*This article contains some spoilers.
Since I wrote a rather glowing review about Star Wars: The Last Jedi I have gotten some feedback – in person and online – and most of it is from people grumbling about the movie and angry that I liked it so much. I realize that they believed that it was not what they wanted and that especially the character of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) greatly disappointed them.
Recently Hamill added fuel to the fire in an interview when he said the character “…is not my Luke Skywalker.” Afterwards he backtracked and apologized for talking about “creative differences” with SWTLJ director Rian Johnson, but the damage was already done, and the people who didn’t like the film pointed to Hamill’s remarks as corroboration of their opinions.
Honestly, there was something in both The Last Jedi and its predecessor The Force Awakens that I wish had been different. One of the key things I wanted was an onscreen reunion of Luke, Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in these films. Since Han met his end in The Force Awakens, I knew that would not be possible this time around, but that is probably my biggest disappointment.
When I got to thinking about it though, I understood the reasoning behind the big three not getting back together. I understood a most salient point that directors J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens) and Johnson were making – this is not the Star Wars movie you wanted but it was one you needed. Life moves on, people change and get older and, sadly, they die.
Now I am sure I will get more flack for saying this, but I see the logic of it all very clearly. Mostly, Luke could not stay the fair-haired teenager we first saw on Tatooine 40+ years ago. He has grown older, experienced tragedy and loss, and is not the same person that we first met in A New Hope. If he were, then the directors would not have been depicting a truthful progression of the character. Luke has gone so far from wanting to join the Academy to becoming a Jedi to basically saving the galaxy. Eventually he grows older and wiser and begins training new Jedi, but that ends in disaster.
I realize that Hamill has an emotional investment in Luke (as do the fans) and that what he said about Luke came from an honest place, but then he also took into account the arc of the whole story and understood his place in it. All I have to do is see my own truth in Hamill’s dilemma – I am not the same person I was when I first went to see Star Wars as a teenager in 1977. While there are facets of my personality that are similar, I have grown older and do not approach these films with the same starry-eyed optimism I once did. So, sure, I will always like A New Hope and remember it fondly, but no other film in the series can ever be like it again and rightly so.
Some of those people complaining to me have mentioned they want A New Hope type of film in the series because it ended on such a positive note. I understand that but, if you examine the seven other films honestly, you can consider the ending of A New Hope as an aberration. Think of the dismal ending of The Empire Strikes Back as evidence that even by the second film George Lucas had a different idea for the trajectory of these characters.
Some may argue that the ending of Return of the Jedi is hopeful, but I have always wondered about the impact of Darth Vader’s death on Luke, the inability to really get to know his father and losing him so quickly after Vader’s turn to the light side. When Luke sees the vision of the Force ghosts of his father, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), it is foreshadowing of the fact that one day he will join their ranks. By the time we see him in The Last Jedi, he has renounced the Force and that would not have happened, if not for Rey (Daisy Ridley) saving him by getting Luke to reconnect to the Force.
I know that nothing will stop those who hate the movie from hating it. Still, the over $1 billion (and counting) box office for SWTLJ indicates that people are going to see the film – and sometimes more than once like yours truly – and that they like something about it.
There is much to enjoy in The Last Jedi – new characters, great battle sequences, different exotic planets, and strange new creatures. The characters introduced in The Force Awakens get more development, and it seems clear that Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rey are now ready to replace Luke, Leia, and Han as the series’ main characters. Rey is truly the new Luke, an orphan child raised on a desert planet. She is one with the Force with a good and true heart just like his and, though she may have a tinge of darkness in her, that will not turn her to the dark side but rather will make her an even more potent opponent against it.
With the sad loss of Carrie Fisher we realize that she cannot be part of the ninth film – due in December 2019 – so we must face facts and realize that the old gang we knew and loved is gone. I do understand this upsets fans, but all fans must remember a crucial truth – Star Wars is bigger than Vader and Luke, Leia and Han, or Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) too. This truth has always been there but some loyal fans do not like thinking about it.
Star Wars is and always will be a story of light and dark, good verses evil, and that is an eternal struggle in the galaxy far, far away as well in our own. With a planned new trilogy to come after the ninth film, we must understand this battle will go on and on, and all I know is that I want to be along for the ride no matter who is the pilot of the Millenium Falcon.
May the Force be with you all now and always!