The December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been subject to a fair number of leaks over the past few months, but an argument can be made they’re a benefit to Lucasfilm. Keeping in line with the highly-secretive marketing campaigns for The Force Awakens and Rogue One, advertising for Episode VIII has been brief to this point. A teaser trailer that debuted at Celebration Orlando back in April was light on plot details, and everything that’s officially come out since then has been characteristically brief. The Vanity Fair spread provided some clues about the story, but nothing major, and the character posters that arrived during D23 didn’t even show their subjects’ faces.
With actual advertising for The Last Jedi hard to come by (until Lucasfilm ramps up their efforts in the fall), fans have turned their attention to other means of promotion for the blockbuster. More so than its predecessors, Episode VIII has seen several leaks take place, primarily of toys and other merchandise. Thanks to images and descriptions of LEGO sets, Hasbro action figures, and even soft drink cans making their way online, audiences have gotten a better idea of what to expect from Rian Johnson’s film. Whether it’s possible action sequences or new character designs, the leaks have given people plenty to talk about. At first glance, this seems like an issue Lucasfilm should try to resolve, but the leaks have done more good than harm right now.
It’s important to keep in mind specifically what has been leaking. Fortunately, there’s been nothing as catastrophic as the infamous work print of X-Men: Origins Wolverine or an entire episode of Game of Thrones popping up on the Internet before its air date. The Last Jedi content that’s coming out early are materials that were going to be officially unveiled by Lucasfilm and their partners at a later date anyway. The Force Friday II event, basically a holiday to mark the first wave of tie-in products, takes place in September and will see those same LEGO kits and action figures hit store shelves. And while they have confirmed some of the rumors that’ve popped up (like the First Order’s mega Star Destroyer and Snoke’s golden robes), the toys have not revealed anything that can be considered an outright spoiler. The various twists and turns of the narrative are being preserved. Yes, Rey was included in a LEGO set for the Battle of Crait, but the odds were slim she’d stay on Ahch-To for the entire film.
Even the behind-the-scenes promotional images that recently leaked were safe, highlighting the principal cast in their costumes (some of which had already been shown in the Vanity Fair coverage) and not much else. The photos gave fans arguably their best look at the Last Jedi characters, including Supreme Leader Snoke in the flesh. Viewers had a fun time speculating amongst themselves what possible hints could be garnered from the pictures, but there was very little new information to be gleaned. Getting more glimpses of all the main players when few marketing materials exist was exciting without being revealing, and fans took great interest in the gallery. Though Lucasfilm did not want them to come out ahead of schedule, they served as terrific free advertising, giving the die-hard fans something new to chew over while they impatiently count down the days until the premiere.
As indicated earlier, there is a fine line to walk with the leaks. Toy packaging and posed pictures are fun, but what if something a little bigger came out? Just yesterday, sketches of two proposed theatrical poster designs arrived, and one implied Luke Skywalker is an antagonist in The Last Jedi. That reads as a plot spoiler, but there are some things to keep in mind. The theoretical one-sheet is being considered for the official marketing campaign once the next stage ramps up in October, and one cannot always take Star Wars advertising at face value. The months leading up to The Force Awakens depicted Finn as the new Jedi in training, only for moviegoers to learn that this is really Rey’s story. Just because Luke has the appearance of a villain on a poster doesn’t mean he actually is one. Lucasfilm seems to be generating debates and speculation themselves, injecting red herrings in advertising to spur discussion – which fans are happily taking part in.
Despite all the leaks that are happening on a regular basis, the general public still knows about as much now as they did at the beginning of 2017 when the movie’s title was announced. Only the most basic facts have been shared by Lucasfilm, such as Canto Bight being a playground for the galaxy’s elite or Finn embarking on an undercover mission for the Resistance. The juicier bits like the reason for Luke’s exile or Rey’s parentage are being preserved until December, which is just the way many would like it. It’s undeniably curious that so many leaks are happening to The Last Jedi when similar instances did not happen before, but it’s nothing to worry about for the executives. This isn’t to say Lucasfilm should encourage more leaks (they’ve been swift to remove images that have come out), though it definitely wouldn’t hurt. As long as it’s small details like what viewers have already been exposed to, the leaks are great free marketing for The Last Jedi and help satisfy those Star Wars cravings of moviegoers.
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