LOS ANGELES — Breathe. Just breathe.
On Saturday night, the wait will finally be over — at least for the hundreds of guests (including your humble scribe) gathered at the Shrine Auditorium in Downtown L.A. for the world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
After that, I will enter Star Wars reviewer exile, unable to publish anything beyond vague tweet-length impressions of the movie until the review embargo lifts next week — at a time that has already got us making a galaxy-shaking prediction. So this moment is my last chance to put any educated guesses at the movie’s content on the record.
Having dissected every last droplet of detail about this movie for the better part of two years, I thought it would be fun to see how much of the movie I can describe correctly based purely on information already given by Disney, Lucasfilm and The Last Jedi cast and crew.
I did no research in the spoiler blogs or the darker corners of the Star Wars Internet (get thee behind me, evil leaker of the prerelease Last Jedi Visual Dictionary). I wanted only to stitch together the parts already known with a little deduction. This is not so much of a prediction, or a set of spoilers, as a grand unified fan theory for The Last Jedi.
Spoilerphobes should click away now, in case I’m right. But for the segment of the population that actively enjoys the detective game of figuring out the contours of a story in advance, here are all the clues in one place.
Compared to The Force Awakens, which restarted the saga almost from scratch, sketching out the basic shape of The Last Jedi‘s story is a relatively easy process. Its marketers have helped by leaving us a significant trail of breadcrumbs in plain sight. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to dig up these clues in novels, games, comics, the movie’s many trailers, not to mention the back cards of the latest Star Wars action figures.
You might say Last Jedi is already here, in large part; it’s just unevenly distributed.
Of course, I fully anticipate some of the following guesses will be wrong. “Rian has written a story that’s unexpected but right,” is how Daisy Ridley put it in a Lucasfilm video released back in July. “This is not going to go the way you think,” Luke Skywalker said in the trailer. Which in itself is a spoiler: expect the unexpected.
How does the movie begin?
With “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away,” of course. Duh.
But seriously, there is a big question mark over what comes next: the opening crawl, the three paragraphs or so that will scroll up the screen between the heading “EPISODE VIII THE LAST JEDI” and the traditional four ellipses….
This is the first Star Wars movie where the action opens immediately after the previous movie left off, instead of several years later. What do you put in the crawl if there’s nothing to catch up on?
“I’ve seen on the internet people doing the joke crawls that say ‘Absolutely nothing has happened,” Johnson tells Mashable. “I found there was plenty to talk about, actually … it’s setting the table for literally what you’re right about to jump into and see.” He also compared the crawl to poetry, in the sense that “every single word matters.”
We’re guessing that, in common with every other Star Wars film, the crawl will set up a new twist in the neverending war between good and evil — in this case, of course, the First Order and the Resistance. It will almost certainly mention the Resistance flight from D’Qar (see below), and probably mention the First Order Star Destroyers in hot pursuit.
Because General Leia Organa steps down from a leadership role early on, Johnson may also take the opportunity to write the third (and final) Star Wars crawl to include the word “Leia.” If so, prepare for waterworks from the very beginning.
The First Scene
We’re also guessing Johnson won’t buck the Star Wars tradition of opening in space, then panning down (or, as happened in only one of the seven episodes so far, panning up) to a planet that is immediately approached by a spacecraft.
Making that a First Order ship would give us a sense of peril right from the beginning. However, The Force Awakens gave us the bad guy ship first, so perhaps it’s time to switch things up.
“The first word is ‘we’re’,” Johnson revealed last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I’m going to guess the second word is “approaching,” and is spoken by a ship’s underling to their superior.
Luke and Rey
Soon after, if not straight away, the movie will whisk us to where The Force Awakens left off in 2015 — with Rey (Ridley) on a green island on the planet Ahch-To, offering long-hidden hermit Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber back.
We may stay in this place for long stretches of time, given the sheer number of Ahch-To shots in the trailers. Plus the low number of classic scene-changing Star Wars screen wipes in the film — “a measly 12,” says Johnson — also suggest lengthy Luke and Rey scenes. Fun fact: This works out to an average of one screen wipe every 12.5 minutes, an age in scene length terms.
As a whole, this movie will test your bladder’s patience even more than Rey is being tested.
We also may know the first words Luke says to Rey: “Who are you?”
Thanks to a new Disney TV spot, we know what Rey says in return: “I’m from the Resistance, Leia sent me. We need your help.”
Luke refuses — just as he refused the call to adventure in the original Star Wars. Chewbacca, seen here with Rey, is later seen alone by a campfire next to the Millennium Falcon, suggesting it’s a long, lonely vigil while they wait for Luke to come around.
But Luke is afraid. He’s been out of the game for a reason. He doesn’t want to train Rey; that much has been so abundantly clear from every Mark Hamill interview that we’re led to think he keeps refusing, perhaps even refusing to so much as talk to her, day after day.
(This is probably what Hamill is referring to when he says he had doubts about how Luke’s character was represented in the script when he first read it.)
Rey takes to doing training on her own; that’s why she’s seen doing so much solo lightsaber swinging in the trailers. She probably also spends some time wandering and meeting the wildlife of Ahch-to, which is where we first meet the ever-popular Porgs and the Caretakers — the first all-female species in Star Wars.
So what’s going on with Luke?
This, Johnson has said, is the one essential question that The Last Jedi spends much of its time answering. Part of the answer may have already arrived courtesy of a recent Darth Vader comic that introduced something called a Barash vow: something Jedi do when they want to completely disengage from society.
It’s a kind of penance, where you’re not allowed to respond to anything that you feel happening via the Force.
Another part of the answer may have recently arrived courtesy of the EA videogame Battlefront II. It shows Luke acquiring a compass formerly owned by the Emperor that may have led him to Ahch-to. That may explain how he found the ancient Jedi texts seen in the trailers.
We know this planet has a lot of ancient Jedi lore, and it seems to be a place of peace. These are two things Luke would be desperately searching for after his former pupil, Ben Solo, turned into Kylo Ren, while the Republic was unable to prevent the growing rot of Snoke’s First Order.
Luke, of course, eventually engages with Rey. He tells her to “breathe, just breathe.” He is with her in a cave featuring those ancient Jedi texts. He asks her what she’s seeing; she responds and tells him about a place she’s seen “in my dreams.”
Whatever she’s seeing almost certainly has a lot to do with the men currently spreading a long shadow over the galaxy.
Kylo Ren, Snoke and Rey
“When I saw you, I saw raw, untamed power!” This key line from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), whom we meet in person in this movie for the first time, is almost certainly directed at Rey, not his Force Awakens protege Kylo Ren.
That would explain why Serkis has said that Snoke’s focus in this movie is on Rey. It would also explain why Kylo Ren is seen having another one of his
shit fits temper tantrums in the trailers. Snoke probably just admonished him for his failure on Starkiller base in The Force Awakens, and told him he’s not the Supreme Leader’s favorite any more, and by the way, Darth Vader was so much better.
So what does Snoke have on Rey? For one thing, he almost certainly knows her parentage, and could reel her in with that information alone. Battlefront II has suggested she’s the child of random Imperial parents; it’s pretty weak as hints go, but it would explain why she was dumped on the planet of Jakku, site of a major Imperial battle. And why Rian Johnson has been busy preparing us for the notion that Rey’s parentage doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.
Snoke, a manipulative Force-sensitive fellow, will remain largely unexplained in The Last Jedi; nevertheless, he is clearly getting inside Rey’s head in some fashion throughout the movie. This may begin during her Ahch-to wanderings, and may be the reason Luke finally agrees to help her, out of compassion for her mental anguish.
We see her in pain and confusion; we hear about her having dreams and visions (just as she did when she first touched Luke’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens). We see Snoke torturing her with some kind of Force power.
What’s up with all this?
Personally I’m sticking with the prediction I made after seeing the first full trailer: Rey is a ticking time bomb of Force power that Snoke has been working on for years. And that without knowing what she was doing, at a young age, she may have been responsible for the actual destruction of Luke’s Jedi Academy, rather than Kylo Ren.
That twist would certainly qualify as “unexpected but right” as well as “raw, untamed power!”
Meanwhile, back at the Resistance
General Leia Organa is left without any family to lean on in the wake of her son killing his father. That would explain why she is quickly replaced at the head of the Resistance by Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).
We know that Holdo is something of a divisive figure; the way she dresses and talks didn’t help in Leia, Princess of Alderaan, and it won’t help here.
Poe Dameron, groomed as Leia’s aide and possible successor, gets in a fight with Holdo; he’s much more brash in this movie, a hotshot I-make-the-rules pilot causing as much trouble for Resistance leadership as for the First Order. (This clue was buried in an exhibit at this year’s Comic-Con.)
The Resistance had to abandon the planet on which we last saw them, called D’Qar. In The Last Jedi they seem to be seen only aboard ships (and on Crait, but we’ll get to that.) They’re retreating from the destruction of Starkiller Base, waiting for the First Order to — ahem — Strike Back.
We know they’re very likely heading for the dust-covered mining planet of Crait, where Princess of Alderaan told us Leia’s adopted father established an early Rebel base. Leia is seen in the trailers looking wistfully out at the planet’s surface.
Any stops along the way? Unknown. But here’s something I hope happens for the sake of the trilogy as a whole: that the Resistance gets to survey the destruction of the Hosnian system up close.
The importance of the destruction of these planets, the political seat of the New Republic, was never explained in The Force Awakens. They were mostly just flashes in the sky. Rian Johnson would greatly improve the richness and reality of the Star Wars sequel trilogy if he showed that such unprecedented destruction actually mattered to the characters.
Poe may be the one who takes care of his friend, the former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) as he is evacuated, still in his coma machine. He may also delegate that task to Rose, a young Resistance mechanic who idolizes Poe — but is about to find the hero inside herself.
We don’t know if Rose falls for Finn too, but she does appear to spend a lot of the movie with him. (We also know Finn is rather stuck on Rey, given that his first words when he wakes up from his coma are “where’s Rey?”
Poe, in his brash new version, may even be the one to authorize Finn and Rose to go on …
The Canto Bight mission
Canto Bight has been described as the Las Vegas of Star Wars, but it might be more appropriate to call it the Monaco of Star Wars. According to a recently-released collection of novellas, it’s a much more upper crust casino, remote from the cares of the universe. They race horse creatures called “fathiers” here; at some point in these scenes, the fathiers get out of control and break a casino window.
And according to the back of a Maz Kanata action figure, no less, this is where we meet Chewbacca’s would-be girlfriend, the ancient bar owner you remember from The Force Awakens, voiced by Lupita Nyong’o. After the destruction of her castle by the First Order, Maz has gone mobile in the galactic underworld.
She is the one who connects the Resistance, perhaps directly via her friend Finn, to a man known only as DJ (Benicio Del Toro). Thanks to Star Wars language translators, we know his moniker stands for “Don’t Join”.
DJ is an independent operative, a “splicer” (computer hacker) whom Maz says is a “new ally.” Personally, we’d trust this character about as far as we could throw him.
But what does he have to offer? Computer code that could obliterate the First Order somehow? Is Star Wars really about to enter the universe of cyberwarfare for the first time?
And why are Finn and Rose required to dress as Imperial officers for this mission, other than the opportunity to echo Rogue One?
The three big battle scenes
Star Wars is nothing without its set-piece battles, both on the personal and galactic levels. Here’s what we’ve got to look forward to in The Last Jedi, in what I’m guessing is their chronological order.
A) Space battle involving a First Order attack on Resistance ships led by Kylo Ren: Given that Poe Dameron appears to be in a ship’s hangar surrounded by X-wings when all hell breaks loose, I’m going to say this scene comes right after Finn and Rose have been sent to Canto Bight.
C) The Finn vs. Phasma duel: This ultimate grudge match between a former Stormtrooper and his former boss has been a long time coming. It appears to happen at Canto Bight, given that Finn is still dressed in his undercover uniform when it happens. Which suggests the mission ends in disaster, which suggests we were right to not trust DJ.
B) Imperial Walkers vs. Resistance ships on Crait
Imperial Walkers will attack the Resistance towards the end, just as they attacked the rebels in Rogue One. A potential spoiler for this battle cropped up in the recently revamped “Star Tours” ride in Disney Parks: A giant First Order cannon, looking something like this movie’s superweapon. Count on the Resistance to take it out, but at great cost.
The fate of Leia
After the smoke of the battle clears, will Leia get to meet her brother Luke one last time before the movie — and the late Carrie Fisher’s involvement in Star Wars — is over?
I certainly believe so, based both on the fact that Lucasfilm is encouraging us to ask the question and on the fact that Luke is seen turning on the lights in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon — which he wouldn’t go near if he wasn’t planning to fly back where Rey and Chewbacca and R2-D2 so desperately want to take him.
If Luke does meet Leia again aboard a Resistance ship — perhaps a medical ship where the pair can patch up whatever wounds they’ve sustained in the course of the film — we’re hoping the director who definitely isn’t taking cues from Empire Strikes Back will at least echo this shot by the end of the film.
We’ll be publishing our reviews on Tuesday at 12pm ET, and the first official showings begin on the evening of Thursday 14th.
Until then, just breathe.