In Defense of Luke Skywalker in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
Let's all be reasonable here...
Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. I mean, some people liked him, some people hated him, and some people just hate the entire movie. I mean, without a doubt, this is the most mixed, controversial Star Wars movie among fans that I have ever seen.
So, I will be defending the film a little bit, but I will mainly be defending Luke's role in the film and what happened at the end.
Okay, so, first off, Luke is the mystery behind The Force Awakens. He's essentially a character that vanished after failing Han and Leia's son, Ben, who turned to the dark side. We find Luke on Ahch-To, where he is given a lightsaber that reminds him of his depressing past.
So, why are we s**tting on Rian Johnson for what he did with Luke? As a screenwriter, there wasn't a lot of wiggle room after this moment:
There weren't a lot of places you could go with Luke's character after The Force Awakens, and Johnson gave us the inevitable. Luke tossed the lightsaber away in the first scene, the same way he did in Return of the Jedi.
It's been thirty years since the events of Return of the Jedi, and Luke is a changed man. He has exiled himself to Ahch-To, to find the original Jedi temple and spend his final days there.
We now must talk about what happened to Luke that led to his exile, and what led to his depressed, changed character in The Last Jedi.
Luke was training a new generation of Jedi, including Han and Leia's son, Ben. One night, Luke goes in to check on Ben, and realizes that Snoke has corrupted him and brought him to the Dark Side. And Luke tried to kill him in his sleep, right?
Wrong. Why do people think that's what Luke did? That's what Kylo Ren THINKS happened.
Only a Sith would do something like that, and Luke is a Jedi. We KNOW that that's not what happened, because Luke tells us the truth. And when you actually truly understand what Luke was doing, it makes sense, and it's true to his character.
Luke saw the darkness in Ben, and he saw it: another young, promising Jedi who had become corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force. And he remembered his father, and what happened to him as a result.
He saw a future in which his loved ones were gone and the Jedi order he cared for was destroyed.
The last time he saw this was on the Death Star, many years ago, when Darth Vader threatened to turn Leia to the Dark Side. And what did Luke do as a result?
Luke went into a state of blind rage and fear. That's what caused him to ignite his lightsaber next to Ben. But as Luke explicitly said, he realized what he did, and was immediately ashamed of himself.
He was ashamed because he didn't feel like he learned from what he did on the Death Star. But before Luke could put the lightsaber away, Ben woke, grabbed his own lightsaber in self-defense, and knocked out Luke. By the time Luke wakes up, he sees what Ben has done.
Ben had killed his Jedi and swore his allegiance to Snoke. Luke knew that he caused this, and that's what made him go into exile. He made a grave mistake and he failed Ben. But he has learned from his mistake, and knows that he would never kill his nephew.
And I don't get why people are so mad that Luke was so "cowardly" exiling himself. Obi-Wan did the SAME thing on Tatooine in the 20-year period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Remember?
Luke's actions actually mirror Obi-Wan in a beautiful way. They're both Jedi who trained young pupils (Anakin, Kylo), but they find out that their pupil has been corrupted by the Dark Side. The master and pupil fight, the pupil escapes and becomes an agent of evil, and they exile themselves.
The two both train a new Jedi (Luke, Rey) and they both later die after a battle with their old pupil, sacrificing themselves for the people they love. Just like Lucas said about the franchise, "like poetry... they rhyme."
And if you're still somehow not convinced that exile is something a Jedi does, remember Yoda? The best Jedi of all time?
He exiled himself to the Degobah system, and his reason was WAY more lame than Obi-Wan and Luke's. He exiled himself because he fell down during a battle with Darth Sidious. So, is Yoda a coward? Is Yoda as much of a coward as Luke?
Luke realized that he helped turn his nephew to the Dark Side, and this is why he exiled himself and has cut himself off from the Force. And what caused Luke to ignite that lightsaber? The Dark Side, which resided in Luke.
The Dark Side of the Force isn't just a one-time thing that you can just overcome infinitely. It's a constant, tempting side that Jedi have to battle. And he knows that Anakin and Ben turned to the Dark Side. He's tired of the amount of Jedi turning to the Dark Side, and disgusted with himself.
Because he's come to a realization through experience: without the Jedi, there would have been no Darth Vader and no Kylo Ren. And to him, as long as there are more Jedi, there will be more unrest and more Jedi turning to the Dark Side of the Force.
Luke is the last Jedi. And he has seen too much in his life. So, he says, "It's time for the Jedi to end," because he knows the Dark Side of the Force is just too tempting for many, including Rey.
It's not what we were expecting, but that's good storytelling. Not everything is what we expect, but what we saw in The Last Jedi is true to Luke's character. If you don't like it, you're not wrong and you don't have to. But it makes sense.
At the end, Luke projects his image to fight Kylo Ren and distract him and the First Order so that the Resistance can escape, just like Obi-Wan did many years ago.
But Luke has learned from his mistake. And he knows he would never kill Kylo. He sticks with non-violence during this lightsaber battle, using the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.
This is why Luke never collides lightsabers with Kylo during this final scene. He knows better after what he did years ago. But he tells Kylo this, which is my favorite line from the movie:
"The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi."
This goes to show that Luke had forgotten who he was. And he had forgotten his significance, and what a Jedi can do if they're fighting for good. But in this film, Rey helped him find it. Luke could now believe in both himself and the Jedi.
Luke puts away his lightsaber, and allows Kylo to strike him down, revealing himself to be a Force projection. He says, "See you around, kid" before vanishing. His true self remains on Ahch-To, where he collapses from the mental toil needed to project such a lifelike image.
He sits on the rock, and gazes at the twin suns of Ahch-To. They remind him of his younger years on Tatooine, and just then, he joins his father and his former masters, becoming one with the Force.
And that's what I loved about this ending. It was great, it was smart, and amazing. But this doesn't mean that Luke is gone forever. Just because our loved ones die doesn't mean that they're gone. In fact, Mark Hamill has hinted at his return in Episode IX.
So, even though Yoda died, it didn't stop him from burning down the original Jedi temple in The Last Jedi. So, I hope that you guys can take this with a more positive attitude, and appreciate Luke's character. Because in the end, it did make sense.
I want to credit this awesome article for inspiring me to write this, and I know that was pretty long, but I just want as many SW fans to be happy. Because people like you need to cheer up these days...