Maybe we’re analyzing the meaning behind “The Rise of Skywalker” all wrong when it comes to Star Wars: Episode IX’s title. What if it refers to Luke Skywalker’s ascension to a level of existence that transcends even Force ghosts?
A curious Rise of Skywalker fan theory emerged on the r/StarWarsSpeculation subreddit Sunday from the definitely-not-official user u/RyanJohnson_official. They examine a series of behind-the-scenes hints that could imply actor Mark Hamill appears as a flesh-and-blood version of Luke Skywalker rather than a Force ghost in the upcoming film. Why does this matter? It would mean that either Luke didn’t die after his startling feat of Force projection across the galaxy in The Last Jedi, or that that he’s become something else entirely.
In June 2019, Mark Hamill confirmed to the Associated Press that he will appear as a Force ghost in Rise of Skywalker. This new fan theory wonders how and why Hamill is able to talk specifics about his role in a franchise that is only outdone in terms of secrecy by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All of Disney’s major productions make actors sign non-disclosure agreements to prevent leaks and spoilers, yet here Hamill is casually confirming huge plot points. What gives?
To be fair, this theorist doesn’t address the possibility that Mark Hamill is a wealthy old actor who just DGAF. Spoilers are a young kid’s game, and Hamill is important enough to the franchise that he pretty much has immunity anyway. But he could be a powerful force for misdirection if he were told by Disney to spread false rumors about Episode IX so fans would truly be surprised when they see it in December.
Their second point, focusing on Hamill’s Last Jedi theory about Luke teleporting instead of dying, we can take less seriously. On the red carpet of the 90th Academy Awards, Hamill said, “Maybe I transported to a nudist planet.” He repeated the joke to anybody that would listen for a few weeks and then abruptly stopped. “Almost as if he was told not to.” Or almost as if he realized it was getting old?
In no version of The Last Jedi is it ever explicitly confirmed that Luke died, but Hamill himself did say as much on Twitter, comparing the Force killing Luke to an addict overdosing. Leia and Rey also both “feel” that Luke is gone — so we’re led to assume he is dead.
The comic for The Last Jedi does mention “stepping into a larger world” rather than dying, but that language also fits with the assumption that like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, Luke reunited with the Force and gained the ability to communicate as a Force ghost. (Obi-Wan and Yoda also both vanished upon death, yet another parallel.)
We also know that Emperor Palpatine will appear again in The Rise of Skywalker in some capacity. So is it also possible that Luke might similarly return from death to face his old foe? The two never actually fought directly in the original trilogy, but to see the saga’s greatest villain face off against its greatest hero would be a sight to behold.
We don’t know for sure the mechanism for Palpatine or Luke’s return, so it could really be just about anything.
u/RyanJohnson_official cites the biblical motifs throughout Star Wars as reason to hope for Luke Skywalker’s bodily resurrection, but that seems like a slim chance that would undercut Rey’s emergence as the major hero of this trilogy. (Luke does say to her “this is your fight.”)
Vanity Fair seemingly repurposed a photo from The Last Jedi and edited it as a photo for The Rise of Skywalker. Both show Luke Skywalker in the flesh, without the blue glow of a Force ghost. Why is there so much editing done? What’s being hidden?
The mundane explanation could just be that in the more modern Star Wars trilogy, Force ghosts don’t look like cheap holograms anymore. The practical effects for Yoda looked remarkably different from Force ghosts we’ve seen before.
Also consider that it’s been reported that Keri Russell filmed scenes with Mark Hamill, so Zorri Bliss and Luke Skywalker have some kind of connection in Rise of Skywalker. Since the original trilogy, it’s seemed like only Force-sensitive individuals can perceive Force ghosts, so if that’s true, Zorri Bliss must be a secret Jedi — or Luke Skywalker either remains alive or will be resurrected. Some of the international translations for the film’s title imply words like “resurrection,” “rebirth,” and “ascension,” so it definitely seems possible.
Then again, maybe we’re over thinking things. When it comes to Star Wars, there are some things you can always depend on, and Force ghosts are at the top of that list. But if Luke somehow shows up as something a little more corporeal in The Rise of Skywalker, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be released in theaters December 20, 2019.