The next Star Wars film has itself a title other than Episode VIII.
And so we can speculate at length about the shades of meaning in that tile, just as we did so many decades ago when we first heard of the return of the Jedi. Does it mean that Luke will finally fall too, giving himself to the force like all his fallen friends and mentors? Does the title refer to Rey, the most direct choice? Does it mean redemption for Kylo, a chance to be Jedi instead of Sith? Or does it herald a deeper darkness, of the fall of the Jedi entirely? One might even be tempted to point out the grammatical possibilities: “Jedi” is both singular and plural, so the last may not mean only one.
But, I don’t think so.
The Last Jedi is a wonderful title, evoking the tragedy that trilogies demand in their middle chapters, while still showing a sparkle of that same through line of hope.
Thirty years ago, a ghostly Alec Guinness stared up at the stars, and mourned that that boy was our last hope. There was another, Yoda said, another whose last words on film in this universe would fittingly be that very word: hope.
And with Carrie Fisher’s death and the studio’s announcement that they will not be adding CGI Leia to the upcoming films, it means that over thirty years after Yoda’s intonation, his words are finally false and Luke stands alone again. Luke is finally, as Yoda said in his last film, the last of the Jedi.
The last Jedi, yes. But Star Wars has also always been about hope in the darkest times, of making impossible last stands. They’ve said that there are always two Sith and no more: a master and an apprentice. But as a fitting corollary, in the films that actually were made (the prequels don’t exist, right), there has only ever been a single Jedi. There has always been only one. Our hero is always the last hero. Another doesn’t rise until the first falls, an unbroken chain of new heroes picking up the lightsaber when the previous knight falls. From Obi-Wan to Luke and now to Rey.
Because no matter how grim the galaxy looks, however bleak the droid-cited odds, while there is a last Jedi, there is still hope. There is still a glittering blade of fire in the darkness.