Well, the The Last Jedi poster and the trailer are out. And considering that every time I post about Reylo my views spike, I might as well capitalize on this development. 🙂
1 The poster.
The poster is very striking. Everything is bathed in red, which makes Rey’s lightsaber stand out even more clearly. I also noticed how Kylo Ren and Rey are framed towards the top/center of the poster. The artist also gave them a sense of symmetry, for lack of a better word. Rey is looking down to the left, and Kylo Ren is looking up to the right. Their light sabers are facing out in opposite directions, and they are perfectly parallel to each other. I also detect a straight line between Rey’s hands and Kylo Ren’s hands.
Leia, as the Scavenger’s Hoard podcast notes, is right in the heart of everything. Sadly, Finn and Poe have been relegated to secondary characters, which is too bad. I like Finn, despite the fact that the film really botched an opportunity with the character, and I was very worried at the end of The Force Awakens that Finn might have died. It wasn’t clear when I saw the film so I immediately went on Wikipedia to see if he survived. Oscar Isaac is also a very talented young actor, but he was given very little to do in The Force Awakens, and sadly it appears that this may not change in The Last Jedi.
What I find most fascinating about this poster is, as Scavenger’s Hoard notes, Luke is in the villains position. We don’t see Snoke up at the top, the way we saw Darth Vader at top in several of the posters for the original trilogy. Instead, we see Luke, lurking over everyone, with a displeased expression on his face, much as he was in the original poster. If Luke in the trailer said, “This is not going to go the way you think,” I think that the poster is implying that Luke is no longer the hero. Quite the contrary, he may occupy a morally ambiguous position in the film. At least, I certainly hope that is the case.
2 The Trailer
The trailer definitely draws on the idea of Luke as a disappointing figure for Rey. This makes sense to me. In most stories about young woman, the girl’s father is either dead or useless. While I am very, very, very much hoping that Rey is not Luke’s daughter, because that would be the laziest thing they could possibly do, Rey is desperately hoping for a family, and will no doubt see Luke as the father that she never had, just as she saw Han. Just as children see a orphan in a story as especially vulnerable, a young woman without a father is also seen as vulnerable. If Rey’s new father figure turns out to be useless, the audience will keenly feel her vulnerability.
This will be heightened by the fact that Rey is clearly troubled by her growing powers with the Force. This will be a welcome edition to the film, since I do agree that Rey was a Mary Sue in the first film. Luke seems to know what her strength means; he is clearly terrified by it. Luke seems reluctant to actually train her in the film. It even gives the sense that he could abandon her. This is good news! Rey will need to be increasingly isolated and troubled by her powers in the film in order for the film to actually function in a meaningful way.
Kylo Ren is also shown as troubled. He is shown destroying his helmet and struggling over the decision to kill his mother. They definitely are not going for the simple Bad Guy portrayal, which is good. I am convinced that Kylo killing his mother is a misdirection.
The film also implies that Finn is coming into his own, growing stronger and preparing to battle Phasma. That is good, since it was hard to see Finn defeated and nearly killed at the end of the film. It also hints at the arc of Finn in the movie.
The last images of the trailer are definitely taken from two different scenes. Even so, I still think that it is remarkable that they were put that way at all. Many anti-Reylos argue that the film is baiting Reylos. That makes no sense. It makes no sense to make a trailer to bait a very, very, very small group of people on the internet. It makes infinitely more sense to bait the vast majority of fans with what the vast majority of fans are likely to believe. I’ve watched a number of trailer reaction videos for the trailer, and the people who comment on that section of the trailer mostly believe that it is implying that Rey will turn to the Dark Side.
I said that I find the juxtaposition of the two scenes remarkable. Once again, Star Wars has a chance to set up Kylo Ren as a compelling, even terrifying, antagonist for Rey, and once again, Disney says, “No thanks.” The general Star Wars audience has been waiting for two years for the next confrontation between Kylo Ren and Rey. The trailer was a perfect opportunity to tease a battle between Rey and Kylo, just as they did between Finn and Phasma, or between Rey and Snoke. But they didn’t. Instead, the trailer shows a confused fragile Rey desperately seeking someone to show Rey her place in all this. We cut to Kylo. There is no rage, no menace in his face. His features are soft, even pained, and he reaches her hand out to her. This is a remarkable set up for the next film, and teases at a different relationship between the two characters. That is a significant choice.
What does all of this mean for Reylo? All of this makes Reylo seem possible. The film definitely implies a connection and similarity between these two characters that goes beyond protagonist and antagonist. This does not necessarily imply a romantic or sexual connection, which would be fine. It would be a missed opportunity to play with dynamics and metaphors that are embedded in the way we think about the Force, but it would still be fine. It also hints that Kylo Ren may not continue on the path to the Dark Side. This means that I don’t think that they will pursue the idea Kylo Ren as the Monster persuing Rey. Ohtze refers to this as Death and the Maiden, and this seems that this interpretation may be less likely, since it is dependent upon Kylo Ren being a frightening, compelling, antagonistic villain, and Disney hints that it may not take Kylo Ren down this path.
If they do try to bring Kylo Ren back to the light and bring Rey and Kylo together as allies, if not lovers, that would be a sign that Disney is willing to take a bit of a risk, which would make me feel better about the prospects of the film.
Of course, J.J. Abrams is still involved in the film so we could still end up with Rey being Luke’s daughter. That’s my biggest fear; that Star Wars tease the idea of doing something different and then ultimately chicken out and just remake Empire Strikes Back. Talk about a bait and switch!
There’s precedent for this. Before Star Trek Into Darkness J.J. Abrams was adamant that Benedict Cumberbatch was not playing Khan. Then he was Khan. Then we were subjected to this.
I will never forgive you for that, J.J. Abrams. Do you hear me? Never.