WARNING:: The following contains major spoilers for director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ended with ominous words delivered by Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker: "It's time for the Jedi to end."
Naturally, that sparked eight months of speculation about what those words might mean. Why did Luke, the titular Last Jedi, want the Jedi Order to end? Did that telegraph a turn to the Dark Side? Was it taken out of context to provoke a reaction, in classic trailer fashion?
Now that writer/director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi has arrived in theaters, the truth behind that surprising declaration has been revealed, and the implications may have you questioning the entire franchise. See, Luke's words weren't taken out of context -- and the movie leaves viewers feeling he might be on the right side of history.
As expected, Luke is talking to Rey (Daisy Ridley) when he says it's time for the Jedi to end. After he reluctantly agrees to train her on Ahch-To, he elaborates on his ominous comment. As he puts it, the legacy of the Jedi is failure -- and if we look at the rest of the saga, it's difficult to argue with him. As he says in The Last Jedi, Darth Sidious rose to power under the Jedi's watch, resulting in the creation of the Galactic Empire. Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite his best intentions, trained Anakin Skywalker, who became Darth Vader. And, as the film details, Luke had a similar experience with his nephew Ben Solo, now known as Kylo Ren.
In a story viewers get a couple different takes on, Luke trained Ben and a few other students in hopes of fielding a new generation of Jedi -- except that Snoke had already begun to corrupt Ben. When Luke recognized that, he briefly considered killing Ben to spare the galaxy from the darkness to come. Ben realized that, and retaliated, leaving the Jedi temple destroyed and the remaining students either killed or absconded with him. Luke is at least partly to blame for Ben becoming Kylo Ren, with clear parallels to Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Beyond that, Luke seems to be realist as to the long-term prospects of the Jedi. Since Anakin slaughtered the Younglings in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi haven't really existed in the timeline of the films outside of Luke, and his attempt to restart the order failed. But is that such a bad thing?
Luke tells Rey the Force shouldn't be the sole property of the Jedi, and there's not a lot of reason to disagree with him. Given how powerful the Force is in the Star Wars universe, it shouldn't be singularly controlled by an effectively extinct group; for practical purposes, if nothing else. A character like Chirrut Îmwe from last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story could be a template for what Luke alludes to, a non-Jedi who still has a strong, albeit different, connection to the Force.
All eight of the main Star Wars films and much of the associated material -- books, comics, video games, etc. -- have heavily drawn upon the Jedi and its mythology. But it's difficult not to look back on that with a different perspective after The Last Jedi. While the Jedi may have been great in their time, the movies have offered solid evidence that they've done more harm than good.
Maybe Kylo Ren is right, too. He tells Rey in Snoke's throne room that it's time to let the past die. It's a villainous moment; a heartbreaking one, after his moment of heroism in cutting down his Supreme Leader. But maybe the ultimate message of the Skywalker Saga isn't restoring the traditions of a bygone era, but starting something new.
The final scene of The Last Jedi could be interpreted as either rejecting this theory or supporting it, with a look at the downtrodden children on Canto Bight who have been inspired by Luke Skywalker's heroism. But while it absolutely makes sense for Luke to serve as an inspiration for these kids, that doesn't mean they need to copy his entire playbook -- as it seems like that way inevitably leads to some total bummers. And there's no better message for an optimistic franchise like Star Wars than the hope that future generations can succeed where the previous one has failed.
Despite Rey's clear Jedi qualifications, maybe a different fate awaits her. This film is called The Last Jedi for a reason, and with Luke seemingly dying, maybe that title should be taken literally.
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. The film is in theaters worldwide.