This post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has revealed a series of crucial flashbacks peppered throughout the film were a late addition to the script, first appearing shortly before principal photography started. One of the big questions posed by The Force Awakens was why Ben Solo turned to the dark side and became Kylo Ren. Episode VIII provides the CliffsNotes version via Rashomon-inspired flashbacks that peel back some of the mystery. Ultimately, the audience learns Luke Skywalker sensed the dark side had taken over his nephew, and for a fleeting moment contemplated killing Ben in his sleep. Luke’s prized pupil awoke to find his uncle standing over him with lightsaber in hand, destroyed Skywalker’s Jedi temple, and ran off with the Knights of Ren.
Though the flashbacks take up a short amount of the 2.5-hour runtime, there’s no denying they’re critical to the Last Jedi story, informing the arcs of the characters involved. With this information in mind, it’s easy to understand why Luke would flee to the “most unfindable place in the galaxy,” ashamed of his actions. It also turns Kylo Ren into an empathetic villain, making his betrayal of his family justifiable in some twisted way. It’s hard to envision to movie without these scenes, which is why it’s surprising they were last-minute additions.
Related: Kylo Ren’s Backstory Explained
In the book The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson discussed his writing process of the flashbacks, which became part of the script over Lucasfilm’s 2015 holiday break:
“The three flashbacks were a late addition – one of the last things that went into the script before we started shooting. It’s similar to Rashomon, but the actual story motivation was that I wanted some harder kick to Rey’s turn: ‘You didn’t tell me this.’ I wanted some harder line that was crossed – a more defined thing that we could actually see – between Luke and Kylo. I didn’t want to do a big flashback. So one flashback that you repeat three times but that’s just one moment seemed more right. Ultimately, the only one who lies is Luke, in the very first flashback, where he omits the fact that he had a lightsaber in his hand. Kylo is basically telling the truth about his perception of the moment.”
This was a big blow for Rey, who grew up hearing stories and legends of the Jedi Order and Luke Skywalker. To her, Luke was a hero to look up to, but actually meeting him drastically changed her perception. It was alarming for Rey to discover the man who saved Darth Vader gave up on his own nephew, which inspired her to try to turn Ben back herself. Sensing Kylo’s inner-turmoil through their Force link conversations, Rey believed there was a chance Ren could be turned and give the Resistance a glimmer of hope. It makes for powerful storytelling, adding layers to the emotional core of The Last Jedi. Time will tell if non-movie canon with further detail Luke and Ben’s relationship, but these flashbacks were compelling enough on their own.
From the sound of things, Rey was always going to leave Ahch-To without Luke, and it would have been interesting to see how that moment would have played without these flashbacks. In the final film, they’re a highly necessary component that sheds light on why Rey, Luke, and Kylo make certain decisions. Odds are, Rey’s departure would have fallen a little flat if these sections were never added. The flashbacks also make Luke’s arc all the more poignant, since he’s able to look past his regret and combat his demons via his self-sacrifice, where he faced Kylo Ren so the Resistance could escape.
Source – The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi
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