‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Was More Like ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Than You Think
The biggest complaint about Star Wars: The Force Awakens was that director J.J. Abrams went way too far in rehashing the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope. There were differences, of course, but Han Solo essentially served as Rey’s personal Obi-Wan Kenobi. They even had to blow up a Death Star at the end. No doubt, the similarities were numerous.
And while there has been a ton of criticism heaped on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one thing that many have acknowledged is that Rian Johnson’s sequel was original. It didn’t just follow the path laid out by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Or did it? We found quite a few similarities between the two.
On the run from the Emp- … we mean, First Order
The Last Jedi opens with the Resistance on the run from the First Order. They’re evacuating their base and trying to get into hyperspace to reach a safe distance. Sound familiar? That’s pretty much how Empire Strikes Back opens, minus the whole battle of Hoth. Then the rest of the movie, from the Resistance standpoint, is spent being chased by the First Order and having their numbers decimated.
This is a clear parallel with Empire Strikes Back. The middle movie in both the original and sequel trilogies serves to knock the “good guys” down a peg, coming off their major victory in blowing up the Death Star — or Starkiller Base. But that’s not the only obvious comparison between the two movies.
Next: Luke mirroring Yoda on Dagobah
The reluctant Jedi Master
When Rey arrives at Ahch-To, she finds that Luke Skywalker is quite a bit more reluctant to take up his sword and return to the Resistance in a blaze of glory. Instead, he’s hiding in a secluded place because of his failure in allowing Kylo Ren — once Ben Solo, his nephew — to fall under Supreme Leader Snoke’s influence and turn to the dark side.
Although the younger Luke never pleaded with Yoda to return to the fight with him, the similarities are clear. Yoda went and hid in a swamp after his failure with Anakin Skywalker being manipulated by Emperor Palpatine. What’s more is that both originally refused to train their young Jedi, with Yoda fearing losing Luke to his anger the way he did with Anakin, and Luke fearing losing Rey to the darkness like he lost Ben.
Next: A not-so-subtle callback to ESB
The dark side cave fever dream
Not every correlation to Empire Strikes Back is subtle. Rey’s dark side fever dream inside the cave on Ahch-To is extremely reminiscent of what Luke went through in a cave on Dagobah. Luke ended up battling Darth Vader, cutting off his head and finding that it was him inside. It was foreshadowing the later reveal at Cloud City, where Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father.
Rey didn’t battle anyone in her vision, instead looking to the dark side for answers to her most burning question: Who were her parents? Not surprisingly, the cave gives her no clear answers. That foreshadows the revelation that Rey comes from nobody important and is unique as a part of the Skywalker saga.
Next: “But Han and Leia will die if I don’t…”
A misinterpreted vision of the future
Both Luke and Rey ended up leaving their teachers to rush back into battle, something which they are clearly not prepared to do. Luke sees a vision of Han and Leia in a city in the clouds, suffering and in pain.
Yoda explains that it’s difficult to see whether they will die or not, and warns Luke of the trap that Vader is setting. The fact that he’s not ready to face Vader is of no consequence to the cocky young Jedi. In the end, Leia and Chewbacca end up getting away in the Millennium Falcon, thanks to the help of Lando Calrissian, not anything Luke did.
Similarly, Rey sees a vision of a redeemed Kylo Ren in the moment where they touch hands through the Force. Luke warns her against rushing off to be with him, but like he did with Yoda so many years before, she was too self-assured to listen. Little did she know, that vision was a manipulation done by none other than Supreme Leader Snoke.
Next: The family connection
‘I am your father’
And therein lies yet another similarity. The way Vader reveals the shocking truth about Luke’s parentage is mirrored by the way Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that her parents were nothing more than junkers that probably sold her for booze. Both come in a heated moment, and both Vader and Ren give out the information to persuade and manipulate Luke and Rey.
Not surprisingly, the reaction is the same. Neither Luke nor Rey, despite being torn apart by finally learning everything they wanted to know about their parents, are dissuaded from the light side of the Force.
Next: Ruling the galaxy
Let’s rule the galaxy together
In those same scenes, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren are attempting to lure their enemy to their side. Vader pleads with Luke to join him, defeat the Emperor, and rule the galaxy together as father and son.
In The Last Jedi, Kylo’s plea to Rey is more sensual in nature. It’s obvious that the two have feelings for one another, and Ren clearly doesn’t want to have to be her enemy. He has already killed Snoke and (with the help of Rey) all the Praetorian guards.
But in one of the better twists in all of Star Wars, Kylo turns against Snoke and the First Order in what many thought was his path to redemption. Instead, he only did it because he refused to kill Rey. It’s somewhat similar to the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Palpatine nearly kills Luke right in front of Vader. Imagine if Vader had killed the Emperor, only to once again plead with Luke to join him on the dark side of the Force.
Next: All that remains is hope.
Battered and broken, but hopeful
Just like in Empire Strikes Back, the good guys get away from the bad guys at the end of The Last Jedi. In ESB, Luke is reeling from his confrontation with Vader and less one hand, Han is frozen in carbonite, and Leia is heartbroken from having lost Han. The final shot of the movie is of Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 staring out the window of a rebel ship at the galaxy. It was actually one of just a handful of scenes that Luke and Leia had together in the entire movie.
In The Last Jedi, Rey is separated from Finn for the entirety of the film. In fact, Finn doesn’t see her at all from the battle with Kylo at Starkiller Base until the end of the Battle of Crait. It’s in the final moments aboard the Millennium Falcon that she first meets Poe Dameron. At this point, the Resistance is down to just a handful of people; the battle against the First Order and their limitless resources all fits within the Falcon.
Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best Star Wars movie, not to mention an all-time classic, period. Nostalgia eliminates a lot of the criticism that people may have had at the time, and that may happen 30 years from now with The Last Jedi. It’s not a perfect movie, and an argument could be made that some portions were extremely sloppy or poorly handled. But in the end, the two middle movies of the original and sequel trilogies have a whole lot of plot similarities.
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