(There is a spoiler ahead for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s not really a major spoiler, but you know better than I do what you consider something you don’t want to know before seeing the movie. Do whatever you want with that information.)
Whereas “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” operated as though it wanted you to forget the prequels exist by shoving in nods to the original trilogy at every opportunity, “The Last Jedi” doesn’t quite share its predecessor’s disdain for that other trilogy.
“The Last Jedi” pays tribute in two ways. The big one involves delivering essentially a coda to one of the major throughlines of the prequel trilogy, which I won’t go into detail about here just because that one really does involve a big spoiler.
The other is a simple visual reference to “The Phantom Menace” — curiously, it’s an homage to one of the more maligned parts of that movie.
I’m talking about when a 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) accidentally won the Battle of Naboo. There’s two components specifically that “The Last Jedi” references: when Anakin yells, “I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick!” before spinning the ship in order to avoid fire from the Trade Federation fighters; and when Anakin loses control of his ship and flies into the hangar of the Federation capital ship, blowing it up from the inside.
The reference comes during the space battle above the Resistance base just before the second act’s slow chase kicks in. During the battle Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) flies a First Order interceptor against the Resistance forces and seemingly copies Anakin’s tactics. First, as he’s flying by the Resistance flagship, he spins his interceptor a bunch of times and then flies deep inside the flagship through a cavernous opening in the hull to the hangar bay, which he promptly blows up before flying back out.
Normally in such a situation I’d consult the movie’s novelization for some insight into Kylo Ren’s thoughts during that whole situation, but the novel for “The Last Jedi” won’t be out until March. So I’m left to speculate that Ren, who is obsessed with Darth Vader, probably did his research on Anakin’s exploits, taking a cue from the Battle of Naboo — thinking Anakin did that thing he did on purpose instead of as a fluky “will of the Force” accident.
It’s also conceivable that the similarities are purely a coincidence.