Across the first two entries of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, we've had the death of two original trilogy heroes: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. And while both have been highly emotional, it's the latter Jedi Master that's ultimately the stronger farewell.
Behind all the ship swooping and lightsaber wooshing, Star Wars is an epic space opera of love and loss, with many emotional deaths across its nine movies. From Obi-Wan to Darth Vader, Padmé to Owen Lars and Aunt Beru, and even the entire cast of Gareth Edwards' Rogue One, the various writers and directors have never been afraid to swing the scythe of death.
Indeed, the Disney years of Star Wars have been iconized by the major departures of Han Solo in The Force Awakens and Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. Killing off two of the galaxy's biggest classic characters was a bold move, rocking fans in 2015 and 2017 respectively. But it's Luke Skywalker's death that leaves the biggest impact.
This Page: What Made Both Han & Luke's Deaths Great
Han Solo's Death Was Essential In Rebooting Star Wars
Charting unknown waters beyond George Lucas' original trilogy, Disney's sequel franchise has introduced a cast of newcomers like John Boyega's Finn, the rolling BB-8, and of course, Daisy Ridley's Rey. Linking the old and the new to bring back fans of Lucas years, The Force Awakens saw the return of Harrison Ford's rugged smuggler and an all-too-brief appearance of Hamill's loner Jedi.
Han Solo had reverted back to his old self, a rogue charting the galaxy to make a quick buck, but over the course of Episode VII came to fill the mentor role of Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan Kenobi, teaching Rey and Finn in the ways of the galaxy as Ben had done to Luke decades before (albeit not the ways of the Force). And, just as Obi-Wan was eventually revealed to be a part in Anakin's tragic fall to becoming Darth Vader, so too did Han have a shocking connection to the series' new villain: Kylo Ren. The movie only briefly touched on the breakdown of Han and Ben Solo's relationship before leading to a shadowy climax at the Starkiller Base. With Han finally listening to Leia, he was ready to take ownership of his part in Ren's turn to the dark side and attempted to him back to the light. This didn't go to plan, with Kylo plunging his lightsaber through his father's chest and watching him tumble to his death, a key step in his turn to the dark.
It was always on the cards that Solo wasn't going to make it to the end of the sequel trilogy, paving the way for the new blood to take over. As far back as Return of the Jedi, Ford has petitioned for Solo's death, and whether or not that had an influence, the actor was right it would leave an impact.
You can certainly see how Solo's death got the "emotional weight" that Ford was hoping for, but how does it compare to the Skywalker swansong?
Luke Skywalker's Death Was A Story Of Legacy
Luke Skywalker's sacrifice is, within The Last Jedi, a stamp on the movie's themes. The entire story is - as Yoda said explicitly - about learning from failure, and the biggest failure present in the film is the one that created the entire new conflict in the first place: Luke's lapse of judgment in trying to kill an all-too-powerful Ben Solo. Him stepping out onto the salt plains of Crait saw him (like Han before him) take on an Obi-Wan style role, putting his life on the line to save the Resistance, atoning for his mistakes. Doing so through a Force projection across the galaxy from Ahch-To, rather than literally taking on the entire First Order, showed learning from mistakes and understanding the importance of the mental victory over physical.
But this is also the end of a character audiences have been following for forty years. It's not just Luke showing up Kylo Ren and realizing that the Jedi needn't end, it's the farm boy finding solace in his life choices and appreciating his position in the wider galactic conflict; his final moments after the Force strain see him spiritually return to the binary sunset of Tatooine, his work done. Across the saga, we've seen the focus of the Skywalker shift from Anakin to Luke, and now from Luke to Rey/Kylo, and the Skywalker son's death makes that realization part of the text.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019