Oh, what's in a name?
If you're naming a Star Wars movie, the answer is a heck of a lot. On Jan. 23, Lucasfilm announced that the eighth installment in the franchise would be titled Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
What did that mean? No one knew for sure, though theories were debated across the internet. As it turns out, the answer has been hiding in plain sight since 2015. "It's in the opening crawl of The Force Awakens," director Rian Johnson told The New York Times in an interview published Wednesday. "Luke Skywalker, right now, is the last Jedi. There's always wiggle room in these movies—everything is from a certain point of view—but coming into our story, he is the actual last of the Jedi. And he's removed himself and is alone on this island, for reasons unknown."
The movie will center largely on Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). Johnson, who picks up where J.J. Abrams left off, wrote Luke's first line of dialogue since 1983's Return of the Jedi, as the character didn't appear onscreen until the final scene of The Force Awakens.
David James/Lucasfilm Ltd.
Jules Heath/Lucasfilm Ltd.
"That was the first thing I had to figure out. Why is Luke on that island? And I didn't have any answers. But it's not like you can just pick anything you want out of the air. I grew up having a sense of who Luke Skywalker is. It guides you to a very specific path. I know he's not hiding on the island. I know he's not a coward. He must be there for a reason that he believes in," he recalled. "You're finding a path forward, but there end up being fewer choices than you think."
In the first teaser trailer, released in April, Luke told Rey, "It's time for the Jedi to end."
The line sent fans into a frenzy all over again. "It sounds pretty dire. That's something that we're definitely going to dig into. The heart of the movie is Luke and Rey. It follows all the other characters, but its real essence is the development of the two of them," the director, 43, teased. "It's absolutely tied up in that question of, 'What is Luke's attitude toward the Jedi?'"
When he started work on the film, he naturally assumed Lucasfilm had mapped out the trilogy. "I had figured there would be a big map on the wall with the whole story laid out, and it was not that at all. I was basically given the script for Episode VII; I got to watch dailies of what J. J. was doing," Johnson recalled. "And it was like, where do we go from here? That was awesome."
Abrams made himself available to answer Johnson's continuity concerns. "But those questions only address what these characters want and how they get there," he said. And it's best not to answer everything all at once, anyway. "Take the question of who Rey's parents are: If you get the information—oh, it's that!—who really cares? I know a lot of people care, but it's interesting as opposed to impactful. Now, what is my place in the world? Where do I come from? Where do I belong? O.K., I understand what the weight of that is. We could play with those questions and their answers to have the biggest emotional impact on these characters."
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters Dec. 15.