One of the more unexpected sequences in The Last Jedi saw Supreme Leader Snoke using the Force in a new and previously unseen way, forging a mental link between his apprentice, Kylo Ren, and wannabe Jedi Rey. Naturally, it drew criticism for messing with the lore of Star Wars.
Throughout those link sequences, there is an underlying edge as if Rian Johnson and his team were building sexual tension, which was hammered home when Kylo appears shirtless and looking as if he’s either fresh from the shower or a workout. Visibly flustered, Rey greets him with: “I’d rather not do this right now,” and begs him to cover up.
Despite the fun that’s had here, there is actually more at work. You see, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren holds the honour of being the second character to appear shirtless in the entire Star Wars franchise. The first? His grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. For those keeping score, Hayden Christensen appeared topless in both The Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith.
And it’s no accident. In all of those cases, the characters were at their most vulnerable and at their most emotionally (and of course literally) exposed. For Anakin, on both occasions, he is in bed, woken from terrifying and alarming nightmares: the kind that threaten to overthrow him and all that he holds dear. For his grandson in The Last Jedi, he’s spending time in his own chambers when he is unexpectedly greeted by a character who may be his enemy. For a character who has only recently unmasked, it can be assumed that he is also physically and emotionally unprotected.
Has shirtlessness been used to emphasise exposure and vulnerability in the new trilogy as a nod to the second? Is this another link to the prequels in The Last Jedi, the first of the Disney-run films to do so? It’s an intriguing thought.