Yes, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie, bookmark this and come back to it after you’ve seen it.
In all the years I’ve done occasional movie reviews, I’ve never done spoilers. This time, I need to/ This isn’t really a movie review, though. It’s a review of the cinematic universe Disney and Rian Johnson are building. I don’t like it.
Johnson’s first task was to direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He’s been tapped to give Disney a live-action television show for its upcoming streaming service. He’s also going to be launching a new trilogy. In other words, Johnson is setting the direction by which Disney is going to expand the Star Wars universe as much as it possibly can.
This brings us to The Last Jedi. As a movie, it was well made. It had holes and was too long, but generally the twists were great, the storyline was good, and it matched up nicely with the start of something bigger. That’s the goal. They want this to be bigger.
The old days had George Lucas building an empire through merchandising. He made episodes 1-6 to maximize the merchandising potential where the real money used to be made. Today, things are a bit different. Now, it’s all about licensing. The bigger the universe, the more licensing and advertising they can sell. That’s why Disney wants a live action series. It’s why they want more trilogies. Lucas cashed in on toys. Disney and Johnson will cash in on the cinematic universe itself very much like the Marvel cinematic universe.
The movie ends with the entirety of the “rebel scum” dwindled enough to fit in the Millennium Falcon. However, they were able to get the word out to the scattered rebel factions on the “outer rim” of the galaxy. This was the setup. This is almost certainly how Johnson intends to expand the Star Wars cinematic universe away from the heart of the First Order. By spreading out the rebellion, Johnson and Disney have an empty canvas. They can build whatever movie or series they want and it won’t have to be centered around a handful of Jedi or Siths fighting each other.
Then again, they might just use a different batch. As Slashfilm noted, there’s another Snoke apprentice out there.
Spotted by an eagle-eyed Reddit user and confirmed by /Film’s Peter Sciretta’s digital copy of the magazine, the entry on Snoke reveals that he “has trained Kylo Ren and at least one other apprentice.” It’s possible that this magazine entry was published before the film came out and contains information that was ultimately cut from the movie or saved for a later revelation, but because Star Wars Insider Magazine is officially circulated by Lucasfilm, we’re accepting this as canon.
This could have significant ramifications for the future of the Star Wars saga.
It’s notable that there were no actual lightsaber duels in the movie. Nothing. There was one fake battle with an illusion of Luke Skywalker and a fight that pitted Kylo Ren and Rey against Snoke’s Elite Praetorian Guard, but not lightsaber on lightsaber action (other than a brief flashback to Luke and Kylo Ren exchanging a single blow). This represented a shift from the previous seven movies and paved the way for Johnson’s vision of a new Star Wars universe.
Notably, Mark Hamill has disowned the “new” Luke Skywalker, and rightfully so. Before even reading Hamill’s comments, I was heading home after the movie thinking to myself that this wasn’t anything like the Luke Skywalker we saw grow in power and wisdom through episodes 4-6. It doesn’t just go against character that he would give up because of his failure with Kilo Ren. It’s contradictory to the foundation upon which he was built in the first place. He was a man of hope. That hope is what drove him to face the Emperor. It’s what kept him believing against all odds that his father was still capable of good. To abandon his sister and the Resistance is ludicrous. He may have done it temporarily and for a reason as Yoda and Obi Wan did, but for him of all characters to come to the conclusion the Jedi needed to die simply goes against the essence of Luke Skywalker.
“I said to Rian: ‘Jedis don’t give up. I mean even if he had a problem he would maybe take a year to try and regroup, but if he made a mistake he would try and right that wrong.’ So right there we had a fundamental difference, but it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective. That’s the crux of my problem. Luke would never say that. I’m sorry. Well in this version, see I’m talking about the George Lucas Star Wars. This is the next generation of Star Wars, so I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he is Jake Skywalker.
This is a quality film with some particularly exceptional moments. It has a great future now that Johnson and Disney are expanding it. Unfortunately, how they’re expanding it diminishes the past for the sake of the future of the cinematic universe. It’s understandable. It’s also understandable why so many die hard fans are upset by it all. I’m one of them.