It is my belief that The Last Jedi is a movie that requires multiple viewings. I have told people to go at least twice: the first time to knock out any previous expectations, and the second time to enjoy it for what it is.
There are a lot of subtle things that become clearer the more you watch it, and the most notable instance is Luke Skywalker’s appearance on Crait. He shows up and confronts the First Order in one of the coolest scenes in the film, but the viewer (and Kylo Ren) later find out that it’s not actually Luke in the flesh but rather a force projection of himself as he remains on Ahch-To.
It’s a surprising twist during the film’s climax, but upon later viewings it becomes abundantly clear that Rian Johnson and the rest of his crew made it obvious that it’s not actually Luke. The signs are there, but they’re hidden just well enough so as to not give it away prematurely.
Recently, The Star Wars Show’s Andi Gutierrez sat down with four members of the Lucasfilm Story Group – Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, Matt Martin, and Rayne Roberts – to discuss a number of aspects of The Last Jedi. It’s a really cool video hearing from those in the know, and one of the things discussed is Luke’s force projection. Andi and the others mention several hints that are there – did you catch them all?
- He leaves no footprints and makes no sound as he steps – Luke’s interaction (or lack thereof) with the elements of Crait is a big clue, though one easily (and understandably) missed upon the first viewing. When Kylo moves his foot, he brushes away the white layer of salt to reveal the red dust underneath. When Luke moves his foot? Nothing happens. When Kylo steps, you can hear the sound of him walking on the salt. When Luke steps? Nothing. This was perhaps the most brilliant of the subtle indicators, as it’s blatantly obvious upon later viewings but easily missed the first time.
- He looks younger – Luke looks like he’s in his prime as a Jedi Master, looking younger with dark hair and facial hair rather than the gray we grew accustomed to throughout the movie. Luke projects as his younger self, which gives the audience the opportunity to watch Jedi Master Luke in all his glory confront the First Order, but which also is an indication that it’s not actually him.
- He uses his old, unbroken lightsaber – This is the one that should have been the biggest clue to Kylo Ren, but he was so overwhelmed with emotion that he missed it. Earlier in the film, the Skywalker lightsaber was broken as Kylo and Rey battled for it. But Luke uses the Skywalker lightsaber. First off, this is Luke’s old lightsaber, and as far as we know he hasn’t used it since his duel with Darth Vader on Bespin. It’s not his green lightsaber (that we see briefly earlier in the film during one of the flashbacks). Secondly, this is the lightsaber that is now broken, so there’s no way Luke could be using it.
- Leia knows it when they touch – When Luke gives Leia Han’s dice, she looks up in surprise at Luke, and he gives a small nod. Upon first viewing, the audience simply interprets this as being the reaction to Han’s dice, but once you realize what’s going on, it makes sense: Leia knows that Luke’s not actually there. So while everyone else thinks it’s actually him, Leia knows the truth.
- The flakes don’t land on him – There are salt flakes flying around after all of the chaos of the battle, and while the flakes are landing on Kylo Ren and on his lightsaber, they don’t on Luke or on his lightsaber. It’s very subtle, but it’s there.
- How did he get in the base? – Poe Dameron says it himself, saying there must be a way out of the base before adding, “Hell, how did [Luke] get in here?” Well, it’s a good question, and in hindsight, we realize that there’s no way he could have infiltrated the base.
There are other easter eggs and tidbits and insights and comments made during the video that make it worth watching, and while there’s nothing earth-shattering, it’s cool to hear several members of the Story Group explain The Last Jedi. And in regards to this scene in particular, I think it’s really cool to think about the attention to detail that was put in to this. They’re not lying to anybody and the signs are there, but they’re subtle enough that the scene is interpreted differently. I think the attention put forward really pays off, because it makes both the first viewing and later viewings rewarding and enjoyable. I loved The Last Jedi, and the scene with Luke on Crait is one of my favorites in the entire movie. It’s interesting to hear about the thought put in to make sure that it works for viewers.