WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Rian Johnston’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi delivers one of the darkest installments of the 40-year-old film franchise, in the process delving deeper into the mystical aspects of the Force, and placing Rey and Luke Skywalker at the crossroads on the perilous landscape between the Light and the Dark.
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Writer/director Rian Johnson makes the Force central to this film, more so than J.J. Abrams did in 2015’s The Force Awakens. Abrams focused on the Force in battle — lightsabers, telekinesis and mental strength — but Johnson, while attending to all that as well, goes a step further by bringing back a ghost of the past, literally.
Yoda returns as a Force ghost to help a fatigued Luke in his moment of doubt, when it seems all hope is lost. However, while it’s fun and a nice homage to the original trilogy, Yoda isn’t the right Jedi for the mission to reintroduce a cynical Luke to the Light.
After training for a while with Luke, Rey mentally connects with Kylo Ren, and believes she can redeem him. Luke, however, thinks his nephew is a lost soul. Ultimately, after a physical confrontation, he tells Rey he won’t have anything to do with Kylo’s redemption.
As stubborn and optimistic as ever, Rey is convinced it’s possible and leaves with Chewbacca aboard the Millennium Falcon. Believing he’s failed another apprentice, and feeling even more disenchanted with Jedi beliefs, a distraught Luke heads to the hollowed-out sacred tree on Ahch-To, determined to burn it and the Order’s ancient texts contained within. But when he hesitates, Yoda appears and uses Force lightning to burn the tree down himself, stunning his former student.
Yoda’s purpose, as he goes on to explain, is to teach Luke that failure is something to learn from. However, while that evokes memories of Luke’s on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, the ghost should actually have been that of Obi-Wan Kenobi — the man who first taught Luke the principals of the Jedi.
Obi-Wan’s Force ghost last appeared to Luke, alongside Yoda and a redeemed Anakin Skywalker, at the end of Return of the Jedi, so he’s already on the mystical plane, ready to talk to his former charge. Luke’s dilemma isn’t physical anyway; it’s moral, and that has always been Obi-Wan’s role — to act as the compass that guides Luke away from the path taken by Anakin.
Also, Obi-Wan knows about failure, having trained Anakin before he became Darth Vader. That makes him perfect to act as a reminder to an older Luke. Of course, considering the time that’s passes since Obi-Wan’s death, perhaps his essence did move on. But if Yoda can return, let’s be real, so can Obi-Wan.
It could be too that Disney didn’t want to use another actor as Obi-Wan, as the studio might be aiming for Ewan McGregor to reprise the role in a standalone movie. But alas, there’s an easy fix for that: Use a CGI version of Alec Guinness as he was at the end of Return of the Jedi.
That said, Yoda might have been chosen because he’s funnier (The Last Jedi does contain quite a bit of humor), and has a lot novelty appeal. Johnson’s choice could even be down to shock factor, as Yoda remains one of Star Wars’ most popular character. What’s more, Yoda is considered the wisest of all the Jedi. Thus, in the director’s mind, Yoda’s the logical figure to advise Luke on how to move on from the burdens of the past.
It’s also a bit poetic, as Yoda was the one who trained Luke, continuing what Obi-Wan began. Perhaps Yoda simply didn’t want his former apprentice to desecrate his own legacy by committing the fiery act. When’s all said and done, while Obi-Wan’s return might have been more organic to the story, we can still appreciate Yoda reminding Luke that sometimes it’s better to let people help you burn the relics of the past in order to light the way forward. Still, you we can’t help but feel that this message would have resonated more coming from the only true father figure that Luke has ever known.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Benicio Del Toro as ‘DJ’, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa.
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