Luke Skywalker's character evolution

PSW: discuss Star Wars without "versus" arguments.

Moderator: Vympel

Post Reply
User avatar
FaxModem1
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 6759
Joined: 2002-10-30 06:40pm
Location: In a dark reflection of a better world

Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-09-19 09:50pm

In the Rey vs various people thread, a discussion about Luke Skywalker's character came about here
The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-09-18 11:30pm
I do think there's a danger of them getting into constantly trying to one-up the previous films with new, even greater Force powers, though they have a long way to go before they overtake the old EU, particularly Dark Empire, New Jedi Order-era Luke, some of the ancient Sith, and the original Clone Wars shorts.

Agreed as well that its good Luke's last stand was not some gross display of physical power, and not just for that reason. I saw a lot of whining on-line (not here, I'm happy to say) from EU fan-types about how Luke should have been more powerful like in the EU, and it always irritated me because it came off as shallow internet tough-guyism that completely missed the point of who Luke is. Luke was never a great character or a great Jedi because he could blow up armies with the Force. He was great because of his character, compassion, and wisdom, and his ability to understand and reach his adversaries emotionally and psychologically. That's how he defeated the Empire, and that is how he went to face his final stand- not through a direct assault, but by playing on Kylo's emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in order to score a moral and symbolic victory. That was much more true to Luke's character than him walking out and destroying the First Order army in some superficially "bad ass" display of power would have been.

Say what you will about TLJ, Luke's last stand was damn near perfect for me as a Luke fan. Now that I think about it, a lot of my willingness to defend the film probably stems from that fact.
I responded:
FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-09-19 12:43am
I would disagree, in that Luke comes across as too bitter, his compassion seemingly burned out of him. The symbolic victory was telling his nephew that he was beyond helping, and trolling his sister about giving her her dead husband's dice via force projection a few days after she became a widow. That's bungled delivery of what they were trying to tell if the intent was an inspirational battle against Kylo Ren.

This is part of why the direction Rian Johnson wanted to take his character, regardless of the direction laid out in The Force Awakens, runs into issues with intent and delivery.

Observe:

Force Awakens:
Heroic wizard here to help

Last Jedi:
Corrupted wizard that fell off the path of good

In costume storytelling terms, Luke's days as a positive influence are behind him, and the heroes move on in spite of, not because of, his actions. It's a sad ending for Luke, barely atoning for his decades of apathy after considering nepoticide.

I think a better option would have been for Luke to be modeled a bit like Flynn in Tron Legacy, or King Bumi from Avatar the Last Airbender, hiding mostly because he wants to avoid causing the collateral damage that such a conflict would bring, and patiently waiting for the opportunity to act. Because unlike the Sith, the Empire, or even the Jedi of old, Luke cares about his actions unintentionally harming others, and wants to wait for the best opportunity to strike.

This could lead to Power creep of Luke's abilities, but it's preferable to a beloved hero turning against everything that he stood for.
Civil War Man wrote:
2018-09-19 12:05pm
It's also troubling that Luke's depiction in TLJ makes him apathetic to the fate of his sister. He was so bitter and jaded that he was apparently willing to let Leia die without lifting a finger, all because he was disillusioned about the past failures of the Jedi. Refusing to train new Jedi and wanting to save his family from imminent mortal danger are not mutually exclusive concepts. And this is supposed to be the same person who was willing to forsake his training and go face-to-face with Darth Vader before he was ready because he could not sit idly by and let his friends be killed by the Empire.

But I digress. I'm okay with the idea of some Jedi being overpowered, and in the OT having all of the Force users be stupidly overpowered worked because there were so few of them left. The issue started with the EU and the PT taking what should have been the 99th percentile and turning it into the new mean, and the sequels appear to be content to continue that trend. When that goes on long enough, characters like Jango Fett, Grievous, and HK-47, hyper-competent mundanes who can go toe to toe with all but the most powerful Jedi, become more and more outlandish.

There was a recent episode of the Venture Brothers that I think is one of the best episodes of the show in a while. In it, the Monarch is tasked with mentoring a level 1 villain, with the Ventures mentoring Billy Quizboy and Pete White as the corresponding level 1 heroes. Since the show has recently been focusing on really high-level players, providing some context into what things are like for the really low level heroes/villains provides some nice context and reminds everyone that the Monarch, despite being a mid-level villain among super powerful villains, actually knows what he's doing.
The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-09-19 09:18pm
I think a more involved discussion of Luke's motivations and actions, and their meaning, would be best suited to a separate thread.

But I do think that subverting the power creep issue was a good move, and it happened to play nicely into an aspect of Luke's character (that he is someone who wins his greatest victories through non-violent means) that appeals to me.
So, let's discuss Luke's character.

Having gone from the compassionate hero who risked everything to save his father, to someone who gives up on his nephew, and then a recluse who abandons everything, and is then called to action, in which he briefly talks to his sister, and potentially comes off as making his nephew look foolish in order to inspire others(we'll wait until Episode IX to see how that turns out), or as someone who tried to atone for his past failures, and barely did so, letting Leia and other people die due to his apathy, their escape only being due to the will of the force and Rey disagreeing with Luke on how to proceed?

Discuss.
Image

User avatar
The Romulan Republic
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 15679
Joined: 2008-10-15 01:37am

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-09-19 10:39pm

FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-09-19 09:50pm
So, let's discuss Luke's character.

Having gone from the compassionate hero who risked everything to save his father, to someone who gives up on his nephew, and then a recluse who abandons everything, and is then called to action, in which he briefly talks to his sister, and potentially comes off as making his nephew look foolish in order to inspire others(we'll wait until Episode IX to see how that turns out), or as someone who tried to atone for his past failures, and barely did so, letting Leia and other people die due to his apathy, their escape only being due to the will of the force and Rey disagreeing with Luke on how to proceed?

Discuss.
This is a very slanted interpretation.

Luke definitely fell from grace with his actions regarding Kylo, and his subsequent guilt-ridden exile. However, half the point of his coming out of exile for one final stand is that he has moved beyond that. Simply put, Luke's final stand is his redemption. I think you are far underplaying the significance of Luke's actions there, as well. Luke did not simply make Kylo look foolish. He:

1. Delayed the First Order advance by offering himself as bait, giving more time for the Resistance to flee.
2. Indirectly pointed them in the direction of an escape route.
3. Provided an inspirational "last stand" to serve as a moral boost for the Resistance and prove that being a Jedi still means something.
4. Humiliated Kylo in front of his troops, when his leadership was already somewhat shaky.

You could say that the Resistance's escape is due to the "Will of the Force"- but only insofar as you could say that everything in Star Wars is due to the Will of the Force. Rey's actions alone would likely not have been enough to save them without Luke's presence. Had Rey been there alone, she might have gotten the passageway open and gone into the caves, at best finding the Resistance just as they were being gunned down by Kylo's troops. Rey is at best an approximately even match for Kylo. She would have no chance against Kylo and his entire army.

In any case, at no point did Luke "let" Leia die. On the contrary, Luke's actions in delaying the First Order (and drawing the Resistance's attention to the escape route from the caves) were directly responsible for saving the remaining Resistance members, including Leia. There is also a prior scene in the film IIRC which implies that Luke is reaching out telepathically to Leia while she's in a coma- its open to interpretation, but you could argue that Luke may have helped heal Leia via the Force.

You could argue that Luke is partially responsible for the prior losses suffered by the fleet for not intervening earlier, but that is separate from his actions during the film's final act.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

User avatar
FaxModem1
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 6759
Joined: 2002-10-30 06:40pm
Location: In a dark reflection of a better world

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-09-20 03:29am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-09-19 10:39pm
FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-09-19 09:50pm
So, let's discuss Luke's character.

Having gone from the compassionate hero who risked everything to save his father, to someone who gives up on his nephew, and then a recluse who abandons everything, and is then called to action, in which he briefly talks to his sister, and potentially comes off as making his nephew look foolish in order to inspire others(we'll wait until Episode IX to see how that turns out), or as someone who tried to atone for his past failures, and barely did so, letting Leia and other people die due to his apathy, their escape only being due to the will of the force and Rey disagreeing with Luke on how to proceed?

Discuss.
This is a very slanted interpretation.
Yes it is. It's mostly from frustration in where they took a compassionate character, and made the only road for him to have gone. A broken man who has failed and only chance at redemption is his own death.

This is in opposition to the other possible roads Luke could be on, such as mastering arts, teaching people who follow his path outside the galaxy in secret, waiting for the opportune time to strike, needing a ship to travel, or any other of a half dozen reasons he's all alone on an island in the sequel trilogy.
Luke definitely fell from grace with his actions regarding Kylo, and his subsequent guilt-ridden exile. However, half the point of his coming out of exile for one final stand is that he has moved beyond that. Simply put, Luke's final stand is his redemption. I think you are far underplaying the significance of Luke's actions there, as well. Luke did not simply make Kylo look foolish. He:

1. Delayed the First Order advance by offering himself as bait, giving more time for the Resistance to flee.
Hurray. Now all 18 of them can fight against the First Order. But at least the character assassination Luke received in this film was rectified.
2. Indirectly pointed them in the direction of an escape route.
I put that more on 'Will of the Force', and Poe's wondering how Luke got in there. But point to Luke for making them think about escape. It's not like Luke told Leia straight up, "I'm distracting your son so that you can run for your lives, so you better get a move on while I go outside." He had the opportunity to do so, and didn't, hoping that Leia and company would get the hint somehow. Maybe trusting in the force, but definitely not seeming to help them. This was more about facing off against Kylo Ren.
3. Provided an inspirational "last stand" to serve as a moral boost for the Resistance and prove that being a Jedi still means something.
And hopefully the dozen or so people will take it as such when telling the tale, and not as "Jedi couldn't face up to the Sith, so he had to hide half a galaxy away and play a trick." that the First Order would probably spin out at the same time.
4. Humiliated Kylo in front of his troops, when his leadership was already somewhat shaky.
So, he's like Snoke then? :wink:

That might be the only solid thing he did, as giving ample ground for the First Order to fracture and fall apart would be a solid strike against the galaxy's biggest enemy.
You could say that the Resistance's escape is due to the "Will of the Force"- but only insofar as you could say that everything in Star Wars is due to the Will of the Force. Rey's actions alone would likely not have been enough to save them without Luke's presence. Had Rey been there alone, she might have gotten the passageway open and gone into the caves, at best finding the Resistance just as they were being gunned down by Kylo's troops. Rey is at best an approximately even match for Kylo. She would have no chance against Kylo and his entire army.

In any case, at no point did Luke "let" Leia die. On the contrary, Luke's actions in delaying the First Order (and drawing the Resistance's attention to the escape route from the caves) were directly responsible for saving the remaining Resistance members, including Leia. There is also a prior scene in the film IIRC which implies that Luke is reaching out telepathically to Leia while she's in a coma- its open to interpretation, but you could argue that Luke may have helped heal Leia via the Force.
Hard to imagine, as Luke was purposely cut off from the force at the time.
You could argue that Luke is partially responsible for the prior losses suffered by the fleet for not intervening earlier, but that is separate from his actions during the film's final act.
That is my point. Having Luke be the fallen hero, and through the events of Last Jedi with the death of so many, with the story showing so many having died for nothing, his sacrifice means almost nothing as well. Storywise, his sacrifice is meant to be inspirational, as the ending with the slave children is supposed to mean. The execution, however, fails with that.

Consider where we went in the Original Trilogy, in that Luke was such a person that even when everyone was telling him that Anakin was beyond redemption, he still tried to save him. That faith in a person's goodness turned everything in the galaxy around, and led to the end of the Empire.

In the sequel trilogy, and with Last Jedi in particular, this is stripped away from his character. Luke is someone who doesn't see the goodness in people any longer. He's someone who throws people away, and instead acts as someone who thinks certain people aren't worth saving. Luke's reason for exile being his own hypocrisy regarding how you treat those falling down the dark side.

As a youth, he was told killing a member of his own family was the wrong thing to do. In The Last Jedi, he considered killing a member of his family the moral thing to do. Then, his redemption is that the heroic action became for him to only look like he is trying to kill a member of his own family, rather than actually commit the deed himself.

Remember, when asked by Kylo Ren if Luke is here to try and save him, Luke's answer is, "No." For Luke doesn't do that anymore.

The problem isn't that Luke redeemed himself. The problem is that the direction they decided to take Luke was that he needed to fall that far in the first place. And then, his redemption is a compounding of this new direction, in not trying to redeem others, and instead writing them off.

It's a nasty direction for a character that's meant to embrace the light side, and with that thematically, be someone who is compassionate, good natured, kind, and wise. Rather in the same way that around the same time, we have a Superman who is okay with snapping necks, and is told by his father figure that it's okay to let kids drown to protect your secrets, and by his mother figure that it's okay to abandon the world. It goes against the theme of who that character is, and feels out of place for it.
Image

User avatar
Civil War Man
NERRRRRDS!!!
Posts: 3646
Joined: 2005-01-28 03:54am

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-09-20 09:41am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-09-19 10:39pm
In any case, at no point did Luke "let" Leia die. On the contrary, Luke's actions in delaying the First Order (and drawing the Resistance's attention to the escape route from the caves) were directly responsible for saving the remaining Resistance members, including Leia. There is also a prior scene in the film IIRC which implies that Luke is reaching out telepathically to Leia while she's in a coma- its open to interpretation, but you could argue that Luke may have helped heal Leia via the Force.
He didn't "let" Leia die...because his experiences with Rey and talk with ghost Yoda convinced him not to. He was 100% ready to do nothing and let her die up until that point. The fact that he had a change of heart (after a fashion, arguably, since he still wasn't willing to actually go there) doesn't change what he was willing to do before that happened.

And having him decide not to go there passed up a good opportunity to show his change of heart, show how far he's come, and have one of those call-back references that these nostalgia films love so much. Namely, having a short shot of him pulling his X-wing out of the water. As it is, the shot of his submerged X-wing only serves as a red herring. It barely even works at setting up the twist, since it is shown for such a short time early on and then never referenced again, so by the time the climax of the movie comes, only people who were specifically anticipating that moment probably even remembered it was there.

Though, with the mention of that whole X-wing thing, another tangential thought occurs to me. One of the functions of astromech droids in starfighters is to do hyperspace calculations. So, is Luke's X-wing upgraded to have its own onboard navicomputer, or did he take a separate droid with him since R2 was running on low power? And if it's the latter, what happened to the droid?

User avatar
KraytKing
Padawan Learner
Posts: 313
Joined: 2016-04-11 06:39pm
Location: US East Coast

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by KraytKing » 2018-09-20 11:18am

According to old EU, Jedi an navigate via the Force. Canonically, Luke is suggested to have done this to find Dagobah in ESB. Which is what Rey should have done instead of find a fucking droid with a God damn map in it.

Sorry. I agree; Luke shouldn't have died in the end of that movie. After doing the Force trick, he should have gotten up and proved he was coming back to the galaxy, Force lifting the X-Wing and flying off to go help Rey in her training and in training the next generation. All the shit he was bitter about, he should have gone to go actively fix it.
If you don't know your rights, you don't have any.
--Mace

The Old Testament has as much validity for the foundation of a religion as the pattern my recent case of insect bites formed on my ass.
--Solauren

Brought to you by Carl's Jr.

User avatar
The Romulan Republic
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 15679
Joined: 2008-10-15 01:37am

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-10-15 07:46pm

Well, strictly-speaking, he did go to fix it. He just died in trying to do so.

As a Luke fan, I'd have liked to see him stick around for another film. But as endings go, I think it was a good one for him. And ten to one he'll show up as a Force ghost in the next film.

I think a lot of the problem here comes from the fact that we don't really see how Luke went from being the man at the end of RotJ, to being the man who almost tried to kill Ben in his sleep. So it feels very jarring and out of place. I feel like TLJ needed more flashbacks, or we need a film in-between the two trilogies to show that transition.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

User avatar
The Romulan Republic
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 15679
Joined: 2008-10-15 01:37am

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-10-24 05:31pm

Relating to the discussion about Luke's actions in The Last Jedi, but also the larger questions about the nature of the Dark Side in Star Wars.

In the Prequels, Yoda says that "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side", or words to that effect. This could be seen as overly-simplistic, and certainly I disagree with the old Jedis' attempt to avoid the Dark Side by... denying basic human emotions and taking toddlers from their families for optimal brainwashing. And yet, there is a lot of truth to what Yoda says. Fear is probably the main motive underlying most of the evil things people do, whether its fear of an "Other", fear of being hurt in a relationship, fear of losing one's wealth or influence, etc.

And we certainly see this in how the Dark Side operates in canon. Frequently, the Dark Side (or its agents) tempts by showing you something you are deeply afraid of. Anakin is shown Padme dying in childbirth. Luke is told by Vader that he will try to turn Leia to the Dark Side. And Luke sees his nephew and prize student becoming a murderous monster.

Next, the Dark Side offers you a way out. Give in to your fear, lash out, and all your problems will go away. Anakin aids Palpatine and becomes his apprentice to gain knowledge to save Padme. Luke attacks Vader in a Dark Side-powered rage. And Luke considers preemptively slaughtering his nephew and student in his sleep. But like most Deals with the Devil, this one is treacherous. In giving in to the Dark Side, you are apt to bring about the very ruin you feared, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anakin fatally injured Padme. Luke did not go through with killing Ben, but Ben woke up and, believing that Luke was going to strike him down, attacked him and then went on to slaughter his other students. And if Luke had slain Vader on the Death Star, and fallen to the Dark Side, there can be no doubt that he would have sought out Leia and tried to turn her himself.

So did Luke fall when he considered striking down Ben in his sleep? No, if you believe Luke's version of events. He was tempted, but he ultimately resisted long enough not to go through with it. But by then it was too late for Ben.

Is this out of character for Luke, who had already resisted this temptation once at Endor? I don't think so. Temptation doesn't go away because you resist it once. On the contrary, if anything, it tends to build over time. Think of it like an addictive drug. If you take it once and don't become addicted, that doesn't mean you can take it again and again without becoming addicted. And part of the complexity of Luke's character is that despite being one of the most idealistic and heroic characters in canon, he IS tempted. In RotJ, he strays very close to the Dark Side, appearing to use a (non-lethal) Force choke on Jabba's guards and then trying to strike down Vader in anger. He stops himself, and triumphs as a result, but it does not follow that he will never be tempted again.

And Luke must KNOW that. It is likely, to my mind, that he went into exile not simply out of fear of facing Ben again (or of facing Han and Leia), but out of fear that he himself would be tempted again, and fall.

Edit: It might also be said, however, that fear of falling is also a path to the Dark Side, and one that Jedi in general are particularly susceptible to. Viewed through this lense, then, Luke had to ultimately overcome his fear of failure in order to become again a champion for the Light Side.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

User avatar
Batman
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 15316
Joined: 2002-07-09 04:51am
Location: 'Very' mildly hopeful now DC recognized taking Clark's red trunks away was a bad idea
Contact:

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by Batman » 2018-10-24 07:04pm

Not so much a path to the Dark Side for yourself as a path to the Dark Side winning. Sure, you don't fall, but the Dark Side gains traction because you're not there to oppose it.
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

User avatar
The Romulan Republic
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 15679
Joined: 2008-10-15 01:37am

Re: Luke Skywalker's character evolution

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-10-24 07:10pm

Batman wrote:
2018-10-24 07:04pm
Not so much a path to the Dark Side for yourself as a path to the Dark Side winning. Sure, you don't fall, but the Dark Side gains traction because you're not there to oppose it.
Yeah. You might not fall yourself if you sit on the sidelines, but the Dark Side will win.

Ultimately, fear leads to the Dark Side, one way or another. This was the Old Republic Jedi's mistake, too. Fear of falling lead them to draconian measures like taking children from their families and trying to deny them normal human connections. And that contributed to an alienated Anakin who felt compelled to look for help outside the Jedi Order, and could not properly discuss his fears and visions with the Jedi. And we know how that ended.

That understanding of why the Jedi are particularly vulnerable to fear of falling might help explain why Luke went running off to a temple full of ancient Jedi texts after he tried to kill Ben, and why he ultimately concluded that the Jedi Order had failed and should be abandoned. Even if he was mistaken, it was not a terribly implausible conclusion to draw given the Order's history.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

Post Reply