Last week, I shared my thoughts on Luke Skywalker’s character arc throughout the original Star Wars trilogy. I’ll say here briefly what I said there not so briefly: Luke never really cared about bringing back the Jedi as much as Obi-Wan and Yoda did, and it was a burden placed upon him he did not shoulder with eagerness, preferring to focus on redeeming his father and experimenting with social boundaries regarding affection for siblings.
Luke, as we know, still did apparently spend over twenty years rebuilding the Jedi Order in some form. When his nephew undid his efforts, however, he seems to have paradoxically gone searching for the very first Jedi temple but then abandoned the Order altogether, proclaiming, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
“It’s time for the Jedi to end.” I wasn’t repeating that for emphasis; as I stated in my last article, it was traumatic to hear those words from my hero, and part of my therapy is to type them out as much as possible. “It’s time for the Jedi to—” okay, can’t take any more, neither can you, probably, so onto the point of this article.
In all seriousness, that line is probably the best omen for fans of Luke Skywalker that what we are getting on December 15 is a story worthy of the son of the Chosen One, a mythic figure who went from whining about power converters to moaning about ending the Jedi leaving us eager for this next chapter.
It would’ve been easy for The Force Awakens to have Leia as the Chancellor of a steadfast New Republic, Han as a decorated general in its military, and Luke protecting peace and justice and a legacy of awesome Jedi Master beards as the head of a Jedi Order stronger than ever. To be honest, it was exactly what I expected. It was what many of us expected. It could’ve still been a compelling story with these elements; thrust the Republic into chaos in Act I and leave it up to our new young heroes to sort out the mess, with the classic trio encouraging or helping them.
But a story like that would have no arc for our old heroes, and the arc for the previous generation is possibly my favorite thing about this new trilogy. Obi-Wan and Yoda were static in the classic trilogy. This is not a fault; their arc was always intended to take place in the prequels, and their role as wise sages in the original trilogy was perfect. This new trilogy is doing something totally different, though.
For all of the criticisms that The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope (which I regard with varying degrees of legitimacy), this is where the first post-Lucas Star Wars trilogy (hopefully only, but that’s another thousand-word ramble-piece) distinguishes itself: the prior generation still has room to grow. Han Solo has fallen pretty far, and he needs to go back to Leia and confront their son (or maybe he shouldn’t have…). Leia is still in the fight after all these years, at odds with the Republic she fought so hard to build. And Luke is struggling with regret after failing a task of galactic importance he never really asked for, though he at least has the aforementioned beard thing down pretty well. (The growth undertaken by Chewbacca’s bowcaster, going from something that knocks stormtroopers down to something that apparently sends them flying, is its own story.) The focus of the trilogy is still on our new trio of leads, of course, but the intersection of their arcs with those of the classic characters simultaneously grounds this trilogy in the oldest Star Wars lore while creating a fresh, new narrative.
The fact that we aren’t getting the Luke Skywalker we expected, the wizened Jedi Master ready to teach Rey the ways of the Force (but presumably not the beard thing), is a clear sign that Rian Johnson’s film will take risks and not simply mirror The Empire Strikes Back as some fans fear. This story will be one in which the mentor isn’t yet where he needs to be, and that prospect excites me. It was, after all, the prospect of laying the groundwork for a story exploring Luke Skywalker’s character further and continuing his arc that convinced a reluctant J.J. Abrams to take the helm of The Force Awakens.
It is, of course, not time for the Jedi to end. It’s definitely not time for the Luke Skywalker story to end, either. See you at the theater on December 15, 2017, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases in the U.S.