The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ended with a hint that Rey and Kylo Ren will unite, and the odds of it being a sneaky misdirect to throw fans off the scent are slim. Fans of the galaxy far, far away were more than excited to get another look at writer/director Rian Johnson's film earlier this month when the theatrical preview debuted online, and it's safe to say there were a few surprises in the footage. Perhaps the biggest moment came at the very end, when a lost Rey says, "I need someone to show me my place in all this." The next shot was a closeup of Kylo Ren, who held out his hand to his one-time nemesis, setting the stage for a very unlikely partnership.
While a team-up between heroine and villain is a jaw-dropping prospect, it would be somewhat unwise to take the trailer at face value. Marketing is known for the occasional tricky edit, and without the context of the finished film, it's impossible to say what will definitively happen. After all, trailers and TV spots for The Force Awakens depicted Finn wielding the lightsaber, but that proved to be a red herring of sorts (to be fair, he did use it) when it was revealed Rey is the Force-sensitive protagonist and rightful owner of the weapon. Because trailers can't always be trusted, some are convinced that this Rey/Kylo Ren interaction doesn't actually happen in the movie, though that argument doesn't hold much water.
Lucasfilm Knows What They're Doing
The question of whether or not Rey and Kylo Ren are in the same location during this stinger (and it looks like they are) is a fair one to ask, though it's largely irrelevant to the bigger picture. Since the beginning of this new Star Wars era, Lucasfilm has demonstrated a mastery of controlling the release of information, dictating when and where the general public uncovers more details about their highly-anticipated films. Their trailers, then, operate not as random out-of-context shots designed to sell a spectacle blockbuster, but strategically-selected montages that present overarching thematic elements to set expectations for the finished product.
One only has to look at the final trailer for The Force Awakens to see this concept in action. Though light on plot details, it establishes the main arcs of three of the principal characters. Rey was a self-proclaimed nobody destined for greater things. Finn was raised for a single purpose, but had a crisis of conscious and is left with nothing to fight for. Kylo Ren, seemingly committed to the dark side, pledged to finish what Darth Vader started. Granted, some of these exchanges and passages of dialogue did not appear in Episode VII, but this is very much how the actual movie played out. Lucasfilm also purposely withheld Luke Skywalker from Force Awakens marketing materials, making "Where's Luke?" a key talking point during the pre-release phase. As it turned out, the film's story was all about finding the missing Luke.
The Last Jedi, which has brilliantly replicated the Force Awakens advertising strategy beat-for-beat to this point, is following the playbook to a tee. Even if there are differences between the trailer and the film (there most certainly will be), the greater ideas the preview presents will be there. Rey, after learning about her extreme Force sensitivity, is in need of guidance to control her powers. Luke, haunted by what happened to Ben Solo, is scared to pursue training Rey, possibly abandoning her. Kylo Ren, once again, is going to struggle between the light and the dark, as evidenced by his apparent reluctance to kill General Leia Organa in a space battle. While this is probably an extreme illustration of Kylo's mindset in The Last Jedi, it plants the seeds for his continued development. Killing Han Solo only made things worse, and he's on the verge of having a breakdown.
Kathleen Kennedy and crew are quite savvy when it comes to the Star Wars fan base. They are well aware that even the tiniest quote about a new movie will generate a multitude of theories about what's in store, and what is (or isn't) in the trailers makes for the perfect way for the studio to engage viewers on a big stage and give them content to chew over. Given the massive popularity of the Star Wars brand, marketing for the modern films is simply a formality. The property sells itself just with its name. The objective of promotion, then, isn't to sell a movie the public has already bought into. It's to provide viewers with fodder for speculation to tide them over until the premiere date. Showing Kylo reaching out to Rey was a very conscious decision that sets the table for the next couple of months.
- 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