WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Rian Johnson explains the difference between Han Solo's death in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and Luke Skywalker's death in Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi. When Walt Disney Studios acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and simultaneously announced Star Wars: Episode VII, Star Wars fans hoped that the original trilogy's characters - namely Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) - would be returning for the planned sequel trilogy.
While the original trio certainly returned for the sequel, neither one received the happy ending they were hoping for at the end of Richard Marquand's Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. Han Solo met his ultimate fate at the hands of his son, Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren. And Luke Skywalker became one with the Force after strenuous use of his powers in The Last Jedi, which makes his death better than he initially hoped for. However, he probably didn't expect his Jedi Academy to fall apart the way it did, and for his apprentice to turn to the dark side. While two of the main three characters are now dead, both of which can be attributed to being Kylo's fault, they are different in many ways.
Rian Johnson explained the differences between Han Solo's death in The Force Awakens to Luke Skywalker's death in The Last Jedi in an interview with Uproxx.
"Well, first of all, I wanted it to be a contrast to Han in VII. In that Han in VII was violent and it was a defeat. Whereas Luke, I wanted it to be peaceful and a victory. I wanted him to win with this. So I thought, from the very start, that’s how I wanted it to feel. And the other element of it is it just rung true for me. It rung true for Han and it rings true with Luke. So many of us who grew up with these movies are at a place in our lives where we had people we had in these positions of mentorships are starting to get older and starting to deal with — whether it’s losing them or just our relationship with them changing and it becoming something else, it’s an element of life that I think a lot of people of my age who are Star Wars fans are starting to deal with. It felt emotionally honest to have that in there as well."
Johnson didn't believe having back-to-back deaths would be overwhelming for audiences, and many may have expected Luke to perish at some point in the film anyway. But considering that each main character is dying in "their" films - The Force Awakens was Han's film and The Last Jedi is Luke's film - many viewers may disagree with the filmmakers about their decisions to kill off the original cast, presumably to pave way for new characters, such as Rey and Kylo Ren, to shine.
Abrams' Star Wars: Episode IX marks the final chapter in Lucasfilm's Star Wars sequel trilogy, and while Leia is still alive, Fisher's passing precludes the character from appearing in the forthcoming sequel. Sadly, that means the original trio is now gone from the Star Wars universe altogether, unless, of course, Luke returns as a Force ghost.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018