After the thrilling ending of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and general audiences alike couldn't wait to find out what happens next. With the Star Wars franchise now on a yearly installment pattern, they won't have to wait long. Rogue One: A Star Wars story, the franchise's first spin-off movie, made a big impact as 2016's Star Wars installment, and now all eyes are on December 2017 in anticipation of the return of the characters from The Force Awakens in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
This article is meant to serve as a compendium of major Episode VIII news and information, so be sure to check back regularly to follow the movie's progress throughout the rest of the year. Also check out our compilation of all the news on the next Star Wars anthology film, Han Solo.
Here's Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi.
15 The Last Jedi
The official subtitle for Star Wars: Episode VIII is The Last Jedi. This title could have any number of meanings, but the most obvious is in reference to Luke Skywalker. He was explicitly referred to as the last Jedi by both Yoda in Return of the Jedi and by the opening crawl of The Force Awakens. It makes sense that the title could revolve around him, since he was almost entirely absent from Episode VII, and most of the franchise’s question marks have to do with what he’s been up to and why he went missing.
Of course, the title doesn’t have to be about Luke exclusively, or at all. The word Jedi is the same in both its singular and plural form, so it could be referring to any combination of Luke, Rey, and maybe even Kylo Ren. Even more out of left field, however unlikely, there’s a chance it could be Kanan Jarrus or Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels, or a brand new character. The chances that it's not referring to a character from The Force Awakens are slim to none, but with little to work with but the title, there’s still a lot of room for speculation.
14 It Starts Immediately After The Force Awakens
As seen in the production announcement footage, The Last Jedi will open immediately following the events of The Force Awakens, possibly even picking up mere seconds after Rey finds Luke, as the production teaser even shows Rey holding the Skywalker lightsaber out to him.
This is a fairly significant departure from the other Star Wars sequels, which usually take place several years after the previous movie. There is no fixed rule, though, as the gaps vary greatly, from an entire decade between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones to only a year between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, obviously leaving out the 19 years and 30 years between each of the trilogies. Even so, most Star Wars movies see a number of off screen changes occur between movies - leaving room for comics, novels, and animated shows to fill the gap - so this uninterrupted story passing between VII and VIII will be a significant change for the franchise.
13 Rian Johnson is the Writer/Director
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson, who’s most well known for writing and directing Brick, a twist on the hardboiled noir detective genre set in a high school, and Looper, a time-bending story about an assassin who’s hired to kill an older version of himself. His past filmography has demonstrated a great grasp of themes and characters that make him an excellent choice for a Star Wars movie.
Like most Star Wars directors, Johnson says he’s a major Star Wars fan, and that one of his earliest memories is of his dad taking him to see the first Star Wars movie in theaters. Like George Lucas before him, Johnson says he drew inspiration for The Last Jedi from both World War II and Samurai movies, specifically Three Outlaw Samurai and 12 O’Clock High. Johnson (who is also on the record as a prequel defender)is also the first person other than George Lucas to be credited as the sole writer and director of a Star Wars movie, so it makes sense when he talks about the films “intimacy,” as it will likely come from a more singular vision.
12 Returning Characters
The Last Jedi is expected to see most surviving main characters from The Force Awakens return (sorry Han!), including Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma (who apparently made it off Starkiller Base). Details are sparse for some characters, but we’ll be sure to update as more information becomes apparent. The following may include minor spoilers, so skip to the next item if you want to stay spoiler free.
The Force Awakens leaves Finn in a dire state after his ill fated attempt to duel Kylo Ren. It would appear that he’s back on his feet and better than ever thanks to some time spent healing in a bacta suit.
Ren also has some healing to do after his confrontation with Rey. It appears that he’ll also get a costume and ship upgrade, both bringing his look closer to his idol, Darth Vader. Despite the character’s dark turn, Adam Driver says he’s excited for fans to see more of Ren’s humanity.
Kaydel Ko Connix
Lieutenant Connix, played by Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, may not have had much screen time in Episode VII, but Lourd suggested that Connix won’t only be back, but she'll also have an (at least somewhat) expanded role for the sequel.
Luke and Rey
Luke and Rey appear to be joined at the hip for most of The Last Jedi. “A large part of the movie” is supposed to dig into Luke’s exile and Rey’s realization of her potential . Luke is also expected to be the seasoned Jedi fans have been longing to see since the end of Return of the Jedi, back in black robes with at least one elaborate effects sequence. Daisy Ridley says he’s “so cool,” so we have to take her word for it.
General Leia Organa
Early rumors suggest Leia’s involvement in Episode VIII will be greatly expanded from her limited role in VII. After Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing, Leia’s place in future films is up in the air, but the actress already completed all her scenes for The Last Jedi, so the problem of what to do with Leia may be in the hands of Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow.
11 New Characters
In addition to the returning characters, several new characters will be added to the cast, including both high profile castings and a newcomer.
Benicio Del Toro
Very little is known about who Del Toro is playing. It was originally assumed (and corroborated by him) that he would be playing a villain, but he later corrected himself, and more recent rumors suggest he’s a little more morally ambiguous.
Kelly Marie Tran
Episode VIII will be one of the first big screen appearances for Kelly Marie Tran. Her character appears to be a part of Finn’s story, possibly involving a romantic connection. She’s an information broker who hasn’t traditionally picked sides, but she gets swept up in Finn’s mission.
10 Script Praise
Some of the earliest buzz to come out about about Episode VIII, even before the release of Episode VII was that the script is great. Obviously the cast isn’t going to exactly trash on Rian Johnson’s writing, it’s rare that cast and crew speak negatively about projects they’re involved in, even if they tank, but the amount of praise Rian Johnson’s scrip has received is definitely notable, especially from Adam Driver, who has raved about the script on multiple separate occasions.
Gwendoline Christie also chimed in, essentially guaranteeing that everyone will love the movie, although, it is Star Wars, so Christie is definitely betting on a winning horse. It’s not only the cast, though. It’s been said that J.J. Abrams wishes he could direct VIII because of Johnson’s script. Obviously only time will tell what all the praise is about, but they’re certainly not concerned about setting the bar high.
9 Tonal Shift
Like the second installment of the first two trilogies, it looks like The Last Jedi will also experience a tonal shift from The Force Awakens, if just comparing the titles didn’t make that evident. Like the script, the tone has been a hot topic of discussion from most actors, including John Boyega (twice), and Oscar Isaac.
Emphasizing the evolution from The Force Awakens, Isaac also said “Rian [Johnson] is definitely going to places and investigating things that haven’t really been done in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” and Adam Driver, during one of his script praises, said:
“It’s great. It’s similar to how The Empire Strikes Back has a different tone. For that people always go “oooh, it’s dark” but I don’t know that it necessarily is. It’s just different in tone in a way that I think is great and necessary but also very clear.”
Just how much "darker" The Last Jedi goes won't be known until the marketing starts to advertise the tone, but the consensus definitely points to a shift from The Force Awakens.
8 Fan Theories
Anyone that has seen The Force Awakens knows there’s a multitude of fan theories bouncing around the internet, namely revolving around the identity of Rey and Supreme Leader Snoke.
The predominant theories for Rey’s parentage are split between fans that think she’s a Skywalker and fans that think she’s a Kenobi. Episode IX director Colin Treverrow actually commented on this point to say “the relationships that [Rey is] making now are kind of more important than where she comes from, but that’s just me”, and Daisy Ridley also said she thought The Force Awakens was fairly clear on Rey’s identity, but the only thing Rey really said on that matter was “I am no one” in a scene from the trailer that didn’t make it into the final film. When asked directly if she was a Kenobi, she said “We will see in a year … Just sit tight on that question.”
Supreme Leader Snoke
Fan theories on the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke have run rampant on the internet, despite insistence before the movie’s release that Snoke is a brand new character. Nevertheless, fans want to know where he came from and why he’s leading the First Order.
The most popular theory seemed to be that he’s Darth Plagueis, although Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo seems to have confirmed that’s not the case. Other speculation says maybe he’s a new character from the Aftermath novels. Either way, a reveal will have to wait for Episode VIII or later.
7 A Continued Emphasis on Practical Effects
The Force Awakens made its use of practical effects a big point of emphasis during production. While the final film did have its fair share of CGI, fans were far more accepting of it than many of the CGI heavy prequels (which ironically used more physical models than the original trilogy). Rogue One continued that tradition, and now The Last Jedi is also looking to avoid CGI when possible. In fact, it’s possible that Supreme Leader Snoke will end up being a giant puppet, even though he was digitally animated in The Force Awakens.
Episode VIII is also shot on 35mm film. Film is much more vibrant, but also more expensive than digital photography. George Lucas was actually a champion of digital photography for a variety of reasons, and even pioneered its cinematic use with Attack of the Clones, but all of the post Disney Star Wars movies so far have been shot on film.
6 Force Spirits
Since once of the last shots of Return of the Jedi showed the Force spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin, fans began to speculate about the possibility of those characters getting involved in The Force Awakens. It turned out that Luke was entirely absent from the movie, other than the last few seconds, so there wasn't much opportunity, but Ewan McGregor ended up getting a voice cameo in Rey’s vision, and Frank Oz even recorded audio that ended up getting cut from the final film.
Now that Luke and Rey are a big focus, though, could we see some departed Jedi? Several rumors suggest Frank Oz has again recorded audio, Obi-Wan is rumored to have a part to play, and even more rumors have Hayden Christensen set for an appearance. Their inclusion would make a lot of story sense after the way Return of the Jedi ended, but with Yoda audio and Anakin concept art that didn’t translate into the final picture for VII, it’s important to take these rumors with a grain of salt.
5 The Napkin Bombing
The Lucasfilm Story Group works behind the scenes to make sure all Star Wars stories work together, on screen and off. Some of their impact can be seen in the Leia centric novel, Bloodline, set only a few short years before The Force Awakens. It features an event dubbed 'The Napkin Bombing', which it turns out was included in Bloodline at the behest of Rian Johnson in order to set up events for The Last Jedi.
The Napkin Bombing was an orchestrated attempt by traitorous members of the New Republic Senate who were secretly trying to lay the groundwork for the emergence of the First Order. Leia was tipped off when she saw a warning written on her napkin, giving her the chance to evacuate most of the senate building on Hosnian Prime.
Obviously the entirety of the Hosnian system was destroyed in The Force Awakens, but the Napkin Bombing had a role to play before the First Order even announced itself, and apparently will have an impact on events of The Last Jedi as well.
4 Possible Tom Hardy Cameo
Star Wars has such a massive following that there’s naturally a lot of celebrities that would love an opportunity to sneak in a moment on screen in a galaxy far, far away. The Force Awakens was choc full of cameos, including a fan favorite moment featuring James Bond actor Daniel Craig as the stormtrooper Rey Jedi mind tricks into releasing her and giving her a blaster.
Early rumors suggest Tom Hardy will show up as stormtrooper in a cameo role similar to Daniel Craig’s, although when he was asked about his involvement directly, he played coy, saying “I don’t know if I can even say that. Where did you hear that? ...Ah, the internet is a glorious web of deceit and misinformation, isn’t it?”
True or false, there’s bound to be a few familiar faces and voices sprinkled throughout the background of The Last Jedi, even if it’s not Tom Hardy.
3 Official Photos
Official marketing hasn’t kicked off yet, so there haven’t been any trailers or promotional photos (and there likely won’t be until Spring), but there have been a few behind the scenes photos and videos to help tide fans over until the inevitably massive marketing push this fall.
The first look didn’t present any new characters or locations from what we saw in The Force Awakens, since it was an announcement of the start of shooting, which took place on Skellig Michael between Luke and Rey, which is the same way The Force Awakens ended.
Outside of that video, Rian Johnson has used a few images via his Tumblr, including pictures of Maz Kanata and Luke’s Jedi robes, and one image to his Instagram, featuring the very start of the movie’s opening crawl.
During the Future Filmmakers Discussion at last year’s Star Wars Celebration a few more images were released, including one of the camera crew on Skellig Michael, a studio shot of the crew, including Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels executive producer, Dave Filoni, and an image of Rogue One director, Gareth Edwards, in costume as an extra.
2 More Force Mythology
In addition to the potential of Force spirits, The Last Jedi is primed to dig into more lore surrounding the Force in a way that no previous Star Wars movie has. With the Force “awakening” in Episode VII, and Rey still almost completely unfamiliar with the nature of the Force, so there's a lot to cover. The Last Jedi also picks up immediately after The Force Awakens, which is a moment in the Jedi training of Luke and Anakin that’s largely glossed over in other movies, happening primarily off-screen.
Outside of our first cinematic deep dive into Force training, there might be a couple Force visions like we saw in The Force Awakens, one serving as a continuation of Rey’s vision in Maz Kanata’s palace, with the other delving into the ancient history of the Force.
Additional rumors say the Skellig Michael scenes will feature a sort of avian creature that might be the convorees seen in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Convorees have had a strong connection to the Force in both series, with some speculating that they serve as an avatar for departed Force wielders that haven’t learned to manifest their consciousness after death like Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker.
1 When You Can Get The Last Jedi Merchandise
What would Star Wars be without action figures, toy vehicles, coloring books, Pez dispensers, and lunch boxes? As Yogurt says in Spaceballs: “Merchandising, merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!” Much is made over The Force Awakens' record shattering $2 billion box office haul, but far more Star Wars money is made outside the theater. In 2015, Star Wars branded consumer packaged goods, like Mac n’ Cheese or cereal, sold over $243 million, while many analysts predicted a 2015 haul of $5-6 billion.
Because of the popularity of Star Wars merchandise, Lucasfilm typically holds a special launch day event known as 'Force Friday' where all the major retail chains reveal the new Star Wars products. While last year’s Force Friday fell on September 1st, early rumors say The Last Jedi products will hit store shelves on September 5th, 2017.
What makes you the most excited for Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi? Let us hear about it in the comments! Be sure to check back to see additional updates as we approach the movie’s release on December 15th, 2017.