“Long have I waited for this moment,” said Emperor Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. At one point, I am sure Mark Hamill and Star Wars fans alike conveyed this exact sentiment. Since The Last Jedi hit theaters, the rupture in the IP’s fandom sent echoes throughout the world, and it’s authentic. It isn’t a small, very vocal minority. Solo’s box office disaster is proof of this. Whether you like or dislike Disney SW is irrelevant to the topic discussed here. If you want my in-depth take on TLJ–and I mean, in-depth!–you can find it here. Moving forward, I’ll be discussing Luke and the main argument I hear about why the portrayal of the character in TLJ is superb.
Premise: Luke Skywalker has been humanized. This is the general argument I hear. Yes, there is the whole bit about subverting expectations and what-not, but the main thing most defenders say is that he’s been ‘humanized.’ In this post, I’ll only be covering this talking point. One thing that must be remembered: I’ll be dissecting this from a writer’s perspective, and I’ll try to be brief. This won’t be a deep dive.
This first statement will piss a lot of people off. He’s already been humanized. The hero’s journey is a humanizing story, taking the average person and turning them into a hero. That’s what the hero’s journey does, a fantasy with a fictional character. They are meant to be larger than life, otherwise what purpose is their story? Throughout time and storytelling, this is the centermost thread. We already got this in the OT with Luke. He transformed from whiny farm boy into a Jedi Knight, confronting his fear and anger, and turning away from it. Luke in the OT is a very fallible character. What did he have going for him? He could fly a T-16 Skyhopper down Beggar’s Canyon and bull’s eye whomp-rats that were no bigger than two meters. Other than that, he was impulsive, brash, and headstrong. Yoda even said, “I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.” “Much anger in him, like his father.” When Luke found his friends were in trouble, he rushed off to save them, going against the direction of those wiser than he.
Flashforward to TLJ, and he’s a disillusioned, crotchety old man who abandoned his friends. This is one trait that is his backbone in the OT. He wanted to save “the princess” when he learned she was aboard the Death Star. He went to help his friends at Cloud City. He rescued Han from Jabba. He saw the good in his father and turned him from the dark side. This trait is central to the character and cannot be expunged by one bad moment. I say this because one bad experience in our lives doesn’t turn us away from everything. Take fast-food or dining out. Yes, you can have a bad experience with one company, but that doesn’t deter you from going to other establishments. You may ‘boycott’ that particular brand, but you still frequent others. Just because you have one bad experience with a person doesn’t mean you cut all of them out.
Taking into account that Luke abandoned everyone, the moral code ingrained in him wouldn’t have kept him away. Even Mark Hamill–the embodiment of Luke–said the same thing to Rian Johnson. Who would know better? The actor who portrayed him or a new director? In one movie, they’ve wholly invalidated the character and his arc in the OT. What better way to make you distance yourself from the OT and like the ST even more? Destroy what came before. And one last thing, he saw good in his father, a mass murderer, and henchman of a tyrannical galactic empire, but wanted to kill his nephew in his sleep cause … bad dreams.
“Well, this humanized him, and you clearly don’t understand SW.” Okay, let’s take another IP as an example: Iron Man. In the second movie, there were nods to the comic book Demon in a Bottle, where Tony battles being an alcoholic. Now, at the end of Infinity War, he watches Peter Parker vanish, a boy he felt responsible for. What if in End Game, they threw all of that out, and Tony returned to his alcoholic ways? In fact, in the final confrontation with Thanos, he phoned it in? He sent an Iron Man suit to battle in his place while he stayed at home and pounded some screwdrivers? Does this make sense? Did that ‘humanize’ him for you? No, that completely destroys his character and doesn’t make sense. At the end of the Infinity War saga, you’ve thrown out a character that many came to love, and probably angered a lot of fans, you know, the customers.
There is another IP that many fans take issue with is Superman in the Man of Steel. He killed Zod at the end. Many people vehemently protest this act, saying that Superman doesn’t kill, and turned off a lot of fans to the budding franchise. I see it in a different light. Henry Cavill was not Superman in that movie, he was ‘becoming’ Superman, an origin story. “Superman doesn’t kill!” Okay, but what if because of this act, he no longer kills? What if this one defining moment makes him step back and say, “No more.”
“No more.” I think this is a sentiment going through many fandoms at the moment, SW included. We’ve seen a backlash in Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, DC, and there are grumblings within the juggernaut Marvel. Only time will tell on the latter.
Clearly, this is a quick glimpse at the problem(s) within SW and the character Luke. You can dissect it for days and scream until you are blue in the face and still disagree. And that is okay. You don’t have to agree. Diverging opinions is what keeps the conversation interesting, but attacking those who have a “different point of view” isn’t constructive. If anything, it invalidates the other person’s perspective. Within this post, I have only outlined the character and what we know from past actions. But what do you think? Leave a comment, share, and keep the conversation going.