JJ started it, yes, but it was Rian who took the ball and ran with it. Hamill definitely didn’t want things to go they way they did in TLJ. JJ’s mystery box COULD have been opened in a more appropriate way.
How? By going against everything set up in the prior film? By having a primary hero not grow or develop over 30 years? By sidelining the new characters to have Luke take over the story again?
The only other interesting choice would’ve been for Luke to be revealed the puppet master behind Snoke.
No way, come on, this is Star Wars. We have a universe of possibilities. It’s like when Kennedy said they don’t have a bunch of books or comics to go off…there’s literally 30 years of ideas people have offered.
Just as I’m sitting here, here’s a few ideas I came up with that are solely based off the brief flashes from TFA that had no context at the time.
A: Luke is isolated because there’s a far bigger threat coming. The tragedy is that he had to focus on that while Snoke took advantage of the vacuum. He knows lives are being lost but EVERYTHING could die without his effort. However, he failed to see the enormity of how far the First Order had spread in his absence, and realizes the new generation needs his guidance and can’t solve everything alone.
B: A new enemy emerged, almost like a parasite that feeds off Luke. The Jedi usage of the Force attracts it, and to protect the galaxy he needed to suppress himself. Reduced to no Jedi power, he had to research with bare bones paper and wooden tools to find a solution. Rey and friends disagree and think that they should still fight in the same good and evil sense: they MUST use the Force because Kylo and Snoke are. Both sides cannot agree, causing tragedy when neither belief’s absolutism can solve the problem.
C: Luke had his own child and family. The are lost in a senseless tragedy–not evil, not good, just random. The sheer enormity of the callous randomness of the galaxy breaks Luke’s faith in the idea of darkness vs light and the idea of balance loses meaning to him. It is no one’s fault, not Kylo, not Snoke, and not Luke. Can Rey’s own experiences regarding the cruelty of her own life contrast Luke’s broken soul?
D: While the galaxy was at peace, Luke attempted to build a new Jedi order. But something slowly went wrong. The new Jedi start to lose their connection to the force. There’s no war, no enemy, no cause…yet the Jedi connection to the force is simply dying.
Luke: “Darkness rises and light to meet it…but what happens when Light simply fades?”
While the New Jedi Order slowly diminished, it left them vulnerable, and the new empire, even without the Sith, were able to simply militarily overwhelm the weakened Jedi. Luke survived, but is now a powerless hermit wracked with survivor’s guilt. Can a Jedi still teach without the Force?
E: The Knights of Ren are not Sith. They are not Jedi. They do not use the force. They do not want the force. They take no political side. Using their unique form of armor based off 60 years of analyzing Republic and Empire technology, they are immune to the force in all ways. They cannot be mind tricked. They cannot be force pushed. They cannot be lightsabered. They are simply slow, methodological killers who believe in their cause. They hunted down and killed every one of Luke’s students. They are not allied with The First Order; they are a third faction and have their own agenda, because this is war, and war is not a cut and dry, black and white, good versus bad situation. They do not follow Kylo Ren, for he is a traitor who wishes to use the Force. And once they have exterminated Luke…they will come for him.
These are just several random ideas off the top of my head and just based off TFA’s mystery box. Sure they’re not perfect but it’s illustrating that there is ALWAYS a different way to go in writing fiction. There is no limit but your own imagination.