As it is with many films within a franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi serves to set up for Episode IX and one of the elements of The Last Jedi may end up taking the next film -- as well as the Star Wars franchise itself -- into a whole new realm.
Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Near the end of The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) effectively dies, having performed one of the mightiest uses of the Force in tricking the First Order and Kylo Ren with an intergalactic Force projection. Audiences see an exhausted Luke stare off into the binary sunset simply fade away as he becomes one with the Force. While many fans were upset or even disappointed at Luke's fate, in a recent interview with Slashfilm Daily podcast, director Rian Johnson revealed that there was a greater motivation behind the character's passing.
"When I knew that was his arc, I had this instant tinge of 'that means that's the place for him to...' because what else can he accomplish in the physical realm beyond that?" Johnson explained, before hinting that the Jedi Master might still have a role in the upcoming Episode IX.
"I don't know what's going to happen in IX at all, but the idea that there is more potential for more interesting things in terms of this role for the final chapter if he moves into another realm," Johnson said.
If Episode IX does choose to involve Luke from another realm, it could mean that Star Wars will explore what the spiritual realm looks like for the Jedi. As some have pointed out, each episode of the Star Wars saga has revealed a little bit more about what happens when Jedi die, specifically regarding Force-ghosts. As Spoiled Blue Milk noted, each installment of the franchise has built upon the concept with living Jedi and apprentices hearing the voices of fallen masters or being visited by Fore ghosts with increasing significance. This comes to a head when Yoda returns as a Force ghost in The Last Jedi and doesn't just speak with Luke, but interacts with the physical environment, calling down lightning to ignite the Jedi sanctuary.
It's possible, largely as evidenced by Yoda's appearance, that the Jedi could simply be moving to a different plane of existence within the Force. That could indicate that they are not really "dead" but simply on a different plane than the physical, though still able to interact with the "living" world. This could open the door for Luke to return in Episode IX as well as see this new "spiritual plane" of other Force users who, instead of outright dying, simply vanished as they became one with the Force. This might mean that other legendary characters, such as Obi Wan Kenobi, and potentially even Anakin Skywalker himself, could have a place in the story as well.
Fans will have a bit of a wait to see if we visit another realm in Episode IX. The film isn't expected in theaters until December 20, 2019.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now.