‘The Last Jedi’: Luke Skywalker’s Force Projection Wasn’t the Cause of His Death

“No one’s ever really gone,” Luke Skywalker solemnly intoned during the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker. Few fans were surprised that he came back for a brief appearance in Episode IX after passing on in The Last Jedi. Most viewers got the impression that Luke’s “projection” of himself spent the last of his energy, and he died heroically as a result.

However, some fans think that’s not exactly how he died. It’s one of many fan theories going around as the sequel trilogy comes in for a  reevaluation as people rewatch the films. 

What happened to Luke Skywalker?

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill | Rich Fury/Getty Images

One of the most controversial aspects of The Last Jedi was its treatment of Luke. After being absent for all of The Force Awakens except for the very last scene, Luke was poised to play the hero, swoop in and defeat Kylo Ren and the First Order. In other words, fans expected more or less a mirror of the original trilogy, as The Force Awakens had been seen as a remake of A New Hope. 

But that’s not what happened – at least not at first. Instead of agreeing to train a hopeful Rey, he rejects her pleas, telling her he’s all but given up. Instead of being heroic, he’s sullen and dour. He tells her that he came to the island to die, so she might as well go her own way. To say this is not what fans expected would be an understatement. 

Eventually, however, Luke did spring into action, but in a very unusual way. He appears to go to where the First Order has the rebels cornered. Instead of being there in the flesh, Luke has sent a projection of himself, mirroring the way he first met his sister Leia — as a projection. This unnerves Kylo Ren to no end, but it does give the rebels a chance to escape and fight on for another movie. 

Was Luke’s death foreshadowed? 

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Upon reflection, Luke’s death was not that surprising. After Han Solo met a dire fate in Force Awakens, fans expected something might happen to Luke too. The Empire Strikes Back put Luke through the wringer, and so fans thought The Last Jedi might too. It did, but subverted expectations ahoy. 

On Reddit, fans said they foresaw Luke’s death because The Last Jedi foreshadowed it. Fans debated the matter on Reddit, with the topic-starter saying, “During Kylo and Rey’s first force bond, he tells her that the effort of ‘force projecting’ an image of oneself would kill them. This foreshadows Luke’s final act and death.”

The fan site Wookieepedia describes Luke’s final moments this way: 

“Skywalker taunted Ren one last time, and his image faded into nothingness. Light-years away, Skywalker collapsed from the mental stress necessary to sustain such a lifelike illusion, which Ren realized meant that Luke would become one with the Force.”

Some fans interpret Luke’s death differently  

Another fan on the forum countered, “I actually don’t agree with this interpretation. I think Luke is portrayed as surviving the effort of the projection. His death is an act of will, a Jedi at total peace choosing to become one with the Force.

In other words, the projection did not kill Luke, but once his final heroic deed was accomplished, Luke did just what he said he was going to do – he came to the island to die. Director Rian Johnson said he wasn’t sorry for how he wrote Luke’s arc — and this fan seems to think maybe people shouldn’t be.

“One way or the other he chooses his death, but I like the idea that his choice to become one with the Force shows he has achieved what every Jedi aspires to but very few really achieve.”

Put another way, this might as well be Luke saying, “I meant to do that.”