Skip to main content

Why Star Wars: The Last Jedi's Luke Story Is The Character's Best Portrayal In The Skywalker Saga

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

It’s been five years, and I think many agree that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the most polarizing entry in the Skywalker Saga. There are many elements of the movie that are still hotly contested to this day, one of which is how Luke Skywalker was utilized. While there are those who feel like Luke’s story and character portrayal was mishandled or lame, I think it’s one of the best portrayals in the entire saga. 

For those who were underwhelmed by Hermit Luke and his alien milk-drinking ways, I’m sure that’s a laughable statement. Even so, while there are a lot of valid complaints someone can make about The Last Jedi, Luke’s portrayal is not one of them (especially considering it was decided before the movie). Here’s some of my thinking on the situation, and why it’s one that any critique should revisit on this fifth anniversary year. 

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(Image credit: Disney+)

It Makes Sense Luke Would Be In The State That Rey Finds Him

When Rey went to return Luke’s lightsaber at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans were excited. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how the outrage behind Luke’s portrayal first got started. Fans had just seen a modern "reboot" of A New Hope and saw this as the set up for The Empire Strikes Back. That is to say, Luke was expected to be Rey’s “Yoda” and this island was Dagobah, but as we learned in The Last Jedi, that wasn’t exactly the case. 

Luke Skywalker wasn’t interested in training Rey, and he didn’t seem all that invested in stopping the First Order either. He was fine living in isolation on an island on his own, and this new up-and-coming Force user jeopardized his ability to shut himself off from the Force and the events of the galaxy at large. It was a jarring depiction of the guy responsible for ending the Galactic Civil War, and while some felt it was completely off base, I totally get it. 

As Star Wars: The Last Jedi and other successive works revealed, Luke set about rebuilding the Jedi Order after the Empire’s destruction. Not only did he fail at re-establishing the honored order to its former glory, but he effectively trained his nephew to be the driving force that put the entire galaxy right back into the very situation he and others fought so hard to stop. 

That’s a pretty colossal fall from grace, and Luke’s shame about that is the most real emotion he expressed throughout his run in the movies. Maybe The Last Jedi could’ve better expressed Luke’s shame and sadness than having him play a game of “follow the leader” with Rey across an island, but even so, I thought the movie was effective in explaining how he got in that position.

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(Image credit: Disney+)

Luke’s Conflict With Kylo Ren Addressed A Very Real Trauma He Never Fully Resolved

Throughout his early journey as a Jedi, Luke Skywalker faced some pretty straightforward problems. That all turned on its head when he learned Darth Vader was actually his father, Anakin Skywalker, and that Luke had to stop his own dad or potentially be killed. Luke wrestled with that concept a lot in Return of the Jedi, and in the end, couldn't bring himself to kill his father even if it was for the good of the galaxy. Vader ultimately bailed Luke out of that decision, as he lost his life while stopping the Emperor.

Flash forward decades later, and Luke is once again faced with the situation of confronting a family member in whom he senses great evil. This time, however, it’s his own nephew, i.e.e the son of his sister and best friend. Luke didn’t really cope with the situation the first time, so when it came around again, he acted irrationally. There were many options Luke had that didn’t include attempting to kill Ben Solo in his sleep, but he chose that option. Granted, he stopped himself at the last moment, but by that point it was too late.

It sounds wild that the hero of Star Wars would even consider murdering his nephew, but not really considering all that he’s been through. Darth Vader, his own father, committed countless atrocious acts over his decades-long service to the Empire and was part of a regime that killed immeasurable numbers of people (I still think it’s weird Vader’s one good act redeemed him). If he had the ability to prevent another galaxy-wide war in a relatively simple way, wouldn’t he take that chance? He was the hero every other time before, so it tracks he’d try to be one again, even if his method was kind of twisted. 

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(Image credit: Disney+)

Luke Eventually Does The Thing He’s Best At…He Learns

Luke Skywalker is not a perfect hero, but he does seem to excel at being a quick learner. When Rey arrived on Ahch-To, his heart was hardened, but her persistence ultimately helped him see the error in his ways all of these years. It was wrong of him to live in shame, and wrong of him to give up. The galaxy might’ve moved on from relying on him to save them, but he still had a role to play in the Star Wars story. 

Luke quickly re-established his link with the Force and went about confronting his nephew in order to give what remained of the rebellion a chance to survive and fight another day. Sure, it would’ve been great if Luke stayed at full strength and absolutely destroyed the First Order on his own, but the reality is maybe he was never that person to begin with. Luke proved he was good at ending conflicts, but never that he was good at preventing them. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in my opinion, didn’t show us the Luke Skywalker fans thought they knew, but the Luke Skywalker the Original Trilogy actually presented. The hero was humanized, in a lot of ways, and while it always sucks to see the great ones fall, Luke’s redemption remains one of the best moments of the sequel series, if not a Top 5 moment of the Skywalker Saga (especially if we add in his final thoughts revealed in the Star Wars comics). As I mentioned, there are complaints that can be leveled against this movie, but Luke’s portrayal is not one of them. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available to stream on Disney+ (opens in new tab). We still have some time to wait, but be sure to check out the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows to get excited about what’s still on the way.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.