By now it’s fairly safe to say that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has turned into a pretty divisive movie. Some people love it, others really hate it, and nobody can seem to agree on whether characters like Luke Skywalker have been portrayed in a logically, satisfying manner.
If you’re one of approximately 40% of people (at least, according to Rotten Tomatoes) who dislike the movie, and if you feel that the Luke Skywalker of “The Last Jedi” is a disappointing and ultimately very cynical view of the character, you’re not alone.
In addition to all of the “Star Wars” fans who’ve expressed their dissatisfaction with the movie, perhaps the biggest Luke Skywalker fan of all has also announced that he hates this version of the character.
Mark Hamill himself has boldly, definitively stated his dislike of “The Last Jedi” Luke, with the air of a man who’s been itching to say “I told you so!” for well over a year now.
“I said to Rian, ‘Jedi’s don’t give up.’ I mean, even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup. But if he made a mistake, he would try and right that wrong. So, right there we had a fundamental difference, but it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story – and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective. …That’s the crux of my problem. Luke would never say that. I’m sorry. Well, in this version, see I’m talking about the George Lucas Star Wars. This is the next generation of Star Wars, so I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s Jake Skywalker. He’s not my Luke Skywalker, but I had to do what Rian wanted me to do because it serves the story well.”
Of course, this is far from the first time that Hamill has expressed his distaste for the direction that Rian Johnson decided to take with Luke Skywalker. Months before the movie’s recent release, Hamill was warning fans that they might not like what they’d see, and was talking in vague terms about the disagreements that he’d had with Rian Johnson.
It must have been frustrating for Mark – returning to his iconic role after thirty years, having speculated many time about the kinds of adventures Luke Skywalker might have been part of in all that time, only to be told that he has to play a grumpy old man who refuses to do anything vaguely heroic.
Hamill talks about the idea of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” being different to what we’re getting now, and as the Disney movie train rolls forward, this is increasingly proving to be true. It’s hard to imagine Lucas ever making a movie with the grumpy, tired, heavily pessimistic tone that’s present in “The Last Jedi” (even if some scenes on Canto Bight feel like they’re taken right from Lucas’ vision for the Prequels.
To be fair to Mark Hamill, he’s right to think that the movie would be more enjoyable for a lot of people if Luke were more heroic. A large part of the reason why this movie is suffering from so much backlash is the fact that its central narrative and character portrayals seem designed to punish the audience for their childhood nostalgia.
The problem with making a “Star Wars” movie about how we should all let the past die, is that “Star Wars” has always been about embracing nostalgia and old-fashioned notions of heroism. This post-modern, visibly angry and defeated Luke feels like such a departure from anything we’ve seen before, that this movie lacks a lot of the charm of older entries in the franchise.
Trying to do something new should be commended, but it seems that Rian Johnson has overlooked the importance of childhood icons. His movie is, for better or worse, cut from the same ironic deconstructist cloth as “Batman v Superman”, which similarly attempts to reimagine iconic figures as self-absorbed, dour, unlikeable jerks.
Mark Hamill is right to hate Rian Johnson’s Luke Skywalker. Here’s hoping he’s enjoying some form of vindication now that plenty of his fans are publicly agreeing with him.