Luke Skywalker has been the center of the story of Star Wars from the very beginning. You would think that as a fan from the very beginning I would understand that character. That however didn’t come until years later, and after The Last Jedi.
I was never a Luke Skywalker guy.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Luke, but early on he seemed to me to be someone who was often unsure of himself or worse yet, too sure when he shouldn’t have been. Admittedly, for a little while after Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, I ran around the actual desert farm where I grew up in Southern Arizona swinging a cut section of aluminum pipe as my lightsaber.
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It didn’t really stick with me though; the whole Jedi thing maybe just wasn’t for me. (though I do still have that section of pipe, 39 years later.) Perhaps I would have paid more attention if Luke was the only male protagonist in Star Wars, but we all know he wasn’t.
I was a Han Solo guy.
Han was a fast talker, he had a cool ship that he could make do amazing things, and he had an awesome best friend who could rip people’s arms out of their sockets. He also had a snazzy vest and my beloved Princess Leia loved him. Han Solo was where it was at. So there I was in fifth grade, black vest, white shirt, and home-made blaster after I saw Return of the Jedi.
And that was kind of my Original Trilogy fandom for a long time. Yes, this was the “Skywalker Saga,” but I didn’t really get Luke, and I was fine with that.
Now, let’s add 35 years, wife, kids, 21 years in the Army, and sprinkle some middle age on top.
In December of 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out. Many words have been written by and about those who consider it offensive. Many words have been written by and about those who will extol its virtues. Each have salient points, and I don’t want to rehash all of that here. I want to discuss the main thing I walked away with that cool December evening.
I finally understood Luke Skywalker.
For the first time, I looked at Luke and said, “yep, that’s my guy.” When I was young and watching the OT, I just looked at cool-guy Han with envy, but when I got out into the real world, I realized that bad boy hero kind of ends up being the guy from high school still wearing his letterman’s jacket at age 40 because that was the peak. That was not who I was. I was someone who wanted to try and do the right thing in the world, and in the military had a profession that meant you sometimes had to literally fight to do the right thing.
I was also someone who learned that sometimes trying to do the right thing goes horribly wrong. There can be consequences to that, and you begin to feel the only way to deal with those consequences is to isolate yourself so those bad things don’t happen again. And you drive people away, and you’re mean to people you love, and you have to get a hold of yourself so you can pick up and keep going. You have to make an effort to heal.
That’s not always easy, and I am fortunate enough to have had the right wife and loved ones and friends around me. I am fortunate/lucky/blessed that I moved forward when too many people I know didn’t.
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 18: Mark Hamill, winner of the Empire Icon award, is interviewed in the winners room at the Rakuten TV EMPIRE Awards 2018 at The Roundhouse on March 18, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)
So to me, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a man who has not learned to deal with his trauma just yet. Trauma brought on by a split-second poor decision, instantly regretted, with years of fallout and consequence in response. Mark Hamill’s nuanced performance brings to life the way a good person is affected when actions taken with good intentions go wrong. We see Luke as a veteran haunted by ghosts that are only his own (until he opens himself to The Force again), and wow, could I commiserate with that.
As an audience member I was gratified to see that we watch him come to grips with his trauma. I was glad to see him find his peace, and in doing so manage to again save the galaxy’s hope, and again do so without a lightsaber in his hand. The symbolism of him shedding “this crude flesh” to become “luminous” when he has found his way back to himself is intense, poignant, and inspirational. It left me grateful that I had made my way back without having to make so profound a transformation.
But that old grouchy guy up there? The one who needs to forgive himself? I get that guy. Whatever else one wants to say about The Last Jedi, I can say this:
Now I’m a Luke Skywalker guy.
What Star Wars character do you see yourself in? Is there a character who means something different to you now than when you first saw them? Sound off below!