Will Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi Be as Dark as Empire Strikes Back?

Kylo Ren Darth Vader helmet Force Awakens

Warning: possible SPOILERS for Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi.

Traditionally, the middle act of a play is the bleakest, since it places the protagonists we’ve (hopefully) grown to love into the worst possible situations. The Skywalker saga is no different. Seeing as Star Wars runs in cycles of three, and the middle film tends to be the darkest (although not necessarily), The Last Jedi, much like Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, is the second act of the third trilogy, representing the dusk before Episode IX dawns.

From the first two trailers, The Last Jedi looks every bit as dark as Empire, perhaps even more somber at times, if action-packed. Luke is already shown back in black (or at least a deep brown), and actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley teased it was a much more ominous film as well. Could director Rian Johnson have fashioned one of the grimmest – although probably not Revenge of the Sith scores-of-dead-Padawans horrible – Star Wars film yet?

"A Domain of Evil It Is"

Much like the gang in Star Wars: A New Hope, things looked pretty rough for Rey, Finn, and the Resistance during the climax of The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren had just killed his own father, Han Solo, and Starkiller Base was juicing up to zap D’qar from afar. Thankfully, Finn, Rey, and Chewbacca, with some help from Poe and his Black Squadron, defeated Kylo Ren and blew up the First Order’s superweapon (where do they get those wonderful toys). To top that off, they popped in the last piece of the puzzle, locating intergalactic sage, Luke Skywalker.

Since the First Order knows where the Resistance’s secret base is, though, Episode VIII will feature the obligatory escape from D’Qar sequence – one which will test Kylo and Poe’s piloting skills. In addition, it looks like the First Order forces will take out several of the Resistance's limited capital warships during their assault. Later on, both groups will face off on the salt-covered ruddy world of Crait, a battle which hearkens back to Empire as well. There, the plucky rebels will meet the neo-Empire’s state-of-the-art AT-M6 “gorilla walkers” with antiquated ski speeders. Suffice to say, the First Order can probably chalk up another tally in the ‘w’ column after this skirmish.

On top of that, the Resistance may have defeated the Order’s solar system killer, but it appears they’re also in for some internal strife. Rumor has it Laura Dern’s character, Vice Admiral Holdo isn’t keen on General Leia or her direction with the breakaway forces. Plus, Snoke, Kylo, and General Hux – not to mention Captain Phasma – are down one superweapon and looking to take it out on the Resistance. Of course, they may do so in many, more subtle ways too.

Kylo Ren's Dark Side Connection Strengthens

The second trailer gives fans several fantastic shots of the former Ben Solo, zipping his ship through the grandiose space battle. Far more disturbing, though, is a smaller moment when he takes aim at the very Mon Calamari cruiser his mother, General Leia Organa, commands. Killing his mother and thousands on board would signify a particularly dark moment in the saga, one akin to Vader’s final, tooth-and-nail duel with Luke. Patricide is bad enough, but parricide definitely trumps it – a death made all-the-more heartbreaking if a Force-sensitive Leia can sense her son’s hatred and betrayal in the moments before her destruction.

Of course, since Leia was scheduled to have a larger role in Episode IX before Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing, perhaps Kylo chokes up (pun sort of intended) on his would-be matricide. Even if she survives, there are many more disturbing elements to unpack in The Last Jedi.

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
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