fearing he will never be as strong as Darth Vader. If that is what Kylo fears, then it seems unlikely he was so much stronger than Vader that Luke would be referring to Kylo as ‘raw power’ rather than to Anakin Skywalker. Yet this doesn’t fit entirely. Evidently Luke underestimates the power of Vader when he rushes to save his friends in The Empire Strikes Back. However, battling Vader he senses the good that is still in Vader! That doesn’t chime well with having underestimated the raw scary power.
From the start of the Sequel trilogy I have always suspected that there is one key scene from the Original Trilogy that the new trilogy must address. It is Luke’s ‘surrender’ to Palpatine by throwing away his lightsaber. He is explicitly warned by Kenobi, in Return of the Jedi, not to underestimate the powers of the Emperor. Yet in a real sense he does make that mistake, thus creating the possibility for Anakin to make his return to some degree of humanity. Could it be that, when Luke talks to Rey about the raw power that now scares him … that he is referring to Palpatine’s power that he recognizes in Rey?
TLJ-TPM: who is the learner and who is the teacher?
Perhaps the last shot of the trailer is the one that has stirred most minds. Rey and Kylo cut together in such a way that it seems as if they are about to team up. We have seen this before: two orange lit faces where one wants to be helped by other to become who they were supposed to be. Anakin and Obi Wan at Qui Gon Jinn’s funeral pyre. If we were to take this echo literally, then perhaps Rey and Kylo are also joining forces at someone’s funeral. Perhaps, like Obi Wan and Anakin in The Phantom Menace, either one or both of them have lost, or broke away from, their mentor or Master. Perhaps these two will be The Last Jedi?