This Star Wars Analysis Will End the Debate About Luke Skywalker’s Character in The Last Jedi

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This Star Wars Analysis Will End the Debate About Luke Skywalker’s Character in The Last Jedi

To be perfectly clear, I thought Star Wars: The Last Jedi was an absolutely entertaining children’s movie. However, it’s been somewhat more entertaining to watch the furious debate about the film in the last seven months since it was released. There are those, like myself, who thought Rian Johnson made the most complex Star Wars movie to date—one that shows growth of beloved dynamic characters who face both triumphs and challenges. Then there are those who think the movie should have been populated by only hot white heroes with lots of abs doing manly things.

Those in the latter camp took issue with Luke Skywalker’s character in The Last Jedi. They didn’t like the fact that this man had changed since we last saw him 35 years ago. This is not the character they’ve grown up idolizing! “The characters have lost their relatability,” as the Remake the Last Jedi website complains. They wanted Luke Skywalker to fly down in his X-Wing, to hit some bad guys with his lightsaber, to save the day and live happily ever after with Leia—whether she’s his sister or not.

But that’s not what Johnson gave us. Instead, Skywalker has been shaped by the challenges of the last 35 years. His opinion about the Jedi, about life, and rebellion, and heroes, and villains have changed. It’s almost as if he’s grown up (gasp!).

In one of the best arguments I’ve seen in support of Skywalker’s character in The Last Jedi, Jonathan McIntosh—who runs the YouTube account Pop Culture Detective—explains why Luke’s actions track perfectly with who he was at the end of Return of the Jedi.

A handful of The Last Jedi haters in my mentions are offering up a fascinating misreading of the final showdown between Luke and Vader in RotJ. I think it’s worth taking a moment to discuss because it may help explain why these guys hate Luke’s character so much in Episode VIII. pic.twitter.com/zI9ZY9JL9q

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

The misreading: Luke Skywalker uses his great warrior skills to defeat Darth Vader. Once he’s proven himself in combat and stands victorious, Luke does the honorable thing by showing mercy and sparing his enemy. Thereby saving himself from corruption and redeeming his father. pic.twitter.com/Xf5u9yHcc3

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

What really happened: Luke tries to avoid fighting but gives into anger. As he bests Vader in combat, Luke realizes his great mistake, winning this fight means losing his soul to the Dark Side. The battle itself is corrupting him, understanding this Luke throws away his weapon. pic.twitter.com/QmqkbDyROg

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

Notice that the misreading (above) reframes Luke as a badass warrior and reframes his refusal to kill Vader as an act of mercy stemming from a position of power. This is significant because Luke beating Vader in combat is explicitly depicted as a moment of weakness NOT strength. pic.twitter.com/w5xrQVP9ip

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

Imagine that! Luke Skywalker failed when he attempted to beat Darth Vader in physical combat. A true hero is one who doesn’t fight at all. It’s a subversive notion that was lost on many Star Wars fans who believed that he was mercifully sparing Vader’s life from a position of power. It’s funny that fans don’t understand this, because throughout this entire franchise, Jedi have almost annoyingly touted themselves as arbiters of peace. They value non-violence. They’re more monks than soldiers—which is what Luke realized in his final confrontation with Vader and the emperor.

Luke’s arc in the original trilogy ends with him not only refusing to kill the bad guy, but refusing to even fight a worse villain. This is why Luke’s force projection standoff with Kylo in The Last Jedi is so perfect. It’s the ultimate expression of everything Luke has learned. pic.twitter.com/lts9ydsOft

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

The fact that an iconic figure like Luke Skywalker was explicitly framed as *weak* for fighting a murderous villain like Darth Vader is a pretty subversive message, especially for a male hero in Hollywood. And it’s something that, 35 years later, some fans still refuse to accept. pic.twitter.com/ypBKK3IVZ3

— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) July 10, 2018

Though McIntosh doesn’t get into it here, this reading of Skywalker’s character tracks with his decision to kill Kylo Ren when he felt him turning to the Dark Side. That, again, was Skywalker realizing he was giving into his fear, and that’s why he changed his mind. When he fled to solitude, that was his ultimate act of pacifism, as was his non-violent confrontation with Ren in the conclusion of the film. And to give McIntosh’s reading even more credibility, Rian Johnson also approves.

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