“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is already making a killing at the box office as it heads to an opening weekend north of $200 million, which means thousands of “Star Wars” fans are finally learning more about what happened to Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill reprises his iconic role in “The Last Jedi” and has one of the film’s most essential storylines. The actor joined director Rian Johnson to talk about Luke’s fate in a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly.
[Editor’s Note: Spoilers for “The Last Jedi” follow.]
“The Last Jedi” ends with a major bit of misdirection on Luke’s part. During the epic battle between the Resistance and the First Order on the mineral planet of Crait, Luke finally makes his grand return and engages in a lightsaber fight with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Luke and Kylo’s duel ends up being just the distraction the Resistance needs in order to safely escape the planet before being wiped out by the First Order. When Kylo goes to stab Luke with his lightsaber, however, the weapon goes right through the Jedi.
As it turns out, Luke was not actually on Crait, but was meditating on the island Ahch-To. Luke was able to use the Force to create a projection of himself on Crait and mastermind the plan to distract the First Order and save what was left of the Resistance. The scene ends with Luke, weak from using so much of the Force and seemingly at peace with his decision, dying by fading away, just as Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda did before him.
“I had huge hesitance,” Johnson told Entertainment Weekly about killing Luke Skywalker. “I was terrified. It was a growing sense of dread when I realized this was going to make sense in that chapter.”
Johnson said that he collaborated with Lucasfilm on Luke’s fate to make sure his death made sense for the franchise. The goal for bringing Luke’s character arc to an end was to “push the audience and thus the character.”
“Well, I’m still in denial,” Hamill joked about the fact he’s no longer alive in the “Star Wars” universe. “I just think he transported somewhere else…The first thing I said [to Rian] was, ‘Can’t you wait and do this in Episode IX?'”
Ending Luke’s storyline felt necessary for Johnson so that the third and final installment in the current “Star Wars” trilogy could focus entirely on ending the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. Johnson never viewed “The Last Jedi” as Luke’s movie to begin with, citing “The Return of the Jedi” as the end of Luke’s hero journey.
“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 said. “The [ongoing] story of Luke is one that has to play in tandem with that of Rey.”
Johnson worked closely with editor Bob Ducsay to make sure the misdirection during Luke and Kylo’s fight could work without any narrative loopholes. Ducsay points out that Luke’s body movements on Crait never make a sound, nor does Kylo’s lightsaber ever strike Luke until the final reveal. Johnson made sure Luke’s projection avoided contact with Kylo’s lightsaber during the fight, which is why we see Luke slide under it instead of blocking it with his own lightsaber.
“Exactly, by design,” Ducsay said. “There are many small things that would give you some clues as to what’s going on with Luke. He doesn’t make a sound. Nothing ever falls on him. Kylo’s lightsaber interacts with the salt, and Luke’s doesn’t.”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is now playing in theaters nationwide.