The Last Jedi.
It’s an odd title, to some extent.
It fits perfectly within standard Star Wars vernacular, paraphrasing Yoda from Return of the Jedi, yet to a certain, almost intangible extent, it feels a little off.
Plenty of fans have already begun concocting theories as to who this titular last Jedi might be, and considering the speed at which these are appearing, it does feel as if the entire fandom has yet again been trapped in a JJ Abrams-esque Mystery Box.
The title has a sort of Half Blood Prince feel to it, in that it refers to a specific character directly, but refuses to elaborate, forcing you to wade through the plot of the movie to discover what it’s actually referring to.
Hopefully, unlike the Half Blood Prince movie, The Last Jedi will actually bother to give some kind of reference or clues to its meaning along the way, rather than end with Alan Rickman yelling, “It was me all along!” for no apparent reason.
But then, vague descriptions are very much in the spirit of Star Wars movie titles. You could be forgiven for still not knowing what The Force Awakens actually refers to, unless you compare notes with other viewers and take a leap of faith on Rey. The trailer for JJ Abrams’ movie original promised “an awakening”, which, as it turned out, was some sort of metaphor for Rey’s puberty? Perhaps? It’s hard to be certain.
This isn’t merely symptomatic of new Star Wars titles, although it is most keenly felt in the new sage. The Phantom Menace is a vague title, sure, but that’s kind of the point, and it fits well with the movie villains who are steeped in shadows until Ewan McGregor cuts Darth Maul in half.
By comparison, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are pretty straightforward, though, giving you all the information you need. There are clones in one of these movies, and they attack things. Then the Sith do some revenging. Succinct, and to the point—not that this helped the overall quality of the movies in question.
The Empire Strikes Back, similarly, would be hard to misunderstand. That movie might as well have been titled, Luke’s Dad Chops Off His Hand—you get everything you really need from the poster. Goodbye Echo base, hello super star destroyer.
It’s plausible to imagine a group of Star Wars fans sitting around to discuss what Return of the Jedi means as a title – will the movie see a hitherto unseen group of Jedi appearing to save the day? That said, considering that for most of its development, the movie was called Revenge of the Jedi, it’d be difficult to see people misconstruing what the movie promises based on its title.
A New Hope doesn’t really count, which is a shame, as it’s the most JJ Abramsy or Rian Johnsony title among the lot. What hope? What’s new about it? Does this refer to Luke specifically, to the Death Star plans, or to something else entirely.
Perhaps I’m being willfully ignorant of the meaning of these titles, in order to justify the almighty debate that’s raging around The Last Jedi as a title. Fans everywhere are coming up with theories as to what this refers to, even though it’s pretty clear that it’s a reference to Luke.
Rian Johnson has been humming to himself, no doubt, as he casually stokes the flames of intrigue with an Instagram post of The Last Jedi’s opening crawl. Yup, that’s definitely the name of the movie. Resume speculating, peasants!
This kind of deliberately mysterious title shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering JJ Abrams’ influence on the new Star Wars saga. The man loves generating intrigue among fans, and will openly lie about Benedict Cumberbatch if it’ll make people more curious about his movies.
This is a cheap storytelling tactic. Deliberately obfuscating the identity of Rey’s parents works essentially like clickbait, drawing us in with the promise of a good riddle to solve, then leaving us without a decent answer.
Personally, I cannot abide Abrams’ Mystery Boxes. They’re not actually fun, and are designed to keep audiences enthralled in the absence of true entertainment. If Abrams can’t tell a decent story, he shouldn’t be leading people on with mysteries that ultimately turn into plot holes.
So here’s hoping that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi doesn’t turn into the kind of teasing mystery-filled nonsense that its title suggests. If I come out of the movie without being sure of who this “last Jedi” is, I’ll be pretty annoyed.
George Lucas’ Star Wars movies never left us with any mysteries to solve, except, in the case of the prequels, the question of how an acclaimed director could go so absolutely insane.
But perhaps The Last Jedi is as straightforward as it sounds, and we’re all simply inventing mystery where none was intended.
If so, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. It wouldn’t be the first time fan theories went wild for no reason.