There has been another awakening: the first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi has arrived. Unveiled by director Rian Johnson at the end of the Celebration panel for Episode VIII, the first proper look at 2017’s Star Wars release has stopped the internet in its tracks and has just about everyone – from padawan to Master – theorizing about what we can expect on December 15th.
The trailer is focused heavily on the Force-side of the movie, spending its first half showing Luke and Rey’s spiritual interaction, before giving a little taste of what to expect from the First Order/Resistance conflict. Like The Force Awakens‘ excellent teasers before it, it’s refreshingly light on major plot details and instead teases tone and character, although diving a little deeper reveals some major secrets about Episode VIII. Let’s break it down.
REY IN SHOCK
Before the Lucasfilm logo, we get Rey collapsing on the Ahch-To rock and gasping for air. She’s wearing the exact same getup we saw her in at the end of The Force Awakens, but it looks like she’ll be wearing this through the film’s first act so it’s no real indication of when exactly this takes place. Her shock appears to be more than just physical exhaustion, with Ridley conveying a sense of worry, which would suggest she’s just experienced something extreme – possibly a Force vision. The reaction is reminiscent of the moment when she first picked up the lightsaber in Maz Kanata’s castle, and also hearkens back to Luke’s experience to the cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back (to which this is likely a rhyme).
It’s worth noting the parallels to the previous film. Once again we open with what appears to be a starfield, which is then revealed to be a planet, just like The Force Awakens‘ final trailer. It’s also rather neat that the trailer begins with a hand since Episode VII was originally set to open with Luke’s severed limb from Empire floating through space.
“Breathe. Just breathe. Now… reach out. What do you see?”
To make up for his complete silence and brief screen time in The Force Awakens, the very first words we hear from The Last Jedi are Luke Skywalker’s. While in the panel itself Daisy Ridley suggested that Rey and Luke’s meeting wouldn’t go quite as she expected, it’s clear that the pair will eventually form a Master/Apprentice bond, with Skywalker training up his new ward. The overall feel of Luke’s lines – both as written, and with Hamill’s delivery – is evocative of Yoda’s training in The Empire Strikes Back. This creates a nice parallel to the previous trilogy, but they hone in on one particular aspect: visions.
As already mentioned, the first portion of this trailer takes place on Ahch-To, the rocky water world first seen at the end of The Force Awakens. The site of Luke’s self-imposed exile, it would appear that this is – as Han Solo theorized – the site of the first Jedi Temple, with Luke going back to the Order’s origins after Ben Solo burnt down his attempt to rebuild it. The planet was only in one scene in The Force Awakens but will be a major setting in The Last Jedi. The trailer features several new aspects of the planet, including new angles of the central island (Ireland’s Skellig Michael), and what may actually be that much-discussed first temple.
Rey was shown in The Force Awakens to already have a strong affinity with the Force – invading Kylo Ren’s thoughts, mind-tricking Daniel Craig’s Stormtrooper, and holding her own in a lightsaber duel – but she still has much to learn, especially on the more ethereal side. The first half of the teaser is built around her learning to “see” with the Force, becoming one with it and tapping into her full potential. These are all aspects of the Star Wars mythos that Disney has been expanding recently, and will no doubt play a major role in the film.
At this point of the breakdown, it’s worth highlighting some of what Rian Johnson has brought to the film visually. While he – like J.J. Abrams before him – has surely stuck close to the traditional Star Wars style, there is evidence of some very creative shots, especially when it comes to the use of perspective
LEIA ON A RESISTANCE SHIP
After the Ahch-To opening, the trailer moves into the wider galaxy. First we get a behind shot of Leia aboard a Resistance cruiser monitoring various star-charts. This is all we see of the General in the trailer, although but you can get a better look at her new costume in behind-the-scenes photos from the 40th Anniversary and The Last Jedi panels.
Little was shown of the Resistance in the previous film – just their D’Qar base (which we’ll discuss more later) and small X-Wing force – but across this trailer we get teases of their true strength, with the rebel group moving into space.
KYLO REN’S MASK
Next up is a slow zoom on Kylo Ren’s The Force Awakens mask – smashed and smoking (you can make out his voice modulator in the faceplate). The helmet was last seen in Episode VII when Ben Solo removed it on the bridge to confront his father, and was presumed lost in the destruction of Starkiller Base, although this suggests that it was recovered along with Kylo himself (either that or a replacement has likewise been smashed). It could also be an abstract image from Rey’s vision.
Whatever the case, it’s a striking image that hammers home how memorable a villain Kylo has already become. Furthermore, the damaged mask feels like a reference to Vader’s charred helmet in The Force Awakens, a visual reference for how – now he’s killed Han – Ben is now on the same level of evil as his grandfather.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE
As already alluded to, the first half of the trailer – at least on a dialogue side – is Luke guiding Rey through the Force. In response to his “What do you see?”, she says “Light. Darkness. A balance.”
Again, in light homage to Empire, we’re seeing an expansion of how we perceive the Force – and in this case a very important one. The notion of balance in the Force was first introduced in The Phantom Menace and remained a strong theme throughout the prequels. While much of that trilogy has been skirted around in the new era, this concept remained – at the start of The Force Awakens, Lor San Tekka stated “Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force”. With Rey now personally experiencing this, it seems that The Last Jedi will finally explain what that balance really means. Based on Luke’s later words, it likely won’t be a good thing for the Jedi.
THE JEDI TREE
We don’t get to see exactly what the first Jedi Temple looks like in the teaser trailer, although there is what appears to be part of it. After Leia and Kylo, we see a cavern made up of a tree and a stone bookshelf holding eight worn volumes (held in place by rock bookends).
What’s most interesting here by a parsec is the tree, which may be the source of the Temple’s power. In Shattered Empire, a comic sequel to Return of the Jedi, Luke discovered that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant housed a special tree with undefined Force abilities. He sent one to be planted on Yavin IV, but kept the other for himself, presumably to build his own Temple. This may be what we’re seeing here, but what’s more likely is that Luke used this for his ill-fated Academy and what we’ve got here is the original tree from which the Coruscant one was cut.
THE JOURNAL OF THE WHILLS
Getting back to the books, we then get a close-up of one that’s of major Star Wars importance. Held together simply with string and featuring hand-written Aurbebesh notes, this is the movie introduction of an essential part of the franchise’s mythology: this appears to be the Journal of the Whills (at least based on the real world novel on the topic).
Journal of the Whills was the working title of the original Star Wars, with George Lucas planning for the saga to be a long ago tale told through this ancient tome. It was loosely canonized, intended at one point to be based on R2’s centuries-later ramblings, but is now being worked into the bigger story. We already got religious group the Guardians of the Whills in Rogue One, so this book seems to be taking the next step and introducing the order proper. How this will work depends on how deep into the past Johnson is going, but it chimes with the bigger idea of exploring the Jedi origins.
The book also shows a simplification the lore. In the prequel trilogy, the extent of all Jedi knowledge was shown, with the Coruscant temple housing massive hologram libraries and computers documenting all of the known galaxy. However, it seems the core of the order can be distilled down into a single digit amount of books.
Speaking of prequel elements, even if this isn’t the Journal, a core visual part of that trilogy still makes an appearance in the trailer: the Jedi logo. First designed for The Phantom Menace, the glistening lightsaber flanked by two wings (foreshadowing of the Rebellion’s logo in the original trilogy) appears on the cover of the book.
The book in questions appears to be being read by Luke – although the trailer editing suggests Rey, the person reading it is wearing a glove, pointing towards Skywalker’s cyborg hand. When we saw Luke at the end of The Force Awakens, he had his robot right hand free, but it makes sense that he would want to keep it covered some of the time. Instead of the simple black he used when his flesh-covered prosthetic was damaged in Return of the Jedi, here he’s got what appears to be brown leather, something subtly in-keeping with Jedi-style.
THE FORCE VOICES – LEIA, OBI-WAN AND YODA
Very faintly in the background of these previous shots, you can make out audio from across the original trilogy: over the Resistance ship there’s Leia’s “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; for Kylo Ren’s mask Obi-Wan’s explanation of Vader’s turn for A New Hope, “[Vader was] seduced by the Dark Side of the Force”, is used; and over the Jedi books is Yoda’s “Its energy surrounds us and binds us”. There’s also Vader’s breathing over Kylo’s mask.
These each help contextualize the shots – who we’re seeing, what happened to Kylo and the philosophy of the Jedi respectively – but also helps frame the trailer as part of Rey’s vision and suggests the movie itself will be delving a little more into the past (or at least using it as a learning point). The lines could just be included for effect, although as both Yoda and Obi-Wan could be heard in Rey’s vision from The Force Awakens (with Ewan McGregor recording a new line) it definitely makes sense she’d hear them. Some theories even posit that Force Ghosts of the two characters will appear.
While the training in the trailer mostly appears to be on the spiritual side, Rey’s still going to need that lightsaber to take down Kylo Ren. One of the most coolest shots is a pan round the island that reveals her practicing her swing with the Skywalker saber as Luke watches on. Although this is more physical training, it’s still rather Force-intuitive; Rey isn’t practicing with any props (we know the remote is still on the Falcon), but merely learning her style.
The fact she’s still using the Skywalker saber may reveal something more about Luke. Of course she has little alternative, but the Jedi Master seems to have reached a point where – like Yoda or the Emperor – his power has passed the need for such a weapon.
After the now-customary “This Christmas” card, we cut away from the Force to the bigger galactic fight, in particular to what looks to be something of a Battle of Hoth rematch. This is the Battle of Crait (the name was leaked recently and confirmed by Lucasfilm), a new salt-flat planet, which sees speeders (presumably belonging to the Resistance, although they could be local rebels) taking on First Order walkers, described as bulkier versions of AT-ATs called AT-4Xs.
Based on leaked descriptions, these “gorilla walkers” are hulked behemoths, bigger than the Empire counterpart and with a more arched back design (hence the name).
THE RESISTANCE SPEEDERS
While the looming, hulking transports are menacing, what stands out most from the Crait sequence are the skimmer fighters that appear to hang low to the ground, using a downward rod for balance. These are a very unique design – a mixture of podracers, Snowspeeders and Cloud Cars, although neither callback tells the full story.
Going into battle, the rods kicks up plumes of red, which may be a clue to why the First Order is invading. Crait is a mining world that the Resistance takes up residence on (presumably after their D’Qar base has been evacuated – which we’re getting to). The red plumes are also an incredibly fun George Lucas Easter egg, tactically referencing his World War II drama Red Tails.
At the end of The Force Awakens, Finn was left seriously wounded by his mismatched fight with Kylo Ren, getting impaled by his crossguard and sliced in the back. It was rumored last year that the former Stormtrooper wouldn’t recover from his wounds easily and would be wearing a bacta suit – the healing substance in the Star Wars galaxy that Luke was submerged in after his Wampa attack in Empire – which can be seen here in the trailer. How long he’ll have to wear it for is unclear.
This is all we actually see of John Boyega’s character in the teaser, but Finn is set to play an important part in The Last Jedi. Boyega revealed at the panel that the character would have to make the decision whether to join the Resistance fight or just keep running from the First Order, and previously trailer rumors suggested he’d be on an undercover mission.
POE AND BB-8 ON A RESISTANCE CRUISER
Next up are the final two of our main heroes – Resistance master pilot Poe Dameron and droid BB-8. Poe is set to have a bigger role in The Last Jedi after sitting a big chunk of The Force Awakens out (due to his character being originally set to die in the first act), while Rian Johnson revealed on the panel everyone’s second-favorite droid (R2-D2 still rules the roost) would be as prominent as in The Last Jedi. The pair are back together after the Starkiller Base attack, piloting Poe’s black X-Wing.
What you can also see in this shot is a better look inside the Resistance cruiser seen earlier. It’s got a general design very evocative of what was seen in the originals, from the Tantive IV to Admiral Ackbar’s Home One, but with some added red decals that, while simple, distinguish the design and make them look a bit more advanced.
RESISTANCE UNDER ATTACK
Poe and BB-8 are running because their ship is under attack; as they run into the hangar – typical of the Rebel hangars from Return of the Jedi, having a rather disorganized structure – blue First Order torpedoes (just visible outside of the airlock) smash into the ship, causing massive explosions that engulf Poe’s black X-Wing. Based on previous speculation, it would seem that this action set-piece (which we may actually see a little more of later in the trailer) occurs early in the film – something that further puts the Resistance on the backfoot after the destruction of the New Republic (and somewhat undoes the elation after Starkiller Base’s destruction).
The Force Awakens had a very limited set of Resistance fighters – pretty much just new-era X-Wings and crew transports. The Last Jedi is really adding to that – as well as the new speeders on Crait and the cruisers themselves, there’s the return of another classic trilogy ship: the A-Wing. The fastest ship in the Rebel fleet as of Return of the Jedi, one fighter can be seen in the hangar explosion to the left of Poe, and some are shown later in the space battle itself.
In the teaser it’s hard to tell what updates (if any) have been made to the design, but they’re sure to be revealed on Force Friday – this is a prime merchandising opportunity. Indeed, it’s not the only classic vehicle getting a fresh upgrade in the film; although it isn’t seen here, Kylo Ren will have his own version of the TIE Advanced, a variant akin to his grandfather’s.
FALCON IN FLIGHT
Of course, you can’t have a new Star Wars without the Falcon. The ship appears briefly in the teaser pursued by First Order TIE fighters, taking as many down as it can. However, while that’s to be expected, it does pose a few questions. The ship was flown by Rey, Chewie and R2-D2 to Ahch-To and based on photos revealed at the panel will remain there during Rey’s training, meaning it can’t be involved in the Resistance escape from D’Qar, and the planet doesn’t look like Crait either. It’s possible that this is Ahch-To, with the group trying to escape once the Empire finds it, but it could also be featured later during a final battle.
The presence of the Falcon also raises the question of who’s flying it. Per The Force Awakens, Rey and Chewie are the co-pilots, although how that interaction continues as Rey goes on her own Jedi-ending arc is unclear (in fact, how the Wookiee factors into the movie in general is a big question).
REY RUNNING INTO ACTION
After a whole thirty seconds not on screen, the movie’s hero returns. Rey is running into action, igniting her lightsaber as she goes full pelt against/after some enemy. The location is unique in the trailer – it’s a flat expanse with rocky surrounds, but based on known plot points it is likely still Ahch-To – just a different place to the main island we’ve seen. That suggests this is from the rumored fight sequence when Kylo Ren arrives on the planet and engages Rey in combat.
Regardless, as Ridley still isn’t sporting her long hair seen on the movie’s merchandise banner, this sequence probably comes at the latest around the movie’s midpoint.
Adam Driver wasn’t in attendance at The Last Jedi panel and very little information was given about Kylo Ren’s role in the film – most Dark Side information was simply about the First Order in general – but he does make a brief appearance in the trailer. It’s mostly Driver looking as you’d expect – brandishing his red crossguard saber with an angry stare – but with one key addition: he now sports a scar, a souvenir of his showdown against Rey on Starkiller Base. It’s not quite as pronounced as it appeared at the end of The Force Awakens, although the shot has been perfectly chosen to keep the full extent of the damage hidden.
Because of the close-up nature of the shot it’s hard to make out where exactly Kylo is. It may be part of the First Order attack on the Resistance ships, although Episode VII‘s ending alluded to him going to train with Snoke. The editing of the trailer makes it seem like Ahch-To, so perhaps the flames are of the Jedi tree. Oh dear!
DESTRUCTION OF THE JEDI ACADEMY
Star Wars: The Last Jedi may be the first film in the series to have a flashback, or will at the very least feature an expository vision. Near the climax we get a shot of a hooded Luke kneeling down next to R2-D2 as a temple burns in the distance, which should be instantly recognizable to any Star Wars fan – we saw this scene from another angle in The Force Awakens. Yes, this is the destruction of Luke’s Jedi Temple by Ben Solo, glimpsed briefly in Rey’s lightsaber-induced vision.
Beyond confirming that this event – including Kylo Ren’s fall to the Dark – will be expanded upon in Episode VIII, we finally get a look of what Luke’s school looks like and evidence of Kylo’s slaughter; you can see bodies strewn across the ground between Luke and the building, the massacre of which was also seen in Rey’s vision.
PHASMA ATTACKS THE RESISTANCE
The shot of Captain Phasma – who has somehow escaped both a trash compacter and the destruction of Starkiller – coming out of the flames flanked by her squadron may at first appear to be linked to the previous shot of the Jedi Academy, but that’s just the product of very effective trailer editing. This is actually from the attack on the Resistance ship, evidenced by the reflective floor and hangar entrance in the corner. She is likely the one leading the attack, given that Hux and Kylo are at this time visiting Snoke.
After being the Boba Fett of The Force Awakens – she was featured heavily in the marketing and merchandise but played a rather insignificant role with minimal screentime – Phasma is set to have a much bigger role in The Last Jedi, leading the First Order charge.
THE ESCAPE FROM D’QAR
The trailer reaches its climax with two shots from the sequel trilogy’s first space battle. We’ve seen the interior view of this already with Poe and Phasma, but now it’s clear what’s happening. This is the Resistance leaving their base on D’Qar seen in The Force Awakens, only to be intercepted by the enemy (who had already tried to destroy the planet with Starkiller). This is likely going to put the heroes on the run throughout the movie and lead some of the rebellion group to Crait. This will presumably happen early on in the movie – either straight after the crawl or following Luke and Rey’s first meeting.
As for the battle itself, the two shots show TIE forces coming up against X-Wings and A-Wings, as well as revealing larger Resistance ships, presumably the modern update of cargo transports.
“IT’S TIME FOR THE JEDI TO END”
The Last Jedi title isn’t hyperbole – the trailer comes to its finish with Luke delivering the devastating line, “I only know one truth: it’s time for the Jedi to end.” There’s a myriad of possibilities for what this could actually mean – balance in the Force means the destruction of Light and Dark, Luke is a gray Jedi, Luke is becoming like Bendu, Luke’s gone to the Dark Side, Luke accepts organized structures are fundamentally flawed – but one’s thing’s for certain; the Star Wars galaxy will never be the same.
His declaration plays out over a shot of Skywalker stood at the entrance of what at first appears to be a cave on Ahch-To, but is in fact the Jedi tree seen earlier in the trailer. Brightening the image reveals Rey’s staff to the side of entrance, suggesting he’s just sent his apprentice into its depths, possibly to see a vision – the teaser may be going full circle, with this experience being what caused her to fall to the ground.
The teaser comes to an end with an epic rescoring of the main Star Wars theme over the film’s logo, really hammering home that this story is darker and more serious than what we’ve seen before. What’s of real interest in the music, however, is what comes after that main burst.
As the date card comes up, the music fades into a dark, choral drone, almost underscoring everything we’ve seen with a true foreboding sense. Whether this is a reference to Snoke, the legacy of the Emperor or something else is unclear, but it’s a galaxy away from the teasing lightsaber ignition of The Force Awakens‘ first teaser.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15, 2017.