By Christopher Spencer
On the 14th of April, we got our first and long-awaited look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In a short, 2-minute teaser which resembles the structure of the original The Force Awakens teaser from 2014, fans got to see where our beloved characters are going in this 8th episode of the Star Wars saga. It doesn’t show much though, only short glimpses, some are of the faces of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, but still packs in gorgeous cinematography of Skellig Michael, space battles, air battles, and the Force in action.
The reactions online have been expectedly enthusiastic from many fans, though it has its detractors. Some on Twitter and YouTube have expressed disappointment that the teaser’s brief content of mainly location shots and ambiguous voiceover from Luke Skywalker isn’t enough to give an idea of what The Last Jedi is about.
This teaser is just that; a teaser. The official trailers will come and give us more, but for now, we can see what kind of film The Last Jedi will at least look like. Just like The Force Awakens’ first teaser, we got an idea of how J.J. Abrams will tackle Star Wars; with fresh visual ideas and high energy. The Last Jedi’s teaser does the same for showing what director Rian Johnson is doing with the franchise.
The narration by Luke (still shrouded in shadow, even though we know what Mark Hamill looks like in these new movies now) suggests that the ideas of the light side and the dark side, the Jedi and Sith will be broken down, and balance will be made by the destruction of both. We are expected to see a new way to have the Force presented on screen, as a power of both sides, not biased to either one. With just a few lines of voice-over, Rian Johnson sets up a promise for fans that this movie will do something different, something ambitious, a way to make these new movies feel necessary, instead of pale rethreads of what we’ve already seen. The Force Awakens was a great reintroduction for audiences to this universe as it should be seen, a stepping stone for a greater new universe. Hopefully Rian Johnson can deliver on that vision of new narrative territory.
But even though this writer is intensely excited for this ambitious, new take on his favourite franchise, I do worry about the greater audience out there. This is an audience that completely accepted The Force Awakens into their minds to the tune of $2 billion worldwide, but a negative response quickly formed when some realised its formulaic similarities to Episode IV: A New Hope. What if the new ideas and plot points of The Last Jedi are too ambitious for people to swallow. Many are already coming up with rather stupid fan theories about Yoda sitting on a rock in the teaser, or Supreme Leader Snoke being Mace Windu, or Luke being cloned from his fallen hand, or Rey being the reincarnation of the Emperor. Fans can have theories to things, it is their right. But with Star Wars, those theories become expectations, and when those expectations are not met to specificity, then a backlash occurs. Personally, I expect The Last Jedi to be a different journey for the Star Wars saga, to tread a new path for the future, and delve deeper into the psychology that is at the heart of these movies. That is what I have seen with director Rian Johnson’s previous works of 2012’s Looper or the Breaking Bad episodes “Fly” and “Ozymandias”. I hope the fans that suggest ridiculous theories keep an open mind and let the vision of the filmmakers play out. If they do not like that because it doesn’t appeal to them, fine. But no-one should dispose of a movie just because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted beat-for-beat.
Hell, everyone who worked on the original Star Wars in 1977 thought it was going to be B-movie trash, forgotten in a month. How wrong some can be…