Last week saw the release of the second film in the latest Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi. While the response from fans and critics has been mixed so far, one thing they can all agree on is how much information is jam-packed into the film, and how a repeat viewing is required to start putting together all the clues.
The new trilogy, rightly, focuses on the next generation: Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren etc. However, the old guard also play significant roles. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo was front and centre, in The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker returns.
Spoilers will be discussed from here on out.
Picking up from where The Force Awakens leaves off, the Luke Skywalker we met could not be more different than the one we last saw at the end of Return of the Jedi. Battle-worn, isolated, hopeless, guilt-ridden, this is a Luke who has literally cut himself off from the Force. However, once he opens himself up to it again, this is a Luke whose power we have never seen before. Not only can he wield a lightsaber and levitate objects, he is able to manifest a phantom version of himself that appears across the galaxy on Crait where he confronts Kylo Ren.
In that battle, he seemingly wins. What’s left of the Resistance is able to escape off-planet and with Ren and the First Order’s focus and firepower on “Luke”, they are unable to strike him down no matter what they throw at him, simply because he isn’t there.
Unfortunately, the celebrations don’t last too long for fans as the power needed to accomplish this feat in the Force drains Skywalker and our last shot of him is Luke becoming one with Force as he stares out at the twin suns of Ahch-To. A scene and image made all the more poignant as it reflects the young Luke’s yearnings to get off his home planet of Tatooine and make a difference in A New Hope and the fact that John Williams’ theme from this scene is reprised.
So what was it like killing off Luke Skywalker? “I had huge hesitance,” writer-director Rian Johnson told Entertainment Weekly recently. “I was terrified. It was a growing sense of dread when I realized this was going to make sense in that chapter.”
And while, yes it does make sense, a lot of fans are still in denial that it actually happened and in Episode VIII as opposed to Episode IX. Among them is Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. “Well, I’m still in denial,” Hamill joked. “I just think he transported somewhere else.” “Modern day New York,” Rian added with a laugh. “That was my favorite theory we had.”
Like us, Hamill also questioned when the act occurred in the narrative, “The first thing I said [to Johnson] was, ‘Can’t you wait and do this in Episode IX?’” However, what Johnson wanted to create was a finale for Luke “that pushes the audience and thus the character”.
“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,” Johnson added. “The [ongoing] story of Luke is one that has to play in tandem with that of Rey.”
Meanwhile, Hamill is still holding out that Luke is not truly gone (but then are any of the Force-sensitive characters truly gone as evidenced by Yoda’s appearance in this film?) and there could be a big clue in Luke’s final line to Ren: “I’m just still holding on to the line, ‘See you around, kid.’ I can be in Episode Nine!” Hamill declared.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now.
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