In a recent interview, Rian Johnson discusses his motivations for many of his choices in The Last Jedi. Some of what he says has implications for Episode IX. Spoilers below for The Last Jedi and potential spoilers for Episode IX. Let’s discuss.
In a recent interview for Slashfilm Daily podcast, Rian Johnson answers some questions about his motivations for a lot of the unexpected events of The Last Jedi. One in particular (around 12:30) regarding his motivations behind why Luke dies in this film. Rian gives his thoughtful remarks by saying:
When I knew that was his arc, I had the instant tinge of “that means that’s the place for him to…” because what else can he accomplish in the physical realm beyond that?
Rian goes on to say what Luke’s passing in TLJ means for Episode IX:
I don’t know what’s going to happen in IX at all, but the idea that there is more potential for more interesting things in terms of this role for the final chapter if he moves into another realm…
While I know that Rian doesn’t know what exactly will happen in Episode IX, this idea of Luke passing to another realm is really intriguing. I’ve often wondered if they would go there. After all, in each episode of the Star Wars saga, we get closer and closer to revealing more about Force-ghosts and the afterlife in Star Wars. Here’s a quick rundown:
The Phantom Menace – Qui-gon dies, Jedi don’t believe in an afterlife
Attack of the Clones – Qui-gon’s voice can be heard when Anakin attacks the Tusken Raiders
Revenge of the Sith – Yoda is visited by Qui-gon. “An old friend has learned the path to immortality. One who has returned from the Netherworld of the Force.“
A New Hope – Obi Wan vanishes, his voice is heard by Luke.
The Empire Strikes Back – Obi Wan’s Force-ghost appears to Luke
Return of the Jedi – Yoda vanishes, Luke sees Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin as Force-ghosts
The Force Awakens – Yoda, Obi Wan’s voices heard in Force-vision, not sure how to interpret Palpatine’s voice
The Last Jedi – Luke vanishes and also uses Force-projection.
Let’s take a moment to look at Yoda’s quote from RotS. He mentions the “netherworld” of the Force. It’s not clear how much the Jedi could really know about this concept because until then no one had ever returned from it.
But clearly, Yoda, Obi Wan, Anakin, and Luke are in a realm other than the physical plane. If Rian Johson is right, and this is something that will be explored in Episode IX, how would it be represented like on screen?
Something like washed-out light could work, like the entire room filled with light like the holocron scene from Rebels above. However, that may be too traditional, and JJ may want to represent it in some other novel way. It’s also possible that JJ has completely different plans.
But if they do attempt to represent a “spiritual plane” of the Force in Episode IX, it provides an opportunity for a reunion that could include Obi-Wan, Yoda, Luke, Anakin, and Qui-gon Jinn. Maybe they could include the Bendu and the Father while their at it, since they both seemed to have vanished. We could follow Luke on some quest through a different plane. While the action is taking place in a space battle between the First Order and the Rebellion, there could be a parallel battle between the Jedi Force-ghosts and some evil that has emerged in the netherworld. Either that, or Luke could go on a quest while on some different plane, and encounter various foes and allies along the way. The possibilities are extraordinary, but this sort of thing has a limit.
If this type of thing is to work, it needs to look good on screen, and it also needs to look somewhat novel. It can’t look like the image of heaven presented in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, or from any other movie for that matter.
The closest thing that we have to a depiction of the afterlife in Star Wars is probably the cave scenes from Empire Strikes Back and from The Last Jedi. These two scenes might give a hint of a trippy netherworld, or something like Rey’s Force-vision might also give an example of a netherworld where everything jumps from place-to-place like a dream. The world of Mortiss also comes to mind, but probably more physical than I would expect. The other big thing that comes to mind is Yoda’s arc for The Clone Wars. Although those scenes took place on a physical planet, they still give an indication of otherworldly concepts in Star Wars. My guess this one will be hard to predict, because assuming they are going this direction, they will have a team of concept designers come up with something that we’ve never seen.
One more point. Yoda as a Force-ghost used the Force to conjure up some lightning. This moment is particularly intriguing because it means that Force-ghosts can interact with the world to produce a significant outcome. This means that Luke could affect Kylo and Rey from beyond in more ways that talking to them. That said, a Jedi would never use such a power for attack, or at least they shouldn’t. Yoda may have manipulated the weather to produce lightning, but he didn’t use the lightning to hurt anyone physically. Let’s consider that for now as a possible rule for Force-ghosts.
For now, it’s anyone’s guess if we’ll see anything like this, but the odds are decent. We’ll keep an eye out and let you know if anything else emerges.