We can finally stop calling it Episode VIII. Disney has just announced that the next installment of the Star Wars saga (in theaters on Dec. 15) will be called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. See the first official poster below.
A sequel to the 2015 blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi continues the story of desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), who has joined up with the Resistance and discovered that she is unexpectedly strong with the Force.
That film (spoiler alert!) ended with a cliffhanger — literally, Rey standing on the cliff of a remote island, offering a long-hidden Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber. Director Rian Johnson has said that Episode VIII will pick up immediately where The Force Awakens left off. “I don’t want to skip ahead two years. I want to see the very next moment of what happens,” he told USA Today in January. He added that “a large part of the movie” will be exploring Luke’s mysterious circumstances — how he ended up where he is, what he’ll do next — and that Rey will be trying to understand and explore her powers. “She’s taking her first step to coming to terms with this thing inside her that she never knew was there and is just starting to reveal its potential,” he said.
Related: This Isn’t the First Time ‘Star Wars’ Has Given Us a ‘Last Jedi’
Watch Mark Hamill share his thoughts on ‘The Last Jedi:’
The newly revealed title begs the question: Who is the “the last Jedi?” Is it Luke, who’s been missing in action for so long that Rey thought he was a myth? Yoda’s dying words in Return of the Jedi suggest as much (“Luke, when gone am I… the last of the Jedi will you be“). In The Force Awakens, Han Solo explained that Luke was “training a new generation of Jedi” when one of the students (later revealed to be Kylo Ren) turned to the Dark Side. Feeling responsible, Luke “walked away from everything” (or so Han said). That suggests that the new generation of Jedi was unable to complete their training.
However, there’s one person who could still complete her training — and it probably makes the most sense for “the last Jedi” to refer to the film’s protagonist, Rey. If the new trilogy is taking story cues from the original, then the second film is the right time for Jedi master Luke to instruct Rey in the ways of the Force, much like Yoda trained him in The Empire Strikes Back.
And speaking of Yoda, remember when Force ghost Obi-Wan called Luke “our last hope” and Yoda said “No. There is another”? (The film clip from The Empire Strikes Back is below, in case your memory needs jogging.) In Return of the Jedi, it is revealed that Leia is Luke’s twin sister, so the conversation retroactively appears to be about her. But we now know that Leia went on to become a military general — not a Jedi. What if “there is another” was a prescient statement that actually refers to Rey? And Yoda knew all along that she would be the one to carry on his legacy: the real last Jedi? (Slate also points out that “Jedi” could be plural, so maybe it’s Luke and Rey. And maybe Kylo Ren! Who knows how many last Jedi we could be talking about?)
That’s just speculation, of course, and still doesn’t answer the big question about Rey raised by The Force Awakens: Who are her parents? According to Daisy Ridley, we’ll find out in The Last Jedi, but “with answers come more questions, and there’s definitely going to be enough to keep people going for another two years [until Episode IX]!”
On a sadder note, The Last Jedi will also be the final film of the late Carrie Fisher, who played General (formerly Princess) Leia. In an interview with Yahoo Movies last week, Mark Hamill said he worried that in the wake of Fisher’s sudden death in December, “Episode VIII will have an air of melancholy about it that it doesn’t need or deserve.”
Watch Daisy Ridley talk about how Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins: