Here's everything that can be ascertained about Luke Skywalker's role in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. When the Star Wars sequel trilogy kicked off with The Force Awakens in 2015, Luke Skywalker's presence was tantalizingly brief, merely serving as a McGuffin before a brief appearance in which the old Jedi stared pensively at Rey before the final credits rolled. Thankfully, Mark Hamill's famous hero returned in all his milk-guzzling glory for Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.
Luke spent the majority of his time in the previous Star Wars episode reluctantly training Rey, feeling guilty about Kylo Ren's turn to the Dark Side and eschewing his responsibilities to the Resistance as they desperately fought against the First Order. Eventually, in one heroic final stand, Luke used his advanced Force powers to project an image of himself onto Crait, distracting Kylo Ren and allowing the last few Resistance fighters to escape and fight another day. The strain of this technique cost Luke his life.
When it comes to the Force, death in the Star Wars universe isn't necessarily an absolute, and Luke Skywalker's story will continue in The Rise of Skywalker - a film where the very title suggests a sizable role for the grizzled Jedi Master.
Mark Hamill Will Return As Luke Skywalker In Star Wars 9
As mentioned previously, death is more of a suggestion than a mandatory sentence when it comes to the Jedi, so it wasn't a huge surprise when the official cast list for The Rise of Skywalker included one Mark Hamill. The actor himself has confirmed his participation both in interviews and on his social media. Somewhat curiously, however, Luke's image (though not his voice) has been absent from the various trailers released thus far for The Rise of Skywalker. This might suggest that Hamill's role will be in the form of a cameo, more akin to The Force Awakens than The Last Jedi.
With that said, Luke Skywalker certainly has plenty of unfinished business in the Star Wars universe, especially with the impending return of Emperor Palpatine. The Rise of Skywalker must address whether or not Luke knew about Palpatine's survival and any potential role the Sith Lord might've had in turning Kylo Ren. If Luke was ignorant to this conspiracy, he'll no doubt be a more active participant in trying to set things right, even from the afterlife.
Finally, The Rise of Skywalker will surely pick up on the legacy and consequences of Luke Skywalker's sacrifice. How will the Resistance honor Luke's final stand? And how will the wider citizens of the galaxy remember this heroic Jedi? Could Luke's transition from a figure of legend to a beacon of hope for all be the true "rise of Skywalker" references in the film's title? If so, this story would require little input from Hamill himself, and Luke's arc could conclude independently of the character.
Luke Skywalker Is (Probably) A Force Ghost In Star Wars 9
It's more or less confirmed that Luke Skywalker isn't going to be resurrected in The Rise of Skywalker, but will instead appear as a Force Ghost, much like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker before him. This method of cheating death has been present in the Star Wars franchise ever since Alec Guinness first claimed that being killed would make him more powerful than Darth Vader could possibly imagine in 1977, and Mark Hamill has stated in interviews that Luke will be an apparition in The Rise of Skywalker.
While Luke's ethereal status is to be expected, the character may still prove more active than previous Force Ghosts in the franchise. Firstly, Luke has already demonstrated Force powers beyond those seen in previous films. If he can manifest an image from thousands of light years away, what might Luke be able to achieve in death? Furthermore, the Jedi of the past died knowing exactly what kind of threat the galaxy faced, passing on their knowledge (and their burden) to a new generation. While Luke might've believed he was doing the same, Palpatine's return could throw a hydrospanner in the works and Luke might feel duty-bound to be more influential than his undead ancestors were.
While Luke's future as a friendly Force ghost is almost certain, some misdirection could be at play. It's important to consider that Palpatine will be coming to back to life in The Rise of Skywalker, and though this is most likely due to some nefarious scheme or Dark Side magic, the resurrection of one character inevitably opens the door for another to do the same.
Luke Could Appear In Flashbacks In The Rise Of Skywalker
If Luke in the present day appears as a Force ghost, his physical form could still feature via the use of flashback scenes. This mechanic was used previously in The Last Jedi to explore the moment Luke realized Kylo Ren's terrifying true potential and the fateful clash between master and apprentice that followed. Much about this era is yet to be revealed and The Rise of Skywalker promises to fill the gaps. For example, the Knights of Ren will finally come to prominence after lingering in the background since the beginning of the sequel trilogy and the circumstances of Kylo Ren's turn to the Dark Side might be cast in a new light thanks to Palpatine's return.
In both cases, flashbacks could be used to flesh out the narration, and would likely reach back into Luke's (slightly) younger days, either during the period he was leader of a Jedi temple, or in the immediate aftermath of Kylo Ren's betrayal. Indeed, The Rise of Skywalker could offer the best of both Luke Skywalkers - a wise Force Ghost in the present to offer advice and guide Rey along her path, and a younger action hero of the past, hunting down the one responsible for tempting away his nephew and apprentice. Luke flashbacks could also be vital if The Rise of Skywalker opts to shed any light of the mystery of Snoke.
As the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, it's also very likely that J. J. Abrams will seek to include a brief scene that brings together Luke, Han and Leia one last time. There are a variety of ways this could happen thanks to the wonders of CGI and Leia's newfound Jedi abilities (as of The Last Jedi), but perhaps the most hassle-free option would be to incorporate a reunion scene into a flashback, allowing the characters and the audience to bid farewell to the famous triad that began the entire franchise.
Is Luke Still Training Rey In The Rise Of Skywalker?
In the period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Luke completes his training as a Jedi Knight, and receives instruction from beyond the grave to help him along the way. In the same vein, the trailers for The Rise of Skywalker strongly suggest that Luke is still acting as a mentor to Rey after death. Firstly, it's clear that Rey has made great progress in her training since "lifting rocks" on Crait, and Luke's voiceover features the line "we've passed on all we know." Since Luke definitely did not pass on the full depth of his knowledge to Rey before he died, has the duo's training continued in the period between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker? A time jump of a year is confirmed to take place between episodes, and Rey wouldn't have been idly fiddling with her lightsaber during that time.
A continuation of the mentor role he filled in The Last Jedi would perhaps be the most logical use of Luke Skywalker in the upcoming Star Wars movie and, frankly, this would be the very least the fallen Jedi could do with the reemergence of Palpatine afoot. A contribution of this kind would also naturally follow on from Luke's decision to finally rejoin the fight at the end of The Last Jedi. Where once he was reluctant to guide Rey, Luke must surely now see her as the key to saving the galaxy.
Perhaps, however, the "we've passed on all we know" line should be taken more literally than it first appears. Luke may not be the only Force Ghost returning in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with Hayden Christensen's Anakin heavily rumored to feature in some capacity. If true, Rey might be communing with several Force Ghosts, receiving knowledge and training from deceased Jedi of all eras. In this sense, Luke's trailer monologue about the entire Jedi faith residing within Rey would take on a whole new meaning.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019