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For the first time since 1977, it’s beginning to look as if Luke Skywalker has once again become the audience stand-in for the Star Wars franchise — at least when it comes to the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The sneak footage shown to Disney shareholders Wednesday gave Luke the chance to voice the question that fans have been asking since 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when he says to Rey, “Who are you?”
Of course, there’s every possibility Luke means it in a more literal sense than Star Wars fans; after all, to him, she’s a stranger who’s shown up on his island hideaway, offering him a lightsaber. Why wouldn’t he want to know who she is? He hasn’t seen the last movie, and so doesn’t know anything about her adventures with Han, Finn et al, nor why she suddenly has the Millennium Falcon. “Who are you?” is the most appropriate thing he could say to her.
But the question manages to make Luke more relatable to the audience than he has been since the first Star Wars movie. After three installments that first elevated him away from the viewer by stripping him of his “everyman” status in terms of abilities and later lineage, and then removed him from the narrative altogether, he once again comes back to the position of not being the character who knows more than other people about the primary storyline. Nor is he the focus of the narrative. Instead, he’s the one who needs answers — and, just as importantly, he is asking them of the character who is, for all intents and purposes, his replacement.
Placing the “Who are you?” as the focus of the first footage from the movie to be screened outside the confines of Lucasfilm is, in its own way, the mirror of the climax of The Force Awakens; as Rey presents the lightsaber to Luke at the end of that movie, cementing the continuity of the Skywalker Saga, if not necessarily the Jedi Order itself, so does Luke’s question present the role of protagonist to Rey — a metaphorical passing of the torch that also firmly focuses the audience’s attention on what is likely to be the core question at the heart of The Last Jedi.
That’s not to say that the movie will necessarily answer all the questions regarding the character’s backstory — indeed, I hope that it won’t, but that’s merely because I’m similarly hopeful that she won’t turn out to be Luke’s daughter. Instead, don’t be surprised if the film performs a similar task to that done by The Empire Strikes Back for Luke himself: a transformative, educational process that leaves her confident in her abilities and her sense of self ahead of the third and final installment of the trilogy. “Who are you?” isn’t just a question about origins, after all, but one of destiny, as well.
This first footage, then, does far more than would appear to be the case on first glance. It doesn’t just reveal that Mark Hamill hasn’t lost his voice, nor confirm that the opening of The Last Jedi does, in fact, pick up immediately from the climax of The Force Awakens. It resets the character dynamics of the series and reveals just what the movie is about, without spoiling any plot details whatsoever. If only all previews could be as simultaneously filled with meaning and devoid of specifics.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be released Dec. 15.
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