Star Wars: How 'Empire Strikes Back's Epic Cliffhanger Influenced 'The Last Jedi'

Heading into the release of The Last Jedi, many Star Wars fans assumed it would offer some darker revelations for the characters, as it was the second chapter in a trilogy, much like The Empire Strikes Back. While writer/director Rian Johnson regularly refuted those expectations of a somber affair, he did recently reveal that the discovery of Darth Vader being Luke's father heavily influenced where he took his film's story.

While discussing his film on the Bullseye with Jesse Thorn podcast, the host talked about the complex nature of The Last Jedi, whereas the original Star Wars had much more delineated differences between good and evil.

"The Force Awakens was the first chapter in our trilogy, Empire Strikes Back was the second chapter," Johnson noted. "We're the second chapter in this trilogy. And if you look at where Empire Strikes Back took that very simple hero vs. bad guys dynamic, and I guess this is kind of easy to lose the shock of this over the years, the 'I am your father' moment has become so ubiquitous and ingrained in culture. If you really think about, in the context of everything you just described about that first Star Wars movie, what that does is suddenly it takes...Luke has just been able to project his shadow, and us as the audience by extension, project his shadow onto this literally faceless bad guy that's the personification of evil, so it's black and white, good and bad. Awesome."

Tonally, Last Jedi might not have been the morose affair fans expected, but it was influenced by Empire's moral dilemmas.

"Empire Strikes Back hit 'I am your father,' all of that. Suddenly, the waters get muddy. Suddenly, that is completely subverted," Johnson admitted. "And the bad guy you thought you could just kill is actually a part of you. And...you now have to start thinking in terms of a much more complicated arc of redemption. And his reaction to that, that's one of my favorite moments in all the movies, is Mark's [Hamill] performance when he screams that 'No!' in reaction to that. That's what I felt like we had to do in this one."

Johnson's film might not have been as dark of a film as Empire, but, thanks in due part to Rey, Kylo and Luke's storylines, we did see the conflicted nature of good vs. evil, Light vs. Dark and Jedi vs. Sith in much more nuanced ways.

Fans will have to wait until Episode IX to see how the rest of the ordeal plays out, which lands in theaters December 20, 2019.

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The Last Jedi is in theaters now.

[H/T Bullseye with Jesse Thorn]