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Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer: a breakdown of its best moments and biggest mysteries

Unfortunately, we have no answer as to why the prolific Laura Dern doesn’t appear in this trailer.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

A damaged and dour Luke Skywalker. Rey training with her lightsaber on a rocky bluff. An epic space battle. A retaliation against the Resistance from the First Order.

Those images, among others in the long-awaited first official trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi, suggest that Rian Johnson’s sequel will have a darker, more somber feel than 2015’s The Force Awakens, just like The Empire Strikes Back had in comparison with the original movie.

Some of that feeling can be chalked up to the second-movie-in-a-Star-Wars-trilogy syndrome, where the highs and celebration of the first film are undermined in order to set up the third film. But there’s a distinct suggestion in this trailer that things won’t come as freely to our main protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) this time around, as evidenced by the unforgiving training we see her put herself through.

We also get a look at what Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has been up to since he was humbled during his lightsaber battle with Rey in The Force Awakens. As IGN’s Joshua Yehl points out, Ren is sporting a similar scar to Anakin Skywalker’s:

And we haven’t even touched on the trailer’s space fights, R2, Poe (Oscar Isaac), and BB-8.

In fact, there’s so much to talk about that the trailer is easily worth a second (or third or fourth) look. Here’s a rundown of our favorite moments and highlights.

Rey’s Jedi training and Luke’s ominous words

The most shocking element of the Last Jedi trailer involves Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) ominous words in the trailer’s final moments. “I only know one true thing,” Skywalker says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

It’s a foreboding message, particularly because we don’t expect Luke, the hero of the Star Wars franchise, to say something so pessimistic and doom-filled. On Friday, during the Last Jedi panel at the 2017 Star Wars Celebration convention, Ridley kind of explained the line, noting that in this movie, Rey meets her hero and experiences the disappointment many of us have felt in cases where our heroes don’t live up to the legend we’ve built around them.

That arc makes sense.

In The Force Awakens, we learned that Luke exiled himself after Kylo Ren, his apprentice, turned on him. His mindset might be that for as long as Jedi exist, evil will always be there to counter them — it comes back to the theme of balance and the Force. Training Rey is something he doesn’t want to do, considering how he’s been burned by a student before.

Yet we do see clips of what appears to be Rey engaging in some Jedi training, like this sweeping shot of two figures, one of whom is wielding a lightsaber:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And there’s another brief shot of Rey tapping into the Force:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Even though Luke may not be living up to Rey’s expectations or acting like the hero she thinks he is, it does appear he’s teaching her the ways of the Jedi.

The attack on the Resistance


At the end of The Force Awakens, the Resistance had plenty of reason to celebrate. They’d destroyed the Starkiller base. The First Order’s planet had imploded. Poe Dameron had looked dreamy while saving the day — everyone was happy.

But it looks like their celebration will be short-lived. In the Last Jedi trailer, the First Order appears to get payback on the Resistance, with Dameron and his trusted sidekick BB-8 getting a firsthand look at a hangar explosion (Finn is seen healing in a sleeping chamber). This is speculation, but it seems like the shot of the First Order (and what looks to be either Captain Phasma or Kylo — the mask is a little blurry, so it’s hard to tell) coming through looks like the next sequential bit. The curve in the upper left-hand corner looks like the same curve of the hangar where the explosion hit BB-8 and Poe:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Millennium Falcon is still glorious

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Here’s an empirical truth: When the Millennium Falcon comes swooping in and blasts a TIE fighter (or any permutation of a TIE fighter) to pieces, it will induce goose bumps in any human with a soul. Couple that with a John Williams score playing in the background, and such a scene has the capability to bring grown men to tears. Seeing the Millennium Falcon still soaring in The Last Jedi is especially resonant now that Han Solo, who died in The Force Awakens, is no longer flying it.

Who is the mysterious figure with R2D2?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

One of the more mysterious shots from the Last Jedi trailer is a glimpse of R2D2 and a hooded figure staring at burning rubble. The shot looks different from the one where the First Order attacks the Resistance. The hooded figure looks to be taller than R2 but also falls to his or her knees at the sight of the fire. One popular theory that has already started to circulate is that this scene is a flashback of Luke seeing his Jedi Academy burn to the ground.

Who’s reading this map?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Throughout the first part of the trailer, a voiceover asks Rey questions about the light, the dark, and the Force. Rey says she sees “the balance,” as we see the image in the GIF above: someone tracing their finger on an ancient book or map, and in the way it’s lit, there’s a metaphorical balance of light, dark, and gray.

The map or book seems like an important key to the mythology of Jedi and the Force. Susana Polo at Polygon has theory about the collection of books it comes from:

Perhaps these books might even be the fabled Journal of the Whills, something of a lost Star Wars concept left over from George Lucas’ very early days of fleshing out the universe. The Whills was brought back to prominence in modern canon with the introduction of Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe in last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, two characters who were former Guardians of the Whills, Force-sensitive, Force-worshipping Jedi temple acolytes.

Given the voiceover, it’s easy to assume we’re hearing a lesson that Rey is learning. But if you look more closely, you’ll notice that the finger tracing the map is gloved. I went through the trailer looking for gloved hands, and all the shots of Rey are bare-handed:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

But you know who is wearing gloves? One Kylo Ren:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Of course, we really don’t know what that map signifies or who’s reading it, or if it’s part of a major plot in the film. And maybe Rey will don gloves at some point. But there might be some slight misdirection at play here.

Finally, this space battle looks nuts


Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15, 2017.