When I was a kid, there was a pretty big divide in Star Wars fans. Mainly because there were those that love the Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) while a significantly bigger fan base of people hated the prequels but loved the Original Trilogy (A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). I think this is important to point out. I have literally never been alive where Star Wars fans weren’t arguing. Fast forward to the modern time period. We are about to watch the final iteration of the Sequel Trilogy and you cannot escape the overwhelming hatred for the most recent movie, The Last Jedi.
Literally search “The Last Jedi” and you will be engulfed in a massive amount of criticism, hatred, and Sith level rage for this movie. The Star Wars film prior, The Force Awakens, was directed and written by J.J. Abrams, with help from Lawrence Kasdan, the writer for episodes 5 and 6. It had a bit of criticism, mainly around the character Kylo Ren, a large amount of references and call backs, and a mystery box plot. We hadn’t seen an actual Star Wars movie for over a decade. This was also the first movie released after the Disney acquisition of Lucas Arts, something many people still are not comfortable with (the way I see it, George Lucas made the choice to sell, got a problem, take it up with him). But most of the fans rejoiced as the franchise was rekindled. So when the next movie in the series was announced, most people were excited.
The Last Jedi was written and directed by Rian Johnson. He was relatively unknown, at least in my circles. He worked on a few episodes of Breaking Bad, a lukewarm time travel movie named Looper, and a few successful indie projects. So when he was announced to write and direct a Star Wars movie, most people were confused, but I would say there was still a considerable amount of hype. Move forward to the midnight release at 7:00pm. I saw this movie the first possible showing I could and… I hated it. I had so many complaints. It just visually made me uncomfortable and upset. I had felt wronged. So of course I went and saw it again the next day. I hated it even worse. Every time the audience laughed, I rolled my eyes. Every time the audience clapped, I yawned. After a few months it appeared I wasn’t alone. A huge amount of fans agreed with me about how the movie was terrible. Then one day I was talking to a friend of mine that is a way bigger Star Wars nerd then me. I did something most people don’t do… I listened.
I started complaining about what I didn’t like about the film. He didn’t disagree or call me an idiot, instead he just explained what he liked. It kind of went on this way for a while until he made me reluctantly realize some of my complaints were not isolated to just The Last Jedi. Liea force flying through the air was dumb, but we’ve seen other random force powers out of nowhere and it worked. The opening scene had bombs drop out into an open hole in space, but we’ve seen force field holes on almost every ship in the movies. We didn’t get a Snoke back story, but we also didn’t get one for Darth Sidious until the prequels. Basically, if I was fine with this stuff happening in the previous 7 Star Wars movies, then I really shouldn’t care that much about it in Episode 8. I still had problems with the movie but I agreed that most people were being a little too harsh. Eventually the Blue Ray came out and I had to admit, I was back to being interested.
While being alone in my home, watching this movie for the first time in months, I didn’t hate it. Part of it was because I had realized some of my issues were too nit-picky. Part of it was because the internet and fan base was really rubbing me the wrong way with how harsh and toxic it was becoming. But most importantly it was because there wasn’t an audience. No one was laughing at scenes that weren’t jokes. No one was cheering at a scene that was just fan fare. I could actually watch it and absorb the movie on my own. I realized people were watching the movie the wrong way. So I watched it again, and again, each time liking it more but I was still having issues. Some moments just rubbed me wrong and I felt like the Director, Rian Johnson, was making statements and using the movie as a platform. So I decided to watch it again with the director’s commentary. I realized Rian Johnson doesn’t give a fuck about politics. He wasn’t making any statements. The dude is just a big nerd. The way he talked about the scenes and his love for the OG trilogy was shocking. Him making this movie is no different than any one of us getting the chance to make a Star Wars film. He just wanted to do some cool shit and make a legit sequel to a franchise he truly loved.
I have come to really love this movie. I still have a few issues and by no means think it’s perfect. There are a few plot-holes in my opinion and I also think its acceptable to just not like the movie if it isn’t your cup of tea. I also know there are still a lot of people who hate this movie for… let’s call them “political” reasons. However there is one complaint of the film that I just cannot understand from the fans, and that’s their opinion that Rian Johnson ruined the character of Luke Skywalker.
No matter who you are listening to, watching, or reading about, if they do not like The Last Jedi then at one point they will bring up Luke Skywalker’s character. People are so connected to this character from the original trilogy that they feel personally betrayed by his portrayal in this film and I do not understand why. There is such an outrage that multiple campaigns have gone around along the lines of #NotMyLuke. Even multiple websites decided to create click-bait articles with Mark Hamill’s quote being taken out of context saying “he’s not my Luke Skywalker” as a way to solidify their hatred.
Mark Hamill returned to the franchise 30 years after the original trilogy and we see that the hero we saw all those years ago is a very different man. The last time we saw Luke Skywalker, he had just defeated the evil Galactic Empire. He had seen a spark of good in Darth Vader, his father, and refused to give into his hatred for Darth Sidious. According to The Last Jedi, as well as several comics, a video game, and multiple books, Luke then went on to collect children who were force sensitive, recover the Jedi sacred texts, and rebuild the Jedi academy. He went on to train his own nephew, Ben Solo, and one night saw a spark of evil. In that moment he almost killed the boy, causing him to run away, join the dark side, and destroy Luke’s new temple (along with any hope for the future of the Jedi). By the time Rey finds him, he is a beaten down, salty old man who hates being alive. When given his lightsaber and told that the galaxy needs his help, he throws it aside and refuses the call. He hates the Jedi and wants them to die. So why wouldn’t people hate him.
The thing is, you are supposed to hate Luke Skywalker when you meet him. The emotion you feel towards the disappointment is on purpose. It isn’t “bad writing” in fact it is incredible writing. The audience was meant to feel betrayed because that is exactly how Rey feels. I don’t think it’s hard for us to imagine what she is going through in that moment. Rey spends her whole life idolizing Luke Skywalker. She goes on an incredible journey to see him thinking it will bring an end to the conflict only to find Luke in that state. People do not stay the same way their entire life, that’s not how it works. Show me any hopeful individual as a young adult and then fast forward 35 years and see how much hope is left; and these weren’t a happy 35 years for him either Everything he ever loved or cared about was taken away from him… and it was his own fault. Humans are capable of mistakes, guilt, regret, and agony; why shouldn’t this character? I feel like most people who hate this version of Luke Skywalker checked out of the movie almost immediately and refused to listen to the character or watch his arc throughout the rest of the film. They just continually judge him based on the first impression they were given.
One thing Luke says that really stands out to me is that the Jedi were wrong. It’s true! In the height of their power, they allowed the entire universe to be taken over by the dark side. This is not an article defending the prequels, I’m just stating the facts. The Jedi were basically monks. They should have never taken the job of intergalactic peace keepers. Up until Darth Maul, a Jedi hadn’t even been in a lightsaber battle for over a thousand years. Jedi are known for their wisdom. The Sith are the force users that seek out power. To absolutely bring ‘balance to the force’ you need both light and dark. The force will always require an even split. So when the Jedi grew more powerful, so did the Sith. Old Man Luke sees that. He saw it in his own nephew. Luke was rebuilding the Jedi as well as the power of the light side of the force. The dark side had found the host for the balance, and it was in Ben Solo.
Luke Skywalker was never a beacon of hope! He was very hopeful, but even in the original trilogy, he was a flawed human. People will always bring up how he threw down his lightsaber while fighting Darth Vader. But they tend to forget is that was after a fierce battle. Imagine praising a person for putting down their gun after shooting at someone for a half hour. Luke was always susceptible to anger and outbursts. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader makes a remark about Leia and Luke tries to strike him down immediately out of rage. And lets not forget he also tried killing Vader when Obi was killed and after Han was frozen. I’m not saying he isn’t a mostly good person. But anyone who says Luke thinking about killing Ben solo is “out of character”, seems to not actually know the character all that well.
The theme of the movie is failure. We see it with Poe’s character arc with the bombers. We see it with Finn and Roses character when trying to do whatever unnecessary side story they were doing. But most importantly the very fact the Sequel Trilogy exist is because of Luke’s failure. He was the man who destroyed the Galactic Empire and the Sith and brought balance to the force. Except he didn’t. The First Order exists. Dark force users are still out there. No one ever wins any battle because with time, all good deeds are undone. That is why Luke has given up hope in the beginning of the movie. In the beginning, not the end. Anyone who is upset with Luke Skywalker didn’t pay attention to the end of The Last Jedi. The character literally sacrifices himself to confront his own failures in a way that is more fucking “Jedi” then any lightsaber battle. The true way of the Jedi would be to never fight at all. He actually uses peace to save lives. And he dies feeling hope again for the future. The character starts off in a place of almost killing the forthcoming generation due to some flaws and ends it being hopeful in the future despite them. That is the point I wish more audience members took away. Everyone is so concerned with how the character ‘should’ have been that I see very few people take away how he was actually portrayed. The past isn’t perfect, stop pretending it is. And the future isn’t perfect either, but it could be pretty good if we embrace it.
There is a certain fan base that I find more and more frustrating every day. The Fandom Menace is a growing group of Star Wars enthusiasts (as well as any nerd culture group) that have given into hate. I’m not saying that every person that has criticism about the movie is part of The Fandom Menace. I’m referring to the people who seem to pride themselves on things like Kelly Marie Tran getting harassed off social media or the Solo movie having a poor box office. These “true fans” have put such a personal identification onto the franchise that they hate the idea of anyone doing anything that doesn’t fit their individual idea of what Star Wars should be. There’s also a good amount of them that are sexist, racist, and all around assholes but I mean every group has those twats running around. These people have come out of the wood work to hate Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and anything that is part of the Disney Star Wars chapter of “their” franchise because it changes too much from what was in the past movies. Well I say let the past die, kill it if you have to.
One thing I find extremely ironic is the Fandom Menace’s hatred for The Last Jedi’s iteration of Luke Skywalker. Like most, they say that the real Luke wouldn’t chop down a kid with dark thoughts because he is the man who saw a spark of hope in Darth Vader… I’m going to repeat this because I want you to get what I’m saying. The people who harass strangers, root for failed box offices, and actively hate on any new IP including shows made for kids like Resistance, dislike Luke because he no longer seeing hope in the future generations.
I’m not saying this is everyone who hates The Last Jedi, but I have a theory. Thirty years ago some of them were young adults and watched a movie franchise they loved. They identified with the main character of Luke Skywalker who did something incredible just as they were about to embark on their own personal adventure. Then life does what it always does best and destroyed them. Time removes hope from all of us at one point or another. Then they watch The Force Awakens and see the character once more and get excited because for a second they remember the joy they felt as a kid before they became the sad, lonely, and salty people they are today. The Last Jedi comes out and they are shocked to find their personal hero is… just like them. So instead of taking the lesson the movie obviously was trying to convey (that there still is a chance for hope but it has to be in the future and we cannot cling to the past) they rebel.
Whats funny is that The Fandom Menace does not see the good in Darth Disney. All they want to do is turn on their lightsabers and destroy the future generations of Star Wars fans because they have a few flaws. They are the villains that they hate and instead of accepting that unintended realization, they would rather just turn to the dark side and execute their own Order 66. Rian Johnson is such a good writer that he accidentally gave us the social commentary on the star Wars culture after the movie came out. I just wish more people could be like the Jedi they claim to love. Sit down, think about what your heroes from this franchise would do if they were in your shoes. I don’t see too many Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalkers out there, I just see a lot of Attack of the Clones Anakin Skywalkers… I hope that one cut you fuckboys deep.
I love the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and I’m loving the place were at right now with the sequel trilogy. I also really enjoyed the two Star Wars Stories movies Rogue One and Solo. I am a rare Star Wars fan I guess. I trust that the people working on these movies actually care. They are creatives that just want to make art. And yeah, there are some people working on them that just want to make money, how else are they going to be able to afford to make the films at a quality we demand. It is a balance of light and dark that give us these films.
I suggest if you really hated The Last Jedi, to watch it again with what I said in the back of your mind. It’s better to see at least one good thing in the movie then to hate it for its flaws. Even if you did like it, maybe you can learn something new or a unique perspective on the character. Regardless of how this trilogy ends with Episode 9, I sincerely think, much like Empire Strikes Back, the vocal hate will die down and people will grow to admire it for what it did for the franchise and the fitting end for the one and only Luke Skywalker.
Movie watched several times and article written by: Troy Smith