In the lead-up to this month’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there’s been a lot of talk about Mark Hamill’s expressed concerns (and often disagreement) with how Luke Skywalker, the beloved character he’s now played in five films, was being written and portrayed. However, in an interview during the film’s recent press junket, Hamill admitted that Star Wars has to change for the next generation of fans.
**THE LAST JEDI SPOILERS AHEAD**
Here’s his statement from the interview in full:
“I said to Rian, I said ‘Jedis don’t give up.’ I mean even if he had a problem, maybe take a year to try and regroup, but if he made a mistake he would try and right that wrong, so right there, we had a fundamental difference, but, it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective.
That’s the crux of my problem. Luke would never say that. I’m sorry. Well, in this version, see. I’m talking about the George Lucas Star Wars. This is the next generation of Star Wars, so I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s ‘Jake’ Skywalker, he’s not my Luke Skywalker.
I still haven’t accepted it completely, but it’s only a movie. I hope people like it, I hope they don’t get upset, and I came to really believe that Rian was the exact man that they needed for this job.”
First of all, speaking as someone who’d seen all the Star Wars films prior to this one but considers The Force Awakens the true beginning of her love for the Star Wars franchise, I want to thank him for acknowledging that. George Lucas’ Star Wars will never go away. Those films will always be there for people to enjoy. However, stories grow and change, as do characters. New fans emerge.
No person stays exactly the same for forty years. (If they do, that might be indicative of a problem!) What’s interesting about Hamill’s interpretation of what didn’t happen in The Last Jedi is that it’s exactly what I thought did happen, and why I enjoyed it so much.
Hamill is right in saying that it’s not his Luke Skywalker, or even George Lucas’ Luke Skywalker. That’s because George Lucas created a young man at the beginning of a journey, and Hamill played one. This Luke Skywalker, now, is a hardened older man who’s made mistakes throughout that journey. It makes sense that he’s a bit more caustic, a bit more jaded. I’d venture to guess that Hamill is, as well. This doesn’t make Luke Skywalker a different person; it makes him a changed one.
Second, Hamill talks about the fact that “Jedi don’t give up,” and that Luke didn’t “right his wrongs.” This interpretation doesn’t jibe with what I saw him doing the entire film. The Last Jedi was, in large part, all about Luke righting past wrongs. He made a mistake in training Kylo Ren, and ended up building a relationship with Rey to make up for it. He begins instructing her in the ways of the Force, and eventually shows her the Jedi temple and its ancient texts.
Later, when Rey is called back into the fight against the First Order and Luke becomes unsure about his place in it, and in his relationship to the Force, it’s Yoda’s Force Ghost that ultimately burns down the Jedi tree, and tells Luke that Rey can carry on the Jedi teachings. Well, what he says is, “Wisdom they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess.”
In a brief moment later on, as Finn pulls blankets out of a drawer, we see the Jedi books that Luke was worried had burned. Rey had taken them, and is currently keeping them, and the knowledge they contain, safe. Yoda’s words weren’t metaphorical. Rey literally possesses the knowledge in book form, and she’s the one now best equipped to carry on the legacy, whatever form it takes.
Jedi knowledge is now in the hands of a former scavenger without a lineage of importance. That’s huge.
So, where does that leave Luke? Basically, it leaves him struggling with the thing that every great Master in any discipline must struggle with: the moment at which to let go and move on, leaving the art/industry/fight to their students. Giving them the freedom and faith to make it their own. Luke eventually takes himself out of the equation … but not before righting one last wrong by giving Kylo Ren his comeuppance.
Some fans took issue with Luke doing the whole hologram avatar thing rather than just coming after Kylo Ren with a light saber, but this is the most true-to-character way for him to handle things, defeating Kylo’s forces while leaving him alive.
Throughout the original trilogy, Luke learns that running in with a lightsaber isn’t a solution. He leaves the Rebellion in Return of the Jedi because he thought it more important to go and try to save Darth Vader from the Dark Side. He then chooses to leave the Rebellion after that and train other young Jedi.
His entire thing is:
- It’s not just about running in with a lightsaber and looking badass.
- Saving people from the Dark Side is more important than taking them out.
- It’s not about him. It’s about what’s best for the resistance.
To me, not only was the Luke in The Last Jedi true to character, he was peak Luke Skywalker. This was Luke Skywalker applying what he learned over the course of the other films. I loved that.
And after watching the above interview I love that, misgivings and all, Mark Hamill is prepared to allow the next generation to pick up the Star Wars mantle and run with it. That’s a very Luke thing to do.
(via CBR.com, image: Lucasfilm/Disney)
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