There’s one question that’s on everyone’s mind after viewing Star Wars: The Last Jedi: What’s next for Luke Skywalker? After all, at the end of the film (spoiler alert!), Luke dies and becomes one with the Force.
That came as quite a shock, especially considering this is only the second film in a trilogy. But will Mark Hamill return as Luke in Episode IX? And if so, will it basically just be a cameo, or will he have just as much screen time as he did in the latest film? Here’s what we know about what happened to Luke Skywalker and what his future is after The Last Jedi.
Luke dies after projecting himself across the galaxy
When Kylo Ren and Rey first begin seeing each other from far away in The Last Jedi, Kylo notes that there’s no way she could be responsible for this. “The effort would kill you,” he says.
This seems to foreshadow Luke’s fate. At the end of the movie, he projects himself across the galaxy in order to save the Resistance. After doing so, he dies on Ahch-To. Still, some fans were a bit confused about whether Luke died from exhaustion due to the Force projection or whether he became one with the Force willingly, recognizing this as the end of his journey.
Well, writer and director Rian Johnson has now answered that question.
Rian Johnson has confirmed Luke died due to the Force projection
In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, Rian Johnson confirmed that Luke dies because he projected himself onto Crait. “When Luke shows up he’s projecting, it’s like a hardcore variation of what Kylo and Rey have been doing the whole time and that’s why it takes so much out of him,” Johnson explained.
Why does this make a difference? Well, there were initially some theories that Luke’s death was different from the death of Obi-Wan and Yoda because he simply decided to become one with the Force and didn’t really “die” at all. Therefore, perhaps he could return as something more than a Force ghost. However, the idea instead seems to be that Luke’s body gave out because of the projection.
Now that the circumstances surrounding his death are clear, will Luke be back in Episode IX?
He can still return as a Force ghost, but this trilogy isn’t his story
Just because Luke is dead doesn’t mean we won’t see him again. In fact, because of the existence of Force ghosts, it would actually be pretty strange if we don’t see Luke in Episode IX.
That being said, Johnson has stated that this trilogy is about the new characters, and so Luke would only return to be a part of their story. Johnson told Entertainment Weekly, “I think the hero’s journey of Luke Skywalker concluded in Return of the Jedi. This [trilogy] is the hero’s journey of Rey, and Finn, and Poe. The [ongoing] story of Luke is one that has to play in tandem with that of Rey.”
It’s worth noting that the screenplay for Episode IX has been undergoing heavy re-writes since Carrie Fisher died. Episode IX was originally meant to focus heavily on Leia Organa, but due to this real-life tragedy, it no longer can. This means that without Luke, Episode IX would not have any of the original cast in it. So it would not be surprising at all if Hamill is given a bit more to do in Episode IX than originally expected in order to make up for the lack of Leia.
Mark Hamill says he really wants to be in Episode IX
For what it’s worth, Mark Hamill is up for starring in Episode IX for as long as he’s needed. This isn’t a Harrison Ford situation where the actor is dying to get out of this franchise and only agreed to be in one installment.
In fact, Hamill told Entertainment Weekly that he expressed to Johnson that he wished Luke could have died in Episode IX rather than The Last Jedi. Hamill also joked that he’s so desperate to be in the next one that he’d even be willing to do the catering just to be able to hang out on set.
Hamill also pointed to Luke’s line to Kylo Ren, “See you around, kid,” which would suggest this isn’t the last we see of Luke. Ultimately, it’s up to J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, the writers of Episode IX, to determine how much Luke should be in it.
Johnson says Luke’s death will open up more possibilities down the line
Johnson certainly isn’t acting like this is the end of the line for Luke Skywalker. In an interview with Esquire, he said that the decision to kill Luke actually just opens up more possibilities for where his story can go.
…the potential of Luke’s part in the next chapter, no matter what it ends up being, the possibilities are more varied and more exciting with him having passed on into the next realm. The notion of what his place could be in that context actually seemed more exciting to me than him following around the gang with a lightsaber. It seemed like it added the possibilities of more ingredients in the next film that seemed very exciting.
This is a point Johnson reiterated in several other interviews. So while he’s not responsible for writing the next chapter, it definitely wasn’t his intention that this is the last we see of Luke, and it sounds like we might see more of him than just one scene.
Force ghosts can now interact with the real world
An important point to consider as we speculate on Luke’s future is that The Last Jedi expands the idea of what a Force ghost can do. In the previous movies, we’ve never really seen them interact with the real world. Sure, Obi-Wan pushes some branches out of the way in Return of the Jedi, and in The Clone Wars, Qui-Gon moves some objects around and blows out candles, but that’s about the extent of it.
However, in The Last Jedi, Yoda is actually able to summon lightning as a Force ghost. He also hits Luke on the head with his cane. Johnson has specifically highlighted this as something that sets the stage for the future.
“The one point where we do introduce a bit of a twist in terms of Force ghosts is where Yoda calls down the lightning onto the tree,” Johnson told The Los Angeles Times. “That, I think, is a tantalizing hint of the potential of someone who is a Force ghost interacting with the real world.”
Going forward, then, it’s possible that Luke can actually get involved in the final battle in Episode IX (though this would raise the question of why every other Force ghost has opted not to interfere in galactic conflicts).
Luke still has a third lesson he has to teach Rey
There might be a clue within The Last Jedi about Luke’s future. In the movie, Luke tells Rey he’s going to teach her three lessons. He ends up giving her two of those lessons, but Rey leaves on the Falcon before she can get the third.
This could set up the fact that Rey will receive one final lesson from Luke in Episode IX, this time with Luke as a Force ghost. At least, that’s one interpretation of it. It’s also possible that Luke’s final sacrifice on Crait — or perhaps his story about failing Ben — was actually her third lesson. It’s also possible that Rey just won’t receive a final lesson. In the original trilogy, after all, Luke leaves Dagobah before Yoda has completed his training, and he and Yoda never pick it back up.
But if Abrams is looking for a way to re-introduce Luke, he has a great setup for a scene in Episode IX in which Luke cult return to give Rey a third lesson about the Force, ahead of her final confrontation with Kylo Ren.
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