Will Star Wars: The Last Jedi become more powerful than fans can possibly imagine and feature Force ghosts? We already know Episode VIII is bringing back a lot of classic original trilogy elements, and are now beginning to suspect the blue spirits will be there alongside A-Wings, AT-M6s and TIE Silencers.
The fires of speculation have been stoked recently by an Obi-Wan Kenobi ghost Black Series figure released on Force Friday. Of course, Hasbro's made clear this toy is based on the character as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi - and per Rian Johnson himself the toys don't contain any major plot spoilers. However, that does still raise the question of whether they could appear. Here's why Force ghosts might just make a return.
How Force Ghosts Have Changed Since The Original Trilogy
First, though, it's worth clarifying how Force ghosts (or spirits, as George Lucas preferred) actually work given how much they've changed since their first appearance in Empire. At the end of the original trilogy, a redeemed Anakin Skywalker (looking like Sebastian Shaw or Hayden Christensen depending on which version you're watching) appears alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda on Endor. This made it seem like any Jedi could become a ghost upon death, but the prequels altered that - the process of immortality and being able to convene with the living was only discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn after his death in The Phantom Menace and conveyed to Yoda in Revenge of the Sith. He and Obi-Wan learned how to retain physical form in the decades before the first film, with Anakin presumably helped along somehow by his redemption.
This means that when we're saying Force ghosts, we're talking almost exclusively about Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin; There's not going to be any old ancient Jedi popping up or a Samuel L. Jackson return. Qui-Gon is also an outside shot, although it's less likely given how he's only ever appeared in a physical form in visions in The Clone Wars.
Aside from limited numbers, there are potentially other restrictions. In the non-canon Legends, Force ghosts weren't a permanent state but an interim purgatory between the land of the living and the Netherworld of the Force; Obi-Wan eventually moved on about five years after the end of the original trilogy, around the time Luke's son Ben was born. Think of it as a physical representation of Star Wars' cross-generational themes; the elders are able to oversee the future before fading into memory. Whether this is true of the new mythology hasn't been divulged, but could be used a shield by Lucasfilm should they choose not to do it.
What Role Can Force Ghosts Play in The Last Jedi?
We don't know much about the story of Episode VIII. True, from the trailers, toys and magazine exclusives we can get a solid idea of the first act and a good overview of what happens afterward, but what exactly the drive of the film - specifically in regards to Luke and his status even as a hero or villain - is as vague as Rey's parentage. However, we have enough to still speculate on how Force ghosts would fit into the movie.
The first half will have Rey and Luke on Ahch-To in a battle of the minds; we know the last Jedi will initially be reluctant to even acknowledge the new arrival's Force adeptness and harbors strong reservations about giving the Order a future in general, but will come round to train her. Within that conflicted arc is a dissection of what the Force means and the mystical underpinnings of the franchise.
It's easy to see how any or all of the trio of ghosts could fit in here. They can be advisers or combatants to Luke, alternative mentors to Rey, or thematically used to represent the strengths/weaknesses/dogma/persistence of the Jedi. Which avenue exactly depends on what Rian Johnson's going for, but the important thing is that they should be able to go beyond fan service and accentuate the movie - as long as they don't undermine Luke in a more experienced role. But will they turn up at all?
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019