Lukewarm Reaction To The Last Jedi

Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 4:09 PM

Our handsome hero, windswept and interesting

It is now quite well known that Mark Hamill wasn't very happy with the direction Luke Skywalker's arc was written for him by Director Rian Johnson in the latest Star Wars movie The Last Jedi. He is reported as saying that he didn't see the character as his Luke, the one he had been living with since Star Wars's inception 40 years earlier. But he looked past that and gave the performance that the story required, one that was compelling and exciting and unpredictable, and in my opinion works better than anything else that you could imagine for him.

Hamill has a unique perspective of the character. When George Lucas directed Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, he was famously awkward and reserved, only giving very basic instructions on set, leaving the actors to basically create the character themselves. From that point of view, undoubtedly Mark Hamill had a very specific idea of who the character he was playing was. His origins were simple and clearly intimated in the script, and his somewhat ridiculed whiny nature was typical of a sheltered teenager who longed for adventure. By the time the sequel Empire Strikes Back was filmed, directed this time by a competent, nay extremely talented Director, Irvin Kershner, Hamill would have seen his character's future mapped out more clearly. No longer whiny, but still youthful in his enthusiasm, Luke proves himself a warrior as he faces down Darth Vader directly. And further, by Return of the Jedi, Richard Marquand's rumoured ineffectual direction, Hamill will have taken charge again to shape his character the way he saw him.

As the future of Star Wars as a franchise lay fallow, ten years passed before what became known as the Expanded Universe started to evolve, a series of novels, comics, video games, and toys that would involve the further adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han. Though ultimately rendered obsolete, these stories allowed the actors to reflect on their characters as vibrant dynamic heroes who repeatedly defeated enemies and saved the Galaxy multiple times.

And then came the Prequels, those much-maligned back stories of where our heroes came from, what the Galaxy was like before the Empire crushed it beneath its feet. And the Jedi Knights were not portrayed as heroic at all, but arrogant, interfering, foolish, and complacent. Mistake after mistake led them to a reckoning, one that opened up the cracks that let the Sith rule.

And so the new trilogy, that began after Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm with The Force Awakens, now having wiped those exciting stories from canon, termed Legends, has the Luke we see at the end of the first movie as having had none of those adventures. His life is not one of triumph after triumph, or even of maintaining hope in the Galaxy. Instead, as The Last Jedi has shown, he has failed repeatedly, just as the Jedi Knights had done at the formation of the Empire.

And no wonder. Luke was no Jedi, he was barely trained and was far too old. He had no living mentors, no understanding of what he was doing. He tried his best, did what he could with what little he could glean from the Histories, but he had no chance. Having seen his star pupil so easily succumb to the Dark Side would naturally have sent him reeling, realising he was no Jedi Master, no equal to Yoda or those who came before him. That is the Luke we see in The Last Jedi, the only Luke there could have been.

Mark Hamill saw Luke as a hero, a Jedi Knight who saved the Galaxy, and portrayed him that way in every movie up until then. But naturally he cannot see the character in the objective way the audience has. The Jedi are not capable of saving the Galaxy, it takes more than the Light Side of the Force to defeat the Dark Side. There must be a balance between the two. The Jedi have to end, the Sith have to end, and something new take their place. That's where the story has to go, and that's how Luke must be portrayed.