As usual, Disney and Lucasfilm are keeping things pretty close to the vest when it comes to the newest Star Wars film. Little is know about the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, other than that it’ll continue the stories of Rey, Finn and Poe and bring Luke Skywalker out of hiding to join the growing war between the First Order and the Resistance. However, one plot point has been made abundantly clear in the film’s teaser trailer. There, Luke delivered a cryptic warning - “it’s time for the Jedi to end.”
Naturally, that came as a shock to a lot of Star Wars fans. Why would Luke Skywalker of all people want to destroy the Jedi? Why go through the trouble of redeeming Darth Vader and overthrowing the Sith, only to give up now? Is Luke poised to become the villain of this new trilogy?
Fortunately, we don’t think that’s going to be the case. There’s little reason to assume Luke has gone over to the Dark Side. Rather, we think this twist plays into one of the larger themes that seems to be emerging with the new Star Wars movies - the idea that there’s another path other than the rigid Jedi/Sith dichotomy that’s dominated the franchise up to this point.
At this point in his life, Luke seems to be very disillusioned with the Jedi path. From what little we’ve seen of the character’s journey in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, Luke reformed the Jedi Order and attempted to guide a new generations of Force users in the same way Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda once mentored him. That all came crashing down when his nephew Ben fell to the Dark Side, became Kylo Ren and helped Supreme Leader Snoke eliminate the fledgling Jedi Order. Once again, a member of the Skywalker bloodline was responsible for destroying the jedi and ushering in a new era of darkness for the galaxy.
Why shouldn’t Luke be disillusioned by this turn of events? If the Jedi path is the right one, why is it so easy for Jedi to become corrupted and lose their way? Why are the Skywalkers cursed with so much power and so much potential for destruction?
It doesn’t seem that Luke wants to destroy all remaining traces of the Jedi so much as find a better option. The Jedi preach a doctrine of peace, serenity, and avoiding personal attachments. The Sith, by contrast, are driven by rage, hatred and a desire for personal power. Luke may have decided that both methods are too extreme.
After all, his father, Anakin, only fell to the Dark Side because he was driven mad by dreams of losing his wife and unborn children. If Anakin had been able to rely on his Jedi brethren for support rather than been forced to keep his marriage a secret, maybe he never would have been corrupted in the first place. And while we don’t know the exact circumstances of Kylo Ren’s downfall, perhaps he too was driven to the Dark Side because he was unable to live the ascetic, attachment-free life the Jedi require.
Looking outside the Star Wars films themselves, the franchise has introduced a number of Force users who don’t fit neatly into either the Jedi or Sith categories. That includes more neutral players like Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress from the Clone Wars cartoon or the creature known as the Bendu in Star Wars Rebels. Even Darth Maul evolved from a single-minded villain to a character with depth and complex motivations in those series. Star Wars fans often refer to these characters as “Gray Jedi,” meaning that they don’t adhere strictly to the Light or Dark Sides of the Force.
Whatever term the new movies introduce for these characters, it seems that the Star Wars saga is embracing the notion of Gray Jedi. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has already confirmed that the film’s title is referring to Luke himself. Having failed once to revive the Jedi Order, Luke now understands that the best way forward is to abandon the notions of Jedi and Sith, and of good and evil. He may wish to establish a new academy where students are taught to embrace all aspects of the Force. Rey is clearly his first pupil, but there could be more to come. Perhaps when the Jedi spoke of a Skywalker bringing balance to the Force, they weren’t referring to Anakin destroying Emperor Palpatine, but Luke establishing a new way of life for Force users across the galaxy.
We’ll have to see how Luke’s journey plays out when The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15.