What Happened to Luke Skywalker?
In The Last Jedi, Director Rian Johnson broke with the traditional version of Luke Skywalker and created one that fans couldn’t have possibly imagined. The Luke that fans had endlessly waited years for: the one with the black outfit, the green lightsaber and the Jedi swagger was erased from existence.
The original trilogy focused on the story of Luke Skywalker who learns the ways of the Force from Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Luke’s journey took him from the desert planet of Tatooine, where he was forced to leave the simple farm life after the Imperial army killed his aunt and uncle. Shortly after, Luke began his training as a Jedi with Master Kenobi and helped take down the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin. Eventually, he continued his Jedi training with Yoda on the planet Dagobah and found out that Darth Vader was his father. By the end of his training in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Luke took down the Emperor of the Galaxy, redeemed his fallen father and had grown to become one of the greatest Jedi’s ever.
“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
Fortunately, for some fans the story of Luke Skywalker doesn’t end in Returm of ther Jedi. In October 2012, George Lucas sold Lucas’s Lucasfilm Ltd and its “Star Wars” franchise for $4.05 billion in a deal that included the surprise promise of a new film. In a statement on the week of the sale via Buzzfeed, Lucas said: “It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ on to a new generation of filmmakers.” On that day, we said goodbye to our favorite Jedi, Luke Skywalker, as he vanished with one swift stroke of a pen forever.
Fast-forward to 2015. Disney gifted fans with a brand new protagonist in the blockbuster film release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The character of Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger that lived on the planet of Jakku. Daisy delivered an excellent performance but fans could hardly sit through the end credits because all they could think about was amount of screen time Luke had in this film. Some had waited for decades to see what happened to Luke Slywalker, their childhood hero. In the end, all they got was a glorified cameo and a character shrouded in the mystery of his demeanor and appearance which gave fans the illusion he suffered failures and setbacks.
Don’t get me wrong, the mystery of Luke in “The Force Awakens” is just okay and something most could live with. However, fans like me, still wanted to know more. What the hell happened to Luke Skywalker?
Enter Director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi that picks up at the end of The Force Awakens and sends the series into the fiery abyss of hell. The film was everything a fan could not want in a Star Wars film, and then some. Viewers spent the entire film wondering where it all went wrong. Rey had finally found the legendary Luke Skywalker, hoping that she could be trained in the ways of the Force. But by the end of the film, all we did was learn that Luke was a coward, a failure, and had abandoned his Jedi ways to live a life in exile. We also found out that his nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), was a pupil of his after the events of ROTJ, may have gone to the Dark Side, and that he forced himslef not to murder him.
What happened to saving people from the Dark Side? How did Luke go from saving his father who had murdered numerous people, to a person that would want to kill his nephew on a hunch?
Mark Hamill is on record expressing with how much he disliked how director Rian Johnson portrayed Luke in the film. In an interview with SensaCine, Hamill spoke about how, “He’s not my Luke Skywalker.”
“I said to Rian, I said ‘Jedis don’t give up.’ I mean, even if he had a problem, he would 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,”
Rian Johnson had simply ignored the character development that Luke Skywalker had in the original Star Wars trilogy. He turned Luke into a cynical old hermit who despised the Jedi and wanted nothing to do with the fight against the Galaxy’s new enemy. He literally turned the greatest hero in cinema history a whiny little baby. The Luke fan’s knew at the end of Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have gone down this path.
In the end, fans got to see Luke Skywalker fighting his nephew, who he originally tried to kill, via some sort of an astral force projection. So much promise to Luke’s appearance in The Force Awakens and all we got was a cranky old wizard who never left the planet of Ahch-To and died on a rock. We were ripped off.*
One Last Chance
Picking up the baton from Johnson’s film, film director J.J. Abrams was been hired to direct Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, following the departure of fired Colin Trevorrow and fan backlash over The Last Jedi. Abrams widely denied that his return to the franchise was an attempt to “fix” it following, what I call, the debacle of The Last Jedi. Most fans believed, though, he was brought back to do just that.
The problem with Rise of Skywalker was that it spent so much time trying hard to heal the open wounds: J.J Abrams listened to the extensive criticism thrown at The Last Jedi by a certain faction of vocal Star Wars fans. What if, instead, he created a movie that didn’t try to fix everything? I guess we’ll never know.
For me, the Sequel Trilogy lives on in the the Expanded Universe – now Legends – books, which focused on the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker with indications that they would have followed in the footsteps of the legacy characters. In reality, on screen at least, is we’ll never get to see what George Lucas’s had entended for the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight.
*My wife, my amazing editor, sees a correlation between Johnson’s portayal of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars: they both had seen war first hand, lived through a betrayal of their perceived protoge’, and resigned themselves to a life of solitude and reflection. This is going to be the cause of many debates in our house in the future, I think. Mind you, she’s basing things off of not seeing the sequel trilogy. But that’s a story for another time…
One last thing, while I dont know Rian Johnson personally. I’ll assume it’s safe to say that he’s a nice guy. However, I wish he would admit to the fans that he made mistakes with The Last Jedi and Luke’s Journey.
Chad Stevens is a freelance writer who has contributed to StarWarsNewsNet.com, Outerplace.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow me on Twitter @ChadMStevens to talk Star Wars, Star Trek, other films, politics and more.