“I only know one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
The teaser trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” as you might expect, left the franchise faithful with more questions than answers. Fans got a look Luke Skywalker in self-imposed exile on the oceanic planet Ahch-To, training Rey in the ways of the Force after she returned his old lightsaber at the end of 2015’s “The Force Awakens.” Rey’s mentoring stood out most in this teaser, which also packed a lot of other intriguing bits — the Resistance and the First Order continuing their explosive war with each other, Kylo Ren resurfacing on his dark path under Supreme Leader Snoke, what seems to be the destruction of Luke’s Jedi academy, and so on. But the Rey issue (no, we’re not talking about her parentage) stands out first and foremost as she goes through the Jedi training motions with a dour and somewhat cynical Luke.
For those harboring hope that the Jedi might end the tyranny of Snoke, Kylo and the First Order, just what do these ominous words translate to? Well, a few theories come to mind.
Luke Has Given Up the Light … and the Fight
Director J.J. Abrams established in “The Force Awakens” that, after the fall of the Galactic Empire, Luke founded a new Jedi temple in hopes of rebuilding the Jedi Order. However, he was betrayed by his apprentice and nephew Ben Solo, who joined the dark side and wiped out the budding new generation of Jedi. Broken, Luke fled into self-imposed exile and began his quest to find the first Jedi temple. The most obvious reading of Luke’s ominous words at the end of the “Last Jedi” teaser is that he gave up hope, and simply wants to fade away, far removed from the battle between the light and the dark, the Resistance and the First Order. He failed, just like Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan did with his father, Anakin, who became Darth Vader. That would leave us to wonder whether Luke still even believes in “good” anymore.
You’d think that Luke being part of Ben’s life since he was a child would be enough to keep the young man on the straight path. Where did Luke go wrong? At what point did Ben become seduced by the darkness that has continuously plagued his family? Not only did Luke falter with Ben as his Padawan, he couldn’t protect his other apprentices. He must have thought, then, that if he couldn’t save his own students, how could he defend an entire galaxy. Luke’s words could mean he’s resigned to a future where the Sith, or least those willing to embrace the dark side, are indeed meant to rule. It would be a tragedy if Luke accepts that he is indeed the final Jedi, a flawed symbol who simply wasn’t destined to save the galaxy. Training Rey could end up being a parting gift from the retired hero so that she may go on and try to succeed where he failed.
Luke Believes the Jedi Must Evolve
In the original trilogy, Obi-Wan and Yoda painted the Jedi as something to be revered, but in the prequels, we saw they were rigid in their philosophies, something akin to a military cult. They weren’t about love and emotion so much as they were concerned with missions and bureaucracy, a focus which helped to push the impetuous Anakin to the edge. In Luke’s seclusion, there’s a possibility that while seeking the last Jedi temple, he actually concluded the order’s approach needs to evolve it into something new, involving neutral wielders of the Force, aka the Gray Jedi. This concept was seen in the “Knights of the Old Republic” video game, and just recently, with the powerful creature Bendu on the third season of “Star Wars Rebels.” Of course, seeing Luke adopt doctrines similar to Bendu would be immense, because it would mean straddling the line of the light and darkness rather than choosing one side over the other.
Could this be the balance the Skywalkers were supposed to bring to the Force? Rey mentioned this balance in the teaser as we saw a gloved hand glossing over what speculation has as the fabled Journal of the Whills (a lost remnant from George Lucas’ early drafts for 1977’s “Star Wars”). Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” were former Guardians of the Whills, Force-sensitive, Force-worshiping Jedi temple acolytes, and there’s the possibility the new movies could pull such lore into canon. As we see the scroll with the Jedi symbol in the teaser, Yoda’s voice can be heard — “Surrounds us… and binds us” — which could mean Luke is intent on re-purposing the Force.
Luke Has Embraced the Dark Side
This would likely be the most controversial move ever in the franchise, with Mark Hamill himself acknowledging it’s a possibility. One thing to note is that in the Expanded Universe (which is no longer considered canon), the Emperor lived on after “Return of the Jedi” through the use of clone technology and the mysticism of spirit transference, events which drove Luke to become his apprentice in order to extinguish the Sith from within the belly of the beast. He became lost amid the darkness, however, and it took the Jedi offspring of Han and Leia to redeem him. With that in mind, what if Luke training Rey is part of his plan to craft a new order to safeguard the galaxy, one that requires more aggression and a lightsaber held by an iron (or in Luke’s case, robotic) fist? Clearly, the light side hasn’t been able to quell the darkness over the ages, and there’s only so much loss Luke can take.
Luke wanting to harness the power of the dark side would match Anakin’s intentions in “Revenge of the Sith,” where he told Padme that, together, they could overthrow the Emperor and bring stability to the galaxy. However, when Anakin thought Padme had died, he became engulfed by the darkness. In Luke’s case, after hearing about the extermination of the old Jedi Order, and experiencing the deaths of his own charges, perhaps he’s realized that it’s time to fight fire with fire. The death of Han Solo may have affected him more than Disney is giving away at the moment. It would be a jaw-dropping twist if he were training Rey as part of a new rule of two, where he wanted to continue the Skywalker legacy by embracing the dark side to restore peace to the galaxy, as opposed to ruling it. That Rey’s lightsaber on the teaser poster goes from blue to red has sparked theories that she’ll have a choice to make, and if it comes from Luke rather than Kylo or Snoke.
We implore you to breathe … just breathe, because it’s not often one of cinema’s most iconic heroes takes such a big fall from grace.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” features returning cast members Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Anthony Daniels as C-3P0, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma and Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, joined by franchise newcomers Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, and Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern in undisclosed roles. The film arrives Dec. 15.