This Should End The Argument Over Luke’s Behavior In Star Wars: The Last Jedi


I was on a serious high when I left the cinema after seeing The Last Jedi. Finally, a Star Wars film that not only understands but develops the core philosophies of the franchise, as well as being stunning to look at and beautifully performed. That high lasted as long as it took me to get online, though, when I saw the beginnings of the fan-storm that rages to this day. There are too many women in it! The space battle tactics don’t make sense! The film criticizes traditional heroism! Luke Skywalker is an alien-milking weirdo who goes out like a chump!

I’ve been endlessly arguing that the Luke we see here is a smart evolution of where the character could be 35 years after we left him in Return of the Jedi. All this time I haven’t been able to articulate as well as I’d like about why it makes so much sense, but now someone has. Said someone is Jonathan McIntosh aka the Pop Culture Detective, who’s explained in a series of Tweets why The Last Jedi‘s Luke makes sense.

His theory is that fans are ‘misreading’ the confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader in the Emperor’s throne room at the climax of Return of the Jedi, explaining:

The misreading: Luke Skywalker uses his great warrior skills to defeat Darth Vader. Once he’s proven himself in combat and stands victorious, Luke does the honorable thing by showing mercy and sparing his enemy. Thereby saving himself from corruption and redeeming his father.

What really happened: Luke tries to avoid fighting but gives into anger. As he bests Vader in combat, Luke realizes his great mistake, winning this fight means losing his soul to the Dark Side. The battle itself is corrupting him, understanding this Luke throws away his weapon.

Notice that the misreading (above) reframes Luke as a badass warrior and reframes his refusal to kill Vader as an act of mercy stemming from a position of power. This is significant because Luke beating Vader in combat is explicitly depicted as a moment of weakness NOT strength.

I’m sure you can see where this is going – that resorting to combat is a failure for a Jedi and that a true hero finds a way to triumph without hacking someone to bits with a lazer sword. Granted, the prequels are full of whizzy, backflipping lightsaber duels, but those films are explicitly about the hubristic fall of the Jedi Order as they unknowingly train their future executioner in Anakin Skywalker. That’s why Luke’s triumph is so complete, because he rejects the path of vengeance and relies on compassion and kindness to defeat the Emperor.

This perfectly maps onto his behaviour in Star Wars: The Last JediHe’s ashamed of himself after almost giving in to fear and resorting to violence when he senses the Dark Side in Kylo Ren and only achieves redemption when he works out a way to defeat the military might of the First Order and save his buddies without so much as harming a hair on Ren’s moody head.

I agree wholeheartedly with McIntosh, and a little someone named Rian Johnson says it “illuminated something I found totally baffling.” What do you guys think, though? Are you a fan of what this theory puts forth? Let us know in the usual place.