While the transition from J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) appears to be as seamless as Rey offering a lightsaber to Luke, the latter director had one small request for the former. Yes, Rian Johnson asked J.J. Abrams to change Episode VII for the sake of Episode VIII — and Abrams was cool with it.
Specifically, the alteration was to the final scene of The Force Awakens. As Johnson revealed to Entertainment Weekly:
"The big [favor] was, I asked if R2 could come with Rey, and if BB-8 could stay behind with the Resistance. Originally it was BB-8 who went with Rey, which makes sense for the story in a way. But I asked, ‘Can you do me this solid and switch the droids?'"
The director did not go into specifics as to why he made such a request, but it makes a lot of sense when put into the perspective of the entire saga. In fact, R2 is one of the first characters Luke meets, aside from C-3PO and R5-D4 (for fellow technical nerds). Luke has relied on R2 in every episode of the original trilogy in both practical and emotional ways. One need not search long to find the little blue astromech locking down a loose stabalizer, watching over the camp in the swamps of Degobah or launching a newly constructed green lightsaber into the sandy Tatooine air for his jedi pal to save the day.
In the current trilogy, Luke's journey seems to have stalemated on the island-chain planet of Ahch-To, which we are introduced to at the end of The Force Awakens and seems to feature heavily in The Last Jedi. The reasoning behind Luke's apparent self-isolation was as much a central question for Johnson as it was for fans:
"Figuring out where his head was at was the very first thing I had to do when writing the movie. I had to crack this. And it had to be something for me that first and foremost made sense. Why did Luke Skywalker go off to this island?"
For now, all we can do is speculate. But perhaps R2, Luke's long-time astromech friend and trusted confidant, may be the best way into that currently elusive question in The Last Jedi.
Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15, 2017
What is your favorite R2 moment in the 'Star Wars' saga? May the fourth be with you!