Now that Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Rogue One have blasted through theaters to become huge parts of the Star Wars mythos — and the top-grossing films of their respective release years — it’s nearing time for The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII) to do the same. The highly anticipated follow-up to The Force Awakens will be released on December 15, 2017 — but what do we actually know about it going in?
As per Star Wars tradition, news about The Last Jedi has been trickling out in fits and starts, thanks to the combination of Lucasfilm and Disney's aversion to spoilers and a meticulously honed publicity campaign that only lets us in on Stars Wars secrets when said publicity campaign decides it’s time for us to know them. But in any case, here's what we know so far.
(This post will be updated as more news comes in.)
Writer and director Rian Johnson has taken over, suggesting that The Last Jedi could be an atypical Star Wars movie
Rian Johnson is best known for writing and directing such movies as the future-thriller Looper, the high school noir Brick, and the quirky family drama The Brothers Bloom. Now he’s stepping into the Star Wars-verse to follow up the literal biggest movie of all time by not just directing it, but writing it, too. Unlike Force Awakens — which was written by J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt — Johnson is the only credited writer on The Last Jedi. (Colin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World and Safety Not Guaranteed, is set to write and direct Episode IX.)
In fact, Johnson was finishing rewrites on The Last Jedi script as The Force Awakens delivered its first cut. “I showed Rian an early cut of the movie,” Abrams told Wired in November 2015, “because I knew he was doing his rewrite and prepping.” In the same interview, Abrams also confirmed that while Johnson's story is his own, they talked throughout filming about how The Force Awakens would affect The Last Jedi — and Johnson even asked for some details to be included in Force Awakens to give more context to his own script.
According to Johnson himself, previous Star Wars writers like Kasdan and Abrams pretty much gave him free rein to do whatever the hell he wanted with The Last Jedi after providing a foundation with Force Awakens. “The pre-set was Episode VII,” Johnson told Vanity Fair in May 2017, “and that was kind of it.”
Abrams and the Star Wars cast have done their due diligence in assuring us that the franchise is in good hands with Johnson. Daisy Ridley (Rey), after reading the script in 2015, said it’s “very good.” According to actor and Abrams’s longtime friend Greg Grunberg (who was in Force Awakens and other Abrams projects like Alias), Abrams apparently loves Johnson’s script so much that he almost regrets giving up the director’s chair. “He read it and said something he never, ever says,” Grunberg told the Washington Post in December 2015.
The Post continued: “Grunberg said that Abrams called the Episode VIII script ‘so good’ that he wished he had written it.” Abrams will remain involved in the franchise as an executive producer.
While we don’t know many details about the actual plot (more on what we do know in a bit), Johnson's résumé and reputation hint that The Last Jedi will not be a typical blockbuster. “Rian Johnson is a friend of mine,” longtime Star Wars co-writer Lawrence Kasdan told the LA Times in December 2015. “He’s going to make some weird thing. If you’ve seen Rian’s work, you know it’s not going be like anything that’s ever been in Star Wars."
We don’t know what The Last Jedi refers to, but there is at least some educated speculation
Honestly, there’s no way to know for sure until the movie is released what The Last Jedi’s subtitle means in the context of the franchise. But Star Wars being Star Wars, there have been enough hints along the way that we can at least make some educated guesses.
There’s a very good chance The Last Jedi refers to Luke Skywalker himself, especially since the opening crawl for Force Awakens refers to Luke as — wait for it — “the last Jedi.” But Jedi can be plural, and The Force Awakens ends with Rey handing Luke his old lightsaber in the hopes of getting trained as a Jedi, so maybe it refers to them both. Or maybe it refers to a whole tier of Jedi we haven't even met yet.
Again: It’s hard to say. But assuming that Luke has something to do with it is probably a safe bet.
There will be far more Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi than there was in The Force Awakens
To be fair, this won’t be hard to achieve, since — spoiler alert — Luke only appeared in the last two minutes of The Force Awakens. But as per both Mark Hamill and Johnson, if The Force Awakens was about revisiting Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, The Last Jedi is just as much about revisiting Luke. More specifically, it’s about the relationship between Luke and Rey, who revealed herself to be a promising young Jedi in The Force Awakens.
Johnson hinted to Vanity Fair that “there’s a training element” to their relationship, but that “it’s not exactly what you would expect.” In all likelihood, though, Luke will be training Rey in the ways of the Force — and as seen in this April 2016 video, Ridley has been training offscreen for more lightsaber battles, too.
So @liangstunts (TRAITOR) is WUSHU FRICKING MASTER and I always try to get him to teach me things... This was today!!! Obvs not great but HE'S amazing and he's also featured at the end our stunt team are the most incredible group of people, so lucky I get to train with them!Posted by Daisy Ridley on Monday, April 25, 2016
One of the biggest questions surrounding Luke and The Last Jedi was raised in the literal first minute of The Force Awakens, when the opening crawl text revealed that Luke had disappeared. So what the hell has Luke been doing? According to Johnson, the mountain where Rey finally found Luke at the end of Force Awakens is, indeed, the site of an ancient Jedi temple, on the planet of Ahch-To. Johnson remains coy as to what exactly Luke’s been up to, but Vanity Fair nonetheless revealed that Luke’s been living in an Ahch-To village “among an indigenous race of caretaker creatures” — but before you get your hopes up (or feel them crashing down, depending), Johnson was quick to say that Luke’s caretakers were not Ewoks.
The Last Jedi will be “much darker” than The Force Awakens
We got our first hints that The Last Jedi might not display the same good-natured enthusiasm that animated The Force Awakens way back in January 2016, when John Boyega — who plays accidental rebel Finn — said that the next movie was going to be “much darker.”
Everything that’s come out since has confirmed this read, leading many to wonder if The Last Jedi will, fittingly enough, act as a shot of angst to The Force Awakens’ more sweeping scope, similar to how Empire Strikes Back did to A New Hope. And if we’re to take Johnson at his word, that’s exactly what it sounds like.
“I started by writing the names of each of the characters and thinking, ‘What’s the hardest thing they could be faced with?’” Johnson said of starting the Last Jedi screenplay.
Finn, for instance, will start the movie in recovery from the devastating blow Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) landed with a slice of his lightsaber at the end of Force Awakens. Boyega told Vanity Fair that he “begins the new movie in a ‘bacta suit,’ a sort of regenerative immersion tank that, in the Star Wars galaxy, heals damaged tissue.” Kylo Ren, as many sharp-eyed fans noticed in the newest Last Jedi trailer, is sporting a formidable new scar. It’s unclear what exactly Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron will be doing — besides swapping clothes with space boyfriend Finn — but Isaac did reveal with fondness that he does, at some point, get slapped in the face by General Leia Organo.
Poe will also, as it turns out, be training some new rebel Recruits — which brings us to one of the more fun parts of speculating about any new Star Wars movie.
Okay, but who are all these new characters in The Last Jedi?!
Oh, reader. We may be in for a treat.
While exciting casting news came out early in the production process, we didn’t know much about who, say, Laura Dern might be playing until recently, when Vanity Fair’s summer 2017 cover story revealed more details.
So here’s what we know:
- Dern will be playing Resistance officer Vice Admiral Holdo, complete with gorgeous violet wig;
- Benicio Del Toro (pictured below) is playing a villain so mysterious that he doesn’t even have a name in the movie itself, though Johnson copped to referring to him as “DJ” (and apparently, “there is a reason” why);
- Veronica Ngo, a Vietnamese actress, is playing pilot trainee Paige;
- Kelly Marie Train is playing the most prominent new part, Rose Rico, a Resistance maintenance worker (and Paige’s sister) who gets caught up on a mission with Finn to the glamorous intergalactic casino world of Canto Bright.
What’s happening with Leia after Carrie Fisher’s death?
Herein lies one of the most painful questions surrounding the franchise, as Fisher’s death took everyone in the Star Wars family and beyond by surprise. By all accounts, Fisher did film all of her Last Jedi scenes before she died — but Episode IX is now undergoing significant revisions, since Leia was apparently due to play a much bigger role. “Harrison [Ford] was front and center on VII, and Mark [Hamill] is front and center on VIII,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Vanity Fair. “[Fisher] thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”
At the very (very) least, fans can rest assured on one thing: Episode IX will not attempt to resuscitate Leia through the not-so-cunning use of CGI as Rogue One did with Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Said Kennedy: “We don’t have any intention of beginning a trend of re-creating actors who are gone.”
Honestly, there just aren’t a whole lot of concrete details about what The Last Jedi will be taking on. We know from the trailer that the Resistance will be attacked; Rey will keep learning to hone her Jedi powers; R2D2 is up to some kind of scheming, as R2D2 is wont to do; BB8 continues to roll loyally by Poe’s side. Until the creative team sees fit to tease more tantalizing reveals, we’ll just have to make do with rampant speculation — which is, at least, a pastime in which Star Wars fans have been indulging for decades.