Despite (or perhaps because of) the huge fan anticipation, THE LAST JEDI has split the STAR WARS fan base like never before. The movie may be a box office hit, but a lot of fans are unhappy with the film. One of the most prevalent complains was the treatment of Luke Skywalker.

Even Mark Hamill himself did not shy away from expressing his concerns regarding Luke’s direction. Instead of the ultra-powerful, heroic Jedi, we were expecting, we saw Luke as a frightened, broken man. I was disappointed that Luke only got a few minutes of action at the very end. However, in my opinion, his portrayal made sense. Luke may not be what fans were expecting, but he’s what the story needed.

Assumptions VS Reality

A major theme of THE LAST JEDI is “expectations vs reality.” Every character in the film defies expectations (their own and the fans’). Poe expects his usual bold leadership to save the day. Instead, he causes the deaths of dozens of Resistance soldiers. Finn and Rose lose their “master codebreaker” but are surprised to find help from a sloppy, stuttering prisoner. They are even more surprised when their former ally betrays them for credits.

Leia, Holdo, Kylo Ren, even Snoke defy expectations; why would Luke Skywalker be any different?

Luke Skywalker The Last Jedi

Luke defies Rey’s expectations when he tells her that he is finished with the Jedi. Luke even expresses disappointment in himself for to live up to his own legend. Not only did Luke feel as though he failed the Jedi, he felt that the Jedi failed him. He realized that the Jedi of the past ended up begetting Darth Vader, and allowed the Empire to rise. In his mind, the Jedi were always the creators of their own monsters.

Rian Johnson to Direct New STAR WARS Trilogy

Seeing the pattern reemerge in his nephew, Ben Solo must have made him further question his ideology. With this in mind, Luke’s desire to remove himself from the Jedi and the war makes perfect sense, storywise. This is a very interesting direction to take Luke Skywalker. Although he saves the day late in the film, his earlier hesitation breaks fans’ expectations and shows character depth.

That hesitation allows the filmmakers to avoid trivializing the conflict from THE FORCE AWAKENS. Why would Luke stay away from the battle if he held so much power? Rian Johnson made the wise decision when he gave Luke a clear motivation for distancing himself from the galaxy at large.

Even Luke Skywalker Makes Mistakes

One valid criticism I’ve read addresses Luke’s actions regarding Ben Solo during the flashback sequence. While I don’t think Luke was completely out of character in this scene, the film definitely could have handled it better. Luke considers killing Ben after seeing the darkness in his heart. He also (correctly) foresaw Ben’s future as a servant of the dark side, bringing destruction to everything Luke held dear.

That’s reason enough, but the audience doesn’t see what Luke sees. We know that Ben will eventually turn to the dark side, but we have no real idea what got him there. The film would have benefited from a scene that showed them training at the Jedi temple. For one thing, that would have been really cool to see. Also, that would have been a great opportunity to witness what made Luke so afraid of Ben’s power.

Without this context, Luke pulling out his lightsaber in front of a sleeping boy seems a bit extreme, even with all we know about Kylo Ren. We hear Luke express his fears, but we never see it. Perhaps Ben seriously harmed one of Luke’s pupils, or Luke sees him communicating with Snoke. Then, Luke’s reaction would have felt a bit more justified.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if a training sequence like that ended up as a deleted scene. THE LAST JEDI was already the longest STAR WARS film to date, so I imagine they had to cut a lot to avoid dragging it out even longer. It’s also possible that they’re saving Kylo Ren’s backstory for Episode IX. I would be disappointed if something as important as Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side ended up being pushed to a novel, instead of an on-screen event.

Finally… The Milk Drinking Scene

Amid all the valid criticisms of Luke’s portrayal are some truly asinine complaints. Believe it or not, there are tons of people who hated the scene where Luke drinks milk out of some strange giraffe-walrus (I never thought I would write that sentence, and mean it). Friends of mine thought it made a mockery of Luke Skywalker and was one of the most “cringe-worthy” moments in the film.

Really? Out of all the weird stuff in all of STAR WARS, this is where it gets too weird? I mean, yeah, it was a little odd and granted, Luke made a pretty strange face at Rey after taking a hearty chug.

But at that point, Luke was just trying to get Rey to leave. Why wouldn’t Luke take advantage of his odd daily routine to scare off someone who was bothering him? It’s like when someone stares at you on the bus, and you stare back to get them to stop. Although it’s not my favorite scene, I actually thought it was a nice little detail showing how Luke survived for so long without technology.

It may not have been completely necessary, but it’s definitely not the worst thing to come out of STAR WARS.

Final Thoughts: THE LAST JEDI and Luke Skywalker

Even if you didn’t like the way THE LAST JEDI handled Luke Skywalker, his apathy throughout the film made his triumphant return even more, well, triumphant. I’ve heard nothing but praise for Luke and Kylo’s “duel,” and it remains well-deserved. The hesitation Luke shows early in the film to accept his legacy only enhances the final result.

My only wish is that Luke survived to see the events of Episode IX. Although I’m sure he will return as a Force spirit, I just wasn’t ready to see him fade away. I can’t wait until the Blu-ray so I can get my fill of more Luke footage. I also look forward to seeing Rian Johnson’s insight regarding the choices he made while writing such an iconic character.

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