Luke Skywalker: Rebel Without A Cause

Photo copyright Owen Quinn

So on the back of The Rise of Skywalker, my mate Stephen and I were discussing the ins and outs of the final part of the Disney Star Wars trilogy. I use that word loosely to be honest. Anyway the conversation turned to how the whole movie served to repair the mistakes of The Last Jedi. To me one of the biggest things was how it served Luke Skywalker as a character. It’s no secret that this was a massive point of contention for a lot of people including, allegedly, Mark Hamill. His line in The Rise of Skywalker where he tells Rey he was wrong was for me a shout out to The Last Jedi’s treatment of him. Were we really to believe that with his old friends and sister facing obliteration at the hands of the First Order that Luke would huff on an island? Would he really turn his back on his sister given the death of Han? The murder of his oldest friend had no effect on him whatsoever? This, I said in all confidence, was not the hero that took down the Empire. This was not the man that was to lead the galaxy back into light after the darkness of Palpatine and Vader; Luke was a hero that would launch himself head first into the depths of Hell for his friends and family. Stephen then stopped me in my tracks with one line to hit me like a wet fish.

‘He was the worst Jedi ever!’

He then proceeded to remind me of the original trilogy and when I thought about it, dammit he was right! By the end of Return of the Jedi, the galaxy should really have been shitting itself.

But then I had another thought. Was the Luke we met in The Last Jedi a victim of the burden put upon him? Was this youthful kid filled with dreams of greatness he would never be able to fulfill so others could fulfill their hang-ups through him? Could it actually be that Luke was not the ‘new hope’ but a symbol of the old Jedi order limping its way out of existence? If so, then the Luke that Rey meets is indeed the last of a dead line and it was only right a new generation take over. Was Luke just Ben Kenobi’s pawn in a decades old plan for vengeance? Maybe, just maybe, because you’re the only Jedi in the galaxy, doesn’t mean you’re the best.

Back in the old days it started so well. A New Hope wore the baby face of Luke Skywalker, a lonely farm boy that had a habit of looking to the stars. All he wanted was to join his friends in the academy. He drifted through life on a moisture farm in a haze of far away planets and space battles but Uncle Owen wasn’t having any of it.

Young, frustrated, unsure of his place in the world and rebelling against his family’s wishes, Luke immediately connected with every young person in the audience. We have all been lost in life, unsure of where we belong and looking to fields much greener and further away. Everyone of that age was Luke Skywalker back then. In that moment he stood staring at the twin sunset seeking far horizons, we saw ourselves.

Suddenly we were all A New Hope. The dark days of the humpy Luke in The Last Jedi was something that was inconceivable. The future was all lightsabres and wrap around tunics ablaze with amazing adventures.

Photo copyright Owen Quinn

However, the signs of ‘Last Jedi Luke’ were right there if you looked for them. Drawn by the hologram of Princess Leia, Luke abandons his Aunt and Uncle to go chasing into the desert to find the runaway R2D2. You can breeze all you want about a greater destiny but let’s face it, Luke didn’t really give a toss about his Uncle and the farm. Indeed, it led him to nearly getting killed by Sand People. Why? Because he just blundered in without thinking. “Oh the ways of the young and the foolish” you sigh. That’s true because most heroes start off as dicks until life kicks them in the nuts to become wiser and defeat the darkness.

Only the timely arrival of a pensioner in a bathrobe wailing like Godzilla saves him. This is the moment Ben Kenobi has waited for all these years.

The minute the manipulative Kenobi fills Luke’s head about his father and the Force, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were out like the proverbial baby in the bathwater. He was tempted to clear off without even saying goodbye with an old guy he met two minutes ago. Family loyalty made Luke refuse initially but this wasn’t to stop Kenobi. He lies and manipulates Luke with stories off his father and his tragic end. He was a good friend bleats the old hermit which translates as ‘until I crippled him and left the git to burn.’ (I know Anakin murdered the younglings but Kenobi’s actions were classic dark side material which Yoda warned him about).

Add to this he then gives Luke his father’s lightsabre to further sway his mind to abandon his family to suit Ben Kenobi’s needs. Let’s remember Kenobi stayed on Tattoine for a reason and had plenty of time to stew over the mass slaughter of the Jedi. There is no doubt that his pride was damaged because he had allowed Anakin to stew under his nose for years. If he had listened to Yoda years ago and sent Anakin back to his mother, then the Emperor may never have been able to wipe them all out.  By dismissing Luke’s doubts about leaving to fight the Empire as merely his “uncle talking” just shows how dangerous Kenobi is.

Let’s remember that it was Kenobi whom personally entrusted baby Luke to Owen and Beru as his world burned around him. You don’t do something like that lightly or trust a man with the child of the deadliest guy in the galaxy. Owen was Anakin’s stepbrother by marriage so the only family baby Luke had. Owen had met Anakin when he was hunting for his kidnapped mother Shmi. He would surely have heard of the slaughter of the Sand People and knew his new brother wasn’t really one to have round for Christmas dinner. So by committing to raise Luke Owen was putting himself at great risk and knew full well the consequences if Vader ever found out he had a son. So by Ben running the guy down like that just to get Luke to come with him is a sick puppy thing to do. Here is a young man desperate for answers plagued by years of believing that there was always something more to his life. Something told him that he belonged elsewhere. Kenobi delivered on a plate for him. Luke putting his family first put a big dent in Kenobi’s plans. But fate, it seemed, was about to intervene… or did it?

All that work Uncle Owen had to do by himself since his precious nephew buggered off wouldn’t be too much of a burden because, well, you know, he was barbequed by the Empire. Oh that was because, you cry, the Jawas told the Sand Troopers where to find the droids. Are you sure about that? Who tipped the troopers off about the Jawas in the first place? Kenobi could have used a Jedi mind trick from afar to ensure Luke’s compliance. It was the murder of his family that spurred Luke to travel with Ben and join the rebellion to avenge their deaths. Yeah, what a coincidence that it all fell into Kenobi’s lap.

Even when he is found out, Kenobi justifies the lie of who Vader really is with a brewer’s droop excuse ‘from a certain point of view’. Given this influence was it really a surprise that Luke ended up a grumpy old git caring for no one?

Let’s face it; there is a serious trend in the original movies of Luke having to get his ass pulled out of the fire time and again. Leia has to take charge of her rescue on the Death Star. R2 has to save him from the trash compactor and only for the ghost voice of Ben Kenobi he’d probably have been shot to pieces by Stormtroopers in the hangar bay as he tried to kill Vader for killing his buddy. As a side note Kenobi manipulates his own death as well. By making sure Luke sees Vader murdering him and in essence his Dad’s best friend then there is no doubt Luke will go hell for leather to destroy Vader. This is Kenobi’s plan all along. By manipulating Luke’s love for his father and placing him in a situation where not only are his guardians dead but now his new friend, his Dad’s best friend, Kenobi has set Luke on the path towards The Last Jedi. This is demonstrated as not even the pleas of Leia, whom he had become obsessed with, could break him out of his anger. All emotional ties he had for her from the second he saw her hologram is thrown to one side. Yes, by the end of the first movie Luke had become the hero having destroyed the Death Star but his actions didn’t help him fare much better in The Empire Strikes Back.

Going into the sequel, Luke Skywalker is a great man, at least in the eyes of the rebellion. He is one of the big boys (and if you read the Marvel comics you can understand why). All this attention definitely stokes an ego. Even the strongest of people will get inflated ideas about themselves. It’s natural but in Luke’s case not only does the Rebellion hold him on a pedestal, we also have Kenobi the friendly ghost chirping in his ear too. We’re not twenty minutes into the movie until Kenobi shows up and sticks his oar in again. Luke clears off once again based on ghost Ben’s advice to find Yoda the Jedi Master. Now please note the rebellion had just been forced off Hoth with no base to flee to. They were refugees again and under threat as the Empire were hot on their heels. Luke had no idea if Han, Leia, Chewbacca or Threepio were still alive or killed by the Imperial ground assault. He saw the Falcon take off but how could he know who was on it? He didn’t have mind powers at this point.

Yet none of that mattered. For all he knew the Rebellion had been exterminated, ironically mirroring the situation they faced in The Last Jedi. They were on the run and could have been picked off by the Empire.

Once again, Ben says jump and Luke goes how high regardless of the consequences to those he cares about. He drops the Rebellion at the first hint of his own needs. Again this doesn’t give me hope that Luke really cares about the greater picture. It seems that the moment matters only as long as it suits Luke or Ben.

 But the point is Luke never had a chance while his head was being filled with this stuff. People are disposable. Thank God nobody ever sent him for a midwife.

Luke never gave a thought to the possibility that the Rebellion may not even exist by the time he got through with Yoda. Luke is a man riddled with self-doubt, anger and bull-headed stubbornness which sort of describes most of us. It’s just not handled very well in George’s writing. In his initial meeting with Yoda, the little green guy doesn’t want to know. In a beautiful symmetry to The Phantom Menace, Yoda dismisses the son just as he did the father only to be swayed by Kenobi. The old ghost plays on the tragedy of Order 66 to convince Yoda to give Luke a go. It is with great reluctance that Yoda finally accepts that he will train the son of Vader. Like most teenagers, Luke is stroppy, full of self-doubt and even Yoda is not sure he will be what Ben thinks he will be. Luke’s battle with the phantom Vader in the cave does not inspire the Jedi Master at all. Again in a nice parallel, Yoda lifts the X-Wing from the swamp to prove anything is possible just as Luke does with Rey years later in The Rise of Skywalker.

But before long Luke is off to Cloud City to save his friends from the hands of Darth Vader. Before you say it, I know I’ve pointed out already how his friends’ welfare comes and goes for Luke so I’ll give him that in this instance. However, he refuses to listen to either Yoda or Ben this time.  Although, if you stop and look at the scene, we witness the most half hearted, nay, I can’t even say half, it’s more like one eight of a millionth trillionth effort from Kenobi as he ‘begs’ Luke to listen. Look at the scene. He raised both hands like he’s about to do the Agadoo proving in body language alone, Kenobi is making sure Luke does what he wants.

As far as Luke is concerned he is ready to fight and will be back for ‘top-up’ training when he saves the day. Oh boy, does this kid never learn? Even Yoda’s puppet face bears the expression of WTF?

The Cloud City rescue for me is the perfect example of why Luke just isn’t really the person to rely on when you’re in a tight situation. I’m quite sure when Leia saw him coming for them she thought, ‘Aw Jesus, I remember the last time he came for me. Isn’t he a little short for a Jedi?’

 I swear to God she did.

Luke knows full well it is a trap but his confidence in himself is his undoing. He saves nobody and ends up having to be rescued himself. To be fair, he could never have seen what was coming because Vader had his own plans for his son. Lure him in and trap him in carbonite, whisk him off to the Emperor and show how good things are on the Dark Side. Any wonder this kid fell apart years later with being everyone’s pawn?

The ‘I am your father!’ would have felled Goliath himself but Luke didn’t really think it through. He was full of ‘I destroyed the Death Star’ and ‘I can lift rocks like a Jedi’ frame of mind but his short-sightedness’ was his downfall. Luke made no attempt to hide his approach to Cloud City. He might as well have sent invites announcing his arrival.

He gets his ass well and truly kicked by his dad. Han is lost to Boba Fett. Leia, Chewie and Threepio have to be rescued by former enemy Lando Calrissian and Lobot. Luke has no part in it whatsoever. Well, he has one less part because Daddy removes his hand. Now trapped like a rat Luke has to decide how to deal with his daddy issue and not become a Dark Side puppet. It’s not really good news for the rebellion or the galaxy in general because he decides to fall to his death. It’s all a bit of a mess. The Rebellion is homeless, Han is gone and Luke has decided to end it all which will completely demoralise the entire movement. They have lost both their hope for the future and a respected General.  Now that would have been a killer cliffhanger.

But, weakened physically and emotionally shattered, Luke is literally hanging by a thread until Leia rescues him in the Falcon. The great hero is a shrivelled prune, all previous go in guns blazing and save the day ideology suddenly ash on the wind. Luke is on his knees, everything he knew is a now a lie. His trusted mentor Kenobi is revealed as a lair and now Luke knows why he saw his own face in Vader’s cracked helmet back in the cave on Dagobah.

Luke is the very thing he hates most in the universe. His father wants him to rule the galaxy. The Rebellion wants him to restore it. The Emperor wants to seduce him to secure the Empire’s rule over the galaxy. It’s great to be popular but it’s a real Prozac moment.

Return of the Jedi is generally seen as Luke’s greatest triumph but when you look at it, he doesn’t really deserve the credit. As usual it’s all down to everyone else. He just gets over his Daddy issues.

But to give credit where credit’s due, his plan to rescue Han from Jabba’s palace is at least a plan; just one that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Either he knew what was going to happen or he had covered all bases which explains hiding his lightsabre in R2. It does show, however, that he has learned from the kick in the balls that was Cloud City which is positive; proved quite handy in the end, well, half handy…sorry, couldn’t resist.

Photo copyright Owen Quinn

If Luke cannot even organise a rescue, then how the hell was he ever going to successfully run a Jedi academy and restore the order?

The Jabba plan is so convoluted to be a head scratcher. While I know it’s really average writing to allow the toy companies to start production but sending his buddies in one by one into Jabba’s palace amid all the new figures and toy sets just doesn’t make sense. What was that all about? Was he hoping that Lando could rescue Han (I know he’s there for recce and infiltration too) or was Leia supposed to get Han out alive before anyone noticed? That was hampered by the fact Chewie was locked up but Jabba was on to her resulting in a gold bikini.

So for Luke to then stroll in all Mr Confident and suddenly a fully fledged Jedi looks cool but he’s not. He never finished his training but apparently has graduated to full knight status. (Don’t be crying by the way there is a book that fills in that gap and Luke did finish his training because it’s not canon and written years after to fill a plot hole, end of) Being dropped into the Rancor pit was not part of his plan but being taken to the Sarlacc pit was??? R2 knew when and where to wait to propel the lightsabre through the air for Luke to catch??? So was Leia a secret assassin or…???

Listen, my head hurts so I’m going no further with that pain (yes pain, not train) of thought. Besides how can Luke decide he’s now a knight when he can’t run super speed like Qui-Gon and Obi Wan in The Phantom Menace?

Now as we know a final massive attack is being planned against the Empire to destroy the second Death Star. It’s all hands on deck yet Luke decides to piss off to Dagobah to finish his training…supposedly. He promised he’d return but apparently got full training elsewhere the shock of which kills Yoda!

On the way back to Dagobah after the sand barge explosion, Luke tells R2 ‘I have a promise to keep’. Yeah Luke but that promise is very school of Kenobi i.e.; from a certain point of view.  With Yoda dead Luke feels he cannot go on alone but in wades Kenobi to stir the pot and further screw up Luke’s head. Kenobi is such a knob he admits he was lying but not really admitting he was wrong. How did the moral Jedi rule for so long? Lying is something bad guys do. This is the man Luke has pinned his hopes on to guide him from the start even from the other side?  He has been exposed as a fraud with no signs of apology or regret. His plan has worked. Luke is now committed to a final showdown with Vader. There is no way back now.

If you listen to the dialogue Kenobi is telling Luke if he doesn’t kill his father, then the Emperor has won. Kenobi’s plans are as bad as the Emperor. Could, in some Jedi mind fuzz, this advice came to haunt Luke as he was about to murder his nephew? It’s further evidence that Kenobi has a lot to answer for. What we learn when we are young shapes us for the future and if this was the guidance Luke got then no wonder he decided to retire to Skellig Island to milk blue walruses. But Luke is adamant his father can be saved.

Now I fully understand the need for the son to reconnect with the father because as Luke says he can still feel good in Vader…Ok but twenty minutes ago he couldn’t feel a Rancor under his feet; just saying. With the assurance of Kenobi that Luke has to kill Vader he returns to the rebel fleet and joins the mission to destroy the shield generator on the Endor moon.

The rebels don’t matter to Vader or the Emperor because it is all a giant trap but doesn’t it strike anyone else as odd that Luke abandons his friends once again to face his father and be brought before the Emperor? Seriously? How has this guy any friends left? He drops them quicker than a Love Island contestant when the Hello magazine deals run out. Luke is consumed by his need to save his father when the fate of the galaxy depends on the rebels successfully destroying the generator. How dumb is he to not even think for a second that if his Dad can sense him near then this might actually be a trap designed to wipe the rebellion out? Is it just me that thinks Luke is so caught up in his Daddy issues that nobody else really matters? Yes, I understand it but his timing sucks. He knows it too by the expression on his face when the Emperor reveals the whole thing was his trap.

Everyone he knows is about to die. Way to go Jedi Knight! Remind me again why he took the hump and cleared off to leave his family and friends to be slaughtered again in The Last Jedi? It’s ironic that he feels that his Dad needs saving but to hell with everyone else both now and in the future. Let’s face it; the Empire wasn’t defeated because Luke beat the Emperor. He didn’t. Vader did.

No; Lando, Leia, Han and Chewie along with the droids, Admiral Ackbar and every other pilot in the fleet beat the Empire with their inventiveness. It was Lando that came up with flying closer to the destroyers to save the rebel ships. Ackbar focused the attack on the super Star Destroyer. Chewie hijacked the chicken walker so Han could get the bunker opened. Plus the Ewoks kicked ass!

It can be argued the Emperor’s arrogance and faith in his visions made him sloppy but Luke had nothing to do with his defeat either. Vader died to save his son but moments earlier was quite prepared to hunt down Leia and seduce her to the Dark Side. Am I seeing a pattern of dumb behaviour in father and son? Both are puppets of other people when all they need to do is clear off and reunite as a family. Vader doesn’t save Luke to save the galaxy; he saves him because he is his son which is very cool. Equally when Luke joins the Ewok celebrations, why does nobody say ‘some bloody help you were’.

In the end it didn’t matter because the Emperor is not dead and if Luke was such a great Jedi Master in the end how come he never sensed him anyway? Don’t tell me that none of the Jedi ever sensed the emergence of Darth Sidious or Maul either because that doesn’t wash. By Luke’s time there was a hell of a lot less Jedi to learn from and Palpatine isn’t that powerful because he fails to see how father and son would end him; not end the Empire, just him.

Jump forward and Luke creates his academy with not a lot of pupils. One of which is his nephew young Ben. Maybe it’s the fact that this kid is named after the man that lied and manipulated Luke that causes him to falter. Maybe the effects of Kenobi make Luke throw a wobbler. Perhaps he believes that it would be in the greater good to kill young Ben and stop history repeating itself. It could explain a lot but it also doesn’t make sense for Luke as a character. He brought his father back from years serving evil yet his first instinct is to murder his nephew when he senses a bit of darkness? It’s consistent with Luke knee jerking situations to suit himself regardless of what else is at stake.

As a previous new hope, the arrival of Rey should have reawakened some faith in him to rejoin the fight but he doesn’t. Grumpy git syndrome has well and truly set in. A stranger has travelled across the stars begging for his help but he shuts down. When he appears to Rey in The Rise of Skywalker and admits he was wrong; all I could think was ‘About frigging time!’

 Although that thought was aimed at the bearded grump in The Last Jedi, it could also apply to his entire story.

Technically Luke is a victim of Jedi lies and manipulation but chose to have faith in himself where his father was concerned. Luke was peripheral to the battle, not integral. His Star Wars journey was all about reconciling with his father and becoming a man; not becoming a Jedi. He is the last remnant of a dead religion and literally flogging a dead horse. The Skywalker curse is that they will always fall to the dark side and maybe come back. That is not a legacy you want to build any new hope on. When Anakin appeared as a Force ghost alongside Ben and Yoda at the end of Return of the Jedi why doesn’t Anakin turn to Kenobi and say ‘You mind telling me why you told my son to kill me asshole? You burned me alive and cut my legs off. Jesus, talk about bearing a grudge’.

In the twilight of Luke’s life he is able to astral project himself across the galaxy (he can do this but still can’t sense the Emperor?) to visit his sister one last time and kick his nephew’s ass before dying on a rock for no apparent reason. There was no purpose to it story wise or logic wise and for me, that kind of sums up Luke. He had the mantle of Jedi but didn’t live up to it. It was a burden rather than a destiny thrust upon him by others desperate to avenge old wrongs. Like immortality it was a curse, not a blessing.

The Jedi Order was flawed to begin with and the relics of it reduced Luke to a victim and a pawn; a classic sins of the father figure.

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