An article was published in Entertainment Weekly some months before the release of The Force Awakens which states that the central question of the sequel trilogy is “Who is Luke Skywalker?”
After all these years, we thought we knew him, but what if there was more to that Tatooine farmboy? Or… what if there was less?
Now that The Last Jedi is in theaters, we can start to answer this question. Who is Luke Skywalker? Luke Skywalker is a legend. He represents hope. He is also a human being who is shown to be just as susceptible to making mistakes as anyone else in the galaxy.
A small, but loud, contingent of “fans” claim that the representation of Luke in this film is a great mischaracterization, that it “ruins” the idea of who he is supposed to be, that it isn’t “Jedi-like”. No one wants to believe that their heroes are capable of being misguided or wrong and that is understandable. I get it, I hear you. Even Mark Hamill initially disagreed with the direction that was decided for his character. Of course he would! He’s lived with Luke far longer than we have and his sequel trilogy arc [thus far] certainly isn’t what I would have envisioned for my favourite character either. It’s hard to reconcile this version of Luke Skywalker, a man who has lost all hope, with the man who refused to kill his own father and instead managed to save him.
Everyone — characters in the film as well as people in real life — have a preconceived notion of who and what Luke Skywalker is supposed to be based on the person that he was after the Battle of Endor. We expected him to accept the lightsaber from Rey and to begin training her with barely a second thought. But time changes people and Luke isn’t that person anymore; it’s been 34 years since the Battle of Endor and about six years since the destruction of his Jedi temple at the hands of his nephew, turd blossom Ben Solo. Leia trusted Luke with her son and in his mind, he not only failed Ben, but he failed Leia as well. You could even say that he failed Ben Kenobi. I’d also like to point out how similar this confrontation is to that of Obi-Wan and Anakin — right down to the lines, “I have failed you, Ben. I’m sorry,” and “I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.” My feels.
Luke’s insecurities brought about the creation of a monster. He talks about the legacy of the Jedi being failure, hypocrisy, and hubris which allowed for the rise of Darth Sidious. Luke’s own pride led to the rise of Kylo Ren and the destruction of everything he’s ever cared about. It doesn’t matter that he immediately regretted having even thought of killing his nephew because the damage was already done. In a way, it’s as if he repeated his father’s mistakes as well as Obi-Wan’s. Anakin was plagued by visions of his wife’s death and allowed these visions to inform the decisions that led to this happening anyway, and resulting in his own downfall. Obi-Wan was unable to prevent it and had to face Anakin, face his failure. Luke saw darkness in his nephew, perhaps he had visions of the destruction he would cause, but didn’t think of the fact that Ben’s choice had not yet been made; Luke’s assumptions caused his greatest failure and turned him into a broken man.
Luke is plagued by guilt and disillusioned with the very idea of the Jedi. His disappointment in himself, in his moment of weakness, and in his inability to prevent Ben’s eventual turn causes him disconnect himself from the Force altogether. He feels great shame in what he allowed to happen and he feels responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the galaxy. It is heartbreaking to see him this way, but it also makes him relatable. When Luke finally chooses to teach Rey the ways of the Force and why he thinks that the Jedi must end, he is a perfect combination of Obi-Wan and Yoda. I loved this and I wish we had gotten to see more of Luke as a teacher because I thought it was really special. Hopefully, we will get some Force ghost teaching action in IX.
When Luke has a change of heart and decides to join the fight after all, he does so by projecting an image of himself halfway across the galaxy from Ahch-To to Crait. The prolonged effort of this act absolutely exhausts him and he ultimately becomes one with the Force, having found peace and purpose in the act, and achieving true mastery of the Force like his mentors before him. I have seen complaints by some that this was a cowardly move, but in confronting Kylo Ren in this manner, Luke has denied him of his desire to strike him down. Surely this pissed Kylo Ren off even more as the experience made him look like a damned fool in front of the entire First Order. If Luke had been there, he most certainly would have died as well, but it surely would have been at Kylo Ren’s hands, and would have served no real purpose. As far as your average galactic citizen is concerned, Luke Skywalker somehow survived being blasted by the First Order and facing down their Supreme Leader before simply disappearing. It doesn’t seem to take very long for this tale to spread, as evidenced by the children retelling the Battle of Crait at the end of the film, on Canto Bight.
To make mistakes, to have faults, and most of all to admit to them, is human. And Luke Skywalker, whether you like it or not, is allowed to show that he, too, has faced struggle and had moments of weakness. He is not perfect, he is flawed. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s what we needed. And we will see him again, I’m sure of it.
So who is Luke Skywalker? He is a legend, a symbol, an inspiration — a spark of hope.
The Rebellion is reborn today
— the war is just beginning —
and I will not be the last Jedi.