As it is with the release of any new Star Wars film, there’s always lots to unpack. For The Force Awakens, many fans pointed to a frustratingly large amount of unanswered questions. Rogue One took a good deal of heat for its CGI renderings of Peter Cushing and a young Carrie Fisher, and together, there’s been plenty to discuss in the wake of both releases. That all leads us to the next installment due to hit theaters in December, The Last Jedi. In terms of what we’d want to see, it’s not hard to suss out the top priorities, so let’s jump in and discuss.
1. A tone to match The Empire Strikes Back
Part of what made The Empire Strikes Back the consummate sequel was its grim tone and fearless storytelling. Even after the decidedly bright A New Hope, it was unafraid to show us just what our heroes were up against, and how vulnerable they truly were.
That being so, it’s also important to keep that approach balanced. Hollywood’s doubled down its “dark and gritty” fixation in recent years, and we saw the worst case scenario for that earlier in 2016, with the joyless slog that was DC’s Batman v Superman. Yes, it will be important for The Last Jedi to establish an Empire-esque feel, but it’ll but equally useful to remember that all great things come in moderation.
Director Rian Johnson recently opened up about the tone of The Last Jedi in an interview with USA Today. And while the original trilogy featured a dark second installment, it seems fans shouldn’t expect Episode VIII to be similarly gloomy. Per Johnson, he wants Episode VIII “to be a blast and to be funny and to be a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were.”
2. A different kind of story
While it would serve Episode VIII to match the general tone of the original trilogy, that doesn’t mean we want a straight repeat of the exact plot. For all the good it did in reviving the Star Wars franchise, there’s no doubting that The Force Awakens felt a whole lot like a copy/paste of The New Hope, down to the destructive death sphere our ragtag band of heroes blows up just in time to save the day.
Now that the Star Wars franchise has been officially reestablished, it’d be nice to see The Last Jedi prove that Disney can construct a brand new story of their own, rather than continuing to return to the well of the original trilogy.
3. The identity of Rey’s family
The biggest question we all had coming out of The Force Awakens concerned the identity of Rey’s family. Theories have been all over the place, positing that she’s everything from Emperor Palpatine’s daughter, to the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker himself. Whoever Rey actually is, it doesn’t help anybody to drag the mystery out until Episode IX. Additionally, it’s a reveal that sets The Last Jedi up for an Empire Strikes Back-level twist: All Johnson needs to do is capitalize on that opportunity.
While it remains to be seen whether we’ll find out this detail in Episode VIII, Johnson has confirmed the movie will give fans more information about the heroes we first met in The Force Awakens, including how they handle themselves when faced with obstacles. “I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory,” Johnson told USA Today. “Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now — let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.”
4. More time with Luke
It wouldn’t be a Star Wars trilogy unless the Skywalker family was involved to some degree. We got that to an extent with Leia in The Force Awakens, but there was still precious little of her Jedi brother, with the main story revolving around a galaxy-wide search for him. The film wrapped up with Rey returning his old lightsaber to him, setting up a master/student relationship we can’t wait to see more of once The Last Jedi picks up the cliffhanger left by The Force Awakens.
While Johnson has yet to confirm the fan theory that Rey is a Skywalker, he did tease that the film will expand on the connection between these two characters. The next chapter will further explore their relationship, with Rey “both not knowing what’s going to happen and also having a lot of expectations in her head about how this is going to go,” said Johnson.
That being said, it sounds like Luke’s story may be the main focus of the upcoming film, since Johnson also stated that “What’s going on with Luke Skywalker?” is the primary question at the center of Episode VIII.
5. Filling in the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens
Even after three novels set in the years following Return of the Jedi, there’s a whole lot of empty space to fill in before The Force Awakens. We have upwards of 30-some years unaccounted for, during which the New Republic rose to power, Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side and destroyed Luke’s fledgling Jedi Order, and Supreme Leader Snoke built the First Order into a military superpower without anyone knowing.
Odds are Lucasfilm will want to save some of those answers for standalone movies sometime down the line, but we’ll at least need a little more background to fill in the blanks.
6. The rise of Supreme Leader Snoke
The Force Awakens gave us little in the way of clues concerning the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke. Chuck Wendig’s Life Debt novel offered up a compelling argument though, introducing Gallius Rax, a former protegé of Emperor Palpatine pulling the strings behind the remnants of the post-Return of the Jedi Empire. In the novel, Rax is painted as ruthless and cunning, gathering together what remains of the Empire to reform it in his own vision.
We’ll have to wait until The Last Jedi for a more definitive answer concerning the Rax/Snoke theory, where we’ll hopefully also get a better understanding for how Snoke rose to the heights we see him at in The Force Awakens.
7. A final bow for Carrie Fisher
The world was rocked by news of Carrie Fisher’s death, with the talented actress having passed away following complications from a recent heart attack. Her talent, charisma, and heart will be sorely missed both in and outside the Star Wars saga. That being so, we’ll get a chance to say one final goodbye to Fisher in The Last Jedi, given that Fisher had already finished her work on the film last July.
It’ll be emotional to say the least, as an entire fandom gets a chance to remember her for the role that first thrust her into the spotlight all those years ago.
8. The Knights of Ren
The Knights of Ren were teased at throughout The Force Awakens, without ever really telling us who exactly they were, or why they mattered. All we do know is that Kylo Ren is their leader, and that they might have contributed to the fall of Luke’s reconstructed Jedi Order.
They appear to be some sort of elite fighting force commissioned by Snoke, although past that we have little in the way of concrete information. Recent rumors claim they’ll be heavily involved from the very first scene of The Last Jedi, so here’s hoping we can get a few details along the way.
9. The fallout from The Force Awakens
While we were busy mourning the death of Han Solo at the hands of his own son, there were some far larger stakes that were never addressed. The biggest shift in the film actually came sometime before that heart-wrenching scene, when the First Order completely annihilated the New Republic with the Starkiller weapon, leaving the galaxy without a governing body to keep the peace.
With the entire political infrastructure destroyed, it’ll be interesting to see if Episode VIII chooses to address this, or simply sets it aside in the same way The Force Awakens did.
10. A necessary proving ground for Rian Johnson
J.J. Abrams may have been the primary creative presence behind The Force Awakens, but it’s Johnson who could very well be a driving factor of the new trilogy as we know it. That all begins with The Last Jedi, a film he both wrote and directed. Episode VIII will be a key proving ground for him.
Additional reporting by Nathanael Arnold.
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