Star Wars: The Last Jedi Changes Our Understanding of the Force, AGAIN

Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.

The Force has always been a source of debate among Star Wars fans. The ambiguous supernatural energy has been explained in different ways throughout the film franchise, but how that power is manipulated by Jedi (and Sith) has also changed over the years. And in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson once again reinvents how the Force works.

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In the film, Force wielders can communicate instantaneously across distances, read minds and move objects using telekinesis, of course, but that’s not all. Leia Organa is able to move her body through the vacuum of space. Supreme Leader Snoke claims he was able to manipulate the minds of Rey and Kylo Ren, seeding faulty depictions of the future to coerce the two into compliance. Even a Jedi’s ability to survive after death is upgraded, with a long-dead Yoda calling down a lightning strike after Luke Skywalker is unable to burn the Jedi Order’s sacred texts. That’s to say nothing of Luke’s surprising astral projection in his duel with Kylo.

So, how different are these Force powers compared to those of the previous trilogies? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, The Last Jedi breaks some key rules.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode IV
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode IV

In the original Star Wars trilogy, Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Force as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.” The Force sounds all-powerful in that description, but its depiction was fairly mundane. Both Obi-Wan and Luke utilized the Force to influence psychically, using “Jedi mind tricks” to cloud the minds of the weak-willed, rendering them temporarily subservient. Luke frequently used the Force to telekinetically retrieve his lightsaber, and a vision of the future brought him to his friends’ aid when they were betrayed on Cloud City. Darth Vader, of course, was a big fan of the Force-choke move.

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Those abilities are present in The Last Jedi, but they've seemingly been dialed up to 11. Luke is able to dupe Kylo Ren, another powerful Force-wielder, into believing his illusion, giving the remaining members of the Resistance enough time to flee from an abandoned Rebel Alliance base on Crait. That’s quite the feat, considering how Force persuasion in the original trilogy was primarily limited to Stormtroopers and the Gamorrean guards, the assumption being that the similarly skilled Force-sensitive would be able to detect, and deflect, such attempts.

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