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As dramatic — and effective — as the title of the next Star Wars movie may be, it’s far from the first time that a galaxy far, far away has seen the “last Jedi.”
In fact, the title (or a close variation) has been used no less than three previous times as titles of official Star Wars releases, to say nothing of fan films or lines of dialogue in Return of the Jedi. (Yoda calls Luke the last Jedi as he dies; it’s why the title is so sticky.) So who are the other “last” Jedi, and what clues (if any) do they offer to the next Star Wars movie?
The Last Jedi (1981)
The 49th issue of Marvel’s original Star Wars comic didn’t really seem like anything special when it first appeared. On a mission, Luke and Leia encounter Jedidiah, a senile alien who was once almost a Jedi but now, in the words of a medical droid, will “never have a rational thought again.” (He refers to himself throughout using a shortened version of his name: “Jedi.” Get it?) Luckily, he didn’t need rational thoughts — when Luke is in trouble, he reaches out using the Force, which spurs Jedi into action. Although he saves Luke, Jedi dies in the process, leading Luke to commemorate him the traditional way: standing on top of a space ship and raising his lightsaber, just like he did in all the movies, obviously.
Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi (2005-08)
Although the title of this 10-book YA prose series isn’t exactly accurate — it takes place post-Jedi purge in Revenge of the Sith, which means there are at least two other Jedi out there: Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi — it does at least feature someone trained in the ways of the Force, as Ferus Olin, former Padawan learner, tries to survive in the years following the fall of the Jedi Order. Spoilers: It really doesn’t go well for him in the end, when he faces Darth Vader. You remember what happened to the Rebel soldiers at the end of Rogue One, right?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2013)
A variation on the theme of the Last of the Jedi series, this novel follows Jax Pavan — this time, an actual Jedi Knight, albeit one who’s been forced into hiding following the slaughter of the other Jedi in Revenge of the Sith as he finds himself tempted by the Dark Side of the Force while working as a private investigator on the planet of Coruscant, and eventually discovers the true identity of Darth Vader. While he manages to survive the story — a rarity in “Last Jedi” tales, apparently — the ending isn’t exactly a happy one; he remains in hiding, and doesn’t reclaim his Jedi training or step forward to lead the Rebellion against the Empire.
If there’s one piece of connective tissue between all three stories, it’s that the eponymous Jedi of each story isn’t a Jedi by the end of it — either they’re dead, or they’re in hiding. This doesn’t bode well for whoever the title of the new movie is about, be it Luke, Rey or someone else … but if they can take any solace, it’s probably unlikely that they’re going to have to go underground in the wake of the murder of most of their colleagues (or, for that matter, sacrifice themselves for strangers they’ve just met while in late stages of senility), so at least there’s that.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be released Dec. 15.
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The Green Knight