Love or hate it, you can make the argument that, at the very least, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a fairly divisive film, never mind just being a divisive Star Wars film in the eyes of some segments of the fan base. And a good chunk of that division has to do with where the film took Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in the recent installment of the Star Wars saga.
As far back as, well, Star Wars in 1977, Luke Skywalker has been a fairly optimistic character, always seeking his destiny. He faced some hard times, yes, and went through some hurdles alongside Han Solo and Princess Leia, but he persevered through it all, even managing to help redeem his father. Fast forward to The Last Jedi, and Luke Skywalker is but a shadow of his former self. He’s cranky, wants the Jedi to end, and is more jaded than he once was. Sure, some can be chalked up to age, but there’s a distinctive change in Luke’s demeanor. And Mark Hamill knows this.
Mark Hamill has been quite outspoken about the treatment of Luke Skywalker by the film’s director, Rian Johnson, and how the character went from where he ended in Return of the Jedi to his outlook on life in The Last Jedi. In a long form interview with IGN, Hamill goes into detail on the shift in Luke’s character:
“There’s just such a huge gap between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens – I had to really contemplate that. I said ‘hey, how did I go from being the most optimistic, positive character to this cranky, suicidal man who wants people to get off his island?’”
It’s a fair question. How does Luke go from being so optimistic and bright to a man who comes to an island just to die? In Mark Hamill’s eyes, a Jedi, especially Luke Skywalker, would never give up and go against everything he’d lived and fought for in his youth:
“It was a radical change, but I think sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone is a good thing […] Although a part of me said to Rian, ‘but you know, a Jedi would never give up’. My concept of the character was that even if I chose the New Hitler thinking he was the New Hope, yeah I’d feel terrible, but I wouldn’t secret myself on an island and then turn off the Force.”
There also existed some shifts in where the story would take Luke, based on the ending of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. J.J. Abrams had plans to show off Luke’s mastery of the Force, but this obviously didn’t make it into Rian Johnson’s film. But, as Mark Hamill explains, ideas tend to shift depending on the director and creative decisions, even when George Lucas was steering the Star Wars ship:
“Remember, George had an overall arc [in the original trilogy],” he explains. “If he didn’t have all the details, he had sort of an overall feel for where the three were going. But this one’s more like a relay race. You run and hand the torch off to the next guy, he picks it up and goes. Rian didn’t write what happens in 9 – he was going to hand it off to, originally, Colin Trevorrow and now J.J.”
Even still, Hamill does note that there’s a sense of tragedy to where Luke’s journey has ultimately taken him between Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi, and he drew upon his personal life to relate to Luke in that regard:
“It is tragic. I’m not a method actor, but one of the techniques a method actor will use is to try and use real-life experiences to relate to whatever fictional scenario he’s involved in. The only thing I could think of, given the screenplay that I read, was that I was of the Beatles generation – ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘peace and love’.
What did you think of Luke’s character arc in The Last Jedi? Were you satisfied with where the story ultimately took young Skywalker? Let us know in the comments below.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran and Benicio del Toro.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now available on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD.