SPOILERS AHEAD! (C’mon, you knew that.)
Star Wars is once again the hot holiday season conversation topic with The Last Jedi hyperspace-blasting its way into theaters. It follows up on The Force Awakens, showing the continuing adventures of Rey, Finn, and Poe, and finally brings Jedi Master Luke Skywalker back to the big screen. While the visual spectacle remains just as strong as any other Star Wars flick, the plot takes a different turn, re-examining the necessity of the Jedi and the Force. Rey begins her training with Luke, Kylo continues to grapple with his inner conflict, Poe learns the difficulties of needing to be a commander over a hero, and Finn gets a girlfriend. Finn doesn’t do much in this movie.
One of the more controversial elements of The Force Awakens is that it introduced a whole lot of questions with no answers. The Last Jedi answers a few of those questions with “who cares?” but really it leaves us once again with more questions than answers. At this point, it seems unlikely that the more mysterious introductions of the Disney sequels will ever be properly explained outside of a mediocre book or comic. We, the audience, are left to our confusion and our theories, bracing for disappointment at every turn. That notwithstanding, here are the questions we still have after TLJ.
15. WILL KYLO EVER STOP BEING A PUNK?
The Last Jedi now makes it two movies where Kylo Ren/Ben Solo gets clowned on by the protagonists. First Rey brings him to a standstill in their struggle over Anakin’s lightsaber, then Luke pranks him with a Force illusion. At this point, while Kylo has a compelling character arc, it’s not one suited to an antagonist. He’s completely nonthreatening to the protagonists, and thus does not provide a credible challenge for them to overcome.
While he now commands the First Order, he faces a challenge in the form of Hux, reduced to little more than a punchline in this movie. While the Resistance is reduced to 12 guys on the Millennium Falcon, the First Order just does not seem threatening or challenging to them with Kylo and Hux at the head. One hopes that Episode IX (and beyond?) do more to make Kylo a more compelling antagonist, or at least make him a protagonist.
14. WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE REST OF THE GALAXY?
While the state of galactic politics isn’t really at the forefront of the Sequel Trilogy, there still remains what has happened in the wake of the New Republic’s destruction. In The Force Awakens, Starkiller Base destroys the capital system and the New Republic fleet, but as The Last Jedi begins, it seems systems are already capitulating to the First Order.
On the other hand, the First Order itself doesn’t seem that much better off than the Resistance, having just lost their giant fear weapon. As the film progresses, they also lose a large number of Star Destroyers, including the massive Supremacy, as well as their apparently very wealthy Supreme Leader. While the First Order might be in a slightly better state than the Resistance, they have lost a huge amount of resources, personnel, and funding, which in turn raises questions of how they’re going to conquer the galaxy, freshly vulnerable from governmental destabilization.
13. DOES THE EMPIRE TRACKING THE FALCON NOT COUNT?
One of the major plot points in The Last Jedi is the First Order’s ability to track the Resistance fleet through hyperspace. This throws a wrench into their entire plan to scuttle off to Crait and hide out while they rebuild their forces. It further prevents them from fleeing on additional hyperspace jumps after their Crait plan is blow wide open.
While the tracking plot turns out to be a red herring, it does raise a question. After all, the Empire tracked the Millennium Falcon from the wreckage of Alderaan all the way to Yavin 4 way back in A New Hope. It is possible that the First Order tracked the Resistance fleet without the use of a tracking beacon, as in ANH, but no one even stops to wonder if a tracker was planted during the scuffle over D’Qar.
12. WHY DIDN’T HOLDO SHARE THE PLAN EARLIER?
A good chunk of The Last Jedi is, finally, dedicated to Poe Dameron. He goes through the basic arc of learning that discretion is sometimes the better part of valor, in the process getting most of the Resistance killed. A major part of his arc involves his conflict with Vice Admiral Holdo, who assumes command of the Resistance when General Leia is incapacitated.
While Holdo is of course under no obligation to tell the recently-demoted Poe the big plan, the entire crew is clearly on edge. It should be a superior officer’s duty to maintain morale in a tense situation, but Holdo fails to alleviate Poe’s (justified) concerns. Even more egregious, the entire plotline could have apparently been avoided by literally pointing out the window, as Leia does later to at last explain the plan to Poe.
11. WAS KYLO LYING ABOUT REY’S PARENTS?
The identity of Rey’s parents has been bugging audiences since 2015, when The Force Awakens hinted that she might be more than she appears. The Last Jedi squashed any theories with the revelation that Rey’s parents are just two junkdealers from Jakku. While this mirrors Anakin Skywalker’s birth as a slave on Tatooine, it also raises further questions as to why Maz seemed to recognize her, and why Anakin’s lightsaber reacted to her.
However, there remains the possibility that Kylo, as a bad guy, lied. He clearly wanted Rey to join him, and revealing that she had nothing and no one would certainly be effective at making her feel like Kylo was her only option. It seems likely, though, that Rey’s parents will remain unimportant, and she will make her own path free from the Skywalker dynasty. Unless she continues to have shirtless chats with Kylo, then all bets are off.
10. WHAT IS THE FORCE IN BALANCE?
Up until this point, “bringing balance to the Force” has been understood to be removing the influence of the Dark Side. Anakin brings balance to the Force first by removing the corrupted Jedi, and later removing the last of the Sith. Even in A New Hope, Obi-Wan implies that surrendering the will of the Force, as Luke does in the Death Star trench, means standing against the Dark Side.
But The Last Jedi is the first movie positing the existence of a Light Side, in opposition to the Dark Side, as opposed to the Dark Side simply being a corruption of the Force, as has been the case in previous films. While Snoke implies that Rey was born in a similar manner to Anakin, chosen by the Force to oppose the Dark Side, he also implies that the Dark Side grows stronger in tandem with the Light. Whether this interpretation continues, of course, remains to be seen.
9. WILL WE EVER STOP REHASHING THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY?
One of the largest criticisms of The Force Awakens was that it was basically a remake of A New Hope. While The Last Jedi does consciously avoid directly remaking Empire Strikes Back, it still sits very firmly in its shadow, as well as Return of the Jedi‘s. Despite taking time to tell the audience that Crait’s surface is in fact salt, not snow, the Battle of Crait certainly feels like a Battle of Hoth 2.0. We also have the young apprentice training with a grumpy old Jedi Master on a watery planet, who in turn leaves the planet to face their adversary against the advice of the Master based on a vision from the Force.
At this point, though, there seems to be little in the way of “iconic” scenes from the original trilogy to retread. Episode IX might finally, FINALLY, break out of its shadow and take the sequel trilogy into its own world. Of course with J.J. “every movie I make is A New Hope” Abrams at the helm, who knows what we’ll get.
8. WHAT’S UP THE SPACE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX?
One of the largest reveals in The Last Jedi was the existence of a space military-industrial complex, supplying both sides to further the conflict and enlarge their own profits. Finn learns about this darker side (as opposed to the Dark Side) to the conflict on his adventure to Canto Bight. While the existence of ironmongers profiting off both sides wouldn’t seem out of place in, say, Metal Gear Solid, it seems a bizarre direction for the thus-far very straightforward Star Wars franchise to take.
Of course, that assumes future films even deal with it, or just sweep it under the rug, as The Last Jedi itself did for a lot of plot points from The Force Awakens. While it will likely come up in future novels and comics, it would certainly be an interesting direction for the mainline franchise to delve into the darker side of the “Wars” part of Star Wars.
7. CAN KYLO REN BE REDEEMED?
Rey’s primary goal in The Last Jedi, after meeting Luke Skywalker, is the redemption of Kylo Ren. While there is a brief moment when Kylo betrays Snoke and the two fight side by side, Kylo wants Rey to fall. Tempting her with the knowledge of her parents, Kylo promises a new order, beyond the Jedi and the Sith, the Empire and the Rebels. Rey, of course, refuses, but it raises the question if Kylo can still be redeemed.
Obviously, his emulation of Vader is more than just part of character, so if the films continue with the retread of the original trilogy, a redemption seems likely. There is also the possibility that Kylo and Rey’s growing attraction to each other causes one of them to join the other (can you say more shirtless conversations?).
6. WHAT IS LUKE’S THIRD LESSON?
While Luke is initially reluctant to train Rey, he eventually relents and promises to give her three lessons about the Force and the Jedi, and why the Jedi Order needs to die. His first lesson is about the Force. It is not a power, as Rey believes, but an energy field that connects all living things, echoing Obi-Wan and Yoda. The Jedi are not needed to maintain the balance, as the Force does this itself.
The second lesson covers failure. The Jedi failed to stop the Sith, Obi-Wan failed in his training of Anakin, and Luke failed in his training of Ben. Because of these failures, he believes the galaxy would be better off without the Jedi (although he appears to change his mind later). However, Rey leaves Ahch-To before Luke can pass on the final lesson, and Luke becomes one with the Force before he can tell her afterwards. All signs point to Luke returning as a Force ghost to pass on the third lesson.
5. WHAT ABOUT LEIA?
One of the most painful questions The Last Jedi left us with had nothing to do with the actual film. While Leia Organa survived the film, Carrie Fisher passed away last year. This leaves us with the uncomfortable question of how Episode IX will handle her absence. While Lucasfilm has said previously they won’t create a CGI monstrosity with her face, as in Rogue One, whether they follow through, of course, remains to be seen.
What seems most likely is one of two things. First, Leia simply does not appear in the film and is written as being somewhere else, leaving the door open for further adventures in future Expanded Universe works. Second, the film opens after a time skip on Leia’s funeral, with her having died offscreen. Regardless of whatever choice they do end up making, we’ll be sorely missing our princess when the time comes.
4. WHAT ELSE CAN THE FORCE DO?
The Last Jedi revealed a lot of startling new capabilities of the Jedi and the Force. Luke projects a tangible image across the galaxy, leaving behind physical objects that remain after he stops maintaining the illusion. Rey and Kylo communicate across light-years, even touching, and in one case, Kylo’s hand is wet from touching the rain falling on Rey.
This raises so many questions about the nature of the Force and just what is possible that it might be time to start looking to the Legends canon for future ideas. It’s possible Kylo will tap into the powers of Sith long past who could kill entire planets with only the Force, or Rey achieves living Oneness as Kylo’s long-lost Legends counterpart Jacen Solo once did.
3. WHERE THE HECK WERE THE KNIGHTS OF REN?
Aside from a single flashback in The Force Awakens and a namedrop by Snoke in The Last Jedi, Kylo’s mysterious order remains, you guessed it, pretty mysterious. Are they that handful of Luke’s former students, who joined with Kylo? Are they other young Force sensitives corrupted by Snoke? Are they just random unimportant yahoos with no connection to the Force?
While they will certainly be expanded upon in future Expanded Universe works, one would hope J.J. Abrams uses them in Episode IX, or at least tells us who the heck they are. But then, having a bunch of cool-looking dudes do nothing of consequence is apparently right up the sequel trilogy’s alley, after having Phasma get clowned on twice in a row. Hopefully the Knights of Ren avoid her fate.
2. WHO WAS SNOKE?
One of the biggest questions going into The Last Jedi was the identity and purpose of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke. And as it turns out, it’s still one of the biggest questions coming out of The Last Jedi. Snoke, of course, dies rather unceremoniously while narrating exactly what was going to happen. However, not a single question about just who this immensely powerful Force user is and where he came from, or even what he wants, is answered.
He’s essentially there for Kylo to progress into a more full-fledged villain, but that in turn begs the question of why Snoke was in the movies in the first place, rather than just starting with Kylo in command of the First Order in the first place.
1. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Of course, the biggest question about The Last Jedi is what happens next? Rey got a grand total of two lessons from Luke before his ascendance and no longer even has a lightsaber. Kylo and Hux are at each others’ throats over command of the First Order. The First Order itself was handed two crushing blows in the loss of Starkiller Base and the Supremacy, two surely vast expenditures in resources. The Resistance is reduced to a mere handful of people on board a single ship.
But it’s not all bad. Rey took the ancient Jedi texts from the Force tree Yoda destroyed on Ahch-To. Kylo still has hope of redemption. The Resistance still has allies across the Outer Rim, even if they didn’t answer the call at Crait. And even beyond the main cast, the stablehand on Canto Bight displays a split-second of Force sensitivity, showing us that the stories of Star Wars will last well beyond the movies.
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