What is the premise of The Last Jedi?

With the release of the new Last Jedi trailer the story of the movie has been revealed.

What we know is this: The premise of The Last Jedi is all about the past.

Why The Last Jedi’s Premise Is Crucial

A premise is the basic point that a story is trying to make (and that’s true for movies, games, books. and all forms of stories.)

Story theorist James N Frey says, “The premise is the foundation of your story–that single core statement of what happens to the characters as a result of the actions of a story.”  [Read: The Keys To Writing A Good Story, Book Or Novel]

In The Force Awakens, the premise is entirely about how we must let go of the past in order to become our true selves. And we see this carried out through Rey, who must let go of her past in order to become the powerful Jedi she is. It is only by leaving Jakkoo that she can get there [read: Rey and The Hero’s Journey].

Screenwrirters actually being with a premise and then use that premise to determine the plot of the movie.  The plot, the moral, the conclusion, the story structure, even the dialogue… it all begins from the basic premise.


The Last Jedi’s Premise Takes The Force Awakens In A New Direction

When working with a trilogy there will usually be a clear relationship between the premise of the different films.

I gasped watching The Last Jedi’s trailer. Why? Because the premise takes The Force Awakens’ story in an exciting new direction.

It’s all about the past.

Every character we see in The Last Jedi trailer is fighting their past.


Rey is fighting her past with the people who left her on Jakkoo and the Jedi powers she’s struggling to understand (see the trailer transcript below for more on this).


Kylo Ren is torn in two and is fighting both his family history (he attacks Leai’s ship at 1:15 but seems to have a change of heart). And he is fighting his past in the Knight of Ren (he slams his mask into the wall at 1:09).


Finn is fighting his past as a stormtrooper (he fights his old captain, Phasma, at 1:42, and is escorted into a group of stormtroopers at 1:54)


Luke fights his past with Kylo Ren (we see him surviving the assault on the Jedi temple at 0.55)


Liea’s entire story revolves around her past because a) Kylo Ren is her son, and b) since the death of Han Solo.


Snoke? Not enough is known about Snoke yet, but expect a backstory full of conflict.

Every major character is clearly fighting their past in The Last Jedi trailer.

But The Past  / Backstory Of The Last Jedi Is Only Half The Movie

Every good premise needs two parts. A) An argument. And b) A conclusion.

So far we’ve seen how The Last Jedi trailer is all about fighting the past. But so what? What’s the point in fighting the past? What’s the moral of the story?

We know (or suspect, at least) that Kylo Ren and Rey will team up. (And that Jedi and Sith will become one). But so what?

What’s the point here, Rian Johnson [screenwriter / director]?

Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting their past. And seemingly, it is only together that they can come overcome their past and become who they were destined to be.

The Last Jedi’s premise, then:

Only with the help [love?] of others can we come to terms with our past and become who we were born to be.

In other words:

Kylo Ren and Rey will each help the other understand their past and “fulfil their destiny”.

Judging by the trailer, that is the premise of The Last Jedi.

So is that where the plot of The Last Jedi is heading?  Leave a comment below.


Why The Last Jedi’s Premise Is A Real Eye-Opener

When you understand the premise of a movie you can understand why things happen the way they do.

 Millions of people right now are asking questions like:

  • Why does Kylo Ren want to kill Leia?
  • Why does Luke fear Rey’s power?
  • What is the raw power in The Last Jedi?
  • Why does Finn fight Phasma?
  • Why is Leia not a Jedi?
  • Why is Luke Skywalker the last Jedi?

And there are plot answers to these questions:

  • Kylo Ren wants to kill Leia because they are on different sides of the war
  • Luke fears Rey’s power because it’s the same power Kylo Ren used to  destroy  Lukes Jedi temple.
  • The raw power in The Last Jedi is a new force power that can seemingly destroy the land (in the trailer the land cracks beneath Rey’s feet).
  • Finn fights Phasma because she is hunting him (because he betrayed her). And (my guess) Finn also wants to free a friend who is currently a stormtrooper (this is a complete guess but makes a lot of sense in terms of character-motive).
  • Leia is a Jedi, actually, and we get to see her in Jedi robes in the new trailer (below).
  • Luke is one of The Last Jedi (note “Jedi” is both the singular and plural so there can be more than one “last Jedi”.


Those are the plot answers to those commonly asked questions about The Last Jedi.

But they are not the artistic answers.

They don’t tell us why the writer / director [Rian Johnson] wanted those things to happen.

So why did Rian Johnson write The Last Jedi the way he did? And the answer (as with all stories) is: because the plot actions portray his premise.

If the premise is:

Only with the help [love?] of others can we come to terms with our past and become who we were born to be.

Then we can see that every action in The Last Jedi is actually about that premise.

Why does Luke want the Jedi to end? Because of his past (witnessing his temple being burned to the ground).

Why does Kylo Ren want to kill Leia? Because his relationship to the premise is that we must destroy the past to “fulfill our destiny”

Why does Finn fight Phasma? Again, my guess, but he is probably trying to free someone he knew in the past (a stormtrooper) from the First Order. So he is fighting to be true to his past.

It all comes down to that basic premise: fighting the past to become who we are destined to be.


The Last Jedi Trailer Breakdown

*The action in The Last Jedi trailer shows that the plot and premise are all about overcoming the past to fulfil your destiny.

Here is the trailer breakdown: 

Marching AT-M6 walkers, (equivalent of AT-AT in The Last Jedi)… [Kylo Ren and Executioner Stormtroppers march]…


Snoke: When I found you. I saw raw, untamed power.… And beyond that, something truly special.


[Kylo Ren picks up lightsaber. Cut to Rey igniting her lightsaber. She hands it to Luke and we see Luke’s metallic hand, reminding us of the past and his fight with Darth

Vader in The Empire Strikes Back].


[Rey: Something… inside me… has always been there.  Then I was awake. And I need help.


Note: Here we are made to ask a question: Rey was awake during what event? Logically she must have experienced something that she thought was a dream but which in fact was real. What was Rey’s dream?…


[Ground breaks beneath Rey. Is this a new force power? Luke is shocked]


Luke: I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.


[We see Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren burning Luke’s Jedi temple to the ground. Luke’s metallic hand reaches out of the ashes as he survives the attack]


Kylo Ren: Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.


[Kylo Ren slams mask into wall]


[Kylo Ren flies his Upsilon class command shuttle towards Leia about to kill her (but if you’re wondering Will Kylo Ren kill Leia the answer is almost definitely no.)]


[Close-up of Kylo Ren evidently changing his mind and deciding to not fire on Leia’s ship]


Po Damron: We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the first order down.


[ Finn and Phasma fight with riot control batons as both of them face their past—Finn’s past as a stormtrooper, and Phasma’s past about her first student to betray her.]


[Many battles scenes including the ice-fox and Jedi-Leia]


[Finn heads into a room full of stormtroopers, again facing his past]


Luke: This is not going to go the way you think.


[Snoke Force-gripping Rey ]


Snoke: Fulfill your destiny


Rey: I need someone to show me my place in all this.


Kylo Ren reaches his hand out to Rey.


[The Last Jedi logo]


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Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.


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