Names carry weight in Star Wars. There is, after forty years, almost as much excitement around the title of a new Star Wars movie as there is around trailers, opening nights, and midnight screenings. Rian Johnson’s middle chapter, the eighth episode in the core series of flicks, now has its title. Star Wars 8 is now officially Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, or Star Wars: The Last Jedi if you prefer.
Simple. Iconic. And rich with implications about what’s to come. As these things go, The Last Jedi is almost too on the nose. “Luke Skywalker has vanished,” reads the opening text crawl of The Force Awakens. “In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed.” There’s no mystery about who the last Jedi is. Return of the Jedi told us. Yoda spelled things out pretty clearly as well. “When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” Then he laid down some perturbing knowledge about who the last Jedi had been snogging in the previous movie.
The wait for VIII begins... pic.twitter.com/2X6AXnz9yxJanuary 23, 2017
Being the last Jedi was hard it seems. Not only did the guy have to find out he’d fancied his sister since 1977, he had to almost die to redeem his father, hold a private funeral for said father, and then be the only person in the galaxy around to train new Force adepts like his nephew Ben, who promptly became a murdering psychopath. But as many fans have been quick to note, Jedi is a plural term, so odds are good that the talented young Force user Rey is going to receive the proper training suggested by the ending of The Force Awakens. The last Jedi won’t be alone in his task anymore.
Then again, maybe not! Maybe Rian Johnson will kill off Rey and Luke in the first act and return to the original script idea for Return of the Jedi, and have a secret Skywalker sister already in training, ready to emerge and fight Snoke and Kylo Ren. Maybe Kylo Ren will be the last Jedi, forced to atone for his sins. Maybe none of them will be the last jedi and that dorkus Kit Fisto from the prequels will come out and we’ll get two solid movies of his head tentacles flopping around while he does sweet flips on screen.
This is the fun of the titling period with a new Star Wars movie. The reveals of The Empire Strikes Back, Revenge of the Jedi (Return’s original title changed just before release), and especially The Phantom Menace were small tastes of a story that stoked excitement about the sheer breadth of possibilities. They let us think back on the best of old stories, to pick over details and obsess with relish about how they can tie in with the new name.
There’s another small blessing with the new name. The Last Jedi will, at least, not be misleading in the same way that Attack of the Clones was prior to its release. The reveal of Attack of the Clones was exciting for the Star Wars faithful because it suggested that we’d finally get to see the fabled Clone Wars that crazy old Obi-Wan Kenobi talked about in the original Star Wars way back when. Finally! That “damn fool crusade” that got Anakin Skywalker turned into an evil robot man on screen. Only that never happened. Attack of the Clones was a bait and switch, a title for a movie devoting ample screen time to the chilliest romance of all time and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s slow investigation into a clone army that attacked for just a moment at the end of the movie. We didn’t get the Clone Wars; we just got the word “younglings” added to our repertoire. The Last Jedi would have to swerve wildly away from the story of The Force Awakens to go awry like that, but it’s worth remembering that for as exciting as the title reveal can be, it’s no guarantee of... well, anything, really.
We do know this thanks to director Rian Johnson: The Last Jedi opens at the precise moment The Force Awakens ended, with Rey presenting Luke with his dead father’s lightsaber on a cliff somewhere far away and lonesome. It’s a scene desperate for elaboration; we want to know what happens to both of them beyond that opening moment. Considering the name, we can rest comfortable knowing we’ll get plenty with the last Jedi and his potential successor.