Warning! MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead!
At the end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker dies. Following in the footsteps of Han Solo, the Jedi Master fades away, becoming one with the Force. This is a major turn in a movie full of shocking plot developments, but how exactly did it all go down?
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Skywalker didn't appear on screen until the final seconds of the film. All he did is turn around and lower his hood as he stares at the lightsaber in Rey's outstretched hand. He doesn't even speak a word! The scene is without question one of the biggest teases in cinema history, and it set fans wild with speculation as they discussed what would happen when he made his proper return in Episode VIII.
In The Force Awakens, we learned Luke went into exile after his apprentice and nephew Ben Solo turned to the dark side and destroyed the Jedi Temple. Though it had been Snoke who poisoned Ben's heart, Luke blamed himself for his becoming Kylo Ren. In The Last Jedi, we learn how deeply that guilt runs and how much Luke dwells on his weaknesses and failures. When Rey comes to asks for his help fighting the First Order, he refuses, and when she asks him to train her in the ways of The Force, he responds, "it's time for the Jedi to end."
Luke has to be convinced to rejoin the fight and reopen himself to the Force, prodded along by Rey, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and even Yoda - who comes to him as a Force Ghost, delivering one final lesson to his student. Once Luke finally does come to help the Resistance, it's a pivotal moment, with his decision "walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order" - and Kylo Ren in particular - becoming the turning point of the film.
What Really Happens When Luke Fights Kylo Ren
What Really Happens When Luke Fights Kylo Ren
For almost all of The Last Jedi's runtime, the Resistance is on the backfoot, desperately trying to stay out of range of the First Order's cannons. On the planet Crait, what little remains of the Resistance's forces make their last stand from within an abandoned rebel base, hoping they can hold on long enough for help to arrive. They send transmissions with General Leia's personal code to the Outer Rim, confident their allies will answer - but no replies come and the few dozen Resistance fighters who remain are all that stand between them and total annihilation.
And then there he is, Luke Skywalker, arriving when all hope seems lost. He goes first to Leia, and the twins share in a heartwarming reunion before he turns to leave, winking at C-3PO, and walking towards the hanger door. As Luke makes his way through the rebel base, everyone stops and watches, the magnitude of what's happening registering on their faces.
Once outside, Luke is all that stands between the First Order and the obliteration of the Resistance, and when Kylo sees him, he goes berserk. The new Supreme Leader orders for all their assembled forces to fire on him, unleashing a barrage of heavy firepower towards Luke. But when the firing stops and the dust settles, he's completely unharmed. This only enrages Kylo even more, and he sets out to face his uncle and former master one-on-one.
Luke and Kylo's duel is unlike any lightsaber battle Star Wars has ever featured, intense and heavy with emotion, but also understated and without the flashy moves we've come to expect of modern fight scenes. This isn't to suggest their duel lacks spectacle. Indeed, it's thrilling to watch as Luke dodges Kylo's violent strikes with such ease, irritating his former apprentice more and more. But once Luke senses their duel has served its purpose, and he's stalled long enough to allow for Rey to aide in the Resistance's escape, he stands down. It's then and only then that Kylo lands a blow, slashing straight through Luke in one swift motion.
For an instant it seems as if Kylo has just struck down his former master, but shockingly, his attack has absolutely no effect on Luke, almost as if Luke were a ghost. And in a way, he is, because the Luke that comes to Crait isn't really there, not physically anyhow. He's an illusion projected through the Force and across the galaxy in a what seems to be a more advanced iteration of the means by which Rey and Kylo have been communicating via The Force.
In retrospect, the fact that Luke is never really there is so obvious - this Luke looks younger, refreshed, he's all cleaned up and in a new outfit. He's even shown wielding the blue lightsaber that's destroyed earlier in the film and not his own green one. Luke doesn't leave any footprints or kick up any of Crait's red soil and there's never any contact between he and Kylo, not until Rey and Resistance are safe and he can finally break his meditation and end this charade. With his job done, Luke vanishes.
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