George Lucas’ sequel plan likely included a better death for Luke Skywalker

Star Wars: The Last Jedi..Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)..Photo: John Wilson..©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi..Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)..Photo: John Wilson..©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. /

New book Star Wars: Fascinating Facts reveals George Lucas originally planned for Luke Skywalker to die in Episode VIII, but would it have been similar to The Last Jedi?

Probably no Star Wars story has divided more fans than Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. The polarizing film — fans either love it or hate it — disrupted expectations, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Rian Johnson is a talented filmmaker, and there are many great things about the film. For many fans, however, the film’s handling of Luke Skywalker in particular felt almost like a betrayal. Here was the Jedi knight we’d all waited three decades to see in his prime, and he was reduced to little more than a bitter old man with a galaxy of regrets.

This in itself, however, wasn’t totally unexpected. Clearly, a disillusionment with his calling was possible, and The Last Jedi actually does an excellent job of explaining why Luke exiled himself as a result of a universe-shaking misunderstanding between him and his nephew Ben Solo. But the rub came with how Luke’s story ended. Though Luke made an appearance in the final film of the Skywalker Saga, he didn’t survive The Last Jedi, which would have been okay if it had been necessary to move the story forward.

Luke’s death necessary?

Luke as a disillusioned old hermit, that’s understandable given the backstory; Luke dying before he has the chance to return from his self-imposed exile to bring hope to the galaxy again, many would argue doesn’t ring true to the story of the Skywalker saga. Yes, he did Force-project himself across the galaxy to distract Kylo Ren while the Resistance got away, but it’s hard to deny the feeling of being cheated out of a genuine lightsaber against lightsaber battle between Luke and Kylo.

Luke surviving the end of The Last Jedi could have created the opportunity for Rey to learn from both Luke and Leia. Luke and Rey could have fought Palpatine together. Ben and Luke could have experienced a moment of reconciliation. The Skywalker saga could have ended with the Skywalker who began it all.

George Lucas was okay with Luke dying

It’s a nice thought, but evidently, even George Lucas didn’t intend for Luke to survive until the end. Pablo Hidalgo, who has been a creative force with Lucasfilm for years, recently revealed that the original sequel trilogy story treatments George Lucas gave to Disney included Luke dying in Episode VIII. This was revealed in Hidalgo’s new book Star Wars: Fascinating Facts. On a page titled Luke Skywalker’s Destiny, Hidalgo wrote, “Years before The Last Jedi began development, the treatment left behind by George Lucas in 2012 also had Episode VIII be the one wherein Luke Skywalker would die.”

What we know about Lucas’ sequel trilogy plans

While the details of Lucas’s treatments are still a mystery, there have been little reveals here and there over the years. We know that Luke was to train a female Jedi named Kira (who eventually evolved into Rey) and that Luke was going to exile himself for some reason. It was also going to explore what Lucas called “a microbiotic world,” which would have included the midichlorians, a concept that many fans have disliked over the years because of its reduction of the Force to an explainable scientific reality, and a race of beings called The Whills.

Luke’s death isn’t without precedent

And now we know that Lucas would have had Luke die in the middle film of the trilogy. This isn’t totally unexpected. Important characters die in Star Wars all the time. Obi-Wan Kenobi died in A New Hope. Yoda died in Return of the Jedi, as did Anakin Skywalker at the end of the film. The prequel trilogy saw the deaths of Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, and really the entire Jedi order. Conflict is vital to any compelling story, and there are no stakes higher than the possibility of death for a beloved character.

Some would say that this latest revelation means that Rian Johnson was right in killing off Luke Skywalker at the end of The Last Jedi. He was just doing what Lucas himself had envisioned. But in the sequel trilogy’s lack of a clear plan before production, Luke Skywalker’s arc feels rushed, his death necessitated by the need to get him out of the way to tell Rey’s story in the final film.

Luke’s death prematurely ends his story arc

Why kill him off? He’s arguably the main character of the Skywalker Saga. The prequel trilogy merely gives us backstory on the conflict he was thrust into. The sequel trilogy should have finished his story with a satisfying conclusion that included at the very least his redemption from the mistakes he made in the past in a way that didn’t feel forced. It’s not that Luke died at the end of The Last Jedi; it’s that his death wasn’t necessary. Nothing would have been lost in keeping him alive for one more film to finish the arc he began in the original trilogy.

Lucas would have killed Luke’s character in Episode VIII, but given that Lucas created this character and invested much of his life into telling his story, it seems more likely that Luke’s death would have been in the midst of a heroic battle as the result of self-sacrifice, reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death in A New Hope. Instead, Luke died alone, having only sent a vision of himself to face Kylo Ren. Perhaps we’ll learn more in the future what Lucas’s original plans would have looked like for the sequel trilogy.

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What do you think about Lucas’ original plan? Let us know in the comments.