Happy May the Fourth Be With You! In honor of Star Wars Day, I am sharing a piece I wrote five years ago for my blogging friend’s site, The Imperial Talker and had never posted on my site. In it, I share my thoughts on Luke Skywalker after watching the movie The Last Jedi. Despite time passing since I initially wrote this piece, my feelings remain the same…Luke was not given the ending he and the audience deserved.
“This is not going to go the way you think.” No truer words were said, and Luke Skywalker’s words proved to be prophetic as The Last Jedi unfolded.
I grew up on the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, with Luke being my first crush. Even as a child I was a practical lass, and the bad-boy swagger of Han Solo held no appeal to me. Instead, it was humble and heroic Luke who held me enthralled. Years went by; with the trilogy being the only Star Wars I knew until the late 1990s when the prequels began. While the prequels have been derided for many deserved reasons, I still felt they were authentic to the Star Wars universe. George Lucas might not write good dialogue, but his vision held true, and there were many strong moments in the prequel trilogy.
When Disney bought out Lucas’s Star Wars movie rights and announced yet another trilogy with other stand-alone movies planned, I was apprehensive but hopeful. The Force Awakens combined both the legacy characters and added some intriguing and strong new ones and I was thrilled with the new direction. It honored the past but looked toward the future, as did Rogue One. My first Star Wars movie review post on my blog about Rogue One said “If this storytelling continues, Disney will have handled the buyout of Star Wars beautifully.” It turns out I spoke too soon.
I headed into the movie with incredibly high hopes, but twenty minutes into my first viewing, I was whispering angry thoughts about the movie to my husband. By the end of the movie, I was seething. I felt it dishonored Luke’s legacy, and I was distraught.
Soon afterwards I contacted Jeff at The Imperial Talker and Michael at My Comic Relief to vent. Both men are huge Star Wars fans and I wanted to see if I was alone in my thoughts. While I certainly cannot speak as to their reactions to the movie, my conversations with them were enlightening, and I watched the movie a second time on their recommendation. Once all the surprises were gone, I could concentrate more on the movie as a whole and get a more nuanced view the second time.
Afterward, I gave myself some time to mellow, but then I struggled with writing this post. I hate to be provocative and feared a backlash from other bloggers who would vehemently disagree with me. I’m typically a go-with-the-flow person, who rarely lets people know if I’m truly upset. This post was going to make me push my boundaries, and I did some overthinking before I started to write.
But here we are, so let’s get into WHY this movie affected me so negatively. There were several smaller issues such as Leia’s use of the Force, which was visually comical, Rose’s part, which ate up time that could have been given to already established characters, Chewbacca being treated as a pet/afterthought and the Rey/Kylo scenes (don’t even get me started on the connection through time and space!). On the other hand, there were many memorable moments, one of my favorites being when Poe is schooled on long-term strategy by General Organa and Admiral Holdo. I enjoyed the overriding idea that the rebellion is for everyone and that a small spark can ignite a winning rebellion.
But that’s not what upset me the most. It was Luke, all Luke.
As Star Wars has been around since 1977, there are now several generations of fans who have come into this franchise at different times. So you have fans like me who grew up on the original, fans such as my children who watched the prequels, and now a new generation who will grow up loving the most recent set of characters. You can even argue, as my oldest son observed, that I am a “purist,” for although I have occasionally read some of the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) books, the movies are really my only touchstone to the Star Wars universe.
As such, I have always viewed Luke as the true hero of the movies. Whereas Anakin, Ben Kenobi and certainly the Jedi Council from the Prequels let pride, power or shame affect their judgment, Luke was pure. He came from a humble background, not knowing of his true parentage yet, and with little training was able to defeat Darth Vader and bring balance back to the Force.
This new movie gave us a nihilistic Luke, who years later, was filled with so much remorse and regret that he refused to leave his island where he had banished himself to wallow in misery. When the actor Mark Hamill, who has embodied Luke and will be forever connected to the role, tells Rian Johnson,” I think I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve decided for me“ that is telling as to how Luke’s hero arc was going to play out. Now I know there has been further clarification that Hamill has shared about this quote, and he supposedly stands behind RJ’s version…but, if his first thought was unhappiness, as was mine when I first watched it, then this viewpoint cannot be discredited.
Now this is where another quote can be used to explain the movie’s direction. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” says Kylo Ren to Rey. I understand if Star Wars is to be a viable movie franchise, it needs to grow and change. Han Solo left us in The Force Awakens, and Carrie Fisher’s death meant that Leia’s arc was going to end earlier than expected. That left Luke. He was to be the torch bearer to Rey and the new Rebels. So why did his destiny need to end so ignobly?
In this role, Luke could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down. Yes, I understand that he helped the rebellion when he sent an astral projection of himself to the planet Crait and was able to distract Kylo and send his sister and the other rebels to safety. I even understand that he used his hard-won wisdom to help and wasn’t the impetuous youth who left his training with Yoda early to help Leia and Han. On one level- I get it- but I didn’t like it.
Luke’s and Kylo’s flashbacks to the night that Kylo destroyed the new Jedi Academy are what truly turned me against this version of Luke and led me to feel that he was dishonored in director Johnson’s interpretation. My Luke never would have considered killing his nephew. He put his lightsaber down in front of Darth Vader, and never gave up hope that his father still had a remnant of love left in him (Jeff’s post-Luke Skywalker: A Farewell To Arms beautifully describes this moment). A wiser and older Luke would have tried anything to prevent Kylo from joining Supreme Leader Snoke. Killing him would not have been an option. I believe the quote. “You were the chosen one!” Obi-wan Kenobi shouts at Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, which is in fact a better one to have used to describe Luke. His entire character was crucified in this movie, and he deserved better.
In real life, there are times when things go to hell. Our lives do not turn out the way we envisioned. A great success can be eroded away with failures later in life, and becoming disillusioned can be a sad reality for some. Taking all that into consideration, Luke should have gone out as a battle-worn but still dignified warrior. I wanted him to have a loving goodbye to his twin and for him to have been a mentor to Rey. This lack of a proper conclusion to Luke’s story arc was not a fitting end to the Skywalker saga.
May 7, 2023 at 11:52 pm
Wow, pretty intense thoughts about how badly Luke was treated in the recent films. Honestly, I have to agree and how they wrote him was just one of the symptoms that Disney did not understand Star Wars and they had no ideas on the overall story.
Luke deserved so much more than to be written as a bitter old man hiding out in some island while his sister fought the good fight. He would have right there with her all along.
It is also regrettable that no one had the foresight to reunite the original cast in the Sequel Trilogy like they did with the TNG cast. Sadly this will never happen.
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May 9, 2023 at 10:36 am
Star Trek has handled their legacy characters better than Star Wars did. Not only did Disney ruin Luke’s character, it is unforgivable that they didn’t reunite Luke, Leia and Han early on.
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May 24, 2023 at 8:52 am
Well felt and received.
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May 24, 2023 at 3:18 pm
Thank you! No franchise can please every fan, but Luke’s character development felt especially egregious.
May 27, 2023 at 8:02 am
The thing is, that final meme completely misses the point of the differences in what Yoda and Ben did compared to what Luke did. Yoda had to wait until a new jedi arose so he could train them. Ben was looking after Luke albeit from a distance. Luke just ran away, period.
I agree with your assessment here.
Will you be watching any more star wars stuff or are you done with the franchise?
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May 27, 2023 at 8:35 am
I’m watching some of the tv series, but not all. I have loved The Mandalorian, Kenobi and Boba Fett were only ok, and I am highly anticpating Ahsoka.
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May 29, 2023 at 10:39 am
You know…over five years have passed and I still don’t like TLJ. Looking at what Rian Johnson did with Luke I can’t help but hear Dan Slott’s words in my mind. Speaking of writing Legacy Characters, Spider-Man in particular but really any classic character like that, he always says you can do whatever you want with them – change them, try them, bend them, whatever – but you have to “put the toys back in the box” when you’re done. You need to leave the core of the characters unchanged because that’s who they’ve been for decades. And Johnson certainly didn’t do that here. All he seemed interested in was making a “shocking” Star Wars movie that “upended” everything we know about Star Wars (by telling a story where a Jedi mentor fails his pupil who turns to the Dark Side and then the Jedi mentor goes into hiding until he comes back and dies to help the new Jedi pupil he met (wait…did I say “shocking”? nah, he just did what all Star Wars movies did while pi$$ing on Luke’s legacy (blah))). My digression aside, Johnson didn’t put the toys back in the box. He left Luke broken. And that’s not okay. I know TLJ has it’s passionate lovers but, for me, it fundamentally misunderstands who Luke is which fundamentally misunderstands what the OT was about. I’m with you Nancy! Here here!