It came to no surprise that for many, 1977 Star Wars’s Luke Skywalker symbolize the archetypical heroism among modern adult life of today. A farmer boy who was called to an adventure and becoming a legendary Jedi. This image of Luke burning with youthful defiance were burned inside the mind of many… untainted by the prequels.
Except it has been 40 years and like everyone, Luke does grow up and life changed him immeasurably.
“It is time for the Jedi to end.”
In one fell swoop, Luke Skywalker himself fractured the image of him as a hero and instead he was now a withered veteran of the Galactic War who lived in isolation after a tragedy that gave birth to Kylo Ren.
This wizened man was not the sageful old hermit in a desert, instead he was bitter and chosen to live in exile and even blocked himself from the Force. Shamed by his past actions, old and grouchy, this was not the legendary figure that Rey had expected.
Rather than accepting his long lost lightsaber, which was last seen in 1980’s Empire Strikes Back after Vader cut his arm, or wondering how on it survived all the way from Bespin, Luke simply threw it off his shoulder.
Just like that the magic was gone. Instead our mysterious Rey followed Luke’s heel for days, waiting and hoping for the Jedi Master to teach her the ways of the Force. Instead, she found herself called to a temple that harbor ancient Jedi relics.
“I felt something… it awakened, but now I need to know how to wield it.”
Luke decided to test her and Rey’s powers made him even more curious. Instead he tried to show her ways of the Force that wasn’t just about the Jedi Code. Encourage her to discover it on her own. He admonished that the Force does not belong to the Jedi or the Sith that it exist and belong in all of them. But Her inexperienced with the Force was untamed by any teachings nor rules. She never learn how to fear the darkness in the Force which caused Luke a great deal of distress.
And it became clear to him that Rey developed a Force Bond with his own nephew, Ben Solo. That their fates and destiny are intertwined together and so was their powers and mind. While constantly referenced in many Extended Universe, the connections of individuals through the Force was hardly explored in the movie franchise. While it was hinted through meaningful looks and deep thoughts but The Last Jedi instead took further by showing directly how two being powerful enough in the Force could communicate clearly with each other.
Upon their first connection, it was Rey who respond violently to Ben’s pressence in her mind. Blowing the roof off one of the fragile architecture that she inhabit. And rather than the cold-hearted villain that The Force Awaken had portrayed, Ben was shown to be a character who was conflicted by the circumstance thrust upon him. Rather than bringing him further into the dark side, his father’s death does the opposite. And the only human connection he could have was through Rey who harder for her to look away from him .
When it was revealed that Luke had tried to kill his nephew, Rey immediately confront the exiled Jedi over what happened that pushed Ben Solo to the arms of Snoke and the creation of Kylo Ren. Luke raged how he had forsaw death and destruction in Ben’s future. He blamed the moment that he let himself consumed by the darkness.
The failure crippled him emotionally, like Obi-Wan and Anakin, the past repeat himself. In his mind, he had created Darth Vader and just like Obi-Wan did, Luke found himself hopeless. His nephew was lost to him and rather than face Leia, he choose to ran away from everything.
Instead, Rey came to him and manage to knock him on his ass. Luke watched this young girl, while still inexperienced with the Force but burning with hope that she could bring back Ben to the light and she wouldn’t wait for Luke to take her to that path.
This is where Luke’s story diverged away from Obi-Wan’s hermit kingdom and became Luke’s own path of self-discovery and renewed hope. Unlike The Force Awaken’s Han Solo, Luke was never about reclaiming his youth. That life was lone gone and in memory just like Vader’s kyber crystal he kept as a momento. Luke never seem to wear his past achievements on his sleeves, instead he see the Jedi as a legacy of failures and hubris that even he followed.
“I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi… to end.”
Not surprisingly this harsh criticism of the Jedi drew a lot of ire of the many. Especially when the one doing it was Luke himself.
But even as the last of the Jedi, he find it was hard to deny the integral part of his identity. As always, a friendly voice from the past emerged and gave Luke the right push. To make way for the new, every one must let go of the past.
“Strike me down in anger and I’ll always be with you. Just like your father.”
It was unbelievably gorgeous and yet, true. Luke finally became the man he was always meant to be. No longer burdened by thoughts of his failures or the shadows of men that haunted him. The truth and the failings of Luke Skywalker does not erase the legend. Skywalker’s legacy always live through everyone.
“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the nigh
He knew that he could not redeem Ben Solo, not when his own nephew hated him for what he had done. Instead, he reassured Leia and understood that the path for the future was no longer his to control. Instead, he became so much more.
Despite its criticism, The Last Jedi did justice as the final journey of Luke Skywalker. Like the people before him, he did became something more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine. Mark Hamill’s greatest performance as his iconic character. Carrie Fisher’s final legacy to us all. Not just for the new generation of Star Wars fans, but also those who had grown old with the archetypal stories of a poor farm boy, a hermit monk, a rogue and a princess. But these characters are also people; who grew up, changed and made mistakes that we all should learn from. And just like 40 years ago, Luke’s story is still undeniably one of the greatest of hero’s journey of our time.