Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the middle part of a trilogy, which in Star Wars’ case means two things. First, it’ll probably end on an ominous or out-and-out downbeat note. We can’t be sure of that just yet, but the narrative structure of planned-out trilogies sort of calls for it. Second: like The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones, the cast will be split up and sent into all manner of team-ups and showdowns. Let’s take a look at what the new trailer tells us - and doesn’t tell us.
Luke V Rey: Dawn of Training
It was obvious from the final frames of The Force Awakens that Rey’s Force training (but not, notably, Jedi training) - under Luke’s tutelage - would probably form a significant chunk of Episode VIII. What’s interesting here is that Luke, who once proudly proclaimed himself unafraid to a skeptical Yoda, is willing to admit that Rey’s power scares him. Luke’s changed, Rey is changing, and neither seems to know how the series’ new protagonist will turn out. Luke Skywalker's crisis of confidence is the number one most interesting thing to me in this movie. Hopefully it brings with it a reevaluation of the ultra-problematic Light/Dark dogma that rendered the Jedi humourless, sexless, and ultimately lifeless.
Luke V Kylo: Dawn of Flashback
What Luke definitely doesn’t want is another Kylo Ren. It appears we’ll be seeing more of Kylo and the Knights of Ren’s assault on Luke’s Jedi academy, which leaves it in flames and Luke alone with R2-D2. Starting in torrential rain and ending in a flurry of embers, it seems Rey may well be party to this vision as well. But will this be any more substantial than the fifteen-second flashback from The Force Awakens? Going even more out on a limb: could Rey, she of hitherto unheard-of power, become Game of Thrones’ Bran Stark and affect events in the past? The answer, fan-theorists, is no.
Finn V Phasma: Dawn of Hostile Work Environment
A some point in the film, Finn (recovered from his injury) either gets captured by the First Order, attempts to infiltrate it, or in fine modern-blockbuster form, allows himself to be captured. That puts him in a position to fight the miraculously still-alive Captain Phasma with two of the franchise’s new totally-not-lightsaber melee weapons. While it’s cool in that fanservicey way that cuts internet-friendly trailers, this is probably the most straightforward showdown hinted at: Phasma hates Finn for defecting and humiliating her, while Finn has a stormtrooper career’s worth of Phasma breathing down his neck to fuel his fight. Whatever the emotion behind it, it’s definitely something fans will look forward to.
Walkers V Fighters: Dawn of Callbacks
If The Last Jedi is this trilogy’s The Empire Strikes Back, it’s got to have Imperial walkers. These ones are new and (presumably) improved, now lumbering along on knuckles rather than hooves. Honestly, seeing that in action, I’m moderately disappointed they didn’t go full gorilla with the walkers. They (and some TIE fighters) go up against a type of vehicle we haven’t seen before, digging furrows along the sand as they zip about. Cool, I guess.
Kylo V Leia: Dawn of Matricide
I’m not sure about this one. The trailer’s editing definitely wants us to think that Kylo Ren is going to kill his mother (making his inevitable redemption arc that much more difficult to swallow). But there’s something about the editing that feels off - like it’s from two different parts of a sequence, and like this particular back-and-forth was created from whole cloth from disparate parts. I could be wrong, of course. I could also be wrong in my opinion that Kylo killing a second parent would feel like coarse repetition. But we’ll see.
Rey V Snoke: Dawn of Torture
Seems we'll finally get to find out how big Supreme Leader Snoke is in the flesh - and it also seems like he's basically regular size, dashing my Six Inch Snoke theory. That photorealistic shot of Snoke reaching out appears to correspond with the subsequent shot of Rey undergoing some kind of Force torture - Snoke's cloak and lighting matches that of the figure facing Rey. Is he trying to interrogate her, kill her, or turn her? How does Rey come to be in his presence? Is he capable of getting up offa that throne?
Rey V Kylo: Dawn of Teamwork?
Then there’s this exchange - another one potentially created entirely in post, given the slightly different lighting and environmental states from shot to shot - which would seem to indicate Kylo Ren either saves Rey from Snoke, or delivers her to him. Or something. Somebody’s going to have a change of heart (real or feigned) somewhere along the line. And it seems unlikely that anyone telling Rey “her place in all this” (cringe, cringe) will have her interests foremost in their minds.
Chewbacca V Porg: Dawn of Merch
This shot is cute as fuck, obviously, and I’ve written before about the porgs’ hypercute design, apparently mathematically derived from the chemicals secreted by the brain’s cuddle centres. But the best thing about it is the implication that Chewie and his lil’ Porg buddy will have some kind of meet-cute before they depart Ahch-To. Hell, I’m just glad the Wookiee is getting a new friend. Let's hope their friendship is as true as the last one.
Poe V Andrew: Dawn of Heteroflexibility
Look at those eyes. I’m smitten.
Obviously, I haven’t seen The Last Jedi, so any comments I make on the meaning of these moments are mere speculation. In the trailer, they’re presented as being connected, but in all likelihood they come from wholly different parts of the film. But we’re meant to make those mental and emotional connections, at any rate.
As in all modern Star Wars, though, the most intriguing-looking elements of The Last Jedi are the genuinely new elements that we can't quite place - elements which, at least as presented in this trailer, are few and far between. The crowing porg and the galloping ice doggies are genuinely new. Imperial Walkers, even if they now lumber along on their knuckles, aren't. Curiously, there's still no sign of the new characters played by Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and Kelly Marie Tran, nor of the space casino featured so prominently in other prerelease material. I, for one, am actually kinda glad our first looks at those characters will come in context.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes out December 14. As I did not rush in for early tickets, you will probably see it before I do.