Star Wars: The Last Jedi celebrates its monthlong residency in multiplexes this weekend having officially become the highest-grossing release of 2017 … and arguably the most hotly debated Star Wars film of all time. Since its release on Dec. 15, Rian Johnson’s contribution to the Star Wars mythos has alternately delighted and outraged fans, generating Forceful arguments both pro and con. Whether it’s Leia’s space flight, Snoke’s death, the porg-apalooza, or Kylo’s shirtlessness, the writer-director made dramatic choices that he clearly knew would result in some blowback. By far Johnson’s boldest gambit was his portrayal of Luke Skywalker not as the Jedi Master Star Wars disciples grew up on, but as a traumatized recluse who stridently resists Rey’s entreaties to join the Resistance fight against the First Order. Even when he does decide to enter the fray in the climactic battle on Crait, it’s as a projection of himself rather than his physical form, which fades out of existence on the remote planet of Ahch-To in the closing moments of the film.

It’s a far cry from the last stand, and grand death, that many imagined for the farm boy from Tatooine. But it was the only logical ending for Johnson. As he explained to HuffPost recently, “I realized this was going to be an emotionally rich arc for him. I was kind of dreading it, but at the same time it felt like the right moment. It felt like the right time in this trilogy.” But was it the right moment for Luke as a character? That’s a question Star Wars fans will likely be debating until Episode IX arrives in theaters on Dec. 20, 2019. In this conversation, Yahoo Entertainment writers Ethan Alter, Adam Lance Garcia, and Gwynne Watkins discuss why Luke needed to die for The Last Jedi to succeed … and our (new) hopes for his return in Episode IX.

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