ASHLEY'S TAKE: LUKE'S JOURNEY
Whether you loved “The Last Jedi” or hated it (or landed somewhere in between), I think there’s something about this movie we can all agree on: “The Last Jedi” provided plenty of fascinating material for discussion. One of the most controversial — and most debated — aspects of this film was its portrayal of legendary Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker. Luke’s story took a somewhat unexpected turn in “The Last Jedi,” showing us a more broken and conflicted man than the wizened hero/mentor we may have expected. Let’s dig deeper into Luke’s somewhat surprising journey in “The Last Jedi,” and what it means for the Star Wars franchise as a whole.
Let’s start with the big picture...From Tatooine to Ahch-To: How do you feel about Luke Skywalker’s character journey throughout the Star Wars saga?
I feel that Luke Skywalker’s character arc, encompassing both the original and sequel films, is quite possibly the most powerful character arc in the whole Star Wars saga. Luke is one of my all-time favorite characters in the Star Wars saga, and the character has actually grown on me even more as I’ve gotten older. Luke starts the saga as a gung-ho, slightly impulsive, naive idealist, bored of living on a backwater planet and hungry for adventure. Then, he learns that everything he thought he knew about his life is wrong, and that one of the most evil and dangerous men in the galaxy — Darth Vader — is his father. Although Luke is tempted by the darkness, he doesn’t give in. He fights bravely for the light and believes that his father is capable — and worthy — of redemption, even when everyone else gives up hope.
Yet in “The Last Jedi,” we see that Luke has maybe lost his way. He made a mistake, and he’s retreated from the galaxy in self-imposed exile, feeling that is his only way to atone for his sins. However, that old idealism and belief in the power of the Force isn’t completely gone, and he finds his way back to the light again, displaying a jaw-dropping new Force power, helping to save the crumbling Resistance, and finally finding peace and becoming one with the Force.
Luke’s story teaches us that all of us make mistakes — sometimes terrible ones with far-reaching consequences — but we can still come back to the light. We should also never give up hope that others are capable of redemption.
Is Luke the best of the Jedi? Why or why not? If not, who is?
Even after all those things I just said about Luke Skywalker, I feel he is not necessarily the “best of the Jedi.” I believe that title belongs to Obi-Wan Kenobi (more on that in a minute). Luke actually didn’t have that much training or experience as a Jedi, compared to what Jedi back in the days of the old Jedi Order under the guidance of Yoda would have received. Even though the old Jedi Order had more than its fair share of problems, it’s interesting to ponder what Luke could have accomplished in the Force if he had received more formal training at the Jedi Temple. Luke does have some weaknesses that hold him back, though he rises above the Skywalker pull to the dark side that his nephew (so far) has not managed to overcome.
I believe Obi-Wan is the greatest Jedi not just because he’s a master of lightsaber combat and other Force skills (though he certainly is a great warrior). To me, he is the best of the Jedi because he manages to rise above the corruption of the old Jedi Order and repeatedly and self-sacrificially serves the light side of the Force. He sets his own wants and needs aside to help others. He doesn’t feel that he has to be the main hero in the story; he’s willing to give his own life so that Luke can survive and eventually redeem his father and save the Rebellion.
In Paul’s article, “In Defense of Luke Skywalker,” he says, “Luke is like all good people. He assumes the blame.” Let’s talk about that a bit. How does being good relate to assuming blame? Is that a trait of a hero?
Luke Skywalker blames himself for Kylo’s fall to the dark side. In a small way, I believe he is partially to blame — his moment of weakness IS the tipping point that pushes Kylo away from the light. However, Kylo is ultimately responsible for his own actions, and Luke is carrying too large a portion of the blame for what Kylo has become.
“Good” characters are ones who take responsibility for their actions, and Luke doesn’t try to hide the fact that he made a mistake with Kylo. He’s willing to admit that he probably could have — and should have — done things a little differently. However, Luke’s guilt ends up crippling him and isolating him from the galaxy. Taking on blame is only healthy if it causes us to evaluate our mistakes and seek to right the wrongs we have committed. Luke is only able to heal when he accepts the past and tries to make things right, by opening himself up to the Force once again and confronting his nephew.
How does Luke’s view of Darth Vader differ from his view of Kylo Ren?
It’s interesting that Luke seemed to have an easier time believing Darth Vader was capable of redemption than Kylo Ren, since both Vader and Kylo have achieved pretty much an equal level of “bad.” Maybe it’s because Luke didn’t know Darth Vader as well; he didn’t witness his father’s fall to the darkness, whereas he did watch Ben Solo grow up and then slowly slip further and further away from the light. Younger Luke that tried to redeem Darth Vader was probably also more idealistic. Older Luke that trained Kylo was probably a little more cynical and world-weary.
And again, going back to assuming blame, Luke knew that he was in no way responsible for Darth Vader going to the dark side; that all happened back before he was born. With Ben, Luke was a much more integral part of his life and a big player in Kylo Ren’s origin story (though again, Luke takes too much of the blame on himself). Luke’s involvement in Ben’s fall probably colors how he views his nephew’s chances of redemption.
Do you think Luke truly believes Kylo is beyond redemption, or does he just believe he’s not the one to inspire it?
At the beginning of “The Last Jedi,” I believe Luke definitely feels Kylo is beyond redemption. By the end of the film, I think he’s changed his mind — though I do agree he feels he’s not the one to inspire it. By this point, he and Kylo’s history is too complicated and emotionally-charged for him to be able to make an effective appeal to Kylo to turn back to the light. This isn’t necessarily Luke’s fault, but I think he knows he cannot redeem Kylo on his own. In some ways, this mirrors Obi-Wan’s own decision; he knows he cannot redeem Anakin, but he believes Luke can, and so he steps aside to let Luke carry on the story. In “The Last Jedi,” we see Luke do the same thing for Rey, who I feel actually does have a shot at redeeming Kylo.
What do you think Luke sees in Rey that he doesn’t see in himself?
Initially, Luke is afraid of Rey because he senses the same raw power in her that he senses in his nephew, and he envisions what would happen if she took the same dark path. He has lost his confidence as a teacher, and he refuses to train her because he does not want to be responsible for pushing another young Jedi to the dark side. Rey also doesn’t fear the dark side as much as Luke does, probably because of her limited experience with the Force. He fears she’ll dabble with the darkness and then be ensnared by it.
I think Luke does see some of himself in Rey, though, at least the younger version of himself. She is confident and a bit impulsive, and doesn’t realize she’s in over her head until it’s too late. But Luke changes his mind about her in the end, and he decides she is worthy to carry on the Jedi Order. Unlike him, she doesn’t have a complicated family legacy in the Force. She is a fresh start, and she can forge a new path for the Jedi that draws on tradition but also explores the Force in a new way, avoiding some of the pitfalls of the old Jedi Order.
Apparently “The Last Jedi” DVD includes a deleted scene where Luke mourns Han. How do you think the news of Han’s death informed Luke’s choices in “The Last Jedi”?
At first, I think the news of Han’s death just deepens Luke’s feelings of guilt about what happened with Kylo. Luke probably feels at least partially responsible for Han’s death now too, even though it isn’t his fault. This initially causes him to pull further away from Rey and feel even more justified in his self-imposed exile. However, in the end, I feel that maybe Han’s death also pushes him to take action. He couldn’t save Han, but he is given a chance to save his sister Leia, and he feels compelled to answer the Resistance’s cry for help.
How do you feel about Yoda’s appearance in “The Last Jedi” and his role in the final leg of Luke’s journey?
I LOVED Yoda’s appearance in “The Last Jedi” (especially since it was the wacky old puppet version of Yoda). Since Yoda was such a key part of the beginning of Luke’s journey as a Jedi, I feel it’s very appropriate he returns for the end of it. Yoda helps Luke gain a broader perspective of the situation and learn to believe in himself again.
I think after the fall of the Empire, Luke felt personally responsible for saving and rebuilding the Jedi Order, which is an incredible burden to carry and one which Luke wasn’t fully prepared for (though again, that wasn’t his fault). Yoda’s reappearance reminds Luke that the Force stretches beyond just the Jedi Order, and any mistakes he may or may not have made. As the leader of the old Jedi Order, Yoda made plenty of mistakes himself, and actually also went into exile. He too had to learn to make peace with the past and find a new way forward. He shows Luke that he is still important to this story and that he is still worthy as a Jedi.
This is gonna seem like a strange question, but let’s go for it...On two different occasions in “The Last Jedi,” Luke says something to the effect of “Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong.” It could be just a throwaway line, but it’s used twice so maybe there’s something more to it. Do you think it says anything about Luke?
This is one of my favorite lines from “The Last Jedi,” actually. Not only is it fun to quote (and create memes out of!), I think it also says something important about how our own biases sometimes cloud the way we see the truth. It’s interesting that Luke uses this same sentence on both Kylo and Rey, two characters that have some very determined opinions/beliefs that turn out to be wrong. Luke has already learned about the dangers of pride, and he has come to terms with how he may have been wrong.
Since we haven’t seen Episode IX yet, we don’t fully know how Luke’s interactions with Kylo and Rey will impact these two characters. My guess is that Kylo will double down on his skewed perspective of the Force, though doubt about his path will continue to haunt him. I think he knows he’s wrong; the question is whether he’ll be able to admit it and do something about it. Rey will hopefully use her experiences with Luke as an opportunity to learn about the dangers of trusting your own understanding without ever questioning it.
Let’s talk about the meaning behind a couple more of Luke’s dialogue gems. What do you think is the significance of these lines?
“No one’s ever really gone.”
This is another favorite Luke quote of mine from “The Last Jedi.” I think it speaks to his rediscovered faith in the power of the Force and his renewed hope for the future. He believes no one — not even his nephew — is too lost to be redeemed. In a broader sense, Luke is also saying that people’s actions and sacrifices continue to have meaning and significance even after they’re gone. Luke is a character who’s experienced a lot of loss and pain in his life, but he knows that through the Force, old friends and mentors like Obi-Wan and Yoda are still with him. The good they did continues to have a positive impact on the galaxy.
“See you around, kid.”
What I REALLY hope this means is that we’ll see Luke return as a Force ghost in Episode IX, though I don’t want him to come back just to train Rey. We’ve already seen that type of story arc from Obi-Wan, and I think Luke knows that Rey needs to take a new and different path. However, I totally want Luke to come back as a Force ghost and haunt his nephew, pushing Kylo to keep examining and doubting his choices.
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