Who is Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi?

If you’ve been keeping up at all with the early promotion and discussion around The Last Jedi, it has been clear for a while that the main thrust of the film – the heartbeat of the film, as Rian Johnson has said – is the story of Luke and Rey, and more specifically, who is Luke Skywalker?

Keep in mind that in the original trilogy, Luke was the epitome of a hero: moving from a farmboy on Tatooine to a Jedi-in-training to the ultimate Jedi, reaching a climax at the point he throws his lightsaber away at the end of The Return of the Jedi, declaring to the Emperor once and for all that, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”  We know that in the post-ROTJ world, Luke continued searching for old Jedi artifacts and lore, and he seemingly attempted to revive the Jedi Order as he was training his nephew, Ben Solo, and others… until Ben rebelled and killed everyone.  That drove Luke into exile on Ahch-To, where he remained until Rey found him at the end of The Force Awakens.

We’ve gotten hints about who Luke is by this point, thirty years after ROTJ, that he’s discouraged, depressed, and opposed to Rey initially, but in an exclusive article by Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican that was published today, we begin to get a much clearer picture of who Luke is by the time of The Last Jedi.

The article’s title should give all you really need to know, asking, “Can Rey save Luke Skywalker from his own darkness?”

Luke is broken

Near the beginning of the article, Breznican writes that Rey will need to look even further to find the man behind the legends, and he adds:

This isn’t the Luke she’s heard about. It’s not the one we know either.

This is a broken man. One who would have preferred to stay lost. And he feels the same way about that lightsaber.

And at the end, there’s a quote from Mark Hamill about Luke probably wishing he could be more effective, and the article ends:

His dreams are different now. Less hopeful. More regretful.

But deep down, the farmboy turned warrior turned exile would also like to meet the hero known as Luke Skywalker again.

This is the picture of a legend who feels like it’s not worth fighting anymore; in EW’s main article about their upcoming coverage, they write that Rey expected to find the old legend she’d heard about but instead “finds a man overpowered by regret, eager to close the book on his past while living out the rest of his days on an isolated island.”  So Luke seems to be resigning himself to staying out of the fight, living out the rest of his life on this island because he can’t deal with the regret of what happened and is a broken down, discouraged, and hopeless old man.  The model of hope throughout the original trilogy, the galaxy’s new hope, has lost hope.

Luke thinks he’s right in his actions

The article contains a quote from Rian Johnson about how the first thing he had to do when wrestling with the movie was about Luke Skywalker – who he is and why he’s there.

“The very first step in the writing of this was figuring out why he’s on that island,” Johnson says. “We know that he is not a coward. He’s not just hiding because he’s scared. But we also know that he must know his friends are in danger. He must know the galaxy needs him. And he’s sitting on this island in the middle of nowhere. There had to be an answer. It had to be something where Luke Skywalker believes he’s doing the right thing – and the process of figuring out what that is and unpacking it is the journey for Rey.”

Johnson’s response brings with it this implication: Luke put himself there on the island because he thinks that’s what’s best – whether that’s for himself, for everyone else, or both.  He’s not in exile because he’s scared of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke, or Kylo Ren; rather, he thinks that he’s justified and right in being in exile even when his friends are dying and the galaxy is in chaos.  What could possibly justify that?  Johnson didn’t say that it is justified, only that Luke believes it is, and throughout the article we get a picture of why Luke is a broken man and why he believes it’s justfied…

Luke thinks he failed

The only real thing we know about Luke from The Force Awakens is what Han Solo tells Rey and Finn: “He was training a new generation of Jedi, one boy, an apprentice, turned against him and destroyed it all.  Luke felt responsible.  He just walked away from everything.”  That’s what we knew, and The Last Jedi will give us more backstory and information about that.  But one quote from Mark Hamill in the EW article might be the most interesting of them all:

“[Luke] made a huge mistake in thinking that his nephew was the chosen one, so he invested everything he had in Kylo, much like Obi-Wan did with my character,” Hamill says. “And he is betrayed, with tragic consequences. Luke feels responsible for that. That’s the primary obstacle he has to rejoining the world and his place in the Jedi hierarchy, you know? It’s that guilt, that feeling that it’s his fault, that he didn’t detect the darkness in him until it was too late.”

There are a couple of really significant things in that statement.  First of all – and most surprising – is that Luke believed Ben was the chosen one!!  The first six trilogy films all pointed to Anakin Skywalker as the chosen one, and that prophecy seemed to be fulfilled in ROTJ when Anakin defeated Palpatine.  So just because Luke believed Ben to be the chosen one doesn’t automatically mean that he is – after all, remember that Obi-Wan thought that Luke was the chosen one in the A New Hope time period –  but it’s incredibly interesting nonetheless.  Does this mean that Luke knew there was an imbalance in the force – perhaps some dark side user – that Ben would need to defeat?  Either way, there’s a bit of an Obi-Wan parallel here: Kenobi thought that Anakin, his apprentice, was the chosen one, and when Anakin turned to the dark side Ben went into exile in Tatooine (albeit with a specific purpose, of watching over Luke); Luke seems to think Ben, his apprentice, was the chosen one, and when Ben turned to the dark side Luke went into exile on Ahch-To (does he have a purpose, or not?).

Second, we also learn something that many guessed already: Luke was betrayed by Ben, and he feels responsible for his nephew’s turn to the dark side.  That leaves him doubting his connection to the Jedi and his rightful place, and it seems that will be the key obstacle he’ll have to face in the movie as he wrestles with whether to get back into the fight.  Luke feels guilty that he didn’t detect – and stop – Ben’s turn to the dark side earlier, and he feels like he failed.  I imagine he feels like he failed Ben, Han and Leia, Ben Kenobi, Yoda, the Jedi Order, and the rest of the galaxy – that’s quite the weight of guilt, to be sure.  And that begins to paint a clearer picture as to why he’s in exile on Ahch-To, ready to just live there until his death rather than get back involved.

Rey’s purpose in going to Ahch-To

Meanwhile, the rest of the galaxy has been looking for Luke – mainly Leia and the Resistance as well as Kylo and the First Order.  The Resistance has found him, and Rey travels with Chewbacca and R2-D2 to Ahch-To.  But rather than simply going to train with Luke, Rey goes to bring him back.  Rather than training to become the hero, Rey’s purpose is to get THE hero back into the fight:

But Ridley says Rey is also placing huge expectations on Luke. She arrives on the island of Ach-To, site of a primitive Jedi temple, not to become a hero herself, but to shove Skywalker back into the fight.

We probably will get some training sequences in this film, but as others have said before, don’t expect it to be a replica of Luke’s training with Yoda.  Rather, Rey’s primary mission is to get Luke back.  And that seems to be one that will provide more conflict and opposition than she could have possibly imagined…

Luke rejects Rey

Daisy Ridley had said previously that sometimes meeting your heroes proves disapointing because they’re not what you expected them to be, and that’s the case with Luke Skywalker.  It seems we do get some information and that Luke does offer an explanation to Rey, but he rejects her and doesn’t want her on the island.  As the article says,

Luke definitely does not give Rey the warm welcome he received when he went in search of Alec Guinness’ Ben Kenobi in 1977’s original Star Wars. She is warned. She is given an explanation. Nevertheless …

“She’s so hopeful to everything,” Ridley says. “And obviously there’s a hint of, ‘What the hell?’”

I imagine the movie will make fans go “what the hell?” a bit too, as we see Luke Skywalker broken and opposed to getting back into the fight.  He doesn’t roll the welcome mat out for Rey on Ahch-To, that’s for sure.  And this proves very significant for Rey.  After all, she was left by her family and was a lone scavenger on Jakku, so as Breznican writes, “This rejection hits Rey’s abandonment issues. Hard.”

Interestingly, what this rejection does is make Rey miss Han Solo even more.  Remember, even though Rey was a scavenger without a family of her own, she found acceptance from Han, Chewie, Finn, Leia, and others.

Luke’s brush-off makes Rey miss the gruff warmth of Han Solo, Ridley says, giving us a peek inside the head of her character: “’Oh my God, this other man that I lost within a couple days was somewhat of a father figure. Now he’s gone, and instead I’m with this grumpy guy on an island who doesn’t want me here.’”

What this does is kind of build up the picture of two people who are both broken: Luke is broken and in exile on the island because he feels he failed, while Rey is broken as she struggles to feel accepted and has abandonment issues.  That of course leads to more questions about just who Rey is…

First, there were these quotes from Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill:

“I don’t think one girl, who he doesn’t know, turning up with a lightsaber is gonna make him go, ‘Oh, s—, yeah, of course I’ll get back into the action,’” Ridley says.

“But does he not know her?” Hamill says in his separate interview.

This could be nothing more than Mark Hamill messing with fans and playing off of the near-constant discussions and debates of the last two years, but it’s still quite interesting.  And then the article states this:

A big part of Rey’s future will be uncovering her own past: Who is connected to her? Where did she come from? And why was she cast away?

As she tries to pick up her own pieces, she may find they fit together well with the remnants of Luke Skywalker. Working together, they may become whole again.

 Luke isn’t evil

There are some theories out there that Luke Skywalker has turned to the dark side, and this article strongly suggests otherwise.  While at times he might be sort of an antagonist to Rey as he struggles with returning from exile, he doesn’t seem to be on the dark side.  He’s on the island because he’s overwhelmed with guilt and shame, and he feels he failed.  But importantly, Luke also longs to be his old heroic self again:

His dreams are different now. Less hopeful. More regretful.

But deep down, the farmboy turned warrior turned exile would also like to meet the hero known as Luke Skywalker again.

What we have from the EW profile isn’t much in the way of spoilers – because we’ll surely find out more about what exactly went down at Luke’s Jedi Temple and why he ran, not to mention more about Rey’s lineage – but it does do a tremendous job of setting the stage for what to expect in The Last Jedi.  Luke is a broken hero, one who feels he has failed everybody and who is so overcome with guilt that he has put himself in exile on Ahch-To.  When Rey arrives, Luke doesn’t want her there and he doesn’t want anything to do with her mission.  Right there you have what will surely be the main point of the movie: getting Luke Skywalker back into the fight.

As Breznican wrote, “This isn’t going to be easy for fans. It wasn’t easy for Hamill.”  The movie might leave fans saying, like Ridley, “what the hell?” but I bet by the end of it, Luke Skywalker will be back.

 

 

 

 

 

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