This post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens served as the triumphant return-to-form many were hoping for, earning widespread critical acclaim and breaking box office records left and right. As beloved as the film is, one thing that disappointed some longtime fans was the lack of screen time for original trilogy hero Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill has but a single scene in the movie, appearing at the very end after Rey locates the Jedi Master on a faraway world using the map that drives the main narrative.
Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams' decision to hold back on Luke was a smart one. Not only were there concerns that an expanded part for Skywalker would overshadow the new faces Star Wars 7 was meant to focus on, it arguably was wise for Lucasfilm to not go overboard on the nostalgia all in one film. When it comes time to market Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, the studio can lean on that once again, with Luke filling the role Han Solo had in the Force Awakens promotional materials: the old veteran guiding the youngsters.
Since Hamill didn't even have a line of dialogue in Episode VII, his return in Star Wars 8 is very much anticipated. Viewers can't wait to see what has happened to Luke in the years since Return of the Jedi and witness the character in action. Expectations will be very high for Luke in the sequel, and luckily Johnson won't disappoint.
While on the Oscars red carpet, Daisy Ridley shared some details about Episode VIII production with MTV, spending most of her interview raving about working with Hamill and how great Luke is in the film:
— MTV News (@MTVNews) February 29, 2016
The actress obviously doesn't share anything too revealing, but many fans will gravitate towards the "opening of 8" portion of her answer. It isn't official confirmation, but it heavily implies that Star Wars 8 will pick up immediately (or very shortly after) the events of The Force Awakens. This would be breaking new ground for the franchise. In the past, there were a number of years that took place between installments; Empire Strikes Back is set three years after Star Wars, while Attack of the Clones happens a full decade after The Phantom Menace. Still, that revelation is not exactly a surprise, given the cliffhanger Force Awakens ended on. Many are eager to see the initial conversation between Luke and Rey, and it looks like they'll get that opportunity.
Viewers are expecting Rey's journey to mirror Luke's in the originals, in that she spends a majority of her time in the trilogy's middle chapter removed from her new friends on an isolated planet training with an AWOL Jedi Master. Ridley's quote more or less indicates that will be the case in Star Wars 8, as she appears to be spending most of her time rehearsing with Hamill. Of course, Rey could rejoin the core group by the film's end, but it seems a substantial portion of her role this time around will be with Luke, learning the ways of the Force. It's also possible the former Jakku scavenger will discover her true purpose and the mission she's training for. Luke was seen as the last hope to destroy the Sith; how is Rey meant to save the galaxy?
Ridley once again praised the narrative Johnson has crafted, saying that "it's such a good story, seriously." She also teases that Luke is "so cool" in Episode VIII, barely containing her excitement. One can only hope this means Luke gets involved in the action at some point, unleashing the full power of his Force abilities on the big screen. Even though Hamill was in Force Awakens, it's been a long time coming for Star Wars fans to get "more Luke," and Johnson looks like the man ready to handle that gigantic challenge.
Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, and will be followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode 8 on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.