WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Rian Johnson explains why Luke Skywalker’s story had to end in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Lucasfilm promised to bring back the original Star Wars trilogy’s characters for another adventure when Walt Disney Studios acquired them and simultaneously announced Star Wars: Episode VII (later subtitled The Force Awakens) in 2012 – and they did… to an extent.
While Lucasfilm did bring back the original characters, the Star Wars sequel trilogy isn’t exactly giving fans what they expected (or perhaps wanted) all these years. Han Solo is dead, and he never got the chance to reunite with Luke on-screen. And now, Luke Skywalker himself is dead, a controversial decision that Johnson and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy struggled with, and one that Mark Hamill openly opposed. But ultimately, Johnson felt ending Luke’s story was necessary to push the saga forward and focus on the sequel trilogy’s new characters Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren, among others.
In a recent Q&A session with EW, writer-director Rian Johnson discussed his hesitation to kill off Luke Skywalker, as well as why he chose to do so in Episode VIII instead of having the iconic character’s story conclude in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX, as Hamill initially wanted.
“I had huge hesitance. I was terrified. It was a growing sense of dread when I realized this was going to make sense in that chapter … 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.”
While many Star Wars fans may not agree with Johnson’s decision to kill off Luke in The Last Jedi, the filmmaker does make a point that the sequel has always been about the new characters. And rather than intertwine Rey and Kylo’s story with the original characters, Han, Luke, and Leia’s stories need to intertwine and advance the new characters’ journey. That’s what The Last Jedi strives to do. The film lets the past die and allows the characters to move forward – in shambles, but still forward.
Now, Leia Organa is the last remaining character from the original trio alive. Sadly, Leia may not physically appear in Episode IX due to Carrie Fisher’s untimely death in 2016, which means the sequel Star Wars trilogy’s concluding chapter will feature none of the original characters – physically, that is. Unlike Han Solo, Luke is a Jedi, and he can always come back as a Force ghost. And Yoda’s newfound ability to interact with the material world may allow Luke to play a more integral role in Episode IX than Obi-Wan Kenobi did in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.