Now that “Star Wars: Episode VIII” has been subtitled “The Last Jedi,” it’s time to stretch out with our feelings to see what that melancholy phrase could include.
RULE OF TWO?
First, we note that the word “Jedi” can be singular or plural. For example, in “A New Hope” Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that “the Force is what gives a Jedi his power”; while Grand Moff Tarkin reminds Darth Vader that “[t]he Jedi are all extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe.” Additionally, in “Return of the Jedi” Yoda cautions Luke that “[w]hen gone am I, the last of the Jedi you will be.”
Speaking of Episode VI, the title “Return of the Jedi” has a couple of meanings – from certain points of view, you might say. If it’s about Luke’s graduation to Jedi Knighthood, then “Return of the Jedi” could refer to his eventual re-establishment of the Jedi Order and “Jedi” would be plural. However, if it’s about Luke’s return to Tatooine or (for the spoiled) Anakin Skywalker’s “return” to the good side, then “Jedi” would be singular. Episode VI’s original title, “Revenge of the Jedi,” is perhaps a clearer reference to Anakin’s final acts.
But we digress. As far as we know, by the time of “The Last Jedi” Luke has been just that for a while, definitely for the past several years and perhaps since the end of “ROTJ.” He’s even called “the last Jedi” in the opening crawl of “The Force Awakens.” Thus, the simplest reading of “The Last Jedi” is as a reference to Luke himself. If Rey becomes a Jedi by the end of Episode VIII, the “Jedi” in the title simply becomes plural — unless Luke becomes one with the Force by movie’s end; which would then leave Rey as the last Jedi, singular.
OLD FRIENDS LONG GONE
Because Luke was on-screen so little in “The Force Awakens,” we expect him and his recent history to be featured heavily in “The Last Jedi.” In particular, we expect to learn at least a little more about the tragic end of his Jedi Academy. Since Luke and his students were the “last Jedi” in the years following “Return of the Jedi,” Episode VIII’s title could refer to their story.
Episode VIII could also provide more details about Luke’s search for the first Jedi Temple on the planet Ahch-To, where Rey found him at the end of “The Force Awakens.” Specifically, we wonder if on the way to Ahch-To Luke encountered other Jedi, or at least potential Jedi. We know from “TFA” and “Rogue One” that not every student of the Force is a Jedi, but it’s still possible that a few of the Order escaped the Emperor’s purge. Basically, in the post-“ROTJ” galaxy, any Jedi is/are the “last Jedi.”
The subtitle might even be a reference to Obi-Wan and Yoda, who were the last Jedi for the better part of twenty years. Luke may have been communing with them via the Force during his self-imposed exile, in order to learn from their experiences. “The Force Awakens” set a precedent with snippets of Obi-Wan and Yoda dialogue, and Ewan McGregor and Frank Oz could reprise their roles without too much difficulty (or publicity).
One outside possibility is that Kylo Ren considers himself the last Jedi, in a twisted “only Snoke and I understand the Jedi” kind of way. At the end of “The Force Awakens,” he was summoned to complete his training, but whether that was as a Sith, a Knight of Ren or something else entirely was never specified.
ALWAYS IN MOTION IS THE FUTURE
So far the “Star Wars” subtitles have reflected their episodes’ subject matter with varying degrees of accuracy. The retrofit of “A New Hope” onto the original “Star Wars” described the heroics of Luke Skywalker without being too distracting of a subtitle. “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Revenge of the Sith” both captured both the downbeat plotting and malevolent tone of their respective installments. We’ve already discussed how “Return of the Jedi” works despite its ambiguity; but while “Attack of the Clones” covers Episode II’s final act, it fails to include the film’s romantic aspects. For its part, “The Phantom Menace” could refer either to the paper-tiger nature of the Trade Federation, or to Palpatine’s behind-the-scenes maneuvers.
The previous trilogies’ subtitles also flow together well. “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” go from optimism to doubt and back to triumph. While the prequel trilogies’ subtitles aren’t quite in the same vein, “The Phantom Menace” still evokes an air of mystery and intrigue; “Attack of the Clones” suggests straightforward adventure; and “Revenge of the Sith” leans into danger. Of course, “The Force Awakens” describes rebirth; and “Force” even sounds enough like “first” to complement “Last Jedi.”
In this light “The Last Jedi” not only recalls “Return of the Jedi,” it serves as a bookend to “A New Hope.” Instead of the promise of Episode IV, though, it alerts moviegoers that the Jedi are still a fragile ideal, and must be defended. Furthermore, like “The Phantom Menace,” “The Last Jedi’s” vagaries allow for a good bit of anticipation, as fans decide whether to be worried or excited. By the time “Last Jedi” opens in December, some of us will have waited over 32 ½ years to see Luke Skywalker in action again, and this subtitle only heightens the suspense.
Still, what do we know? We wanted Episode III to be called “Bride of the Dark Side.”
What do you think of the “Last Jedi” title, and what’s your theory about it? Let us know in the comments!
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