With Star Wars: The Last Jedi still months away, Lucasfilm has kept an air-tight lid on what fans can expect from director and screenwriter Rian Johnson. One can make educated guesses based on where characters were — both physically and mentally — at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but no one knows exactly what the heroes and villains will choose to do with their personal emotional traumas.
This month’s Vanity Fair cover story puts the focus squarely on The Last Jedi with interviews and exclusive photos. The whole feature is worth a read, but there are a handful of quotes from Rian Johnson, Adam Driver, and Mark Hamill that give unexpected insight into the emotional turmoil buried just beneath the surface of this rollicking space opera. George Lucas and his successors have been telling a story that, at its core, is about family, and every family is broken in its own way.
Talking about where The Last Jedi sits tonally in the new trilogy, Johnson said, “I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters — let’s see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them.” Past interviews with cast and crew have hinted that for Daisy Ridley’s Rey, that will take on shades of the “never meet your heroes” trope. But while Rey is still the centerpiece of the new trilogy, she’s been dropped into the middle of an escalating family squabble that recently took Han Solo from the world. When the Skywalker clan fight, they don’t do it by half-measures. But what does Solo’s death mean for those he left behind? A quote from Adam Driver indicates Kylo Ren — like Vader before him — has unplumbed depths instead being a caricature of evil.
“I feel like almost everyone is in that rehabilitation state [at the beginning of The Last Jedi]. You know, I don’t think that patricide is all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe that’s where Kylo Ren is starting from. His external scar is probably as much an internal one.”
Fans have wondered if the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo would get a redemption arc, and while Driver’s quote doesn’t mean absolution is in Kylo Ren’s future, it does suggest a very human realization: spending years fantasizing about the death of your perceived problems does not mean acting out on those fantasies will give you closure. Whatever rift separated Ben from his parents has not been healed by shoving a lightsaber through his dad, and even the most toxic of familial relationships aren’t immune from grieving the loss of a relative.