The Last Jedi: Does the Future Lie in the Balance of the Force?
The film promises to challenge our every preconception about the Force.
Excitement is building for The Last Jedi, a movie that promises to challenge our every preconception about the Force. The first trailer was deep and philosophical, offering tantalizing hints that Luke Skywalker himself has strayed from the Jedi path. The second was far more action-packed, and yet still offered intriguing clues that our old Light/Dark dichotomy was about to come crashing down.
So, what's set to replace it? The key word, it seems, is "balance."
The first trailer for The Last Jedi offered a significant clue. It included dialogue in which Luke asked Rey to reach out with the Force, and describe what she saw. Rey's response was that she sensed light, darkness, and ultimately "a balance."
That's not a particularly Jedi kind of concept. The Jedi, after all, believe that the light side is good, and the dark side should be opposed. Instead, the idea of balance suggests that both light and dark are necessary. And yet the concept's been part of Star Wars since the Prequel Trilogy, introduced as part of the Chosen One mythology. As George Lucas told Time Magazine in 2002:
"I wanted to have this mythological footing because I was basing the films on the idea that the Force has two sides, the good side, the evil side, and they both need to be there. Most religions are built on that, whether it's called yin and yang, God and the devil—everything is built on the push-pull tension created by two sides of the equation. Right from the very beginning, that was the key issue in 'Star Wars.'"
Crucially, when Rey referred to "a balance" the trailer gave us a glimpse of ancient scrolls and books. These appear to be the fabled Journal of the Whills. When George Lucas first created #StarWars, he imagined the story as being told by an ancient, all-knowing race that he called the Whills. Lucasfilm has already begun a process of bringing the Whills into canon. Rogue One, for example, introduced a mysterious Force sect known as the Guardians of the Whills. Tie-in novels such as Chuck Wendig's "Aftermath" trilogy have deliberately emphasized their role.
We can assume, then, that the idea of bringing the Force into "balance" — whatever that may mean — is an ancient one, tied to the Whills themselves. Luke has been meditating at the first Jedi Temple, and there he'll find the books that guide him toward the idea of balance.
The Chosen One Prophecy Is Back In Play
At the same time, we've had tantalizing hints that the Chosen One prophecy itself — the idea of a specific person who would bring balance to the Force — is back in play. Mark Hamill recently noted that Luke believed Ben Solo to be the Chosen One, but "made a huge mistake." Luke failed to sense the darkness within Ben's heart, and a result Ben Solo became Kylo Ren, the Jedi-killer.
Tie-in novels have established that, in the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi, Luke began a quest to regain the lost knowledge of the Jedi. We can assume that this quest led him to the prophecy of the Chosen One. Where George Lucas argued that Anakin Skywalker was the definitive Chosen One, who would bring balance to the Force, Luke saw the prophecy as still unfulfilled. He believed Ben Solo was the Chosen One. Now, of course, fans are speculating that the Chosen One is actually Rey.
Does this somehow diminish Anakin Skywalker? Ironically no, because The Clone Wars strongly suggested that the Force constantly requires a Chosen One to bring Light and Dark into balance. In the episode "Overlords," Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka were stranded on the enigmatic world of Mortis. In a plot clearly intended as an analogy for the Chosen One, a being known as Father suggested that his "children," Son and Daughter, needed the constant presence of a Chosen One to hold them in balance. This reinterpreted the idea of balance as an ongoing reality, suggesting that there should always be a Chosen One.
Rey As the Bringer of Balance
The first poster for The Last Jedi offered another hint, showing Rey standing as the balance between Light and Dark (Luke and Kylo Ren). Significantly, she's holding a lightsaber aloft in a pose that's deliberately reminiscent of the symbol of the Journal of the Whills.
The first trailer closed with Luke declaring that it's for the Jedi to end. In a surprising twist, the second closed with Rey asking Kylo Ren himself for guidance. It seems that Rey won't just train under Jedi Master Skywalker, she'll also train under the latest Dark Side powerhouse. In other words, Rey is willing to learn both the Light and the Dark sides of the Force.
Intriguingly, Rey's approach closely mirrors with Kylo Ren's. The Force Awakens revealed Kylo Ren as a young man who's torn between the light and the dark. He may have sided with the First Order, but he can still feel the pull of the light side. It seems his act of patricide has failed to resolve the issue. In the second trailer, you can see the raw emotion on Kylo Ren's face as he prepares to fire on his mother's vessel. Meanwhile, we recently learned that Kylo Ren's mask was an attempt to hide his identity. You'll notice that he's cast the mask aside in the second trailer. Is it possible that he, too, will wind up committing to the balance?
Luke Skywalker is the titular Last Jedi, but is it possible we're about to see the beginning of something new? Rather than commit to the Light or Dark sides of the Force, will Rey and Kylo Ren dedicate themselves to the concept of balance instead? The evidence is building that the Prequel idea of balance is central to The Last Jedi, and it's going to be fascinating to see how the film resolves this particular plot thread. It looks as though our understanding of the Force is about to be turned upside-down.