Spoilers ahead, obviously.
Rian Johnson is one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve seen Brick, Looper, and of course, his amazing work on Breaking Bad. All of them are fantastic films and television episodes. If anyone could make a thrilling, emotionally rich Star Wars film, it would be him.
But why do we set such a high standard for Star Wars movies? Why aren’t they viewed as fun, playful escapism (e.g. Marvel films), but instead as mythological lore scrutinized to the last frame?
I believe every Star Wars movie is trying to recapture the incomparable catharsis of the original. The feeling of finding your destiny and taking down an evil Galactic Empire in the process. Some succeed, some don’t. People hold that feeling sacred. Yet they are let down again and again when a new movie comes along, promising more of what’s come before, but it isn’t the same.
I don’t have a religious attachment to Star Wars. I just like lightsabers. They’re cool.
Google “The Last Jedi” and you can find a plethora of criticisms, nitpicking every single thing wrong with the movie. Cinemasins, the worst Youtube channel in the history of Youtube, is going to have a joyride with this flick. Look, it’s tough enough to make a movie, even tougher to make a Star Wars film. The amount of planning and coordination to create a believable sci-fi universe is insane. You know you’re not going to please everyone. I knew this might not be the perfect movie, or even a great movie. All I wanted was a good movie. That’s all we can ask for, right?
Snoke’s death? Amazing. I was practically hopping in my seat, squealing with joy as Rey and Kylo Ren teamed up against those badass red-armored guards. I later discovered they are called “Elite Praetorian Guards.” So freaking cool. I need to hit up Toys R’ Us before they go bankrupt and get some of those action figures.
Leia using the force? Makes sense, she’s Luke Skywalker’s sister. Rey’s parents turning out to be nobodies? Doesn’t matter, #reylo is happening. Finn and Rose’s random side story? Whatever, it’s Asian representation. My point is, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of The Last Jedi.
Up until Luke Skywalker died.
I remember sitting in the theater, thinking “Don’t do it, Rian, don’t do it.”
Then Luke faded out of existence. I threw my hands up. Are you kidding me?
As I’ve said, it’s difficult to make a movie, harder to make a good one. I respect all of Rian’s decisions as a director. But for the next few months, I still could not grasp WHY IN THE WORLD LUKE SKYWALKER HAD TO DIE?
Let’s Buzzfeed this up. Here are my top three reasons why Luke shouldn’t have died. I’ve thought this through. A LOT.
1) Luke’s death renders his final words meaningless.
I loved Rian’s dialogue for Luke, turning him into a sassy, old man. Luke was never the wittiest person in the series, so seeing him banter with other characters was delightful. When he looked at Kylo and went “See you ’round, kid” I just lost it. What a badass thing to say to an opponent whom you psychologically overpowered.
Then he died. Okay sure, he could come back as a force ghost, but I don’t think Kylo is afraid of Luke haunting his dreams like Casper.
You could argue that Luke has inspired hope for the, I don’t know, five people still left in the Rebellion, but as soon as Kylo discovers Luke lied to him, I doubt he’ll be afraid of ONE ship revolting against his supreme leadership. It’s literally one ship left. The Millennium Falcon. Iconic, but not threatening against an empire.
2) Some say Luke’s death was necessary for the trilogy to focus on the new characters, but I believe that’s BS.
Luke was going to appear in Episode Seven, but supposedly the writers struggling with making the new cast members relevant when one of the most iconic characters in cinema history was in your face.
Let’s face it. The audience wants to see more Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill knows that. It’s publicly known that he argued for Luke’s death to be pushed to the last movie. Give the audience a little more time with this legend!
There’s going to be other Star Wars movies. Two more trilogies are already in the works, completely original stories. You don’t need to rush Mark Hamill off the stage to make room for the newbies. You only get one shot to make a new trilogy with Luke Skywalker. Killing him off one movie early is just a missed opportunity.
3) Keeping Luke alive wouldn’t have diminished the message of the film.
Would it have ruined the story if Luke Skywalker came out of the cavern and completely obliterated all the giant gorilla robots with his lightsaber and force powers? Maybe. Would it have been awesome? UM. YES.
But let’s say we keep the whole Force projection gimmick in the film. The point was for Luke to spark a flame of hope that would continue the Rebellion. And he did that. He doesn’t need to die in order to light the fire.
I could even understand if Luke sacrificed his life for the good of the Rebellion. Slightly cliché, but noble. Instead, he died from…exhaustion.
It feels like he died because the writers wanted it, not because it served the story.
Alright, I’m going to stop here. I could go on about how Mark Hamill is an underrated actor, or how the story of him accidentally raising the next Darth Vader is a more fascinating tale. I’m confused why they didn’t make that movie.
In the end, it’s just a movie. I wanted to see Luke Skywalker kick butt, but it didn’t happen and will never happen now that he’s ghosty. I can still say Rian Johnson’s a great director who made a good Star Wars movie. This quote from him sums it up:
During filming, Johnson had told Hamill that “they can’t always give the audience what they expect and what they want” but that they “can give them something they don’t expect and what we want.”
I have another rant about how Rian disregarded almost everything JJ Abrams set up in The Force Awakens, but I’ll save that for another post.