Mark Hamill in Star Wars The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson on what really happened to Luke in The Last Jedi, and why

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Dec 17, 2018, 7:00 PM EST (Updated)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Now that Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been out in theaters for nearly a month (and everyone, we're guessing, has seen it at least once), Rian Johnson has been opening up about some of the film's more controversial moments (which he has been gracious about to the fans).

Chief among those is Luke Skywalker’s final scene in the film, in which the once-embittered Jedi (Mark Hamill) projects an image of himself via the Force across space to stop Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) from getting a chance to wipe out the last of the rebels. Mission accomplished, an exhausted Luke rests atop a cliff back on Ahch-To, watching its twin suns as his body slowly fades into nothingness.

It's a farewell worthy of a Jedi (who tend to disappear like that), but many fans have wondered why exactly Luke had to "die" — or at least transition to a different plane. Speaking with Huffington Post, Johnson explained:

"I don’t want to get too explicit, because I like people being able to have their own interpretations. But I think definitely the act of what he does at the end literally just takes everything out of him. That’s a huge thing. Also... he’s having his final act be something of myth-making in a way."

Johnson added that Luke's final act to save the rebels — and the toll it takes on him — completes his arc from a disillusioned warrior who wants nothing to do with the galaxy anymore to a legend who can inspire others to take up the fight:

"It does go back a little bit to what he said at the beginning [of The Last Jedi]. 'What do you think one guy walking out there with a lightsaber [can do]?'...The answer is: Create a legend that will spread hope. And once he’s done that, combined with the physical toll it’s taken on him, you can make the case that then there’s nothing more powerful that he could accomplish.

Johnson also admitted he was "dreading" Luke's final scene, but added that "it felt like the right moment" for the beloved character to exit the stage.

Of course, we said "final scene" and not "death scene" because there's always the possibility that Luke could return as a Force ghost in Episode IX, which J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio are now writing, with Abrams to direct. Johnson agreed that the son of Skywalker could indeed make an encore, saying Luke's ending in The Last Jedi "seems like it just gives you a whole other realm to get into if [Abrams and Terrio] chose to in the next film."

Why not? Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda certainly had an influence on events in the corporeal world from wherever old bodiless Jedis hang out, so it's perfectly reasonable to assume Luke could do the same. Do you think Luke should come back in Episode IX? And if not, are you satisfied with the way he said goodbye in The Last Jedi?