Award winning photographer Annie Leibovitz covers “The Last Jedi”, and it is epic.
In 1980, when award-winning photographer Annie Leibovitz captured the making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Rolling Stone, it’s unlikely she knew what a tradition it would spark. The set of each installment of the prequel trilogy was seen by Vanity Fair readers through Leibovitz’s lens. A decade later, her coverage of Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us a formal introduction to the character of Captain Phasma and our first look at the world of Takodana, the unmasked visage of Kylo Ren, and more elements of a familiar galaxy in a new era.
Today, our first preview of her coverage of the set of the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi came in the form of four Vanity Fair covers. Now I’m here to break them down before I break down crying when more photos appear on VanityFair.com on Thursday and Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released in December.
Rey and Luke Skywalker
First up, we’ve got Rey with her apparently reluctant Jedi mentor, Luke Skywalker. First of all, as a Luke devotee, let me just say that every time I see an image of the legendary power converter aficionado-turned-Jedi Master from this era, I marvel at how in the lead-up to The Force Awakens, many of us would’ve given our right hand (groan) to get a glimpse of him. But here he is, and if the early press is any indication, we’ll be seeing quite a bit of him in marketing for the next installment, thanks to his vastly-increased role.
Anyway, there’s not a whole lot new here. They’re both in their costumes from The Force Awakens’ dramatic final scene, which makes sense, since this film is the first Star Wars Episode to pick up right where the last Episode left off. There’s one notable change: Luke appears to be wearing a brown version of his plain black glove from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I hope they’ll explain somewhere why his mechanical hand, formerly covered in synthetic flesh, has been reduced to skeletal form. I’m glad he’s got the glove back on, at any rate; the skeletal hand was distracting to me in The Force Awakens.
As for their expressions, Rey seems a little unsure of herself, while Luke looks anxious and worn-down. This is presumably very early in the film, when Luke is in his “It’s time for the Jedi to end,” phase, which I have maintained is both a justified character arc and definitely a temporary phase in two other pieces here on SCIFI.radio.
Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux
Up next, we see Supreme Leader Snoke’s finest enforcers of the First Order, with Captain Phasma unmasked for the very first time, Kylo Ren in a more medieval-inspired costume (possibly reflecting his status as a Knight of Ren?), and General Armitage Hux with a grim frown on his face and a surfeit of pomade in his hair. Anyone who’s still annoyed about Kylo Ren’s scar being moved slightly to the side (scars heal weirdly, and let’s be fair: a scar running down his nose would’ve looked ludicrous) should be more annoyed at whatever that part is in the General’s greasy ginger locks. He just looks wet.
Plasma’s holding some kind of weird spear/lance, which is really intriguing and hopefully portends a more action-oriented role for the Captain, who was added to the cast of the last installment relatively late in the game and therefore had a more minuscule part than many expected. The fact that the main adult novel in the upcoming Journey to The Last Jedi promotion is Phasma, by Delilah S. Dawson, exploring her backstory, as well as a comic from Marvel, Captain Phasma, exploring her escape from the trash compactor between films, suggest she’ll be a crucial part of this film. As a member of the Rebel Legion and the 501st Legion, I also quite like that her hair is messed up in much the same way that someone’s actually is after doffing a stormtrooper helmet.
Kylo Ren looks more haunted than ever, with his new cape cutting a familiar silhouette not at all unlike his grandfather, Darth Vader. His doublet, the bane of many a cosplayer already, is black fabric quilted with light thread. I think this may be a further allusion to the “call to the light” with which the artist formerly known as Ben Solo struggles. The lack of a mask suggests a heightened vulnerability, and the emo kid gaze suggests a hardcore MySpace profile picture.
To be completely honest about Hux, I’ve always felt he was as unnecessary to this trilogy as the last several gobs of hair gel applied to him for this photograph are to his look. Still, I’m going into The Last Jedi with an open mind and hoping he will have some newfound relevance. His father’s evil is bone-chilling in the Aftermath novels, and I hope that is foreshadowing something. For the meantime, I hope he takes a cue from Phasma and lays off the hair product for a while.
Poe Dameron, Finn, Rose Tico, and BB-8
Of course, we can’t talk about helmet hair without mentioning Poe “Puts the Daaaamn in” Dameron, a man who kicks butt, takes names, and explodes planet-battle-stations while rocking the mussed three-quarter-part like a classic fighter jockey. He’s got a shirt that, apart from a slightly darker hue, is identical to that worn by Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. Continuing the trend of awesome jackets, his new one seems to be closely inspired by Han’s jacket from the same film, giving him a roguish appearance overall. Could Poe be on the fringe of things a bit more in this film, as the Resistance faces a galaxy with a New Republic to back them in their struggle?
Finn, of course, kept Poe’s jacket. (It suited him.) Hopefully the back of the jacket (and the back of Finn, for that matter) is patched up in some way. He’s also wearing the same shirt Poe wore at the start of The Force Awakens, suggesting both that he will continue working with the Resistance (it was said at Star Wars Celebration Orlando that Finn’s role in the Resistance, and whether he wants to continue to fight or flee, is a major arc for him in this film) and that Commander Dameron is very generous with his wardrobe. Finn’s got a Resistance Glie-44 blaster pistol at his hip, as does Poe. They’re ready for action. (As an unabashed supporter of a romance between these two, I refuse to define what I mean by “action.”)
Beside the returning duo stands Rose Tico, a new hero and the new cast member with the largest part in The Last Jedi, despite actress Kelly Marie Tran being the smallest physically, as writer/director Rian Johnson quipped at Star Wars Celebration. Rose is a maintenance worker in the Resistance. We really don’t know much about her, but her costume is in line with the color palette and overall style of The Force Awakens’ Resistance uniforms. She’s got quite a few tools on her belt and in her pockets, suggesting preparedness. While the two men in the photo have grim expressions, Rose seems more fresh and new to the fight, her smirk suggesting a lightness she will bring to the story.
BB-8 is still adorable, surprising no one and charming everyone. Two lighter-thumbs-up to everyone’s favorite ball droid (not that we’ve got many options).
General Leia Organa
Finally, we see the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. The former princess and eternal icon wears a finer gown than either of her The Force Awakens costumes, with more jewelry and more opulent, silky fabrics. The dark hue of the outfit likely reflects her recently-widowed status, as she mourns her husband Han Solo and the New Republic itself. It may be too speculative, but cloaks have often symbolized secrets and mysteries in Star Wars, and the sheer volume of her outer layer might suggest a new depth to Leia, who has been said to have a larger role in this film than in the previous installment. It’s fortunate that Leibovitz photographed a solo portrait of Ms. Fisher; it is a fitting tribute to the legacy of a legendary actress and advocate as fans continue to say our farewells.
This taste of the major players in The Last Jedi has left me eager for more. Tomorrow, we are promised more bits and pieces leading up to Thursday’s reveal of Leibovitz’s entire Star Wars: The Last Jedi portfolio. Luke may think it’s time for the Jedi to end, but the hype for this film is only beginning.