Whether praising its return to form or decrying its lack of innovation, one thing that everybody can agree on is that the Disney Star Wars movies are pitch-perfect callbacks to the original trilogy. Stripped down to its core, The Force Awakens was about a child of destiny, a pilot and an Imperial insider teaming up with a cutesy droid to stop a black clad villain’s attempts to use an over-sized superweapon to destroy the galaxy one planet at a time. Even Rogue One told us a familiar side-story surrounding the franchise, with plenty of fan-service sprinkled in for good measure.
Judging from its trailer, The Last Jedi seems to follow suit: framing its narrative off of an existing film in the storied franchise, focusing on delivering a gripping experience rather than reinventing the wheel. While the last two Star Wars movies based themselves on the original 1977 film, however, Episode VII seems to focus on The Empire Strikes Back, often regarded as the best film in the entire series.
The Last Jedi appeared to start where The Force Awakens left off: with our new generation of heroes scattered across the galaxy, racing to save it from the iron grip of The First Order. As Finn continues to recover from the injuries he suffered aboard the Starkiller. Poe and BB8 continue to run missions in their X-Wing. All the while, Rey trains under the last surviving Jedi Master — Luke Skywalker — in order to defeat the patricidal Kylo Ren, who “only know[s] one truth: it’s time for the Jedi to end.”
The majority of the trailer focuses on Rey’s training, which not-so-subtly calls back to Luke’s own on Degoba. She exerts her will over the Force in order to lift objects. She peers deep within herself in order to call forth visions (the past? the present? maybe the future?). And, of course, she is instructed in swordsmanship by the very best that the galaxy has to offer.
While this is only a brief, preliminary look at what the film has to offer — and is notably short on actual story — what it promises is clear. This is the Empire Strikes Back of the new trilogy. Whereas the first film established the new status quo and introduced the saga’s principle players, the second will train them up for battle, delving deep into who they are and what they stand for as people. And you can be certain that they will have a shocking reveal or two about Rey before the end credits roll.
While there is certainly a lot to live up to — both in terms of the bar set by the original trilogy and the promises made in Episode VII — I have no doubt that it will prove to be one of the very best films that this year has to offer, much like its predecessor was two years ago. The talent on display in these movies — and Disney’s recent track record with the Star Wars and Marvel franchises in recent years — is absolutely beyond reproach. You can rest assured that I will be there opening night: lightsaber in one hand, popcorn in the other.