Did the marketing for Star Wars: The Last Jedi lie? The truth is, like the Force, rather complicated; Lucasfilm never misled about the story, but they sure did about the tone.
"This is not going to go the way you think." The second trailer for The Last Jedi gave that quote a position of prominence. In the film itself, Luke makes the comment to Rey about her journey. In the context of the trailer, though, it was taken to be a warning to fans that this film may not be what many were expecting. Although the marketing carefully avoided dropping any hints of the subversive themes and plots that are integral to the movie, this was a signpost for the film's true intentions.
There's been a lot of debate since Episode VIII's release about how unexpected its many twists and turns are, with some fans so shocked they've started petitions to remove the film from canon. The discussion goes bigger than the marketing, but how a big a role did all the trailers play into this?
The Trailers Didn't Lie About The Plot (This Page)
The First Teaser Showed Us Rey's Training
Let's start by examining the first trailer, released at Star Wars Celebration 2017. This teaser's main focus is on Rey and her training with Luke Skywalker. At the same time, the close leaves us realizing that Luke will not be teaching her how to become a Jedi; he thinks it's "time for the Jedi to end". For all this, a single scene of Rey's eventual training is used; Luke encourages her to reach out with the Force, then Rey describes three things: light, darkness, and a balance. The Resistance is presented as light, the shattered mask of Kylo Ren as darkness, and the ancient Jedi texts as a balance. Here, all of the main story beats are faithfully presented.
From the rest of the quick-fire footage of the trailer, we got a sense of the main locales and plot beats - fight on Crait, space battle above D'Qar - which again line up with what's expected. We even have a taste of Johnson's subversion care of the destruction of Poe's X-Wing. The only real point of contention would be Luke's final line, but even that was representative of his mood in the final film - the advertising just wasn't ready to elaborate further at this point.
The Second Trailer Was About Reylo
The second trailer goes even further. Once again, the dialog is leading: there's Luke's warning that this will not go the way we think; and Kylo Ren's twisted advice to "Let the past die. Kill it." The latter might as well be Johnson's motto in The Last Jedi; he takes the greatest symbols of the Star Wars past, and he either destroys them or subverts them. An iconic dark side mask? Mock it, then break it. Old leaders of the Rebellion like Admiral Ackbar? Kill them without a second thought.
In terms of plot, the most shocking element - and one that had many fans cry misleading or spoiler-filled advertising - was Kylo Ren offering Rey his hand. This does intercut two scenes in totally different locations - Rey is talking to Luke on Ahch-To, Kylo holding his hand on the Supremacy - and the inference is slightly adjusted, but there is a point in the film where the pair almost join forces out of a common ground and sense of loss. Again, the trailer faithfully sets up the main narrative.
The Last Jedi Trailers Together Point Towards The True Plot
What's most remarkable, though, is how the trailers were careful with what wasn't teased. Notice that Snoke is hardly present in the marketing at all; you hear some of his dialogue and catch a brief glimpse of the Supreme Leader, but there's little substance. It is easy to take as a mystery, but was really setting up that the film doesn't really care about him at all.
Yes, the trailers invited theories and inference to a movie that was ultimately heavy with subversion, but when you break them down, it's all very truthful and straight. The marketing never lied, it merely allowed the fans to do the misleading. At least when it comes to plot, that is.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019