Prepare for some controversy, it's about to get hot in here.
It's no mystery that the Sequel Trilogy was met with mixed reception. Like many things in our world, it seems that the opinions regarding the trilogy are on polar opposite ends of the spectrum: you either love it or hate it. These opinions have of course led to countless battles on fan forums and social media platforms, and both sides have firmly made their cases.
The treatment of Luke Skywalker was among the biggest criticisms of the trilogy in a sea of many. JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt elected to leave Luke on Ahch-To island, away from the central conflict, for the bulk of The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson's treatment of the character has been panned by many fans, and even Mark Hamill himself. The character's fate was a sore point for Episode VIII's detractors, and a new book suggests that that was the plan all along...
Pablo Hidalgo's The Star Wars Book has revealed via Star Wars News Net and Twitter user Oozer that George Lucas' story treatments also planned for Luke Skywalker to die in Episode VIII. The page from the book is titled "Luke Skywalker's Destiny" and reads as follows:
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 THIS MEANS
We have an interesting situation on our hands. Pablo Hidalgo is as knowledgeable about Star Wars lore and history as one can be, and there's no way he'd get this wrong. However, a quote from Mark Hamill a while back made the rounds and painted a different picture:
“I happen to know that George didn’t kill Luke until the end of IX."
So what happened?
There are a few possibilities here. The first one is that Hamill didn't know that Lucas was going to kill off Luke in IX and was misinformed. We can assume that he's referring to discussions had with The Maker leading up to the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm and the announcement of the Sequel Trilogy, but Hamill's comment could also be based off of Lucas' overall plan back in the early 80's.
The second option is more of a tinfoil hat conspiracy and could be easily be off base. Lucasfilm has run damage control quite a few times in regards to their recent projects, so it's possible parts of this book are efforts to re-write history and appease angry fans. We weren't supposed to know that Rey Kenobi was once in the cards, and the Episode IX novelization attempted to explain the Emperor's survival when the film itself did not.
Could both of these options be wrong?
Absolutely. Things change, and George Lucas is known for altering his ideas. Everything in the book could be 100%, unequivocally true. Rian Johnson has said that the decision to have Luke croak was entirely his, and that there were no road maps or story mandates for The Last Jedi when he was tapped to write the film.
At the end of the day, nothing will be changed. Luke is dead, and Johnson's way is the official way. A lot of fans found it to be a beautiful exit appropriate for a Jedi, and others saw it as the final nail in the coffin for a beloved hero's legacy. The argument's about Luke's character depiction go far deeper than that, but any plans Lucas originally had have no bearing as his treatments were discarded in exchange for the final product out now.
The implications of this reveal will be interesting to see. It's not hard to imagine that The Last Jedi will be taking a victory lap, while disgruntled fans will reject the notion and make note of the aforementioned possibility that it's BS. One day, a tell-all book by Lucas laying out the facts regarding his original plans and the sale of his company would be fascinating, but that's for a time far down the road, if ever.
Sequel Trilogy arguments don't seem to be coming to an end any time soon, and most fans honestly wouldn't have it any other way. Not everything is for everyone, so there's a lot of room for pleasure and immense disappointment. Star Wars will live on so long as passionate fans are still discussing it, and this trilogy has given us a decade's worth of discourse to enjoy in addition to the projects in the franchise's future.