As the latest chapter in the ever-expanding “Star Wars” universe, Rian Johnson’s blockbuster hit “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” flipped the script on more than a few favored fan theories, pushing the newest trilogy even further into fresh territory and unanswered questions. When “The Force Awakens” director J. J. Abrams returns to direct the latest film in the series, he’ll be expected to contend with some major shifts to characters and storylines.
What’s next for “Star Wars”? At this point, just about anything.
Still, there are a number of loose threads – perhaps the appropriate amount considering the trilogy style of these films – that Abrams will have to tie up during the course of his still-untitled “Episode IX.” From the fate of beloved characters to lingering mysteries and everything in between, the world of “Star Wars” has never been bigger. Here are eight questions Abrams will have to answer when it comes time for him – and “Star Wars” fans – to return to a galaxy far, far away.
Spoilers for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” below.
1. What Will Happen to General Leia?
When Johnson’s film concludes, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is still very much alive, and leading her loyal band of (now quite limited) Resistance fighters into an uncertain future that will depend on her capable leadership to ensure that they can literally live to fight another day. In reality, Fisher passed away almost a year before Johnson’s film hit theaters, marking “The Last Jedi” as her last big screen appearance as the beloved princess-turned-general. “The Last Jedi” notably leaves her both alive and essential to the future to the franchise, saddling Abrams with his biggest pickle: what will happen to her in the interim?
Some fans have launched petitions for other actresses to replace her – a new one requests that Meryl Streep, who played a version of real-life Fisher in “Postcards from the Edge,” pick up the role – while the franchise’s ever-evolving technology has already brought some characters back from the dead (Grand Moff Tarkin) and notably aged down Fisher herself for a late appearance in “Rogue One.” Yet few big screen characters are as well-loved as Fisher and re-casting the role seems like a deeply bad move. Moreover, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy already announced in April that Fisher will not appear in the next film via CGI.
The best bet: we lose Leia in an early battle in “Episode IX,” one that will only further fuel her fighters’ war.
2. Is Luke Skywalker Really Dead?
One of the most controversial plot twists of Johnson’s film saw Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker disappearing at the end of his exhausting battle with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Luke successfully fooled his Dark Side-obsessed nephew into believing that he had made the journey to Crait to fight him in person, though Luke was really safe at home on the secluded island of Ahch-To. Yet the energy he expended on projecting himself, via the Force, to one last all-timer of a match proved to be too much for the great Jedi, and by the battle’s end, he floated away on the wind.
But did Luke really die? Both Rey and Leia feel Luke leaving the universe – or, at least, the known universe, the one they are able to feel – that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s gone forever. Luke’s ability to wield the Force, always awe-inspiring, may have simply taken another shape. At the very least, he could still appear again via Force ghost, joining some of the very same Jedi that made him such a powerful warrior.
3. Will the Most Important Force Ghost of All Come Back?
And what about those Force ghosts? “The Last Jedi” only unveiled one in perhaps the film’s biggest surprise at all, offering up the ever-tricky Yoda to Luke during a particularly trying time. Abrams’ own “The Force Awakens” was mostly Force ghost- and spirit-free (opting for the disembodied voice style that first appeared in “A New Hope”), but now that Yoda is back in the mix, the filmmaker might want to consider including some more familiar faces.
Luke isn’t the only Jedi who could return to the franchise via apparition – though that would certainly be welcome, especially to fans who didn’t see his final shot in “The Last Jedi” coming – because it sure would be nice to see his own father, Darth Vader, get a chance to offer up his own ghostly advice. Perhaps even to his grandson, the dastardly Kylo Ren, who seems to have completely missed the message his beloved grandfather was trying to deliver during his own dying moments: that redemption truly is possible (and even preferable).
Kylo has long been fixating on the evil blood coursing through his veins, a short-sighted read on what it means to be a Skywalker if there ever was one. While Rey seemed to break through Kylo’s walls during their secret Force-bonded chats, it may be only Anakin Skywalker himself who can set the ruined Ben Solo straight.
4. How Will Kylo Ren Consolidate His Power?
If Kylo Ren will eventually walk the true path of his grandfather, he’s still got an entire movie to be insanely evil to get through first. “The Last Jedi” ends with a typically overwrought Kylo Ren moving into the kind of leadership position he’s always dreamed about — in other words, screaming ill-conceived demands to a frightened assemblage of First Order devotees. Kylo has the upper hand over his enemies, thanks to his sprawling assortment of weapons, warships, and mindless soldiers, but he’s going to have to demonstrate at least some skill in leading a group if he wants to truly prevail over even the wounded Resistance.
General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) will likely continue to push back on Kylo when he can, maybe even to the point where he gathers his own army to rally against their unpredictable de facto leader. With Supreme Leader Snoke dead, other evil-doing Dark Side types might even attempt to toss out Kylo Ren, who has so far been unable to gather any loyal supporters to form anything so much as resembling friends or even just counselors. In many ways, he’s weak, but there’s little chance that the next chapter will open with Kylo Ren on the down and out, especially when we last left him with so much literal firepower behind him.
One possibility: What happened to those other Jedi trainees that Kylo took off with after his universe-changing battle with his one-time Master Luke? Are any of them still around? And, seriously, are any of them interested in being a pal to the man who liberated them?
5. How Will the Resistance Get Back Into Fighting Shape?
The Resistance may have ended “The Last Jedi” with a skeleton crew of devoted warriors and their woefully unmet cries for assistance ringing in their ears, but at some point, their numbers and allies have to rise again. Johnson closed out his film with a look to the potential future of the movement, thanks to a crew of starry-eyed youngsters on Canto Bight, inspired by the kindness and strength shown to them during Finn and Rose’s brief visit, and there have to be others like them out there.
And that’s to say nothing of the Resistance’s allies, who never appeared during Luke and Kylo Ren’s desperate last battle, but who surely heard their cries for help. The rebels have friends, they just need to show up.
They also have weapons, as “The Last Jedi” made sure to remind both its audience and its Resistance fighters that various Resistance bases are still scattered throughout the universe. Many of them might be as remote and decrepit as the one they fled to on Crait, but making something out of nothing is kind of the rebels’ bag. Now it’s time for the effort to reassemble, recruit, and ready themselves for what (should be, might be, could be) one last final battle, and one that they have to win.
6. Will Romances Take Center Stage?
“Star Wars” is not without its great love stories – Anakin and Padme, Han and Leia – but the franchise as a whole doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to delivering traditional romantic beats. For every classic “I love you” exchange, there’s Anakin whining about the more annoying properties of sand as some sort of deeply misguided flirting technique.
With the introduction of an overt love story in “The Last Jedi,” care of the charming Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) confessing her feelings to Finn (John Boyega) – and then even kissing him! – before nearly dying, the trilogy now has bonafide romantic feelings to deal with (and that was even before a worried Finn tenderly draped a blanket over the knocked-out Rose).
Fans have long tried to parse out the romantic possibilities that this new chapter in the saga seemed to be hinting at in “The Force Awakens,” be it Finn and Poe (Oscar Isaac) or even Finn and Rey (Daisy Ridley), but this Rose knot seems to knock both of those popular theories out of orbit. Now that Poe and Rey have finally met, perhaps they might mingle in a decidedly friendly manner.
Or perhaps not, with the franchise returning to the kind of low-level romantic entanglements and simmering feelings that made the original trilogy work without slipping into soap opera territory.
7. Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?
The main baddie of the newest trilogy is most definitely dead – far beyond Luke dead, miles past Darth Maul dead, we’re talking cut-in-pieces dead – but he departed the franchise with some of his greatest mysteries still very much intact, include a fairly big one: Who is this guy?
And, perhaps even more intriguing, how did Snoke first find and sway young Kylo Ren, when he was still just a fledgling trainee under his uncle Luke Skywalker? That’s big-time power, and that we may never get an answer to where it came from is one of the more vexing decisions of the series. Just because he’s gone, doesn’t mean he’s forgotten.
8. Is Rey Really the Last Jedi?
Don’t let the title fool you. There are plenty of possible Jedi lurking amongst the saga’s many characters these days. While both Luke and Rey made believable bids to the eponymous final fighter moniker during the course of Johnson’s film, the reveal that Rey comes from a lineage best described as “nobody from nowhere” further hammers home the essential idea that anyone can be a Jedi.
Even though Kylo was the one to reveal that particular tidbit, there’s no reason to doubt that its truth — as enduring as the “chosen one” trope has long been, the “Star Wars” universe contains scores of past Jedi who were not born under any kind of auspicious star. However, the next chapter in the series might have more Jedi to introduce to the world, even if they all possess raw, untrained power, akin to Rey. It’s time to meet them, for the sake of a franchise that shows zero sign of slowing down (even after the trilogy comes to a conclusion).
The currently untitled next chapter of the “Star Wars” saga will arrive in theaters on December 20, 2019.