“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has finally arrived, and it finds Rey (Daisy Ridley) journeying to find her place in the galaxy with guidance from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and possibly Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who fully succumbed to the Dark Side of the Force in “The Force Awakens.”
Meanwhile, the Resistance (the good guys) prepares to battle the First Order (the bad guys).
To get ready for this space-faring flick, the second film in the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy, following 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” here are a dozen things you need to know.
1. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Looper,” “Breaking Bad”). He has said his movie career was chiefly inspired by Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” the film that beat the original “Star Wars” for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
2. Fans of the dearly departed Carrie Fisher can take some consolation in the fact that most of her scenes as Leia Organa (founder of the Resistance, mother of Kylo Ren) were already filmed for “The Last Jedi” before her untimely passing nearly a year ago. She was supposed to be a major player in the next entry in the series, but “The Last Jedi” will mark her last screen performance.
3. Fisher’s film finale is fantastic, at least according to Mark Hamill, who said in a recent interview that “she would want us to be laughing and having fun. She wouldn’t want us to be all morose and down. She’d be moved by how missed she is. But you’re going to love her in the movie.”
According to director Johnson, Fisher, who was “very conscious of what Leia meant to fans,” added some one-liners to the script.
4. “The Force Awakens” is widely regarded as an excellent film, but many fans were disappointed that Luke Skywalker had only one scene. In “The Last Jedi,” Skywalker is prominently featured, but he’s a weary, broken version of his former self. To get his character in the proper mindset, Hamill imagined Luke having lost a child to a lightsaber accident.
5. Speaking of lightsabers, Johnson has hinted that there will be a new blade color. There have been seven lightsaber colors so far: blue, green, red, purple, yellow, white and black.
6. Daisy Ridley garnered much praise for her role as Rey in “The Force Awakens,” and the movie itself was given props for featuring a strong female action hero. Rey plays a big role in “The Last Jedi” as well, but a tight lid has been kept on what we might find out about her — namely her last name and who her parents are.
Many speculate that she is Luke’s daughter (she’s strong with the Force, and she’s comfortable wielding Luke’s lightsaber), but that’s too obvious. Or is it? There’s also a theory that she may turn to the Dark Side.
7. Another strong female in “The Last Jedi” is Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by Laura Dern, who wears decidedly non-military gowns and has violet hair. Her leadership style is much different than that of General Leia Organa.
“She enters the Resistance to shake things up,” Dern told “Entertainment Weekly.” Holdo represents “stereotypes about women bosses. Like if she looks a certain way, she can’t achieve the job or she must be brazen. You know, all the different versions of what we label someone. I mean, there are reasons why I might look the way I look.”
8. While the movie is called “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” speculation runs rampant that there will be more than one Jedi in the film. Rey is a possible candidate, as is Finn, the Stormtrooper turncoat played by John Boyega. We do know one thing: Rey and Finn won’t appear together as much as they did in “The Force Awakens.”
“Because of the way people responded to John and I as a team, I was worried about not being a team not so much in this one,” Ridley said in a recent interview. “So I think for me personally, it was a challenge — the film was a challenge — to be in different combinations of people.”
9. Han Solo’s (Harrison Ford) son, Kylo Ren, killed him in “The Force Awakens,” but his best pal and furry co-pilot, Chewbacca, is alive and well. Texas resident Peter Mayhew retired from the role and was replaced by Finland native Joonas Suotamo, who played Mayhew’s body double in “The Force Awakens.”
After getting the part, Suotamo said, “Peter’s development and portrayal of this beloved Wookie has spread much joy across the globe. Peter’s guidance and kindness have been invaluable gifts which warmed my spirit and prepared me for this journey. I aspire to make Peter proud and bring ‘Star Wars’ fans the Chewie they know and love.”
10. We’re still mad at Kylo Ren for committing patricide, but “Star Wars” characters have been redeemed after doing far worse (see Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker), so we’re holding out hope that he’ll have some sort of redemption in “The Last Jedi.” Regardless, we do know one thing: We’ll learn much more about him in the new film.
11. The “Star Wars” movies are all about galactic warfare and the struggle of good versus evil, but they also have their cute, cuddly, comical characters, such as the Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi” and BB-8 from “The Force Awakens” (forget Jar Jar Binks, he’s just annoying).
“The Last Jedi” introduces porgs, which are doe-eyed, winged little creatures that inhabit (some would say infest) Luke’s hideaway planet. Inspired by director Johnson’s visit to the puffin-populated Irish island of Skellig Michael, porgs already have sparked outrage online, with some fans saying they are too saccharine. Chewbacca himself would disagree —he forms a friendship with one of the little guys.
12. Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 was a game changer as the company reset the official “Star Wars” canon. According to www.geek.com, “All the books, games and comics that had taken place in the ‘Star Wars Universe’ were re-labeled as ‘Legends.’ Only the six existing saga films and the animated series ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ were left as official ‘Star Wars.’ In the four years since, new ‘Star Wars’ stories have been added to the new timeline, from novels and comics to a new animated series — ‘Star Wars: Rebels.’”
For hints and background on “The Last Jedi,” we recommend reading Claudia Gray’s recent novel “Leia, Princess of Alderaan,” which introduces Amilyn Holdo and the red-mineral planet Crait, the site of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. You might also want to check out John Jackson Miller’s “A New Dawn,” which was the first book featuring input from the new Lucasfilm Story Group, making it the first story of the new “Star Wars” canon.
Brett Weiss is the author of nine books, including “Retro Pop Culture A to Z: From Atari 2600 to Zombie Films.”