Could The Searchers Provide Clues to Where The Last Jedi is Going?

How the final shot of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars trailer references the seminal Western

That the final shot of The Last Jedi teaser trailer echoes the famous last shot of John Ford’s The Searchers is surely no coincidence. Rian Johnson — like all great directors — is as much a student of film as a practitioner of it. The framing of Johnson’s shot, along with the dialogue and where it appears in the trailer, certainly points toward the classic Western.

The Searchers has Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) track down his niece Debbie, who was abducted by Comanche Indians. Edwards is a man obsessed and his journey is a troubling one. He would rather his niece were dead than living as a Comanche. Debbie is eventually saved and reunited with her family, but Edwards can have no part of it. As Scorsese puts it in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies:

“Don’t expect a happy ending. There is no home, no family, waiting for Ethan. He is cursed, just as he cursed the dead Comanche. He is a drifter doomed to wander between the winds.”

The last shot of The Searchers

The narrative drive of The Force Awakens is the search for Luke. Rey finds him by the end of the movie, but what exactly is it that she finds? The question of ‘who is Luke Skywalker?’ got J.J. Abrams excited about telling a Star Wars story. It’s going to be thrilling to discover how Rian Johnson answers that question. “I only know one truth,” Luke says in the trailer, “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” A provocative statement indeed. Taken along with imagery reminiscent of The Searchers it becomes more darkly powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Stewart Gardiner

Unreliable narrator. David Lynch nerd. Star Wars fan. International assassin. Arthouse and classic film. Co-editor-in-chief at Future of the Force. Writer at 25 Years Later.

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