Just a heads up for the three of you who still haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet: there are SPOILERS beyond this point. There are also potential SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You've been warned.
During the build up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the returning cast members from the original trilogy were positioned as a big part of the draw. While we had the chance to hang out with Leia (Carrie Fisher), R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca a bit, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) was the only one who was a major part of the story. Though his presence loomed large over The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker was absent save for a handful of shots---all told, it's less than ten total shots. That, however, will change in Star Wars: Episode VIII, officially known as Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
He was such a mystery in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which naturally leaves us with the question of what's Luke Skywalker up to in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII? We're still pretty far away from it hitting theaters, but, as it's currently filming, we thought we'd comb through all of the information available to us to try and figure out what we know and what we expect to see from Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi when it opens on December 15, 2017.
Where Does Luke Skywalker's Story Begin?
Directed by Looper's Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi does something that no other Star Wars movie has done to date: it picks up right where Star Wars: The Force Awakens leaves off. Though we've seen set photos leak out here and there, the official production announcement for Episode VIII was a video that shows Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley recreating the scene where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) meet at the very end of The Force Awakens on the planet Ahch-To.
The production of Star Wars: Episode VIII got things rolling by returning to the picturesque Irish island Skellig Michael, which is where Luke Skywalker has apparently been hanging out all these years keeping a low profile. Though there has traditionally been a gap in time between Episodes, given all of the lingering questions at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it makes a lot of sense to revisit this moment. It's not 100% that The Last Jedi picks up with the scene between Luke and Rey; it's possible that we could return to it in a flashback or something of that nature, but we should see what happens immediately after the cameras stopped rolling last time.
What Has Luke Skywalker Been Up To All These Years?
Though he only appears in a few shots, Luke Skywalker's presence is a huge factor in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After all, the entire movie was full of people looking for him for one reason or another. Now that we've tracked him down, Star Wars: Episode VIII will take some time to fill in the missing years. You didn't think his sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), was going to let him disappear and not demand answers, did you?
The question remains, what has he been up to all these years? Star Wars: Episode VIII has some big spaces to fill, and while there aren't a ton of specifics to be had, there are some theories and bits of information floating around in the canon that might shed some light on his whereabouts.
After Ben Solo/Kylo Ren and his merry band, the Knights of Ren, slaughtered all of Luke Skywalker's students at his new Jedi academy---we saw a flashback to that in Rey's Force hallucination in Star Wars: The Force Awakens---the older Jedi went into hiding, and we'll hopefully find out why in Star Wars: Episode VIII. One option is that he did this because of guilt or to mourn, to keep people safe---wherever he goes, people seem to get hurt, and so if no one is around him, there's no collateral damage to be done. There have also been rumblings that he left to find the first Jedi Temple---Skellig Michael, a former monastery, certainly has the aesthetic of an ancient religious relic---the home to some powerful artifact, and that he's been protecting it from falling into the wrong hands. I think Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke certainly qualify as "the wrong hands." It's also been rumored that during his time away, Luke came across something that "put into question" everything he knew about the Force, and now he's determined to recover the practices and knowledge of the ancient Jedi so he can properly rebuild the Order.
Another explanation we could find in Star Wars: The Last Jedi has roots in new canon entries outside of the movies. In the comic, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, we learn about Poe Dameron's (Oscar Isaac) parents and how they have ties to Luke Skywalker, Princess-Now-General Leia, and Han Solo. As they relate to Luke, one mission Poe's mother, Shara Bey, accompanies him on is to retrieve the remnants of the tree that grew at the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant that have special powers. While Luke thought there was only one, it turns out there were two. One of these was at Luke's new Jedi academy---in the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, during Rey's vision scene, there was mention of what is assumed to be this plant lying dead. At the end of Shattered Empire, however, the other was given to Poe's parents for safe keeping---though he may not be a Force user, Poe grew up in the presence of the Force. It's possible Luke Skywalker retrieved this tree and has been protecting it at his new hideout.
Has Luke Skywalker been waiting for some kind of sign to tell him it's time to return to the world? Well, Rey showing up on his isolated little island home flying the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca and R2-D2 in tow is certainly one hell of a signal.