It's no secret — I am excited for The Last Jedi. Directed and written by Rian Johnson, this film is No. 1 on my most anticipated of 2017 list. Johnson, who directed films like Looper and a few episodes of the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad, stated early on that this film will start right after the events of The Force Awakens. Many were puzzled over this choice. What will the crawl say? What about Rey and Kylo's training? All this is relevant, and the teaser trailer showcased all this. But what if that's only the beginning and we're, in fact, going to get a massive time jump after the first act?
It's All In The Hair
The theory has been tossed around a few times over the months but I am now fully on board with this idea after seeing Vanity Fair's amazing cover story for #TheLastJedi. One of their covers focused on the dark side, specifically Kylo Ren, an unmasked Captain Phasma and General Hux. You might be surprised to hear that despite all the characters on display, Hux was the most interesting to me.
The man looks VERY different that how he appeared in The Force Awakens, sporting a different hairstyle and appearing more sinister overall. It's here that I thought that we're seeing Hux many months, or even a year or two after Rey met with Luke for the first time. Sure, General Hux could have simply decided that he wanted to comb his hair differently that morning, but films tend to keep the same look for a character so as to not confuse the viewer. Usually, when there's a change in style or fashion, it's a possible indicator that time has indeed passed. Some might say that Hux's new look may have to do with the events of Starkiller Base, but the General made it out alright, as stated in the novelization:
Utilizing the tiny position sensor emplaced in Ren’s belt, Hux had tracked him to this spot. He would have taken Rey and Finn, as well, if not for the command that had been issued by the Supreme Leader. That took precedence over everything. There was simply no time left. The two renegades were going to die here anyway, he told himself as he followed the troopers carrying Ren into the nearby shuttle.
Seems like Hux's only concerns are his orders and not any personal well being. I don't see why he'd feel the sudden urge to change his looks right after this event.
Normally, there is a time jump between films. The gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back is around three years, and another year from that to The Return of the Jedi. If this is the case, this will be the first time in the saga where the action will move forward this much within one movie. An unprecedented move yes, but a unique one and one that would allow for more character growth and more events to transpire on screen.
If this is true, where Rey and Kylo are at the start of the film and where we'll see them by the end will be fascinating as they'll both likely be very different people. Kylo Ren in particular looks to have undergone an interesting transformation. Not only is he sporting a full cape this time around (not unlike his grandfather), but he's completely abandoned his signature mask by the looks of it.
Numerous photos and the teaser trailer suggest that Ben Solo has accepted who he is and no longer sees the need for the mask, which was ultimately used more for intimidation than necessity. Ideally, if some time has passed, Kylo Ren will not only be a ruthless warrior, but a highly emotionally conflicted one who has completed Snoke's training, something that would likely take some time to do.
Let's not forget that some of the lead characters took on minor cosmetic differences between films, such as Luke dawning a black robe between Empire and Jedi, so a cosmetic adjustment for many characters would make complete sense for a time shift mid-film.
We also got a peek at Rey looking quite different than what we're used to in the early look at the marketing banner for the film. This will be used on toys and other merchandising material, and it's safe to say that Rey is definitely sporting a completely different hairstyle. I don't think this is mere coincidence or simply to promote new toys, but rather to show a passage of time. I don't think Star Wars is the kind of film series to simply tell us "x amount of months has passed," so the filmmakers would need to use visual storytelling to get their point across.
A Familiar Technique
Changing character appearances is not an uncommon technique used by filmmakers, and it offers a more organic option than simply explaining it. One of the most popular series on television, Vikings, uses this method often. It's common for shows to jump jump between seasons; Black Sails does this effectively enough without informing us just how much time has passed, but Vikings actually has to convey a time change within the same season. In order to do this, they absolutely have to change the appearance of their cast in some way, and the best way to do this is by changing the hairstyles of many characters.
It's a minor thing at the end of the day but it's the most organic way to tell the audience that there has been a passage of time. If there happens to be a time jump in The Last Jedi, then this would be the most seamless way for the filmmakers to make that transition.