Guest Talker: Nancy (of Graphic Novelty²)
“This is not going to go the way you think.” No truer words were said, and Luke Skywalker’s words proved to be prophetic as the movie The Last Jedi unfolded.
I grew up on the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, with Luke being my first crush. Even as a child I was a practical lass, and the bad-boy swagger of Han Solo held no appeal to me. Instead it was humble and heroic Luke who held me enthralled. Years went by; with the trilogy being the only Star Wars I knew until the late 1990’s when the prequels began. While the prequels have been derided for many deserved reasons, I still felt they were authentic to the Star Wars universe. George Lucas might not write good dialogue, but his vision held true, and there were many strong moments in the prequel trilogy.
When Disney bought out Lucas’s Star Wars movie rights and announced yet another trilogy with other stand alone movies planned, I was apprehensive but hopeful. The Force Awakens combined both the legacy characters and added some intriguing and strong new ones and I was thrilled with the new direction. It honored the past but looked towards the future, as did Rogue One. My first Star Wars movie review post on my blog about Rogue One (https://graphicnovelty2.com/2016/12/22/rogue-one-movie-review/) said “if this storytelling continues, Disney will have handled the buyout of Star Wars beautifully.” It turns out I spoke too soon.
*While I assume at this stage people reading this post will have watched the movie, I do want to warn you that there are spoilers ahead.*
I headed into the movie with incredibly high hopes, but twenty minutes into my first viewing of The Last Jedi, I was whispering angry thoughts about the movie to my husband. By the end of the movie I was seething. I felt it dishonored Luke’s legacy, and I was distraught.
Soon afterwards I contacted Jeff here at The Imperial Talker and Michael at My Comic Relief to vent. Both men are huge Star Wars fans and I wanted to see if I was alone in my thoughts. While I certainly cannot speak as to their reactions to the movie, my conversations with them were enlightening, and I watched the movie a second time on their recommendation. Once all the surprises were gone, I could concentrate more on the movie as a whole and get a more nuanced view the second time.
Afterwards, I gave myself some time to mellow, but then I struggled with writing this post. I hate to be provocative and feared a backlash of other bloggers who would vehemently disagree with me. I’m typically a go with the flow person, who rarely let’s people know if I’m truly upset (except my children- they know when I’m mad). This post was going to make me push my boundaries, and I did some over-thinking before I started to write.
But here we are, so let’s get into WHY this movie affected me so negatively. There were several smaller issues such as: Leia’s use of the Force, which was visually comical, Rose’s part, which ate up time that could have been given to already established characters, Chewbacca being treated as a pet/afterthought and the Rey/Kylo scenes (don’t even get me started on the connection through time and space!). On the other hand, there were many memorable moments, one of my favorites being when Poe is schooled on long-term strategy by General Organa and Admiral Holdo. I enjoyed the overriding idea that the rebellion is for everyone and that a small spark can ignite a winning rebellion.
But that’s not what upset me the most. It was Luke, all Luke.
As Star Wars has been around since 1977, there are now several generations of fans who have come into this franchise at different times. So you have fans like me who grew up on the original, fans such as my children who watched the Prequels as they came out in the theatres, and now a new generation who will grow up loving the newest set of characters. You can even argue, as my oldest son observed, that I am a “purist,” for although I have occasionally read some of the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) books, the movies are really my only touch stone to the Star Wars universe.
As such, I have always viewed Luke as the true hero of the movies. Whereas Anakin, Ben Kenobi and certainly the Jedi Council from the Prequels let pride, power or shame affect their judgment, Luke was pure. He came from a humble background, not knowing of his true parentage yet, and with little training was able to defeat Darth Vader and bring balance back to the Force.
This new movie gave us a nihilistic Luke, who years later, was filled with so much remorse and regret that he refused to leave his island where he had banished himself to wallow in misery. When the actor Mark Hamill, who has embodied Luke and will be forever connected to the role, tells Rian Johnson, “I think I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve decided for me” that is telling as to how Luke’s hero arc was going to play out. Now I know there has been further clarification that MH has shared about this quote, and he supposedly stands behind RJ’s version…but, if his first thought was unhappiness, as was mine when I first watched it, then this viewpoint cannot be discredited.
Now this is where another quote can be used to explain the movie’s direction. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” says Kylo Ren to Rey. I understand if Star Wars is to be a viable movie franchise, it needs to grow and change. Han Solo left us in The Force Awakens, and Carrie Fisher’s death meant that Leia’s arc was going to end earlier than expected. That left Luke. He was to be the torch bearer to Rey and the new Rebels. So why did his destiny need to end so ignobly?
In this role, Luke could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down. Yes, I understand that he helped the rebellion when he sent an astral projection of himself to the planet Crait and was able to distract Kylo and send his sister and the other rebels to safety. I even understand that he used his hard won wisdom to help and wasn’t the impetuous youth who left his training with Yoda early to help Leia and Han. On one level- I get it- but I didn’t like it.
Luke’s and Kylo’s flashbacks to the night that Kylo destroyed the new Jedi Academy are what truly turned me against this version of Luke and led me to feel that he was dishonored in director Johnson’s interpretation. My Luke never would have considered killing his nephew. He put his lightsaber down in front of Darth Vader, and never gave up hope that his father still had a remnant of love left in him (Jeff’s post Luke Skywalker: A Farewell To Arms beautifully describes this moment). A wiser and older Luke would have tried anything to prevent Kylo from joining Supreme Leader Snoke. Killing him would not have been an option. I believe the quote “You were the Chosen One!” that Obi-wan Kenobi shouts at Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, is in fact a better one to have used to describe Luke. His entire character was crucified in this latest movie, and he deserved better.
In real life, there are times when things go to hell. Our lives do not turn out the way we envisioned. A great success can be eroded away with failures later in life, and becoming disillusioned can be a sad reality for some. Taking all that into consideration, Luke should have gone out as a battle-worn but still dignified warrior. I wanted him to have a loving goodbye to his twin (as I wrote about in this post: https://graphicnovelty2.com/2018/01/24/star-wars-comlinks-favorite-tlj-scene/ ) and for him to have been a mentor to Rey. This lack of a proper conclusion to Luke’s story arc was not a fitting end to the Skywalker saga.
Guest Talker Bio: Nancy is half of the writing team for Graphic Novelty², a blog that centers around graphic novels and geek life. She is a married mom of three who loves her job as a teen librarian and is a Star Wars & Star Trek aficionado.