Defending Luke’s Portrayal in The Last Jedi
I know, I know, who really wants another article talking about the most divisive film in the franchise? You do have to give it some credit though, its been two years and, whether for good or bad, the movie is still talked about quite frequently. And what do they say? any press is good press, right?
This article isn’t here to make you change your opinion on The Last Jedi but is being written to hopefully opening your eyes a bit to understanding that Luke, despite all the hoopla around his portrayal in the Last Jedi, is actually spot on from what we have seen since Star Wars: A New Hope.
First and foremost, people tend to forget that Luke is a Skywalker. And much like his father, Anakin, he allows his emotions to get the better of him from time to time. We first see this in A New Hope when he recklessly convinces Han Solo to go and rescue Princess Leia while on the Death Star. Then again in Empire Strikes back Luke forgoes his training with Yoda to rescue his friends at Cloud City despite the pleas from Obi-Wan and Yoda. Finally Luke allows his emotions and anger to take over him when Darth Vader threatens to lore and turn his sister, Leia, to the Dark side.
This is the moment, in Return of the Jedi, I want you to focus on as it not only is the closest to The Last Jedi Luke that we see in film but also more closely resembles his arc in Episode VIII.
In The Last Jedi we see Luke detached from not only his friends and family but also from the Force. He believes to better serve the Galaxy it is best that he shut himself off completely. And in turn, that it will end the Galactic struggle of good verse evil.
So why shut himself off, why leave behind everything and everyone he cared so much about?
There are two sides to every story and the one that matters here the most is the moment he gives into his emotions, as he has done in EVERY Star Wars movie we have seen him in, and for “a fleeting moment” fears what his nephew, Ben Solo, could become when sensing the darkness inside of him. The one area here that everyone seems to ignore is he doesn’t give into that fear he has, he realizes rather quickly that there is another way.
Unfortunately, Ben Solo doesn’t see it that way, enter the second side of the story.
Ben and Luke fight it out in some form or fashion, sadly this isn’t something we get to see. But, I imagine Luke does his best to appeal to the light side of Ben and pull him back like he did his father nearly 30 years prior. He was just unsuccessful and Ben became Kylo Ren and with it destroyed everything Luke had built to this point.
We are defined not only by our greatest achievements but also our failures. Thus far in the eyes of the Galaxy, and the fans following along, Luke was a legend who brought down the Empire. It was his greatest achievement, losing Ben solo to the dark side became his greatest failure, and one he was unable to handle. How could he face down Kylo when he had already failed him once before? Going toe to toe with Vader, while not easy, wasn’t as hard as going against a pupil…..a nephew.
He failed, so shutting himself off was the only move he felt he could do. He was not going to be able to take on such raw relentless power that Ben possessed.
Were there other options for him to take and be there for his family? Absolutely, but this was a failure he had never felt before a lesson he had not been taught.
His redemption at the end of the movie by facing down the entire First Order. It’s inspiring rekindles the Myth, the Legend, of the Luke Skywalker. The man who took down the Empire bringing Hope to the Galaxy once again.