For a while, Luke Skywalker remained relatively uncontroversial – at least until The Last Jedi came up with. Many fans were angry with writer-director Rian Johnson for allegedly turning Luke into a cranky old man who didn’t save the day until the third act forced him to do so. However, some fans believe Luke never broke the character at all.
What was Luke Skywalker’s arc?
In many ways, Luke Skywalker was the classic hero story – he’s the rather naive young man whose life gives him a bad hand, but he wants to do the right thing.
The Empire burned his aunt and uncle to death, so he felt compelled to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi on his rescue mission: “There is nothing here (on Tatooine) now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.
So he goes to do that in The Empire Strikes Back but correctly feels that his friends are in danger. Despite Yoda and Obi-Wan’s exhortations to the contrary, he chooses to face Darth Vader and suffers the shock of his life. Humiliated, he nevertheless goes ahead with his plan to save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt and to save his father from the emperor’s clutches.
So after being away for almost everything the force awakens, in The Last Jedi, the first thing he does is throw his old lightsaber aside and tell Rey he refuses to save the day.
“I came here to die,” he said in a throaty voice.
Fans didn’t believe the “real” Luke Skywalker would wallow in self-pity like this, and this became one of the main sticking points against. The Last Jedi for many fans.
Was Luke in character after all?
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On Reddit, some fans started to say that maybe Episode VII didn’t really betray Luke after all. A fan posted a photo comparing Luke’s actions in Return of the Jedi against The Last Jedi.
A series of photos showed him “aggressively trying to kill a relative” in Return of the Jedi before stopping. Another set of photos showed him “hesitantly (trying to) kill a relative” (Kylo Ren) before stopping. The implication here is that Last Jedi Luke is not that different from Return of the Jedi Luke.
One fan writes: “There’s a lot of the Fandom that wanted Luke to appear in the sequels and be a prequel Jedi. The prequels ran through 3 movies and the entire Clone Wars series telling us how the Jedi were broken and flawed. In Empire, Yoda teaches Luke how the Jedi should be. Luke tries to do it his way and fails dramatically.
“Between Jedi and TFA, Luke attempts to train new Jedi like the Prequel Jedi. He fails dramatically. In TLJ, Yoda returns to remind Luke how the Jedi should be, and Luke scores a victory in a winless situation that follows Yoda’s teachings to the letter. This is Luke’s character arc.
What did Mark Hamill have to say about all of this?
Although fans rose up against Rian Johnson for the way he portrayed Luke, the filmmaker insisted he did not regret his choices, even after the backlash from fans. He told a fan, “I understand this point of view (that Luke should have taken action) but I completely disagree with it. In fact, I think it does not respect Luke’s character by treating him not as a true mythical hero overcoming recurring injuries and flaws, but as a video game character who has achieved a permanent binary power-up.
For his part, Mark Hamill said he initially bristled at the portrayal of Luke in the script.
A Vanity Fair article quoted him as saying, “I said to Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with pretty much anything you have decided on my character.'”
However, he then softened his stance. Now it looks like some fans are doing the same.