While The Last Jedi is a galactic game changer on many levels, Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII is first and foremost a Star Wars film, which means it builds upon the foundation established by George Lucas 40 years ago. The latest sequel includes dozens of references to previous installments, along with a few Easter eggs, and some A-list cameos. Yahoo Entertainment has unleashed its force of Star Wars sages upon the new film to uncover all the amazing ways Johnson and crew paid homage to the four-decade history of Lucas’s space opera, conveniently grouped by the film’s four primary settings.
Please note, there are Jabba-size spoilers below, so proceed at your peril.
The watery planet that houses the original Jedi temple, and Luke Skywalker’s hideout since the fall of his new Jedi Order, has many connections to The Empire Strikes Back scenes set on Dagobah, where Luke meets Yoda (himself in hiding since the fall of the original Jedi Order). Like Yoda, Luke is reluctant to teach Rey the ways of the Force. But the similarities don’t stop there.
The submerged X-wing
Memo to Luke Skywalker: X-wings are spacecraft, not submarines. In Empire, Luke had to lift his ship out of the murky Dagobah swamp. In Last Jedi, he’s all too happy to let it rest/rust beneath the water of Ahch-To. Here’s hoping Rey Force-rescues it in Episode IX.
Rey’s Force vision
In a trippy sequence that initially seems to owe more to David Lynch than George Lucas, Rey leaps into an Ahch-To cave where the dark side holds sway and, after asking to see her parents, instead encounters multiple versions of her own self. But the sequence has precedent in Star Wars: During his training on Dagobah, Luke entered the Cave of Evil and unwittingly fought himself as Darth Vader in a hallucinatory battle. It was the first hint that he and Vader shared a special connection, just as Rey’s vision heralds the revelation that where she came from is less important than who she is now. (Not for nothing, but the yawning entrance to this cave is also very reminiscent of the Tatooine’s famed Great Pit of Carkoon.)
Train in vain
Now Luke knows how Yoda must have felt when he ditched Jedi school early to go save his friends from Darth Vader. Skywalker was only two lessons in to his three-part explanation about why the Jedi deserved to vanish when Rey decides she’s through waiting around, and jets off to face Kylo Ren and Snoke well before she’s ready for such a confrontation. That gumption, coupled with her powerful ways with the Force, make us wonder if she’s the “another” that Yoda informed Obi-Wan about as they watched Luke fly off to Cloud City all those years ago.
Luke and Yoda reunited
Master Yoda’s surprise cameo — in his original puppet form! — captures the immense Force powers and irreverent, quotable wisdom that Yoda first displayed in The Empire Strikes Back. And when faced with his former trainer, Luke reverts for a moment to his petulant younger self.
But Ahch-To offers more than a twist on the Luke and Yoda session in Empire. There are other nods to several other famous Star Wars moments.
While Rey chases after Luke on Ahch-To, she witnesses the old Jedi master pole-vault across a chasm to hunt fish, practically the reverse of the classic swing he took with Leia aboard the Death Star. His smug expression seems to say: “I’ve being doing this since long before you were born.”
Luke enjoys a seal smoothie
Imagine Luke’s delight when he realized that those aquatic creatures on Ahch-To produce a colorful dairy product reminiscent of the blue milk Aunt Beru served him back on Tatooine. But does he ever miss that bantha flavor?
Han Solo’s dice
You’d be forgiven for not noticing the gold dice dangling above the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit in the original trilogy. It’s a tiny set detail that The Last Jedi latches onto, using the dice as a symbol for Han Solo’s lingering presence in Luke’s and Leia’s lives. The dice were used by Han to win the Falcon from Lando Calrissian in a game of Corellian Spike.
Artoo’s visual voicemail
“Cheap trick,” chides Luke after R2-D2 goads the old man into emerging from his self-imposed exile by replaying the holographic message from Leia that set him on the path from Tatooine farm boy to Jedi master. Maybe so — but hearing that stirring plea from the distant past reminded us how far Luke has come, and how much further he still has to go.
Darth Sidious name-check
Luke calls out the phantom menace himself, Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, while trying to give Rey the backstory on the Jedi Order’s many failings. It’s a one-sentence history lesson that handily summarizes the entire prequel trilogy so that she — and we — don’t have to watch it again.
That tree has roots
The hollowed-out tree housing the ancient Jedi texts is likely the progenitor of the Great Tree that once grew at the heart of the Jedi temple on Coruscant. First seen in The Clone Wars, the Great Tree grew in the temple courtyard before it was destroyed by Palpatine when he turned the temple into his Imperial palace. The Great Tree also played a small, albeit significant role, in an issue of Marvel’s Shattered Empire series. Taking place shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi, Poe Dameron’s mother, Shara Bey, helped Luke retrieve two living Tree fragments from an Imperial base on the planet Vetine. Luke kept one fragment, while Shara took the other one and planted it near her home on Yavin 4.
The Jedi books
The texts inside the tree, adorned by the starburst icon first seen on the 1977 film poster, appear to include the Journal of the Whills, referenced in Lucas’s initial treatment for The Star Wars.
Much of The Last Jedi’s action takes place about Resistance and First Order ships as the latter pursue the former through space, with echoes of both the opening chase in A New Hope and the climactic space battle in Return of the Jedi. And then there’s what transpires aboard the vessels…
Finn’s recovery suit
Poor Finn isn’t the first Star Wars hero whose recovery depended on being hooked up to a fluid-filled apparatus in his underwear. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke heals from his confrontation with Vader in a Bacta tank, a futuristic healing accelerator. Finn’s version seems more advanced or at least, more portable.
BB-8 pulls an R2-D2
Luke’s astromech pal fixed the Rebel’s balky X-wing on many occasions, deploying his robot arm to make the timely repair. During Poe Dameron’s daring assault on the First Order Dreadnought, his X-wing goes kablooey, requiring BB-8 to comically one-up Artoo, not only revealing a multi-fingered appendage, but then detaching his head to fix the ship’s systems at the last minute. Meanwhile, Rian Johnson has confirmed that BB-8 also takes part in another longstanding Star Wars tradition in this scene: The droid’s whirs and beeps translate to “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Domhnall Gleeson is so cheerfully smarmy as First Order villain General Hux, you kind of want to cheer and choke him at the same time. Kylo Ren prefers the latter option, Force-choking Hux with the same breathtaking efficiency that his grandfather, Darth Vader, employed when disciplining back-talking Empire officers. (Earlier in the film, a holographic Snoke also dispenses some remote Force-spanking on the bumbling Hux.)
The members of the Elite Praetorian Guard that protects Supreme Leader Snoke owe a clear sartorial debt to the Emperor’s Royal Guard, the masked, scarlet-wearing security detail from the original trilogy.
Rebels in disguise
In a grand tradition that goes back to Luke and Han donning stormtrooper armor to infiltrate the Death Star in A New Hope (and more recently employed by Jyn Erso in Rogue One), Finn, Rose, DJ, and BB-8 dress up like First Order officers to sneak about Snoke’s Star Destroyer, Supremacy, to take down the targeting systems. (As the group sneaks through the ship, there’s also a blink-and-you-missed-it visual nod to Han and Luke escorting Chewbacca in the Death Star from A New Hope.)
When the Resistance spies are discovered, they are escorted away by a group of stormtroopers that includes Princes William and Harry under the helmets. The First Order troops also included Tom Hardy, yet again appearing onscreen in a mask.
BB-8 channels Chewie
As Finn and Rose face almost certain death, they are saved as a scout walker blasts the bad guys. Turns out, it’s BB-8 to the rescue, echoing the scene in Return of the Jedi when Chewie commandeers an AT-ST to save Han and Leia.
Flipping the script
After being bested by Finn in hand-to-hand combat, Phasma says, “You will always be scum.” To which Finn replies, “Rebel scum” — turning the epithet originally uttered in Return of the Jedi into a badge of honer.
Together we can rule the galaxy…
Rey confronting Snoke and Kylo Ren aboard the Supremacy was another Johnson classic trilogy remix that played against expectations. Snoke’s taunting of Rey along with Kylo’s eventual betrayal of the Supreme Leader called back Luke’s confrontation of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, while Kylo’s offer to rule the galaxy alongside Rey was directly pulled from Darth Vader’s offer to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.
The Vegas-like seaside city on the planet Cantonica is where Finn and Rose go to track down a slice, the Star Wars galaxy’s equivalent of a computer hacker. The scenes here are loaded with callbacks and cameos.
Cue the band
The casino interlude pays tribute to the cantina scene from A New Hope, with its tangle of wild, wondrous, drunk aliens. But the city’s gleaming, curvaceous architecture is also reminiscent of Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back, with a Mediterranean sheen that recalls the prequel planet of Naboo.
Maz Kanata tells Finn and Rose to look for a man wearing a floral pin. They never recruit him, but the camera briefly catches the character (billed in the credits as Master Codebreaker) playing Canto Bight craps, and it’s Justin Theroux with a pencil-thin mustache. At his side is British actress Lily Cole. The scene also features the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has appeared in all of Johnson’s films, most notably Looper) and Warwick Davis (best known as Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi). Finally, the dog-like alien held by a corpulent gambler behind Rose and Finn is an actual dog: Gary Fisher, the late Carrie Fisher’s beloved companion.
And they’re off!
Meanwhile, the space horses, officially known as fathiers, that are enslaved for entertainment race in an arena that owes a debt to the Mos Espa podrace stadium from The Phantom Menace.
The climactic battle in The Last Jedi takes place on the planet Crait, with many callbacks to the Hoth scene from The Empire Strikes Back. While Hoth was an ice planet, Crait is a mineral planet, whose red surface is covered with a top layer of salt, which looks a lot like snow. While Hoth featured Rebel snowspeeders against Imperial AT-ATs, Crait has Resistance ski speeders engage First Order AT-M6 walkers.
Resistance speeders face encroaching walkers. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
Rogue One director Gareth Edwards gets a taste of trench warfare, Star Wars-style, appearing as one of the foot soldiers defending the abandoned Rebel base on Crait from First Order forces. Bet it’s easier to direct a battle than fight in one, huh Gareth? (Johnson cameoed in Rogue One as one of the Death Star superlaser operators.) Edwards isn’t the only celebrity member of the Resistance; fellow director Edgar Wright and singer Ellie Goulding are also among the ranks.
C-3PO, as is his wont, feels compelled to tell the remaining Resistance fighters that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against the diminished forces. And, per usual, he’s shushed mid-sentence, this time by Poe Dameron.
Finn goes offline
When Finn removes his headset before attempting to take out the First Order’s laser cannon, it’s reminiscent of the moment when Luke turns off his monitor in A New Hope. Unlike Luke, however, Finn doesn’t have the guiding voice of Obi-Wan to save him. Fortunately, he has Rose.
Rey saves the day
The new characters are remixes of the classic heroes, and Rey’s Han Solo-style whoop as she zooms in on the Falcon during the Battle of Crait is evidence of that.
Luke’s one-man stand
Luke Skywalker facing off against any army of walkers was one of the most rousing moments we have ever seen in a Star Wars film, giving fans our first (and last glimpse) at the most powerful Jedi master ever. It also echoed a similar scene in the now de-canonized Dark Empire comic, which featured Luke using the Force to extend the energy of his lightsaber to single-handedly fight off Imperial Walkers.
Strike me down
Luke’s first mentor, Obi-Wan (Ben to his friends), taunted Darth Vader before his former Padawan delivered the killing blow, indicating his power would only increase after his “death.” Now a Jedi master himself, Skywalker borrows a page from the same playbook in his climactic confrontation with Kylo Ren, saying that while he may not survive their encounter, his legacy will inspire the next generation of Jedi and Resistance fighters alike. That kind of power outlasts even the strongest Force Ghosts.
Moments before ascending to the next plane of Jedi existence, Luke sees a formative image from his past: two suns in the sky above Ahch-To. Once upon a time, Tatooine’s twin suns promised the hope of a richer, more rewarding life. Now, at the end of his life, they herald a better tomorrow for the people he’s leaving behind.
The Resistance strikes back
The Empire Strikes Back, the middle chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy, ended with a memorable tableau of the remaining Rebel fighters gazing out at the vast galactic expanse from the window of their starship. The Last Jedi features a similar final look at our surviving heroes, lined up on the Millennium Falcon looking ahead to a looming rematch with the First Order in the next episode.
— Ethan Alter, Marcus Errico, Adam Lance Garcia, and Gwynne Watkins contributed to this story.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters.
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