Luke Skywalker: Started from the Bottom, Now We’re Here

Hey everyone, and welcome to the first Sarlacc Pit post of 2017! 2016 was one hell of a year (in a very terrible sense), so let’s all try a little better this year. Anyways, last week I discussed why I believe that “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” is the best Star Wars movie, and this week I kind of want to include some of that discussion as I look into the character development one of my favorite characters, Luke Skywalker, throughout the Star Wars movies. This will have major spoilers for the original trilogy (OT) and one major spoiler for “The Force Awakens,” so read at your own risk.

“A New Hope,” Luke Skywalker the Whiny Farmboy Turned Rebel Hero

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“But I was going to go to Tosche station to pick up some power converters.” -Luke Skywalker, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”

Ok, so besides when we see him as a newborn baby in the prequel trilogy movie (PT), “Revenge of the Sith,” we are introduced to Luke Skywalker in “Episode IV: A New Hope.” The more I watch this movie, the less I like Luke Skywalker’s character. for the first half of the movie it feels like all he did was complain. He didn’t want to do chores, he wanted to join the Imperial Academy so he can defect to the Rebellion, he didn’t like Uncle Owen’s choice in droids. It’s like come on dude, you live on a moisture farm in a desert planet, you’re going to have to suck it up and deal with it. A lot of people give George Lucas crap for making Anakin so whiny in the PT, however Luke had to inherit it from somewhere so it makes sense.

One thing I will hand to Luke in this movie is that he was strong in the face of loss. A lot of people have chalked the fact that Luke seemed unaffected by the loss of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to poor writing, but I think that what Lucas was trying to convey was that instead of moping and resigning himself to defeat whenever he lost someone, Luke instead channeled that into determination. The Empire took his family so he joined the Rebellion and seek justice. Darth Vader killed his father (not really) and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi so he trained to become a Jedi and defeat him. He may have been whiny, but he was able to channel his losses into determination, which I think is a pretty admirable trait.

At the end of this movie Luke hopped into an X-Wing and destroyed the Empire’s super weapon, the Death Star. The movie pretty much ends here so we do not get a real glimpse into how this changes Luke until “The Empire Strikes Back,” though the Marvel Star Wars comic series and the novel Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi both take a closer look. But this post is all about the movies, and I have covered those stories in an earlier post.

“The Empire Strikes Back,” The Hero Falls

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“Will he finish what he begins?” “I won’t fail you, I’m not afraid.” “Oh, you will be, you will be.” – Yoda and Luke Skywalker, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”

Ok, so like I said last week, “The Empire Strikes Back” is a movie all about failure. Let’s start at the beginning: Luke Skywalker was now the hero of the Rebellion. He was pretty confident in his piloting skills (as he should have been considering he blew up the Death Star), and had even taught himself some cool Force skills. However, he still had a whiny streak to him, which we see when he left the Rebel fleet for a brief trip to Dagobah. There he met Jedi Master Yoda, who did not want to train Luke, claiming he had much impatience and darkness in him, as well as the fact he was much older than the preferred age of Jedi indoctrination (note: these are essentially the exact same reasons Yoda did not want Obi-Wan to train Anakin Skywalker, and we all know how that one turned out). Luke complained until Obi-Wan came in (from the afterlife) and convinced Yoda to train Luke.

During Luke’s training, things seemed to come naturally to him. He ran and jumped, did some cool flips, until Yoda brought Luke to a cave strong in the dark side. This part of Luke’s training forced him to face the dark side of the Force and his strongest fears. Luke, seasoned Rebel fighter, grabbed his weapons after Yoda told him to leave them. But Luke was confident that he knew better than Yoda, he was the hero of the Rebellion after all, so he brought his lightsaber into the cave. In this cave Luke was confronted with his worst fear: Darth Vader. Luke ignited his lightsaber and swung wildly, letting his fear and anger control him. He beheaded Vader in the cave, only to see Vader’s mask disappear, revealing Luke’s own face. Luke gave into his darkest emotions, and saw that his fate if he continued along that path: he could become the same monster he hated.

This was not Luke’s only failure on Dagobah. When Luke arrived on Dagobah, he had crashed his X-wing into a swamp. Yoda, in an attempt to further train Luke, told him to lift the X-Wing using the Force. Luke failed, whining that the X-Wing was too big. Yoda showed Luke up by pulling the X-Wing out of the swamp with little effort, showing that to the Force, size is nothing. What interests me here is that Luke had been carrying out his training with relative ease, but the moment something proves difficult, he reverts to whining moping Luke.

Luke’s final failure on Dagobah came when, after having a vision of his friends in trouble, Luke left to face Darth Vader. Yoda and dead Obi-Wan both urged him to stay, knowing that Luke cannot defeat Vader. Luke, ever the confident hero of the Rebellion, left anyways, determined to save his friends. Luke always reverted to what he knew when faced with a struggle. When he went into the cave he brought his weapons, because he thought it could be dangerous, when the X-Wing was stuck in the mud he gave up, because he thought it was too large to lift, when he sees his friends in trouble, he races to save them, because he thought that was the only option.

Of course, the vision was a trap. Vader beat him easily and his friend, Han Solo, was captured and sent to Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine. Luke’s confidence as a soldier and a Jedi were shaken when he found out that his hated enemy, Darth Vader, was actually his father, and the movie closes as the Rebel fleet continues to run from the Empire.

“Return of the Jedi,” Luke’s Appropriate Confidence

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“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” -Luke Skywalker, “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”

A year passed, the majority of which Luke spent resuming his Jedi training with Yoda and constructing his own lightsaber. The first time we see Luke after the end of “The Empire Strikes Back” is when he sends a message to Jabba the Hutt, asking for the return of his friend, Han Solo. He seemed confident, but also humble. Not begging or insisting, only asking. Of course Jabba refused, which forced Luke to arrive at Jabba’s palace in person, alone. When Luke first strolled into the palace of the gangster slug, he exuded confidence, using his Force abilities to make his way past the guards and right into Jabba’s throne room as the Hutt was sleeping. Luke attempted to manipulate Jabba using the Force, but discovered that Hutts were immune to the Jedi mind trick. While earlier this may have thrown Luke off, he took it in stride, and while there were a few more steps involved than he had wanted, Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca were able to save Han from the gangster’s clutches. In this scene Luke showed that he had gained much power, and was indeed a true Jedi now. However, while he could have used this power to easily slaughter a large number of Jabba’s entourage, he did everything he could to negotiate peacefully before resorting to violence. Luke had learned from his past failures, he did not let his anger or impatience take over, but he used the Force to assist him in saving his friends.

More growth is seen after he saved Han, when Luke returned to Dagobah, honoring a promise he had made to Yoda. When Luke arrived, Yoda laid dying. Luke is saddened to see his master die, even saying that he still had much to learn. It is here that Yoda acknowledge Luke’s growth, telling Luke that he had to confront Vader to rid the galaxy of the dark side, despite knowing that Vader was indeed Luke’s father.

After meeting Obi-Wan as a Force ghost, and getting a really flimsy excuse as to why Kenobi never told Luke about his father’s true fate, Luke returned to the Rebel Alliance, and joined his friends Han and Leia on a mission to shut down a shield generator on Endor which was being used to protect the Death Star II while it was under construction. During this mission, Luke turned himself in to the Empire, where he was brought to Darth Vader, who took him to the Emperor’s throne room on board the Death Star II.

Here, Luke pleaded with Vader, telling him that he knew there was still good in Vader. Vader shrugged off Luke’s attempts to bring him back to the light, and in the Emperor’s throne room the Emporer instigated a duel between the father and son. The fight seemed evenly matched, until Vader made a comment about Leia, who Luke had recently learned was his sister. Here Luke almost failed again, unleashing his anger and forcing Vader to his knees, taking off one of Vader’s robotic hands in the process. It was then that Luke calmed himself turning off his lightsaber and telling the Emperor that he would not kill Vader, because that was not the Jedi way. Here Luke almost failed once again, he was faced with a struggle he did not anticipate and he stumbled on his path as a Jedi, but unlike his many failures in “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke corrected himself before it was too late, before he began down the path to the dark side.

Luke’s Future

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Luke Skywalker waited for years before revealing his sick new hairstyle. (Yes, I used both this picture and caption in an earlier post, but both still apply here.)

So that brings us to Luke Skywalker in “The Force Awakens.” After his attempt to bring back the Jedi ended with his nephew betraying him and assumedly killing some other Jedi kids, Luke went into hiding. Why he thought that leaving his apprentice turned Sith wannabe in the galaxy to do as he pleased was a good idea I will never understand.

Anyways, all we see of him is at the very end when he was found by Rey. His hair had grown into a magnificent Jedi mane, and he was rocking some pretty traditional looking Jedi robes. So what can we expect to see of Luke in the future? I predict that he will end up having a much smaller role than he did in the OT. Abrams and the people at Lucasfilm all have expressed the desire for the focus to be on the next generation, i.e. Rey, Finn, and Poe. So I expect that we will see Luke take a role more similar to that of Obi-Wan in the OT. He’ll be there, he’ll be an interesting part, but he will mostly just be a mentor. Also, he’ll probably die. I have no evidence for that, but that’s just what happens to old Jedi (and smugglers) in Star Wars, they die. But who knows, maybe he will live through Episode IX, guiding Rey throughout her journey as a Jedi and beyond. We will have to wait for a few years to find out.

Conclusion

In “A New Hope,” Luke Skywalker is little more than a whiny farmboy with mytical powers. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke retains a portion of that whiny behavior, though it is mixed with the overconfidence that come from saving the Rebel Alliance and the galaxy. Through “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke fails numerous times, and we watch as some of this confidence is stripped from him as he faces the magnitude of things he does not know. In “Return of the Jedi,” we are given Luke Skywalker: Jedi Knight. Luke has the confidence of someone who knows that he is strong, but is wise enough to not abuse the power he has, and knows that there is more for him to learn. Throughout the OT Luke has tremendous growth and changes greatly, and that is one of my favorite parts of the OT.

As I mentioned above, 2016 was far from the best year ever, and at the end of it the Star Wars community lost someone very important to all of us. Carrie Fisher, known to many of us as Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, passed away at the age of 60. The next day, her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds passed as well. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of the whole Star Wars fandom go out to their family, including Carrie’s daughter, Billie Lourd. As a sort of late-coming tribute to Carrie, next week I will be discussing Princess Leia, and why she is one of the most important fictional women to grow up with. Thank you all for reading, may you have a great 2017, and may the Force be with you!

 

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