On a quiet Monday morning just like any other, Disney and Lucasfilm finally gave Star Wars fans what they wanted: the official title of Episode VIII. As you undoubtedly know by now, that title is The Last Jedi, a title that almost certainly refers to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the mysterious Jedi Master who’s hid himself from the rest of the galaxy by the time of The Force Awakens. For fans hoping that the title would reveal new things about director Rian Johnson’s highly anticipated Star Wars sequel, The Last Jedi provides a very simple answer – one that’s already been teased by Johnson in recent interviews: the film will focus on Luke and his relationship with Rey (Daisy Ridley), whose own past is a bit of a mystery.
Even the opening crawl of The Force Awakens seems to confirm that Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi in question:
But is there more to the title than just a reference to the Jedi Master?
The first thing to note about The Last Jedi is that it’s a bit of a departure from the other middle installments in the saga. While all first installments in Star Wars – The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, and The Force Awakens – have had three-word titles, their sequels have tended to have titles containing four words – e.g. Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back. The Last Jedi breaks from that tradition, but that’s not such a big deal since there’s no rule that states a Star Wars title has to be one way or another.
One quality that many of these titles seem to share is that they’re telling, but also ambiguous. They don’t always mean what you think. Return of the Jedi, for example, works in at least two ways. It not only teases Luke’s victory over the Sith, but it also describes Anakin Skywalker’s redemption. The Force Awakens is an even more ambiguous title at first glance – fitting for a movie that is a bit open-ended when it comes to the characters’ backstories and the state of the galaxy.
The Last Jedi has at least one thing in common with Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back: all of these titles are a bit more direct about their plots. The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps the most Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon-y title of all, as it feels specifically like the continuation of an old sci-fi serial. The movie’s intent is clear and you’re sitting in the audience along for the ride. At first glance, The Last Jedi works on the same level. This is the story of Luke Skywalker – the one we didn’t get in The Force Awakens.
Yet, there’s something very open-ended about the title. For one thing, it doesn’t only have to refer to Luke.
Upon hearing the title, many fans became worried that Johnson’s film would kill off the Jedi Master. The logic behind their fears is sound, of course: if Luke is going to train Rey in the ways of the Jedi, and Rey is the protagonist of the Sequel Trilogy, does that mean Luke would have to die in order to fulfill the title’s prophecy and make Rey the last Jedi? Somewhere down the line, like Luke before her, Rey would have to carry the weight of being the last of her ancient order.
This would certainly go with the trilogy’s theme of the older generation passing down the torch to the younger one. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was a mentor to both Rey and Finn (John Boyega) before he died at the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The same fate could potentially be in store for Luke, especially if you look back at his own journey and his two mentors – Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, both of whom died. Obi-Wan and Han had similar arcs as mentors, introducing their pupils to a much larger world but dying in the process. Old Luke, on the other hand, is similar to Yoda, the wise master who must teach the fledgling hero all he knows before his end. Given the Sequel Trilogy’s penchant for reliving the past, Luke could indeed end his journey much in the same way Yoda did – although I doubt it will be of old age.
But if The Last Jedi is not a direct reference to Luke, could this mean that the title is in fact a play on the word “Jedi?” After all, the word is both singular and plural. Therefore, it could be referring to BOTH Luke and Rey, who, upon completing her training, will be the only other Jedi in the galaxy. Suddenly, this feels sort of like a last stand for the light side of the Force, doesn it? Sort of like Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. It’s the last Jedi against the combined force of the First Order and the Knights of Ren for the fate of the galaxy. Anyway, the Kurosawa influence on the title would be more than fitting since the Japanese director’s work was a major inspiration for George Lucas’ Original Trilogy films.
The Last Jedi could also refer to a whole group of people. What if it’s in reference to the old Jedi Order? We know that, at some point between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Luke went searching for the first Jedi temple on Ahch-To. His plan once he got there is still unclear, although we’ll undoubtedly learn way more about it in Episode VIII. Did Luke travel to the ruins of the temple to learn the ancient secrets of the Jedi that came before him, perhaps? A secret of the Jedi that could finally defeat the dark side once and for all? Maybe Rey is the key to unlocking this secret…
Or what if the title is actually a reference to the last group of Jedi Luke tried to train before they were slaughtered by Kylo and his Knights of Ren? The word “dark” has been thrown around by quite a few of the Episode VIII cast members when talking about Johnson’s script. If this sequel is indeed dark, its title could be a reminder of Luke’s biggest failure – his inability to teach his students… or save them. This hidden meaning would certainly add a lot of emotional weight to the movie, especially when it comes to Luke deciding to take on a new pupil.
Yes, it’s true that the title perhaps doesn’t beg any further examination. It seems so cut and dry. So direct and intentional. This movie is about Luke, which is what many of us expected. It will give us the answers to many of the questions we had leaving the theater at the end of The Force Awakens and will undoubtedly set up a final confrontation between the heroes and the villains. But if past Star Wars movies have taught us anything, it’s that we should expect a few surprises along the way.