Spoilers for all the Star Wars films to date lie ahead, plus, er, Batman Begins…
By now you’ll have seen the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, aka Star Wars Episode VIII, in all it’s ‘Luke actually has dialogue!’ glory.
Although it was brief, this promo video gave us plenty to chew on. Two talking points seem to stand out: Rey mentioning “the balance” of the Force, and Luke saying “it’s time for the Jedi to end.”
But what if these two lines are actually linked? What if the idea of ‘bringing balance to the Force’ is Luke’s motivation in wanting to make the Jedi Order a thing of the past?
I’m going to spell out my theory now, as simply as I can. I say theory, it’s more of a jumble of random thoughts that are probably way off the mark…
“Light… darkness… the balance”
“Reach out, what do you see?” instructs Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker.
“Light,” says Daisy Ridley’s Rey [surname TBC], as an image of Carrie Fisher’s Princess/General Leia appears on our screens.
Then comes an image of a smashed up mask, not unlike the ones worn by Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and the iconic Darth Vader. “Darkness,” says Rey.
Then we see what looks like a bookshelf in a tree, under a spotlight, followed by a gloved hand (Luke’s? Kylo’s?) hovering over a dusty Jedi Order logo. “The balance,” Rey intones.
“It’s so much bigger”, says Luke. Then we’re shown a long shot of Rey training with a lightsaber. And then the trailer moves on, teasing big big action beats and character reveals, which serve to distract us from what’s just been said.
That dialogue exchange, in my based-entirely-on-guesswork opinion, hints at one of the big topics of the film: the idea of the Force needing to be balanced. Of course, this is an idea that the Jedi have puzzled over before…
“Is he not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?”
The prequel trilogy introduced us to a lot of new concepts. Among them were Midichlorians, Toydarians, Anakin being born of a virgin, and sand being a valid topic for a romantic conversation.
One idea from the prequels that was bigger than any of those was the existence of a prophecy. A prophecy that spoke of a “Chosen One” that would “destroy the Sith” and “bring balance to the Force.”
A popular theory is that Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One. Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan was particularly sure of it, but not everyone felt quite as confident: Mace Windu once said “so the prophecy says” with rather a lot of sass, when Obi-Wan questioned him about Anakin’s Chosen One status, and Yoda suggested in that same conversation that the prophecy may have been misread.
When Anakin turned to the dark side, killed all the younglings, became Darth Vader and helped install a galaxy-wide dictatorship, Obi-Wan believed his apprentice had broken from the prophecy. Understandably enough.
But, given that Anakin later returned to the light and killed Darth Sidious aboard the second Death Star, before dying himself – seemingly destroying the Sith in the process – it’s still a popular belief in the fandom that Anakin was the chosen one after all. He just had a funny way of showing it, for rather a long time.
“A prophecy that, misread, could have been”
If that’s true, though, and Anakin was the Chosen One that brought balance to the Force, why does The Force Awakens exist at all? If the Force is so balanced now, why did Ben Solo turn to the dark side, kill Luke’s students, become Kylo Ren and attempt to install another galaxy-wide dictatorship?
Clearly, something ain’t right. Did the prophecy have an expiration date on it or something? (‘The Chosen One will bring balance to the Force… for a few years!’ isn’t quite as impressive, is it?) Or was it just wrong? Or was it never about Anakin at all?
Either way, it seems that Yoda was right: the prophecy was misread in some way.
By the time we returned to the galaxy far, far away for The Force Awakens, the dark side of the Force – through Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren – had amassed an awful lot of power, while the light side – through Luke – had been hidden on an island for a while. Where’s the balance in that?
It excites me – especially the ‘ooh, they’re connecting everything up!’ fan boy part of me – that the idea of “the balance”, that ambiguous state of equilibrium between light and darkness, will be brought up again in The Last Jedi.
And judging by some other clips from the trailer, we will be visiting that spot between Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens when things started to become so very imbalanced once again…
A turning point?
At some point after Return Of The Jedi, Luke decided to train “a new generation of Jedi”. As Harrison Ford’s Han Solo put it in The Force Awakens, “one boy, an apprentice, turned against him, destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible. He just walked away from everything.” It’s made clear by the rest of the film that this apprentice that went evil was Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s son.
I believe we’ve seen glimpses of this turning point in both The Force Awakens and the trailer for The Last Jedi. Those shots of a hooded Luke being surrounded by destruction, while R2-D2 stands idly by: that’s got to be the day that Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and burnt down Luke’s Jedi temple, right?
Luke must’ve been devastated by this. He must’ve thought he was doing the right thing, keeping the Force balanced by allowing the light side to grow once again through new Jedi. But then it was all snatched away from him, and the dark side rose again. The Sith, as Luke had known them before, may have been destroyed, but The First Order and The Knights Of Ren have appeared to take their place.
If Luke knows about the prophecy, this would’ve been the point that he realised it hadn’t been interpreted correctly (or that it had never been true at all). His father didn’t bring balance to the Force, at least not permanently, because evil had risen again to fill the gap that Anakin left behind.
It’s beginning to look more like a vicious cycle – Jedi take control, Sith snatch it back, rinse and repeat – than a galaxy governed by prophecies and destinies, isn’t it?
John Boyega’s Finn [surname non-existent] asked, in that same scene aboard the Millennium Falcon, from The Force Awakens, if Han knows what happened to Luke after his Jedi academy was destroyed. Han mentions a rumour: “people that knew him best think he went looking for the first Jedi temple.”
Clearly he found it, or something similarly ancient, judging by the location where Rey finds Luke at the end of the film. But what did Luke find there?
Is that bookshelf-looking thing from The Last Jedi’s trailer something that Luke found on his travels? Does it contain ancient Jedi knowledge? Did said knowledge cause Luke to surmise that the conflict he’s trapped in is “much bigger” than a simple balancing act between good and evil?
What if Luke found the original source of the ‘Chosen One’ prophecy, and realised that it had been butchered and altered by generations of translations? What if he read something that made him realise that he’s been doing it wrong all these years? What if he realised the Jedi Order wasn’t what the galaxy, or the Force, truly needs?
If those are ancient books, and Luke did find some scary ideas within them, perhaps this is why he’s decided that…
“It’s time for the Jedi to end”
Luke’s Jedi academy was destroyed. He’s been hanging out at an abandoned Jedi temple for ages. He thinks that the Force is “much bigger” than a seesaw balancing good and evil. He’s decided that it’s time for the Jedi to end. I’ve got a feeling – a possibly useless feeling, admittedly – that all of these things are linked.
Luke came out to Ach-To (as that tiny island with the old monastery thingy is apparently named) seeking advice from the oldest relics of his religion, and what he found has made him believe there’s no solution except dissolving the Jedi Order. But why would he decide that? What could he have learned that would make that seem like the logical answer?
Obviously we won’t know until Episode VIII or maybe even Episode IX comes out, but here’s what I’m theorising: Luke found the source of the ‘Chosen One’ prophecy on his travels, and what it actually says is that the way to bring balance to the Force and peace to galaxy is to destroy the Sith and the Jedi.
What if the prophesied “balance” isn’t about good (the Jedi) overcoming evil (the Sith), but instead about both sets of pieces being taken off the board so the galaxy can live in peace?
This would make a certain amount of sense. Installing ultra-nice Force users with laser swords and natty robes as peace-keepers for the galactic government only encourages those with alternative political beliefs to get their own laser swords and natty robes and use the Force to push their own agenda violently forward.
It’s a bit like that scene at the end of Batman Begins, when Commissioner Gordon warned Batman that his very existence – as a costumed crime-fighter with an air for theatricality – encourages criminals to come up with their own secret identities and gimmicks. Escalation is what Gordon called it, but I think it’s more of a cycle.
By having Jedi (or Batman), you encourage Sith (or the Joker) to rise up. It was true for the Old Republic inhabited by Yoda and Mace Windu and all the rest, and it was true decades later when Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order after Sidious fell. Each time the Jedi rise, the Sith emerge to cause trouble.
And the opposite can be true, too. When the Sith reigned supreme under Sidious, Luke rose up against all odds to become a Jedi Knight and bring the system down.
The galaxy far, far away is locked in a vicious cycle, where evil rises up to topple light-aligned governments on the regular, and vice versa.
Perhaps Luke is right, and the only true solution is to take the Jedi out of the equation. Of course, stopping Kylo and Snoke is also vital to finding peace, which is perhaps why Luke seems to be training Rey up despite his anti-Jedi beliefs.
But if there are going to be no Jedi and no Sith, what could we have instead? What would become of the Force? What would become of Star Wars? And of Luke? I think the minds behind this sprawling mega-franchise have been seeding a potential answer to that for a while….
“I’m no Jedi, but I know the Force”
Since the new era of Star Wars began, post-Disney takeover, the idea of non-Jedi-or-Sith Force users seems to be getting a lot of attention.
It was an idea that existed in the Expanded Universe of the old canon (see: the ‘Gray Jedi’ such as Jolee Bindo from Knights Of The Old Republic), but never really penetrated the movies (Leia was a non-Jedi with a bit of Force power, but that was never properly developed in the films).
This lack of neutral Force users in the films ended with The Force Awakens, where Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata said, plainly, “I’m no Jedi, but I know the Force.” Indeed, she seems to have a keen eye for knowing people’s destinies, and in a deleted scene she even moved objects using the Force. But she’s neither Jedi nor Sith.
Then, in Rogue One, we had Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe. He wasn’t a Jedi either, but his faith in the Force was palpable. And even though Stormtroopers are normally rubbish at shooting things, there was a sense that the Force was protecting Chirrut from their blaster fire at Scarif.
Side note: also in Rogue One, Diego Luna’s Cassian described Chirrut and Jiang Wen’s Baze as “The Guardians Of The Whills, The Protectors Of The Temple Of The Kyber.”
The first part of that harks back to George Lucas’ earliest planning stages of the original Star Wars, where he had envisioned immortal beings known as The Whills overlooking the whole saga. The idea was that the whole story was being recounted from a book entitled The Journal Of The Whills. The concept of the Whills eventually morphed into the idea of the Force.
Perhaps, in this current canon, The Journal Of The Whills is an ancient text about the Force. Maybe Chirrut and Baze were protecting it at one point, and Luke Skywalker eventually found it in his search for greater knowledge (possibly relating to the ‘Chosen One’ prophecy).
That would be a very cool way to tie it all up: bringing Lucas’ original vision, the prophecy from the prequels, the Star Wars Story spinoffs and the on-going sequel trilogy together into one humungous story.
But yes, back to my original point: recently, Star Wars has been serving up a lot of non-Jedi-or-Sith characters that can still use the Force. We’ve had Maz and Chirrut in the movies, and characters like the Bendu on Star Wars Rebels.
The Bendu is a massive creature (voiced by Tom Baker) that has an equally massive understanding of the Force. He’s available for sage advice and cryptic mysticism, but he doesn’t pick sides and get involved with the conflict. He’s a genuinely neutral character, in tune with the Force above all else. Balanced, you could say.
“Perhaps it is the will of the Force that the Jedi and all your kind perish,” said Bendu in a recent episode, while refusing to pick a side in the battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. It seems like Bendu and Luke have learned similar lessons from the Force.
Maybe this all-powerful mystical energy does not wish to be used in a war between good and evil. Perhaps it wants to be a neutral force in a peaceful galaxy, with neither the Jedi or the Sith wielding its power.
Also in Rebels, Ashoka Tano and Darth Maul are both shown to have cut their ties, with the Jedi and the Sith respectively, but they’re both still capable Force users and lightsaber wielders.
With every new thing that’s released in this rejuvenated Star Wars canon, the idea of the Jedi and the Sith being the only sorts of Force users seems to be diminishing. It’s a much bigger world than that…
Okay, I’ve probably rambled enough now. I’m sorry if that wasn’t quite as clear on paper as it all sounded in my head. I realise this is a sprawling canon, and in trying to explain my thoughts about “the balance” to real-life people I’ve been met with some blank looks.
Essentially, I think that the prophecy from the prequels is going to become a big talking point again. Since Anakin clearly didn’t bring permanent balance to the Force by killing Sidious, I think Luke will take a stab at bringing peace to the galaxy in his own way. Maybe he’s the Chosen One.
I think Luke has been on a search for ancient Jedi knowledge since Kylo Ren destroyed his academy between Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens.
Whatever Luke found (be it The Journal Of The Whills or some other source of old info), I think it’s made him believe that both the Jedi and the Sith need to cease existence in order for the galaxy to truly know peace.
I think the minds behind Star Wars have been trying to tease this for a while, seeding the idea that the Force can work through people that aren’t card-carrying Sith or Jedi, such as Maz, Chirrut, Maul, Ashoka and the Bendu. (That Bendu line about the Force wanting the Jedi “and all [their] kind” to perish certainly ties in with Luke’s new belief.)
Of all of those non-Jedi-or-Sith Force users, I think Maz and the Bendu are most likely to influence Luke’s journey going forward: they are both in tune with the Force, but they don’t use it to wage wars or rule with an iron fist or police the galaxy, they just use it to try and help people, offering advice and guidance when they can.
Of course, since Star Wars is going to keep existing for a long time yet, I’m not expecting everyone else to share Luke’s ideologies. Kylo and Snoke will obviously fight hard to keep their strain of Sith-lovers alive, and perhaps Rey will argue that the Jedi are still needed despite what Luke has learned. And despite what the Force itself might want.
Also, no Jedi and no Sith might be the recipe for true galactic peace, but Lucasfilm is hardly going to stop churning out lightsaber toys and action-packed movies…