Star Wars: The Last Jedi is cementing its reputation as the most divisive film in the Star Wars franchise. It takes any expectations from fans, any genre tropes, and casually tosses it off the side of a cliff. An aspect of the film people have taken issue with – aside from a half hour side adventure that detracts from the main story – is the subversive, unexpected choices the movie makes. However, while some scenes, like how Luke “created” Kylo Ren by almost trying to kill him or Leia’s…unique ability with the Force…didn’t have any tangible hints that precede it, other twists the film takes do.
First, let’s touch on that lightsaber-tossing scene. Yes, that scene could’ve been handled better for a more emotional moment over a gag, but this is warning number one. The biggest cliffhanger in recent cinema, the direct result of everything in The Force Awakens, and it was resolved with a nonchalant chucking-off-a -cliff. This scene flips any expectations you could’ve had of this moment, and this is going to continue.
This was followed later with Poe Dameron’s arc. We have a charismatic, devil-may-care protagonist going up against a newly-installed authority figure. She keeps secrets from him, and he thinks she’s a coward leading them to ruin. But no worries, he has a plan! Surely he’ll prove her wrong with his daring plan, and she’ll admit to her mistake, and he’ll be the hero, right?
Nope. She had a plan all along. One that would save everyone, or would’ve, if not for a hitch in Poe’s plan. Also, not only is she not a coward, she sacrificed herself to save everyone in the Resistance. Leia, who he thought would help him, straight up shot him with a stunning blaster. This is warning number two, which is necessary because the final act is going to be so twisty it would make M. Night Shyamalan blush. But three major twists that follow are all built up by small hints littered throughout the movie.
We’ll talk through them one at a time, starting with Rey’s parentage. This has to be the most talked about and theorized mum and dad in entertainment since Jon Snow’s, and it led to them being a pair of dead nobodies who sold her off. There has been some dissatisfaction over this, as people have expected Rey to be the daughter of a previously established character, perhaps Leia and Han Solo, maybe Luke, or possibly even Obi-Wan Kenobi (even though if she was, there would be some dissatisfaction over how this is an Empire Strikes Back rip-off).
This is a massive feint. It builds up Rey as being related to Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo, through their seemingly random connections via the Force. Kylo isn’t doing it, as he wonders about the connection himself. Later on, the film attempts to sell us further on this by showing Luke making connection with Leia via the Force, as they did in Empire. This tells us that if Rey is going to be anybody, she’s going to be Ben Solo’s sister, Han and Leia’s daughter.
But amidst the smoke and mirrors, one scene implies the truth, that she cannot be Han and Leia’s daughter. In the cave on Ach-to, where Luke tells Rey about how he failed Ben Solo, he makes a big deal out of Leia trusting his son to him, which is part of why he’s chosen to exile himself. The thing is, while the son was a big part of the equation, there was no mention of a daughter. Luke could’ve been lying, sure, but the film frames this as Luke’s moment of vulnerability, where the depth of his disappointment and pain is most explored, and him lying here would be a betrayal of where his character is. This is a subtle moment of honesty in a film intent on tricking you every step of the way.
Next up, we have Snoke’s death. There has been some dissatisfaction over this, as people have expected Snoke to be the main big bad of the trilogy (even though if he was, there would be some dissatisfaction over Snoke being an Emperor Palpatine rip-off). But as the movie progresses, it drops a hint that Snoke is not, in fact, that big bad.
The tip-off is his first physical appearance. We only saw him in The Force Awakens as a gigantic hologram, and we’d be meeting him in the flesh for the first time here. But there was no build-up, no musical cues to set up the reveal, it just cuts to show this wrinkly tall man sitting there in a gold robe.
Compare this with the Emperor’s in Return of the Jedi. We’d only seen him as a hologram in Episode V, and Jedi made the effort in giving him a dramatic entrance. The Imperial March plays as we’re shown rows of Stormtrooper lined up to meet him. Then we see the Emperor’s red-armored guards exit his ship, after which we see Darth Vader, one of the most iconic villains in history, kneel before him, as he exits the ship. Nothing like this was afforded to Snoke, suggesting he’s nothing in comparison to the Emperor.
It’s also interesting to point out that the way the Emperor was first revealed – exiting the back of his ship to puffs of white smoke, surrounded by his troops, as the Empire’s musical theme is playing – is similar to the way Kylo Ren first appeared in The Force Awakens. And we saw where he was at the end of The Last Jedi.
Lastly, we have Luke and Kylo’s fight, how Luke was never there and is merely a projection. This had the potential to be controversial, and as it turns out, has led to some dissatisfaction over the sudden new usage of the Force (are we sensing a theme here?).
When Luke arrives on Crait, the film drops a few hints. Luke’s hair changed, but he could always have cut it beforehand, so that’s not it. One more apparent clue, but one that could easily go over audiences on first viewing, is the Luke’s lightsaber. It’s blue, so it’s not his own green one. It’s his father’s lightsaber. The one he lost with his hand. The one Rey brought back.
And most importantly, the one that Rey not only took with her, but the one she and Kylo broke on Snoke’s throne room.
The second hint, the fight itself. Despite this being the only lightsaber vs lightsaber fight in the film, their weapons don’t clash. Luke dodges every one of Kylo’s strikes instead of parrying them, and doesn’t strike back.
And lastly, much less noticeable but possibly more clever, concerns Crait’s surface. The planet’s surface is coloured red, but is covered in salt, so it seems white at first until the salt is moved off it. The film reveals this by having a Resistance fighter walk on the surface, leaving red footprints. As Kylo begins his confrontation with Luke, we’re shown shots of Kylo’s feet shifting the salt, leaving red marks. In all shots showing Luke’s feet on the planet’s surface, they leave no marks or footprints.
These hints don’t make criticism of the film invalid, these aren’t the main sticking points of the film anyway, but it shows the great care and attention to detail put into the film.