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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is almost upon us, and with it, hopefully some answers to our many questions. Much of the film is still shrouded in mystery, and perhaps no character more so than the last Jedi himself, Luke Skywalker. Judging from the trailers, this character is not the same man we last saw in Return of the Jedi, and now we know one of the reasons why: his years of gained experience. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has shed a little light on the key way that Luke Skywalker is different in this film, saying:
In the same way that as a young man, he embodied the characteristics we all connected with --- the youthfulness and innocence --- he now embodies a person full of soul and experience.
This comment by Rian Johnson in a New York Times piece on Mark Hamill seems to fall in line with everything we have seen and heard so far about The Last Jedi. Luke started out as a farm boy, full of hope and naiveté, who was eager to get out and see the galaxy. This is what we connected with initially and what made him so easy to root for in as the Original Trilogy progressed. But as you can see in both trailers released so far for the upcoming Star Wars movie, Luke is no longer that person. It is easy to label him as a curmudgeonly old hermit, who has given up on the galaxy and went into hiding, but that ignores all the experiences he has had since we last saw him.
It seems in some ways that Luke Skywalker's characterization is paralleling Hamill himself. Hamill is notoriously vocal in his opinions about the films and his character, and he loves messing with fans. He can even come off as a bit of a curmudgeon sometimes compared to the bright-eyed youth he was when he first became the iconic character.
Decades have passed since we last saw Luke, and a lot of life can happen to a person in that amount of time. Unfortunately for Luke, we know that not all of it has been good. In addition to the betrayal by his student and nephew, Ben Solo, how many battles has he fought? What mistakes has he made? How much has he loved and lost? The choice to imbue Luke with soul and experience is the kind of deep character work that fans have been excited about since Rian Johnson was announced as the writer and director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.