With the release of each new Star Wars movie, comes rampant speculation as to just how good (or bad) it’ll be. Will it echo the prequels and come in just under our expectations? Or will it outpace even Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and become the greatest Star Wars film ever made?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story met us somewhere in the middle of that scale. The former managed to relaunch the franchise with an engaging (albeit derivative) new story. The latter took us back to the early days of the Rebellion, while giving us the best Darth Vader scene the saga has ever featured. But what will Star Wars: The Last Jedi bring fans when it hits theaters this December? Based on where the new trilogy currently sits, we have high hopes for a whole mess of reasons.
1. Middle chapters have a marked advantage
The way a trilogy is structured gives each chapter in the story a specific role. The first film is designed to introduce the characters, start the story, and wrap up on an open ended note. Conversely, the final installment needs to tie up loose ends and bring that story in for a smooth landing. Wedged in between is the middle chapter. In it, our primary players are already well-established, the narrative gets to pick up on the momentum of the first film, and we end at the climax of the action to set up the final installment.
All this is why the second season of a TV series is typically the strongest, and why middle chapters like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Empire Strikes Back were the strongest in their respective trilogies. The Last Jedi holds a similar advantage, and that in turn, sets it up uniquely to build on everything The Force Awakens laid the foundation for.
2. The film is in steady creative hands
J.J. Abrams may have kicked things off as the creative presence behind The Force Awakens, but it’s Rian Johnson whose fingerprints will truly define this new trilogy. Johnson is both the writer and director for The Last Jedi, and will also pen the script for the Colin Trevorrow-directed Episode IX.
Johnson’s body of work is impressive to say the very least, having been the man behind the camera for a handful of Breaking Bad episodes, while writing and directing 2013’s instant sci-fi classic, Looper. Suffice it to say, The Last Jedi is in good hands.
3. There’s a whole lot of emotional weight to carry the story
Part of what’s traditionally made the Star Wars saga so great involves the way it really makes you care for its characters. When the franchise has stumbled, it’s been because we have emotional investment (looking at you, Episode I). The Force Awakens brought that emotion back to Star Wars, and The Last Jedi is in a perfect position to build around that framework.
Currently, in the story, Han Solo has just died at the hands of his own son, Leia has lost her husband, Rey has found the mentor she’s always wanted, and Luke is still reeling from the loss of his fledgling Jedi Order. These arcs will drive the bulk of the drama, and each one is worth exploring in a big way.
4. We’ll finally get some answers … right?
If J.J Abrams has proved anything throughout his career, it’s that he’s a master of the mystery box. Lost was built on the bedrock of posing questions and teasing at answers, and we can see that DNA everywhere in The Force Awakens. Mercifully, Johnson doesn’t have quite the same propensity for deception, and because of that, the odds are good that we’ll finally get some god damn answers in The Last Jedi. Johnson will of course, have to save something for the final installment, but leaving fans on the hook for another two years could have some dire consequences.
5. Kylo Ren and the rise of a villain
Kylo Ren could very well be the most interesting character in the entire new trilogy. He was sent away as a child to train with Luke, was eventually turned to the Dark Side by Supreme Leader Snoke, and helped single-handedly destroy the reborn Jedi Order. Even with all that though, he remained conflicted by the time we met him in The Force Awakens. While still firmly in Snoke’s camp, he consistently felt the pull to the light, before extinguishing that feeling altogether when he murdered his father. He’ll now have a chance to shine as a true villain, scarred from his encounter with Rey, and on the warpath to end his former master once and for all.
6. Leia’s final bow
Hollywood was rocked with the news of Carrie Fisher’s passing at the end of 2016. Fisher was one of the industry’s brightest and most honest stars, and getting to see her reprise her role as Leia in The Force Awakens was nothing short of a treat. The Last Jedi will mark Fisher’s final appearance, with filming having wrapped early last summer. Seeing Leia go out for her final bow promises to be a heart-wrenching experience for fans, and we have every bit of faith in Lucasfilm to give her the ending she so rightfully deserves.
7. Getting a true lay of the land
We don’t want answers just purely out of curiosity. Many of the unanswered questions we have concerning the new trilogy are tantamount to understanding the greater context of the Star Wars universe post-Return of the Jedi. Who is Supreme Leader Snoke, and how did he come to power in the wake of the Empire’s fall? What exactly happened to Luke’s collapsed Jedi Order? How did Ben Solo fall to the Dark Side and turn into Kylo Ren? Answers to these questions will help us get a better idea for the world we’re currently operating in, which in turn, only enhances the overarching narrative.
8. An Empire Strikes Back-esque twist is on the horizon
Sure, The Empire Strikes Back sets the bar impossibly high in terms of mind-blowing twists, but there’s a certain expectation that The Last Jedi will at least try to match that. The smart money is that Rey’s true identity will be the big reveal, and Rian Johnson has a tall task making that land in an “I am your father” sort of way. Whether it’ll actually shake out is a complete mystery, but you can bet The Last Jedi will swing for the fences.
9. Finn and Poe
Given that Poe Dameron was supposed to die in the original draft of The Force Awakens, it’s fortunate that Oscar Isaac will get at least another film in the Star War saga. Most rumors from the set seem to think that Poe and Finn will go off on their own side-quest while Rey trains with Luke, putting together two characters whose on-screen chemistry has already been proven. Whatever they end up doing, we’ll be better off for their pairing.
10. It’s hard not to expect excellence
Disney’s handling of the Star Wars franchise hasn’t yet failed to impress us, from their animated Star Wars Rebels TV series, to the collection of new Expanded Universe books and comics. Cinematically, they produced two gems in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and until they fall short of our expectations, we’ll continue to keep our hopes high.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest.
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