‘The Last Jedi’ Proves Luke Skywalker Didn’t Act Out of Character At All
Once upon a time, Han Solo got all the good Star Wars controversies. First, there were people wondering if he would survive the carbon freeze of The Empire Strikes Back. Then there was George Lucas not killing him off in Return of the Jedi despite Harrison Ford’s wishes. Then there was, of course, “Han Shot First!”
For a while, Luke Skywalker stayed relatively controversy-free — at least until The Last Jedi came along. Many fans were up in arms about writer-director Rian Johnson turning Luke into a grumpy old man who didn’t save the day until the third act required him to do it. However, some fans think Luke never broke character at all.
What was Luke Skywalker’s arc?
In many ways, Luke Skywalker was the classic hero story — he’s the rather naive young man whose life hands him a bad hand, but he wants to do the right thing.
The Empire burned his aunt and uncle to death, so he felt duty bound to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi on his rescue mission: “There’s nothing here (on Tatooine) now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”
So he goes off to do that in Empire Strikes Back but correctly senses his friends are in danger. Despite Yoda and Obi-Wan’s urgings to the contrary, he chooses to face Darth Vader and gets the shock of his life. Humbled, he nevertheless forges ahead with his plan to save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt and to save his father from the clutches of the Emperor.
So after being absent for almost all of The Force Awakens, in The Last Jedi, the first thing he does is toss his old lightsaber aside and tell Rey that he refuses to save the day.
“I came here to die,” he says in a guttural voice.
Fans didn’t believe that the “real” Luke Skywalker would wallow in self-pity this way, and that became one of the major sticking points against The Last Jedi for many fans.
Was Luke in character after all?
On Reddit, some fans have started to say that maybe Episode VII didn’t really betray Luke after all. One fan posted a picture comparing Luke’s actions in Return of the Jedi versus The Last Jedi.
One set of photos showed him “aggressively trying to kill relative” in Return of the Jedi before stopping himself. Another set of photos showed him “hesitantly (trying to) kill relative” (Kylo Ren) before stopping himself. The implication here is that Last Jedi Luke isn’t all that different from Return of the Jedi Luke.
One fan writes, “There’s a huge part of the Fandom that wanted Luke to show up in the sequels and be a prequel Jedi. The prequels spent 3 films and the entire clone wars series explaining to us how the jedi were broken and flawed. In Empire Yoda teaches Luke exactly how the Jedi should be. Luke tries to do it his way and fails spectacularly.
“Between Jedi and TFA Luke attempts to train the new Jedi like the Prequel Jedi. He fails spectacularly. In TLJ Yoda returns to remind Luke how the Jedi should be, and Luke pulls off a victory in a no-win situation that follows Yoda’s teachings to the letter. That’s Luke’s character arc.”
What did Mark Hamill have to say about all this?
Although fans railed against Rian Johnson for how he portrayed Luke, the filmmaker insisted he didn’t regret his choices, even after the fan backlash. He told one fan, “I understand that point of view (that Luke should have sprung into action) but I completely disagree with it. In fact I think it disrespects the character of Luke by treating him not as a true mythic hero overcoming recurring wounds & flaws, but as a video game character who has achieved a binary, permanent power-up.”
For his part, Mark Hamill said he initially bristled at Luke’s portrayal in the script.
A Vanity Fair piece quoted him as saying “I told Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character.'”
However, he later softened his stance. Now it seems like some fans are doing the same.