There were plenty of clues about what Luke Skywalker would be like long before The Last Jedi’s theatrical release.
A number of fans were displeased with Luke Skywalker’s characterization and overall arc in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While fans have the right to feel any way they like, what’s strange is how many fans feel like they were completely blindsided by the treatment of Luke.
It was made abundantly clear heading into The Last Jedi that at least initially, Rey was going to meet a jaded, grumpy Luke who had grown disillusioned with the Jedi Order. Fans have the right to dislike this, but they shouldn’t have been surprised to the point of sounding like they were duped.
Let’s take a look at three major ways Luke Skywalker’s characterization and arc were teased before The Last Jedi hit theaters.
The teaser trailer
Shown for the first time at Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017, everyone was stunned by Luke’s declaration at the end of the film’s official teaser trailer:
"I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end."
Naturally, this line sparked countless interpretations and theories. The one constant that everyone should’ve gleaned from the line, though, was that from Luke’s perspective the Jedi Order as fans knew it needed to end.
From this first glimpse of the film it was clear that for reasons unknown, Luke Skywalker had grown disillusioned with the Jedi Order. Something huge needed to have happened for Luke’s attitude to have changed so dramatically, but clearly Luke was no longer the same proud, optimistic Jedi Knight from the ending of Return of the Jedi.
Daisy Ridley’s quote
Before the official teaser trailer was released at Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017, fans were able to enjoy a panel for The Last Jedi. During the panel, Daisy Ridley provided a substantial tease for what to expect from Rey and her relationship with Luke:
"We go deeper into Rey’s story. And Rey has a certain expectation of what she might get from Luke, and what that might entail. And as a lot of people know, it’s difficult when you meet your heroes because it might not be what you expect."
Many fans felt they were duped because The Last Jedi didn’t feature the Luke they were expecting. He was not the benevolent, all-wise, all-powerful individual they anticipated.
This is essentially what Rey was expecting as well. She reacted with wide-eyed excitement when learning from Finn in The Force Awakens the legendary Luke Skywalker wasn’t a myth. His heroic reputation was only built up further for Rey by the attitudes of Leia and the Resistance and their staunch belief Luke would bring the spark of hope needed to defeat the First Order.
So if Ridley was saying that Rey meeting her hero was going to be more difficult than anticipated, it was a safe bet that Luke wasn’t going to meet the expectations of both Rey and many of the fans.
The official trailer
The official trailer for The Last Jedi showcased Rey’s incredible strength with the Force. Luke’s stunned face along with his verbal reaction to this is very telling:
"I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now."
Despite not being explicitly stated, the reference to Ben Solo and Luke feeling responsible for his transformation into Kylo Ren is fairly transparent here, even without fans knowing the specifics. Luke clearly felt a sense of responsibility for what happened to his nephew and the devastating impact on the galaxy that followed.
What happened with Ben continued to haunt Luke. Rey showing the same kind of strength Ben once did would naturally be cause for alarm, frightening Luke and making him wary of training Rey. It wouldn’t make sense for him to be all gung-ho about training her given the established history.
All these inferences could be made based on the existing films and trailers prior to the release of The Last Jedi.
It’s fair to dislike what the movie did with Luke, but it’s unfair to argue that that movie lured fans in with a false expectation of how Luke would be handled.