WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in theaters now.
Since the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens two years ago, Luke Skywalker has been on everyone’s mind, both in real life and in the film itself. The characters spent half of a whole movie hunting for him, their desire to find him reflecting our own. After seeing that Han and Leia both went back to what they’re best at–smuggling and leading, respectively–one could only wonder what was going on with Luke. Once we finally saw him shed his hood at the end of Awakens, we held beliefs that all it would take would be the return of his old lightsaber to get him back into the fray.
Instead, the first thing Luke does in Last Jedi is immediately throw his old lightsaber aside and get back to living out his days on Ach-to. Safe to say, fans were not pleased with this take on Luke, nor the revelation that he went into isolation because he was ashamed for having created Kylo Ren. This in turn has led to some fans claiming the film and Rian Johnson butchered both Luke’s legacy, and that of the Skywalker family as a whole.
The thing is, that’s not exactly true. Luke leaving everything behind to just be some old weirdo on a strange planet out of shame isn’t exactly new ground for the Jedi, as both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda did the same thing in the interim between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Sure, they didn’t spend their mornings milking aliens, but it’s very clear that neither Yoda nor Kenobi seemed to have much of a real plan beyond living on their respective planets and dying. Having Luke continue to be the powerful, wise Jedi running at full capacity 30 years after Return wouldn’t have just been inconsistent and raised questions about what was stopping him from taking out the First Order some time ago, it would’ve been boring. Star Wars doesn’t always indulge itself in those fan service moments where a beloved character has effectively turned on God Mode, but when they do, it rarely looks good, as we learned with Attack of the Clones’ much derided lightsaber fight between Yoda and Dooku.
In following that same trend as previous Jedi, Johnson makes it clear from the start that Luke made the same mistake with Kylo Ren as the earlier Jedi did with his own father, ignoring the signs and taking the most drastic course of action, only for everything to go horribly wrong. Say what you will about the prequels, they and the subsequent Prequel era media made it abundantly clear that the Jedi in their prime failed spectacularly to see their mythical “Chosen One” was a ticking time bomb of emotional problems, and lacked any real capacity to help him deal with his issues. At best, they told Anakin to suck it up, and their disapproval of emotional attachments is why Anakin went to Palpatine instead of them for guidance. It’s doubtful that Kenobi or Yoda told Luke the full story of how things went so badly, and without that full context, Luke would of course wind up starting the Jedi again without realizing why that went badly last time around. Is it really improbable that he’d be so eager or arrogant to restart the Jedi that he’d fail to see his own nephew didn’t need a Master or teacher, so much as he just needed an uncle?
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