We’re in the home stretch now in the countdown to The Last Jedi!
This week, Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican has been releasing a ton of new content related to the movie, including several articles and a number of images. There’s a lot to sort through, so let’s take a look at what we’ve learned from EW’s Star Wars coverage this week.
We’ll update this article with more information as EW releases it, and while there’s no major spoilers, it’s best not to continue if you want to go into TLJ without knowing anything.
Rey and Kylo Ren
Just consider this paragraph from Breznican for a moment:
When Rey feels rejected by Luke Skywalker, who also sees parallels between the power in her and the abilities of his estranged nephew, the old Jedi master inadvertently pushes the two toward each other.
That sounds awesome, and while we have to be careful to note that it’s just the author’s words there, it seems that it’s a theme the film might explore a bit. Based on what we’ve heard of the movie, Rey and Kylo are the two main characters and their fates are going to be intertwined. In fact, Breznican wrote that Rian Johnson put them together on one of the covers for the EW issue. The article features quotes from Daisy Ridley about how Rey doesn’t really feel a strong connection to the cause of the Resistance but simply wants to do good, help people, and be a part of something. Additionally, Adam Driver talks about Kylo’s feelings towards Rey:
“He has been aware of this ability in himself from such a young age, and I don’t think there’s a lot of people around him who are on the same level,” the actor says. “I think that there is something familiar there, as well as something to be feared, or something … that he can’t quite place.”
What is that something that he can’t quite place? Hmm… it’ll be interesting. One thing is certain, though: the arcs of Rey and Kylo will be tied together closely.
Rey and Kylo…. in the Throne Room
It’s one thing to talk about Rey and Kylo’s arcs being intertwined, but it’s another to actually show it… and, well, a photograph released as part of EW’s coverage did just that. In particular, this picture of Rey in what appears to be Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room… with Kylo Ren in the background.
Remember, in the second trailer for the movie, released a few months ago, we saw Rey being tortured/interrogated by Snoke in the throne room, so we figured that she’d wind up there eventually. We didn’t know whether Kylo would be there, however, but this picture seems to confirm that. And also note that this happens after Rey leaves Ahch-To (note her outfit as being from later in the film), but before she sustains the injury above her eye. Could that injury come about as a result of whatever happens in the throne room?
Kylo Ren’s backstory
Breznican writes further about Ben Solo’s tragic backstory in which he turned into Kylo Ren, much of which we already know but which was solidified further. The question might be posed, “how could the son of two of the galaxy’s greatest heroes fall to the dark side?” The answer is actually similar to what we’ve seen many times in our world, too: his parents were so invested in their cause that it took priority over Ben, and he rebelled against it. Here’s what Adam Driver had to say about it:
“I think the idea of someone whose parents are very much devoted to the cause, that’s something a lot of people could relate to, whether it be religion or politics or a business,” Driver says. “Not identifying with [that cause] yourself, I think can give someone a complex.”
His parents cared more about the cause than him. So he rebelled against the cause. In that regard, he’s not so different from many rebellious children in our world – and perhaps it means that Leia’s going to play a key role in any potential redemption, trying to make up for past mistakes…
Kylo Ren’s… redemption?
Many people think that Ben Solo will wind up being redeemed in some way eventually, and comments from Rian Johnson seem to hint that, if nothing else, he won’t just be the stereotypical bad guy. But that’s for J.J. Abrams to figure out with Episode IX.
“There’s a big part of the story yet to be written and not by me,” says Johnson, who will hand the trilogy back to The Force Awakens filmmaker J.J. Abrams for 2019’s Episode IX. “But I don’t think it’s very interesting if the whole story is just ‘Will Kylo get his comeuppance?’ He’s a more complicated character than that and I think he deserves a more complicated story than that. I don’t see the point of trying to get behind his mask and learn more about him if all we’re going to learn is ‘Yeah, he’s just an evil bad guy that needs to be killed.’”
I think Johnson’s absolutely right: even if there’s no full out redemption of Kylo Ren, he can’t just be made out to be another bad guy that is the face of evil. He’s a much more nuanced and complicated character than that, and I think we’ll see a lot of that development in The Last Jedi – which possibly leaves the door open for a redemption.
Leia not leading the Resistance
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the EW stuff yet, though, has been this nugget: Leia is no longer leading the Resistance.
The Last Jedi introduces us to a new character, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, whose history with Leia Organa goes way back (Holdo and Leia meet in Claudia Gray’s Leia novel released a few months ago and set before A New Hope). Laura Dern, who plays the character, told EW that Holdo “enters the Resistance to shake things up.” But even still, she’s learned a lot from Leia, as Dern said, “I’ve always worked under her for the Resistance, therefore with Leia being the boss.” But perhaps Leia’s time as the boss is near its end. Here’s what Breznican wrote:
In this movie, she finds herself no longer leading the Resistance, with power shifting to Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo, who has been an ally of Leia’s since they were girls in the early days of the Rebellion. Oscar Isaac says Leia is also positioning his X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron for a role as a decision-maker beyond the front lines of battle.
We don’t know the full circumstances of her leadership hand-off, but Leia could be turning her attention toward a more personal mission. She has seen her only son turn cruel and murderous, and although she primarily blames the influence of Supreme Leader Snoke, she also partly blames herself.
That, of course, is speculation, but at the very least Leia isn’t leading the Resistance for a period in the film. Here’s what Oscar Isaac said of Poe and Holdo appearing on an EW cover together:
“It’s definitely appropriate that they’ve paired us because a lot of the friction and conflict comes between Poe and that relationship with Admiral Holdo, who is this person that’s been — at least temporarily — put in charge of the Resistance,” Isaac says.
So… why isn’t Leia leading the Resistance anymore? It’s possible that, like Breznican speculated, Leia has simply handed things off and is focusing on a more personal mission. Or, perhaps, Leia is injured and incapable of leading for a period.
Conflict is inevitable between Holdo and Poe
We’ve known for a while that Poe Dameron is as loyal to General Leia Organa as they come. Yet in The Last Jedi, here comes a new leader with a different way of doing things… in other words, conflict is inevitable.
Though both characters have learned from Leia and are friends of hers, that doesn’t mean that they’ll get along. In fact, Holdo – who dresses very fancy and elegant – doesn’t quite garner the trust of battle-tested soldiers. Said Oscar Isaac:
“She doesn’t particularly look like your typical military leader, and so I think there’s a bit of distrust for Poe,” Isaac says. “He’s not sure what to make of her, and then the way she speaks, the things she says.”
One of the storylines that the movie will explore is the development of Poe Dameron from an ace pilot to potential Resistance leader, which is made more poignant by the passing of Carrie Fisher last year (making this her final Star Wars film). So Poe has to learn how to lead – which sometimes means holding emotions in – at the same time as he’s trying to deal with his disagreements with Holdo. Here’s what Isaac had to say:
“Even if something seems like it’s not the most heroic thing to do in the moment, thinking about the bigger picture is sometimes more important,” Isaac says. “That’s something he’s trying to wrap his mind around, but at the same time, with the Resistance being in such a precarious situation, he wants to do the right thing, and doesn’t want to just wait and let things happen. He doesn’t necessarily agree with the way Holdo sees the role of the Resistance in this particular moment.”
As for Holdo? Well, we don’t truly know whether she’s right or not, and the movie wants to keep it that way. Dern said, “You have to sort of figure out who’s side you’re on or what your feelings are about her.”
Luke Skywalker’s journey
Inevitably, this film will draw comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back by some people who simply want to see it that way regardless of what actually happens in the movie. After all, a Jedi Master and a young Jedi-in-training? Well, it’s not that simple, because this Luke Skywalker isn’t just a clone of Old Ben Kenobi from A New Hope. “Rian Johnson could have just made me another benevolent Jedi teacher but, you know, we’ve seen that before,” Mark Hamill said. “And no one can do it better than Sir Alec Guinness.” This won’t be the old Jedi Master whose watchful gaze kept hope alive; this is a Jedi Master who has lost hope and run away. Surely, he has his reasons, but we don’t know what they are yet.
No matter what, though, Luke still cares about family. Said Hamill:
“Luke longs to have that extended family that he established in the original trilogy, but now he’s at a place in his life and in his history where he’s shunned all of that,” Mark Hamill says. “The big question is why didn’t he respond to Leia during [The Force Awakens]? There’s a lot of things you can’t answer until you see this movie.”
Perhaps it will be family that finally brings him back.
Luke and Leia reunion?
Something that pretty much all fans want to see is a reunion between Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa on screen, as with Fisher’s tragic passing this movie is the last chance we’ll have. But, as expected, Rian Johnson isn’t about to spoil whether that happens or not in the movie. “It’s nice seeing them on the cover [of EW] though,” Johnson teased. “Even if all we have is that.”
At Star Wars Celebration this year, Billy Dee Williams said that Lando Calrissian is not in The Last Jedi, but some fans still hoped that it was a red herring to save the surprise. But Rian Johnson reiterated that Lando isn’t in this one:
“No, and I don’t want fans to get their hopes up,” writer-director Rian Johnson tells EW. “He’s not in the film and it was never really something that came up. I mean, I loved that character. It would have been fun to see him, but it’s just not something that ever really had a place in the story.”
There’s always the chance that Lando could return in Episode IX played by Billy Dee Williams, but though it’d be great to see him again I think it’d be hard to fit everything into The Last Jedi. There’s already a lot that they’ll be covering, and so any time for Lando would likely only be a cameo – and he deserves more than that.
We now have a name for the crystal foxes seen on Crait: It’s a vulptex! EW explained that the name came from Pablo Hidalgo taking the latin name for fox and making it sound Star Wars-sy. But what are they? Neal Scanlan, who heads up the creature development for Lucasfilm, had this to say:
“The idea is that these wonderful sort of feral creatures had lived on this planet and had consumed the planet’s surface, and as such had become crystalline,” Scanlan says. The designers took inspiration from “crystal glass chandeliers and the sort of luminosity and elements of refraction” they create.
It sounds like they could play a key role at a key point in the flim, too:
“They live within the burrows and within the tunnels beneath the planet,” Scanlan says. “So there is a time where their ability to shine within the darkness, should provide a guiding light to our heroes.”
Does that mean they’ll actually literally provide light? That would be pretty cool if their crystals actually illuminate a dark space and guide the heroes. Without having seen any of their role in the movie, I think it’s at least safe to say that they look really cool.
Hints at Supreme Leader Snoke’s backstory
Perhaps the most interesting article from EW’s Star Wars coverage this week is an article about Supreme Leader Snoke, with plenty of quotes from Andy Serkis about the mysterious character.
First off, here’s what Breznican writes about Serkis’ description of the character:
Serkis describes a cruel master, a 9-foot-tall alien humanoid who disparages and dominates his two lieutenants: Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson.) He’s a predator who identifies weakness and exploits it, drawing the young and promising to his side with promises of power, then using and discarding his protégés when they are no longer of use.
But the really interesting comments about Snoke come from Serkis himself, and here are a couple of them:
“The thing about Snoke is that he is extremely strong with the Force, the dark side of the Force. He’s terribly powerful, of course. But he is also a very vulnerable and wounded character,” Serkis says. “He has suffered and he has suffered injury. The way that his malevolence comes out is in reaction to that. His hatred of the Resistance is fueled by what’s happened to him personally.”
“You witness his physicality,” Serkis says. “His body is kind of twisted up like a corkscrew, and so he has limited movement. His aggression and his anger is contained and restricted by that physicality.”
Here’s what’s significant about those revelations: Snoke is not just deformed but is seriously injured, and despite his great prowess in the dark side of the force he has been wounded and is an angry person, with the anger directed toward the Resistance. It’s really interesting that his anger would be aimed toward the Resistance as a result of what has happened to him, which leads to the possibility that Snoke’s injuries came about as a result of the Resistance. Maybe they put up a fight against him when he tried to lure Ben Solo away? We don’t know, but it seems that this is personal for Snoke and that his injuries stem from a specific encounter.
And one other thing about Snoke was confirmed that we already knew: he loves wealth and luxury. You can see evidence of that in his throne room.
We’ll likely find out a lot more about the character in The Last Jedi, but Rian Johnson once again warned that this movie isn’t just a Wikipedia page for the character and that it’ll be like that of Emperor Palpatine in the original trilogy: you only knew enough about him in those movies to advance the plot, not fill in the entire backstory (that’s what the prequels did). It’ll be the same with Snoke, but nonetheless we’ll find out a lot more about this interesting and mysterious character in TLJ, and we’ll get to see his power up close and personal.
The First Order is quite strong
The First Order was born in the shadows of the unknown regions and was a threat that many in the New Republic didn’t pay attention to, leaving Leia to form the Resistance. We saw clear evidence of the First Order’s power in The Force Awakens with the destruction of the Hosnian system, but even with the destruction of Starkiller Base, they’re quite powerful. Said Serkis: “Despite the fact that the Starkiller Base has been destroyed and the Resistance has been putting up a fight, we will discover that the First Order has limitless resources in this one.” In fact, as of TFA Snoke’s flagship, the Supremacy, hadn’t even gotten involved in the fight yet, and it sounds like the First Order has plenty of other resources at its disposal as well. The Resistance will be fighting for their lives.