Luke Skywalker's darker journey in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' was just good storytelling

Luke Skywalker's darker journey in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' was just good storytelling
Image: lucasfilm

It’s been said before, it’ll be said again: Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That’s what Rian Johnson did.

Luke Skywalker’s gruff, disillusioned old man in Star Wars: The Last Jedi left a lot of fans angry. But writer/director Johnson had a good reason for going that route, as he articulated very well during a South by Southwest panel this week.

“If you look at any classic hero’s myth that is actually worth its salt, at the beginning of the hero’s journey, like with King Arthur, he pulls the sword from the stone and he’s ascendant — he has setbacks but he unites all the kingdoms,” Johnson told the SXSW crowd (h/t The Hollywood Reporter). 

“But then if you keep reading, when it deals with the hero’s life as they get into middle-age and beyond, it always starts to get into darker places. And there’s a reason for that: It’s because myths are not made to sell action figures; myths are made to reflect the most difficult transitions we go through in life.” 

For all the fandom anger that chased The Last Jedi‘s release — at least some of which wasn’t about the movie, really — pretty much anyone who watched the movie with both eyes open comprehended Luke’s journey. The guy became a hero in his late teens and then derailed a galactic civil war almost single-handedly.

In the years after Return of the Jedi, this former farmboy-turned-last hope of the Jedi went ahead and tried to rekindle the Jedi Order. He failed, badly, and that failure was largely his fault. He didn’t turn to the Dark Side (thankfully), but he got super-depressed and up in his own head, so he retreated from public life.

It was a very natural, human reaction, and credit to Johnson for taking that direction when he could have easily turned Luke into Hero of the Rebellion 2.0 — which, in turn, would have robbed The Last Jedi of its emotional core.

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