An evil empire falls, order is restored to an entire galaxy, and a son has finally connected with an estranged father. Unquestionably a great end to a great story, but it isn’t the whole story. Upon a recent revisit to Return of the Jedi, a few unresolved issues rose to the surface. The Luke that returns to that Endor moon to join his friends in celebration is not, or at least should not be, the same Luke who ventured to the new Death Star to face his destiny. He has been corrupted, influenced by one evil villain’s design… and it is not at all addressed.
Let us consider the Emperor’s grand plan for turning Luke to the dark side. He and Vader conspire to force Luke to give in to his anger, his hate. Palpatine keeps insisting that all Luke needs to do is strike him down to complete his transition to the dark side. But given that Palpatine knows that Vader will not allow this to happen, hence his blocking of Luke’s lightsaber, all the Emperor ever really intended Luke to do was attempt to kill him. Failure to actually carry out the murder does not erase the fact that the intent was there, and thus Luke has totally given over to his hatred. There was one thing that Vader and Palpatine needed Luke to do in order to turn him, and Luke did not disappoint them.
So what we don’t see, but what should have logically followed the end credits of Jedi, is the reparation period after the intergalactic civil war in which the rebels seek to establish the new republic. What’s to stop Luke, infected with the germ of the Sith, from interceding upon this process when it is most advantageous for him? If we continue along the line of reasoning that suggests Skywalker has now succumbed to the dark side, what would prevent him from immediately engaging in this conversation:
Luke: Oh, a democracy? Yeah, that’s not going to work for me.
Leia: What are you talking about?
Luke: I’ve decided, now that Palpatine has been destroyed, that I am the new emperor. So if you could all commence in bowing down to me, that would be great.
Han: Luke, you’re not making any sense. We just fought a long and nightmarish war to end tyranny in the galaxy. You were a vital part of the rebellion. We can’t go backwards now just because you’ve inexplicably become power hungry.
Luke: That’s funny, because here I thought I was the last powerful space wizard in existence. You think you can topple a Jedi? Come at me, Han!
What does all this mean? Why place this specific plot point under the microscope 30 years later? The fact of the matter is that the long-overdue acknowledgement of this loose end would actually provide the basis for a phenomenal new direction in which to take the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. It has already been announced, though it should have been obvious given the titular numeral, that J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII will take place chronologically after Return of the Jedi. It has also been revealed that Mark Hamill has been cast and will be reprising the role of Luke Skywalker. Incidentally, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are also returning. The question as to Skywalker’s contribution to the plot of Episode VII has been raised en masse by the Internet, mostly due to Hamill’s age.
Our two cents? Luke should be the villain of the new Star Wars movie.
We know that things cannot still be all wine and roses for the rebellion at the beginning of Episode VII. It would be hard to place a film under the banner of Star Wars if violent conflict weren’t imminent. Why not then adopt the bold conceit that the hurdle now standing in the way of peace in the galaxy is the very person who was so instrumental in ending the war with the Empire? At that point Leia, now a politician and retired general, must lead the charge against her own brother aided by her husband, and Luke’s former friend, Han; a painful conflict that adds even more personal stakes to the toppling of an oppressive regime.
Inevitably, the argument will be made that Luke wasn’t actually evil at the end of Return of the Jedi because Vader is the one who ultimately dispatched Palpatine. Vader’s redemption is assumed to, by extension, absolve Luke’s transgressions, but is that logically sound? How far can a successful murder go to redeeming an attempted murder? How does that stabilize the force? And why is it that when Obi-Wan says Luke is the last hope, Yoda is so cryptically emphatic that there is another? Could it be he was cognizant of Luke’s eventual dark side contamination?
This seemingly incendiary narrative choice is one that would actually be supported by the expanded Star Wars universe. In the Dark Horse comic metaseries Dark Empire, Luke does fully turn to the dark side. He is placed in another situation wherein he is tempted by the emperor, now reborn in a cloned body after surviving his fall in Return of the Jedi, and he is swayed. Luke actually becomes the apprentice of Emperor Reborn as he is called. Our contention is that the seeds of Luke’s fall to darkness are sewn in the climax of Return of the Jedi, but it’s not as if making Skywalker a villain in Episode VII would be a completely alien concept to die-hard Star Wars fans.
But realistically, what are the chances this story element could find its way into Episode VII? Given the fact that J.J. Abrams is at the helm, the odds aren’t bad at all. Abrams is a guy who will go into Episode VII with an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars canon, if he doesn’t already possess that knowledge. Considering the fact that he has taken infinitesimal details from Trek canon and translated them into his Star Trek reboot, something that will continue in Star Trek Into Darkness if any of the rumors about Benedict Cumberbatch’s character prove true, it stands to reason that finer points from the expanded universe, things from the novels and comics, would share equal screentime with those of the original filmic trilogy. And as to the screenwriter, did not Michael Arndt temporarily turn Buzz Lightyear into a villain in Toy Story 3? Case. Rested.