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With all the excitement surrounding the title reveal of the next Star Wars movie — and all the subsequent speculation about just who the Last Jedi could be — one important question about the franchise has remained unanswered: Would it really be such a bad thing if the Jedi were to disappear entirely?
This question is, of course, heresy for many Star Wars fans: at least one lead character in each of the “Skywalker saga” movies — which is to say, everything outside Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — has been a Jedi, or part of their opposite number, the Sith. The Jedi have been the backbone of the series to date, providing the primary differentiator that separates Star Wars from earlier takes at space opera, and becoming the basis for the fan-favorite mythology behind the series, as well as the catchphrases about not the droids you’re looking for, or letting the Force be with you. The Jedi are Star Wars, on some basic level.
And yet, inside the movies themselves, the Jedi are terrible.
It’s not merely that the Jedi Order was so ineffectual that it missed the rise of the Emperor and somehow utterly failed to notice that Anakin Skywalker, their self-proclaimed savior who would bring “balance to the Force,” was being corrupted by outside forces (no pun intended) — although, really, that should be enough of an argument that perhaps the galaxy is no safer with them around, all things considered. There’s also the fact, judging by the events of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi were also unable to deal with attacks by (a) a fellow Jedi or (b) soldiers with guns who traditionally have very poor aim. As a collective, the Jedi left more than a little to be desired in the reliability stakes.
(That’s to say nothing of the argument that, if Anakin Skywalker hadn’t been trained by the Jedi in the first place, he wouldn’t have been nearly as dangerous as Darth Vader…if, in fact, the Emperor had been able to find him in the first place. Ultimately, the Jedi were in large part responsible for creating the threat of the original trilogy.)
Narratively, too, the Jedi are troublesome in the larger scheme of Star Wars. As the prequel trilogy demonstrated, a little bit of Jedi goes a long way; the disciplined Jedi is one that sheds all the fun things about a fictional character — personal desires, ambition and fears — which makes for a very dry story when they make up a sizable proportion of the cast. Much preferable are characters such as Han Solo, Leia Organa or Lando Calrissian — scum and villainy, and displaced royalty alike — who are allowed to have human weaknesses and feel both more believable and more fun as a result.
Strangely enough, it was last year’s Rogue One that demonstrated both that a Star Wars movie can survive without the Jedi, and also suggested a way for that to work narratively. Chirrut Imwe’s belief in the Force, despite his inability to use it himself, was arguably more affecting than anything Obi-Wan or Luke managed in the original trilogy with their Jedi skills. After all, getting rid of the Jedi wouldn’t get rid of the Force, even if, as The Force Awakens has already demonstrated, the Force has been reduced to the status of urban (cosmic?) myth.
More important, the permanent fall of the Jedi would allow Star Wars to eventually create something new in their place, with The Force Awakens‘ Rey as the model: someone with great ability to use the Force, but in a way that allows their emotions to guide them, for the better. If the franchise is going to grow and move forward in terms of diversity, narrative focus and sheer scale, then perhaps it’s time to let it move on from its mythological roots, as well.
If nothing else, the fall of the Jedi would finally allow Star Wars to move past what remains its lowest point to date: the Padawan braid. That alone should be enough argument for their demise, let’s be honest.
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