‘The Last Jedi’ Trailer And Its Possible Deeper Implications
“I only know one truth: it’s time for the Jedi…to end.”
That final chilling sentence uttered by Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, brought an end to the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi. And what a trailer it was. Visually stunning, impeccably edited, and with enough “HOLY SHIT!” moments to fill a Jedi temple, director Rian Johnson’s trailer was everything a Star Wars fan could hope for.
Since the trailer dropped, speculation has run rampant about what exactly Luke’s sentence implies. After the final scene of The Force Awakens, the logical thoughts of most people were, “Ok Rey’s found Luke, now Luke is going to train her to be a Jedi, and then Rey and Luke will go take out Snoke, Kylo Ren, and the First Order.” That may still be true…just not the way you’d expect.
Luke did exactly what Yoda implored him to do at the end of Return of the Jedi, which was to, “Pass on what you have learned.” In the wake of the Rebellion’s defeat of the Empire, Luke scoured the galaxy looking for Force-sensitive users to reestablish the Jedi Order. In addition, Luke searches the galaxy with Lorn San Tekka (Max Van Sydow from The Force Awakens) for Jedi artifacts, temples, holocrons, and any piece of information related to the Jedi. Because let’s be frank, Luke is essentially a self-taught Jedi. He barely received any training from Obi-Wan and Yoda when traditionally, Jedi were trained for years, sometimes decades before they became Jedi Knights. It’s logical to assume that Luke wanted to learn all he could before establishing a new Jedi Order.
We also know that these fledgling Jedi were wiped out by Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren. This prompts Luke to go into hiding and seek the first Jedi Temple. Beforehand, he leaves his whereabouts in the hands of Lor San Tekka and well…we know the rest of the story from there. Ultimately, Luke finds the temple on Anch-To.
The question though is why? Why would Luke seek this temple? Why would he put himself in self-imposed exile? Why would he, for all intents and purposes, abandon the galaxy at a time when they need him the most? Obviously Luke is no coward, so his actions make little sense.
Yet, I suspect I know what his intentions were. When people experience great tragedy: the death of a loved one, a fire that wipes out their home, financial devastation, or-in the case of Luke-the complete destruction of something he’d spent a lifetime building, you begin to question things. You begin to question your purpose in life, you begin to question if your mentors (Yoda and Obi-Wan) were wrong. Perhaps that the way of the Sith and the entire Jedi Order is wrong. And I think that Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, had an epiphany:
There had to be another way.
And so he goes in search of that way, not out of fear, but in hopes of finding another way to defeat the Sith and the Dark Side. There’s an old expression, “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” In other words, nothing will change. The militarization of the Jedi Order during the Clone Wars didn’t work. Re-establishing the Jedi Order and its tenets didn’t work. Having Ben Solo study personally under his Uncle Luke didn’t work.
Part of the reason the Jedi Order fell was due in no small part to political corruption and their inability to change. They were so caught up in dogma, so entrenched in tradition, that they couldn’t even see a Dark Side user slowly manipulating the system and rising to power. And by the time they did, it was too late. The Jedi fell prey to their own hubris and complacency. For God’s sake, they wouldn’t even allow Jedi to fall in love or get married because they were afraid of attachments! And how’d that work out? One of their most powerful Jedi-Anakin Skywalker-hid his relationship and was eventually corrupted by Emperor Palpatine, resulting in millions of deaths across the galaxy. Yes Darth Vader was responsible for the slaughter of Jedi and younglings, but you can’t ignore how the Jedi Order was complicit in their own destruction. How can you understand true compassion if you don’t allow your members to experience love, something that’s fundamental to every sentient being?
And the Sith? Same deal. Their inability to see that the Dark Side and the lust for power were the only way also led to their downfall. It began in the days of the Old Republic and the Sith Wars which continued with “The Rule of Two,” and then ultimately the Emperor was killed by Darth Vader. Their way was filled with fallacies as much as the Jedi Order was.
If you want to put it in real world terms, think of the factionalism in politics today. We’ve got Ultra-Conservative Right Wing Nutjobs who believe nonsense like the Holocaust didn’t happen, people who are LGBTQ should stay in the closet, science is the Devil, and that every Syrian refugee is a terrorist. Or you have Ultra-Liberal Left Wing Nutjobs who believe vaccinations cause autism, that everyone should get a participation trophy and is a precious little snowflake, that Marvel is failing as a comicbook company because they don’t have enough brown people, and that anyone who believes in God is a mental midget. The fact of the matter is that both groups are wrong just as both the Sith and the Jedi Order are wrong. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, there must be a balance.
And it is this balance that is precisely what I believe Luke thinks the galaxy needs and it’s exactly what I think he’s discovered on Anch-To. Early on in The Last Jedi trailer, Rey sees Light (Leia in front of a Holomap), Darkness (either Vader or Kylo Ren’s smashed mask), and balance, a vision of the following:
If you are a Star Wars nerd like me, this appears to be the legendary Journal of the Whills, a text kept by Shamans of the Ancient Order of the Whills. In Star Wars lore this is a higher order of beings connected to the Force. The journal chronicles the entire history of the galaxy and its connections to the Force. A Keeper of the Whills was responsible for adding material as time went on. The religion of the Whills has already been explored in Rogue One as Chirrut Imwe was supposedly a Guardian of the Whills. The teachings of this sect also allowed Qui-Gon Jinn to transcend the trappings of the physical and continue as a Force ghost. This knowledge he then passed on to Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It is within this text that I believe Luke has discovered the secret to the balance. I believe he’s discovered the teachings of a group that most Star Wars fans aren’t familiar with: The Order of Dai Bendu. I won’t go overly into detail regarding this group. For those of you who are curious there is this thing called the Google Machine. Suffice it to say that thousands of years prior to the events of A New Hope, the Dai Bendu were called to the planet Tython along with six other Force sensitive groups and founded what was then known as the Je’daii Order which eventually became The Order of Jedi Knights. The key thing to note is that these Dai Bendu monks held to non-confrontational principles. They meditated, wrote, and sought balance with the Force. Additionally, this is technically no longer canon. It is part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe that Disney dismissed as being non-canonical. However, there is a character called The Bendu that shows up in Star Wars Rebels that closely resembles some of the beliefs of the Dai Bendu, and is canon.
Again to put it in real world terms, think of Christianity. Two thousand years ago the first Christians did not call themselves Christians. Instead they called themselves Followers of the Way. “The Way” in this case being the way of Jesus of Nazareth. It was not until several centuries later that the foundations of the Catholic Church were established. And much like the Jedi Order, the Catholic Church at times has been subject to political infighting, zealotry, and corruption. All you have to do is look at the Borgias, the Inquisition, and the Crusades to see that. This by no means is a knock against the Catholic Church (obviously Vatican II changed a lot of things and the current Pope is quite progressive), however I believe the similarities can’t be ignored.
I draw this comparison because my suspicion is that Luke believes the Jedi need to get back to their roots. That they’ve strayed so far off the path of the Force, that they are all but extinct. And the main reason for this is that the Jedi have no balance. More specifically, they’ve determined that the Dark Side is something not only to be repressed but eradicated. On the flip side, the Sith believe the opposite, that the Light Side is something to be eliminated. These concepts are both wrong. All of us have a light and dark side to us. It’s a fundamental pillar of the human (or in the case of Star Wars human and alien) experience. We all have a “shadow self” as Carl Jung referred to it. No amount of religious devotion can destroy it. We can only help to mitigate its effects by recognizing it as a part of us and pray that our better nature will save us from darkness. To deny the shadow self is to court disaster. It’s what gave rise to the Sith in the first place and ultimately led to the Jedi Order’s downfall. Perhaps Kirk A. Bingaman puts it best:
“Yet even if we could, by our own power and/or the power of God, straitjacket the shadow, would we want to live without that which not only at times brings us pain and sorrow, but at other times adds richness and depth to our living?”
It is both the Dark and Light that enriches life. It is reconciling the two that brings true balance. I believe that Luke has recognized this fact. Think about it. Luke being able to tap into the power of the Dark Side ultimately allowed him to defeat his father. Yet it was the Light Side that stopped him from killing Darth Vader. Luke found balance in that moment. It’s not only time for the Jedi to end but the Sith to end as well. Otherwise, the same dynamic will continue to play out again and again and again.
In terms of the Star Wars universe as a whole, if I’m right, Luke’s discoveries have monumental impact on this world we’ve come to know and love. It adds shades of gray to a world that’s always been black and white. It makes this realm “so much bigger” as Luke tells Rey in the trailer. If any significant aspect of human culture is to survive it must evolve and change. I believe the wise people of Disney understand this. They understand it’s time to take risks, which they’ve already done by killing off everyone at the end of Rogue One. Director Rian Johnson, I believe, is about to elevate the Star Wars universe into a realm we couldn’t have conceived of five years ago.
It may very well be that the The Last Jedi isn’t just a catchy title, but a prophecy as well. Luke, as Yoda said, is perhaps the last Jedi. He also may be passing on what he has learned as Yoda instructed him to do. And perhaps what Luke’s learned is exactly what he says in the trailer, that it’s time for the Jedi to end.
Moreover it may also be time for Rey, the first of the new Dai Bendu, to rise.