Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"See you around, kid."

Growing up, Luke Skywalker was my hero.

But he wasn't everybody's.

A lot of boys who watch Star Wars probably want to be Han Solo. After all, he's cool as hell, flies an awesome spaceship, and bags the princess at the end. Ditto with Lando Calrissian or Princess Leia, with the latter being an idol to girls everywhere. All of them are introduced as take-charge, strong individuals with unbelievable self confidence and tons of life experience. Luke, on the other hand, starts off as a farm boy who whines about going to the Tosche Station and asks a seemingly endless amount of questions. Consequently, the Luke Skywalker of the original Star Wars must seem like a pretty boring guy to some people.

Except he isn't. Quite the opposite, in my opinion. Unlike the other characters, Luke genuinely evolves and transforms from episode to episode. From moisture farmer, to rebel pilot, to budding apprentice, to Jedi Knight. Yet through it all, his personality remains consistent. Luke is the guy who will go to bat for you, and stand by his principles. He actually works hard to become a Jedi, and suffers constantly for his friends and allies. Luke isn't just awesome because he has the Force, or a lightsaber, or an X-Wing. He's awesome because of the kind of person he is. Like Superman, he's basically the ultimate good guy: tirelessly enthusiastic, selfless to a fault, and always ready to do the right thing.

Except, this is the Luke Skywalker of the Original Trilogy I'm talking about.

By the time we get to the Sequel Trilogy, something has changed.

The Luke Skywalker of The Last Jedi is a lifetime removed from the events of his youth. He's old, grizzled, and deeply cynical. Most crucially, he's consumed with a hatred of his own legacy. Luke remembers his younger self with a mixture of disgust and remorse, and none of the reverence which others reserve for him. You know that hero you worshipped as a child? The person people like Rey idolised and deified? He no longer exists. And even if he does, he wishes he was dead. All of this is because of one tragic instant - conveyed to us in flashbacks - when he nearly succumbed to the same impulse that almost led him to kill his father, costing him everything in the process. Like his forebears in the Prequel Trilogy ("The legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris…"), Luke was a flawed individual who must've thought he was indestructible. And just like them, he was proven fatally wrong.

But that's just part of the story of Luke Skywalker. As with all things, you shouldn't be judged for how your journey begins. All that counts is how it concludes. For years now, popular media has remembered Luke as a naive young kid, as opposed the dashing black-clad swashbuckler of Return of the Jedi. Go look at any Star Wars spoof and see for yourself. White tunic, sandy leggings, '70s haircut. Pop culture prefers Luke as he started out. For one, it's easier to make fun of him. Similarly, criticism of The Last Jedi has focused on the milk-swigging hermit who tossed away his lightsaber, where they should be talking about the composed warrior that faced down the entire First Order before disappearing into a familiar golden sunset.

The central character arc of The Last Jedi revolves around transforming Luke back into his old self. Other "legend" players help along the way. Chewbacca breaks down his door. Artoo shows him the hologram. And Yoda gives him one final lesson in humility. By the time he reunites with Leia and Threepio ("Master Luke"), he has become a facsimile of that celebrated hero once again: back in black, holding his father's lightsaber, with a resolution to save the galaxy from the forces of evil one last time. There's a reason that walk out onto the salt flat - and the now iconic shoulder-brush - feels so damn triumphant: because it's earned.

You could've made this Sequel Trilogy with the version of Luke Skywalker we saw in the expanded universe of books and comics, now affectionately known as "Legends": valiant, self-assured, and more powerful than any Jedi we'd ever seen. And sure, it might've been momentarily thrilling to see him do something insane, like pull down a Star Destroyer from the sky or wipe out an army with a wave of his hand. But that version of Luke would've been boring. He wouldn't be interesting to watch, and we wouldn't care about him. He'd feel like a plot device as opposed to a genuine person. With this interpretation, people like me get to fall in love with Luke Skywalker all over again, and people who didn't initially like Luke get to give him a second chance.

When I first saw The Last Jedi, I questioned the decision to end with that epilogue on Canto Bight. Why was it even there? Did we really need it? The more I think about it, the more I realise that we did. When that boy looks up at the stars, it is a reflection of anyone who's ever been a Star Wars fan. As a child, I used to hold a broom and pretend it was a lightsaber. I ran along the driveway, imagining myself flying an X-Wing. And I also looked up at the sky with a general sense of wonderment and optimism. Just. Like. Luke. So in that moment, I recalled what it was like to be a kid who loved Star Wars, and someone who wanted to be the lead of all those adventures.

I'm grown up now. I don't look up at the stars like I used to.

But Luke Skywalker is still my hero. And he always will be.

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