The Last Jedi: What To Expect?

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The Last Jedi tickets are officially on sale, a new official trailer is out, and it is time to start looking forward to the new film. It is the new trailer on which I am inviting you to meditate with me now. If you haven’t watched it yet, here it is – and if you have, just join me for the ride. I have picked up the highlights of the trailer, trying to briefly outline what might they signify in the context of the movie, but most importantly, in relation to every scene, I am venturing on a little fantasy trip, imagining what could be the best and the worst-case scenerios of how the story is going to unfold in that context.

Rey, Luke, and the Jedi

This should be the major theme, if only because of the film’s title. The scenes of Rey’s training show Rey’s newly awakening power, but also Luke’s fear. The island contains an ancient Jedi sanctuary, which presumably holds some long-lost knowledge: maybe a key to understanding Luke’s failures, and maybe even those of the pre-Empire Jedi Order before him. The main question probably is: will Rey manage to get Luke to teach her, is Luke going to resign completely, or is the First Order going to kill him before Rey’s training can be completed?
What I am hoping for: Rey is going to start learning to use the Force “properly”, i.e. consciously, in a constructive manner. Or (an equally good option), she will run into the wall of her mentor’s reluctance, will become disillusioned, and will have to find her own path (but preferably with either the guidance of ancient books, Obi-Wan’s ghost, or anything – let’s just not make her “miraculously” transcend every former Jedi by following her gut, making us believe that nobody has ever attempted that before).
I am hoping to go “to the roots” (literally) of the Jedi. Maybe, in contrast to the title, we are going to hear about the first Jedi. It would be good to get a clarification on what went wrong with Luke’s planned re-start of the Jedi Order and whether there seems to be something wrong ideologically with the core teachings of the Jedi; whether Luke’s version of the teachings were somehow different from those of the ancient Jedi, or how were these different from the pre-Empire Jedi. Have the Jedi “lost their way” somewhere, and if yes, when and how?
What I fear: The worst case scenario is that the “spiritual” part is going to be completely ditched. Despite the lengthy hints, we aren’t going to learn anything new about the Jedi, the Force will be explained away as “magic” and everything will remain shrouded in a couple of wise-sounding, but empty phrases. Worst case scenario, Rey will become the most powerful Force-wielder in the history without sufficient explanation of what is she doing different that no Jedi (or Sith, for that matter) before her ever did.

Kylo Ren and Leia

Now this was probably one of the first “hey, wait a minute!” moments of the trailer. My question is: if a trailer is deliberately cut in such a provocative manner as this (“are you going to blow up your own mother after you have just killed your father, too!”), what does the actual film have in store? And how much is the relationship between Kylo Ren and his parents going to be reflected?
What I am hoping for: A very cool and very epic, potentially tragic parallel to young Luke blowing up the Death Star by a “Force-guided hit”. Some more insight into the relationship between Leia and Ben, also because mother-son relationships have one forerunner in the Star Wars franchise (Shmi and little Ani) and there is plenty room for parallels here.
What I fear: The biggest letdown would be Kylo Ren just killing his mother in a copy-paste manner, i.e. in the same way (in terms of his mental process) as he killed Han. Equally boring would be having the same conflict as back then, but deciding not to fire in Leia’s case. In other words, whatever the outcome, Kylo’s approach to the matter should be different: at the least, this time around, he should be aware of what he is about to do.

Porgs

What I am hoping for: A nice fluffy pet on the side.
What I fear: Over-sweet and over-cute hyper-version of Ewok-gungan-BB8 placeholder that will “lighten” the mood of conversational scenes by tripping over bowls of food, getting tangled in Chewie’s hair etc.

Porg concept art by Jake Lunt Davies (source: Starwars.com)

Finn Facing His Demons

Phasma and Finn meeting for a proper one-on-one duel was definitely one of the most epic moments in the trailer. Let me just remark that the makers have shown some creativity here: they solved the problem of giving us a “lightsaber duel without lightsabers”. Since the first film, lightsaber duel has been one of Star Wars’ iconic elements, but George Lucas had cut his own branch from under himself by having the lightsaber-users nearly extinct. This is a return to the iconic one-on-one combat in a different form, and I am looking forward to it.
What I am hoping for: Finn’s character development to continue in this film. Finn has, so far, the greatest potential to be a unique protagonist (unique among male protagonists, to be more specific) – in mainstream films, there are plenty of stereotypical over-confident heroes or, on the contrary, heroes lacking confidence in the beginning but finding it later in some stereotypical boring way and simply brushing the former uncertainities aside. Finn has undergone terrible abuse and brainwashing at the hands of the First Order, but his soldier training back there is still part of him and he will have to come to terms with it. Now, severe physical injuries and going through a near-death experience have been added to his psychic traumas. A friend of mine had once suggested that it would be cool if Finn had to undergo extensive medical treatments and surgery after the events of TFA, and perhaps had to get some cyborg parts. Whereas the trailers so far do not point to any such developments, the fact that Finn’s injuries weren’t just brushed off leads me to believe that they may yet come into play in some way, and Finn might become a character whose wounds (both physical and psychical) don’t just miraculously disappear, but he has to learn to carry them (for comparison, I am thinking e.g. along the lines of Korra from Avatar: The Legend of Korra).
What I fear: I am not afraid of Finn’s character being botched in any way. What seems realistic at this point is that he might end up being pushed to the side in favour of other storylines, which would be a pity. As of now, he definitely has the greatest potential for character development.

Supreme Leader Snoke

The trailer has shown us his face “live” – that was maybe a bit of letdown in the sense that TFA has purposefully kept him a hologram and suddenly, without any further introduction, we see him for what he is. The bit of him we see in the trailer does not teach us anything that we would not have guessed: he is (apparently) a powerful Force user and he wants to (unsurprisingly) get Rey to his side.
What I am hoping for: I am not exactly sure. I am hoping for something new, something surprising.
What I fear: That there won’t be anything new about Snoke, that he will turn out to be just an “Emperor clone”. So far, he has been just that and the bit in the trailer doesn’t make it any better (absolutely in the line of “join me, young Skywalker!”). In the worst case, Snoke will be simply reduced to an evil boss, maybe with some explanation of his motivation (wants to “maintain order” by whichever means, or maybe he exactly doesn’t and we are going to learn that he is simply using the First Order to further some “Dark Side” goals – neither of which make him any more complex).

Kylo Ren and Rey

If there was a moment that could make everyone in the audience switch from “blah” about Kylo’s and Rey’s relationship to “all right, curious”, it would have to be this one. I, for one, am very happy about this, because it is a signal that their interaction isn’t going to be reduced only to peculiar interrogations and duels, but that they may have something to say to each other as people. The question that comes up is the same as with the Leia scene, however: if the trailer is cut in such a way, what does actually happen in the film? Is the scene about what we think it is about? (Also, is that Mustafar? On how many meta-levels are we operating here?)
What I am hoping for: Maybe Kylo Ren and Rey will both be forced to cope with their disillusionment regarding their masters. Maybe they are going to form an unlikely alliance of “let’s start anew” (or “let’s find balance”). Or maybe they are going to estrange each other even more so and will become each other’s bitter nemesis, who knows – that would be worse, but still potentially a good story.
What I fear: Some awful cliché, but objectively, I think this can only get better.

Summa summarum: The Last Jedi trailer makes the story look promising. I have quite a bit of faith in the creators. As evidenced for instance by Finn’s encounter with Phasma and both the “bait scenes” with Kylo Ren, they have come up with some unexpected ways to handle things. The biggest question that remains: what is the rest of the scenes, the parts that we haven’t seen, about…

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.