Han Solo’s death near the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a tragedy, but not a wholly unexpected one. The Star Wars franchise has a penchant for killing off mentor figures to inspire their proteges, and Harrison Ford almost certainly didn’t want to stick around for an unforeseen number of sequels. The Force Awakens (Episode VII) was Han Solo’s swan song, with a good chunk of the runtime going to everyone’s favorite intergalactic smuggler. This was done at the expense of another original trilogy star — Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, who appeared only briefly at the film’s end.
As such, Episode VIII is primed to give us far more of the original Skywalker, showing us what became of him after the end of Return of the Jedi. This begs the question — will Luke be the next original cast member to go?
Here are a few reasons we think he might.
1. Will Mark Hamill stick around?
Notoriously a little rough around the edges, Harrison Ford wanted to get out of Star Wars since the conclusion of Episode V when his character was encased in carbonite just in case Ford didn’t agree to another sequel. Mark Hamill doesn’t have the same reputation, but it seems obvious that the 65-year-old actor won’t want to stick around forever, especially since Disney plans on making new Star Wars films indefinitely.
2. It’s better to kill off a character than sideline them
If Mark Hamill isn’t willing to do another half-dozen sequels, as I’d guess he isn’t, it would only make sense from a storytelling perspective to kill off his character rather than simply forgetting about him on some distant planet. The writers in charge of Episode VIII and future franchise installments would want to give the original trilogy’s hero a proper sendoff, just as they did with Han Solo, aiming for maximum emotional impact and further motivating Rey to fight against the First Order.
3. He’s now a mentor
Episode VII hewed very close to the original Star Wars installments in terms of storytelling beats (orphaned child on a desert planet, Death Star, sketchy alien-filled cantina, etc.), so there’s reason to believe Episode VIII will do the same. And no beat is more tried-and-true in the Star Wars universe than a mentor’s death (Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan, Yoda).
We can conclude that Episode VIII will focus on Rey’s Jedi training at Luke’s instruction, so it would make narrative sense for Rey to have another mentor taken away from her, whether by enemy action or simple old age. Another mentor death so soon after the first might be a little too much of the same, but it also makes so much sense I can’t help but expect it all the same.
4. Rey has to figure things out on her own
Rey is obviously the hero of these new Star Wars films, which means she will play the biggest part in bringing down the First Order and its most prominent baddie, Kylo Ren. But why would she do it alone if Luke Skywalker, the Jedi who was powerful enough to resist the dark side and take down the Empire, was still around? I’d argue it makes a lot more sense dramatically for Rey to take on the First Order alone (or at least without other Jedi assisting), after Luke’s death has forced her to finish her training on her own.
5. Kylo Ren wants Luke dead
What’s more, is that Kylo Ren has every reason to want Luke Skywalker dead. Skywalker was the one who convinced Ren’s dark side inspiration, Darth Vader, to turn good at the last minute. And Ren slaughtered the students of Luke’s Jedi academy, as seen briefly during Rey’s Force hallucination in Episode VII, potentially forcing the older Jedi into hiding. Clearly there’s some unresolved conflict between the two that needs to be addressed at some point, and what more shocking way to address it than with Luke movingly sacrificing himself?
6. The red font used for the official title could be a bad omen
As recently revealed by the official Star Wars website, the title of Episode VIII will be Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While the wording of the title raises questions about the survival of the Jedi in general, it could also foreshadow something ominous happening to Luke, who — as far as we know — is currently the last Jedi in existence. However, the most striking visual element of the title is the bright red font, as opposed to the classic yellow-colored font that is typically used. The last time a red font was used in a Star Wars movie title was for Revenge of the Sith, (see above) a movie that isn’t exactly known for its upbeat tone. In other words, the red font of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi title only adds to our concern for Luke’s survival in Episode VIII.
Additional reporting by Nathanael Arnold.
Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf
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