Today’s reveal of the title Star Wars: The Last Jedi can mean only one thing: speculation. The Internet masses have traded questions as to whether the title refers to Luke or to Rey, or whether it refers to “a Jedi” or “some Jedi.” But the true meaning of the title could be found in the expanding nature of the Force itself.
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” Obi-Wan Kenobi says in Revenge of the Sith, failing to realise the irony of his statement. Of course the Jedi deal in absolutes. They themselves represent an absolute - that of the light side of the Force, countering the Sith on the dark side. The prophecy that originated in the prequels - that of “bringing balance to the Force” - has always conjured visions of the Sith and the Jedi at opposing ends of a set of scales.
But what if we moved both to the centre of the scales?
In Rogue One, we caught glimpses at groups that worship the Force but don’t practice Jedi or Sith dogma. And in Star Wars: Rebels, Tom Baker’s mystic character Bendu, under whom series regular Kanan Jarrus studies, rejects notions of the “light” or “dark” side of the Force, preferring an up-the-middle path. The polar extremes that dominate most existing Star Wars lore only ever cause conflict; a more balanced approach seems altogether healthier.
Here’s what we know: at the opening of The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker is, for realsies, the last Jedi. We assume that Luke will train Rey, and she’ll become a Jedi, and so on. But remember: Luke threw himself into exile after failing to restore the Jedi order. Perhaps Luke spent all this time meditating on the Jedi’s weaknesses as well as their strengths. Perhaps he teaches Rey not to follow in his footsteps but to learn from his mistakes. Perhaps a more reflective, centrist Force philosophy can even bring the Knights of Ren back on side, led by what narrative convention assures us will be a redemptive arc for Kylo Ren.
And thus, the Jedi come to an end, with Luke Skywalker the last of their order.
This is, of course, all speculation. But it’s speculation that appeals to me, if for no other reason than it covers the vagaries and subtleties of life far more comprehensively than the Jedi/Sith duality. People don’t exist as pure good or evil; they’re complex creatures, with good and bad attributes coexisting inside the same individual. Such an approach would represent a radical departure for Star Wars, which has traded on the black and white good/evil binary since its opening frames. But these are new Star Wars movies for a new age - an age in which audiences demand shades of grey in their entertainment, and in which polarised opinions and dogmatic groups have led to societal near-disaster in reality.
I don’t know what The Last Jedi means. For all we know, it could be a straight adaptation of the Expanded Universe book by the same name. But there are clearly interpretations of the Force that haven’t been fully explored, and the Lucasfilm Story Group is clearly interested in exploring them. That vastly broadens the scope of what the Force can mean - and suggests we’re in for exciting new stories to come.