Luke Skywalker is one of the biggest names in the Star Wars franchise, but his role in The Last Jedi left many fans fuming.
What was it that caused the public to condemn the depiction of Luke Skywalker? More importantly, were fans right?
To answer these questions, we first need to look back at Luke’s arc in the original trilogy.
Luke Skywalker begins his journey as a farm boy. He is whiny, impatient, and has a tendency to run into situations without any planning.
Obi Wan sees potential in him and begins training him in the ways of the force. After his physical death, he guides Luke to Yoda. It is here that Luke’s loyalty to his friends and family is shown to be one of his defining strengths.
Against the wishes of both Yoda and Obi Wan, Luke abandons his training to try and save his friends. He partially succeeds, but learns the truth about his father and loses a hand in the process.
In Return of the Jedi, Luke learns that Yoda and Obi Wan have essentially been training him to kill his father. Luke chooses not to give up on his father. He confronts and fights Vader, but it’s only when he chooses not to fight anymore out of love, that he is finally able to reignite his last shred of humanity.
In that moment he saves Vader and defeats the Emperor in the process. Had Luke killed Vader he would have turned to the dark side.
When we next see Luke, he is a broken man who has lost his faith in the Jedi ways. He has become a recluse, and, through a moment of darkness, driven Ben Skywalker to the dark side and created Kylo Ren.
If this take on the character wasn’t what you were after then you’re certainly not alone. Yet having a broken Luke could actually be the film’s greatest strength, from a certain point of view.
The first thing Luke does is throw away his lightsaber after Rey returns it to him. This was not the reaction most of us were expecting, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
The last time he saw it was one of the worst days of his life. He lost his hand and found out that his dad was the Emperor’s right hand man.
It also symbolises the Jedi order, which Luke is now disenfranchised from.
The reason this scene feels deflated actually comes down to the delivery. Instead of being angry, Luke tosses it away like he would an empty drink bottle.
So this brings us to the green milk scene. That’s right I now have to find a way to defend the most hated Star Wars moment since Anakin’s rant on hating sand.
Now let’s get a few things clear. In Episode 4, Luke is seen drinking blue milk. So colour isn’t the issue – it’s more a case of where he gets it.
This is a scene meant to gross you out; it’s a throwback to Episode 5 in which Yoda’s cooking repulses Luke.
The execution might be off but I hardly see it as something that destroys the character. Rian Johnson was attempting to not only gross out Rey, but the general audience.
By all accounts, he succeeded.
Luke turning on Ben Kenobi was a fantastic plot device.
At first glance, this may feel out of character. But let’s not forget that we’ve seen Luke lose his cool in the original trilogy, most notably when he hacked off his Dad’s hand in ROTJ and almost turned to the dark side.
As Luke himself says: “He would bring destruction, pain, death, and the end of everything I love because of what he will become. And for the briefest moment of pure instinct, I thought I could stop it. It passed like a fleeting shadow. And I was left with shame and with consequence. And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy whose Master had failed him.”
Most of us have had momentary lapses in judgement, for a variety of reasons. Usually nothing comes of it and the consequences are insignificant. In this instant, timing is everything. And Luke paid the ultimate price.
Whilst it’s very understandable how a plot point like this can take the shine off a loved character, the truth is that it’s entirely consistent with the Luke we already knew.
This also provides us with a character arc for Luke in which he must rediscover that which made him great in the first place.
Perhaps the biggest gripe audiences had with Luke was his decision to force project himself rather than show up in person.
To understand this we need to look back at Return of the Jedi and remember and understand that the message of that film was that winning wasn’t about strength, it was about compassion.
Luke knew that his words could not bring Kylo back from the dark side. Killing Kylo would cost Luke his soul, and the alternative could quite likely end any chance Kylo had for redemption.
Neither scenario was appealing, so Luke did the one thing nobody expected. He force projected himself, robbing Kylo of the chance of killing him and appearing as a beacon of hope for the rebellion.
The problem that many Star Wars fans have, particularly those of us who saw the films as kids, is that, as kids, we glossed over many of the elements – even on rewatches.
We may have watched these films countless times, yet we still see them with that childlike sense of wonder. That’s is undoubtedly why we cherish them. But it’s also why our perceptions of characters can sometimes overlook key elements.
We might remember Luke as the hero who used the force to fight the Empire and defeat Vader and the Emperor, yet his victory was never about strength and power.
Luke was a flawed hero, but the flaws are what made him a great character. It’s the flaws that enabled him to grow, made it possible for us to identify with him. It gave him a much needed character arc.
There are plenty of issues that I have with The Last Jedi, but the depiction of Luke Skywalker isn’t one of them.