Who is Luke Skywalker?
Ron Seifried | On 13, Dec 2015
Outback farmer. Whining teenager. Budding freedom fighter. Height challenged infantryman. Idealistic crusader. Over-confident pilot. Cold blooded killer. Potential luncheon meal. Inquisitive student. Amputee fighter. Rancor slayer. Jedi Master.
The first phase of the post-George Lucas era, the creator who has both enthralled and, is upon us. But are we any closer to understanding the short 42 month standard period of Luke Skywalker’s brief cinematic lifespan over the course of the first three films?
The Lucas era is now the Old Testament of Episodes I-VI, an ancient religion composed of two almost perfect chapters (A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back), two contractually obligated resolutions (Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith) and two narratives of misplaced ideals (A Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones).
The New Testament kicks off this week with The Force Awakens (aka the Book of J.J. Abrams), inspired by the simple question Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy first asked of J.J. during her brief wooing period of retaining the franchise-fixer: “Who is Luke Skywalker?”
Done deal. Abrams is on board. He co-writes the script with Lawrence Kasdan, no stranger to the Star Wars universe. The Force Awakens is complete. Now the world is about to find out, at least partly, who is Luke Skywalker.
The hero’s journey of a potential Jedi Knight’s quest of harnessing inherited mystical tools as both a gift of deeper understanding of the world around him and a potential weapon of mass destruction, was fleshed out in the full texts of original six Episodes, with the final synopsis of the rise and fall of a father and the son’s quest at atoning the elder’s sins of the father.
If we are to consider the Force a metaphor for religion, then Luke was raised in an atheist household by his distant step Uncle and his wife, his early years on inhospitable remote world of Tatooine daydreaming of adventures and not keeping his mind on where he was and what he was doing.
Luke”s mundane existence is thrown into chaos overnight with the purchase of two service droids, one of which carries the plans to the Empire’s (aka the intergalactic government) ultimate weapon the Death Star. The robot’s determination to deliver the files to Obi-Wan Kenobi, a reclusive Knight whose sole purpose is to keep a distant eye on Luke and remain undercover from the authority’s that declared him and his extinct Jedi Order enemies of the state. When Luke finally meets up with Kenobi, the old Master explains his temporary inconvenient “truth” of the boy’s father’s edited history of being a Jedi Knight who was betrayed and murdered by a former student named Darth Vader.
Kenobi’s view of his role as protector of peace and justice before the Empire’s ascent and his subsequent years as an outlaw has corrupted the old Jedi Master to bending certain truths to his own narrow view. Kenobi’s distorted manipulation of Luke is one of several deceptions Skywalker endures from his mentors and contemporaries over his course of Jedi apprenticeship. The last remaining Jedi may be seeking revenge on those who robbed him of regal-like status and uses Luke as a tool for redemption.
Or Kenobi’s years on the government no-fly list prompts him to recruit Skywalker on his religious jihad and mold a young terrorist bent on destroying large government structures.
Kenobi briefly instructs Luke the basics of the Force, but the short lessons are akin to one lecture from an adjunct college professor-incomplete and misguided. Kenobi bypasses the approach of his master Qui-Gon Jin, a rebellious and open minded spirit seeking balance of the Force and deeper understanding of the ancient Jedi texts.
Luke channels Kenobi’s failures with the destruction of the first Death Star. Yes, the planet Aldreraan and its billions of inhabitants were methodically destroyed by the Death Star. But what did Skywalker actually know about the planet? Princess Leia had her own agenda as one of the leaders of the Rebellion. We the audience and Luke himself never see Aldreraan on the surface; never understand their culture or their history. Everything is based on Leia’s words of the Aldreraan being peaceful and lacking any weapons. The Empire did not see any value in the planet as a commercial entity, otherwise it would certainly not wipe out a revenue stream with a quick pull of a lever. Aldreraan was possibly a military target, a valuable weapon in the war against the Empire, and a threat the Emperor knew must be eliminated. Otherwise, he would have never placed it on his list of expendable targets for Grand Moff Tarkin. We already know Leia is one of the leaders of the Rebellion, and that narrative is expanded in the prequels with her adoptive father Bail Organa as one of only a handful of people who know what happens to the children of Anakin Skywalker. With these examples, Aldreraan is not the bucolic paradise that Leia was trying to sell to Tarkin in her moment of despair.
Now Leia’s status is a Princess of a lost, nomadic tribe, with too much time to plan further destruction on other military outposts and staying on the run, devote time to her sorrows. Leia expressed more compassion for Luke upon the loss of General Kenobi then for the loss of her home world.
Or was it manipulation? Was Leia using her sexuality to guide Luke into assisting in her cause, and lead Kenobi’s Jedi apprentice toward the next important step of standing up to the Empire. Leia already knew the hidden location of the old Jedi Master on Tatooine. If she knew Kenobi’s mission was to remain undercover there is a distinct possibility she was aware of his assignment to watch over a future Jedi apprentice.
Beings that are able to channel the Force can easily slide down a different path. Up until this point, both Luke and Leia do not understand their potential, and time and again use their emotion to guide their actions, a trait the old Jedi Order frowned upon. Leia was dabbling with the dark side as her role of military commander, a role countless Jedi a generation before reluctantly accepted and repeatedly failed at.
Ben saw all of this, but was on his own agenda. Luke was barely out of his teenage years of working on power converters, whatever the Mustafar they are, and graduates from piloting a T-16 Skyhopper to manning an X-Wing fighter war machine and reaps mass destruction on an entire galaxy within the course of a few days.
Was the destruction of the first Death Star the Jedi way? Or was it religious extremism from a fundamentalism branch of a lost cult? How many thousands aboard the space station could have been converted to the Rebel cause just as the many planets the Jedi saved during the Clone Wars? No, the old Jedi way would be to cut off the head of the government and reorganize what is left.
Kenobi was on a mission of revenge, waiting in the shadows of the Dune Sea for the perfect moment to strike. Kenobi disdainfully warned Vader that if “you strike me down, I will before more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” moments before Vader sliced into Ben’s neck.
Powerful? Did the Jedi seek power? Was mortal death Kenobi’s ultimate goal, an end game to achieve immortality and absolute power over his old apprentice and destroy the Empire. Yoda warned of seeking power as a path toward the dark side. But to obtain power, one must channel many of the negative characteristics the Sith embraces.
The Jedi sought power as much as the Sith, but only used different paths to obtain their goal. Kenobi and the Jedi Order were enjoying a blissful existence in a palatial temple until the shroud of the dark side revealed themselves and destroyed everything they held of value. When Darth Maul proclaimed in Episode I “…at last we will have our revenge,” what did the Jedi do to them years prior that pushed the Sith down a destructive past? Call it one of the many plot holes in the prequels, but why exactly are there thousands of Jedi, but only two Sith?
Ben explained to Luke that the Jedi were “guardians of peace and justice.” Then Ben abruptly changes that tone upon the demise of his physical sense and carefully guided Luke down that trench and fire a proton torpedo into the exhaust port. He was just as surprised at its existence as the others, but Ben concluded that if Vader was onboard, the other lives did not matter.
Leia, the blissfully unaware Jedi (or Sith) prodigy, wanted total revenge. No one needed to guide her on her quest to seek revenge on the destruction of her own planet of Aldreraan.
The base on Hoth three years later was the rebellion’s first chance to regroup. It was finally at this moment, that the “powerful” Kenobi felt it was time to guide Luke to the Dagobah system and learn from Master Yoda.
Obi-Wan’s and Yoda’s collusion in misrepresenting to Luke the monumental task he needs to undertake and viewing the connection between father and son as a path toward the dark side, is a stark reminder of how far the Jedi Order has been disconnected.. Whether Luke is being radicalized by the religion’s sole survivors or unknowingly molded to replace his father in the Sith, the direction Yoda and Obi-Wan takes is dangerous.
Yoda’s last desperate reminder to Luke on his failure in the cave, and his proclamation that the young apprentice’s negative view of the physical sizes of objects should not impede his abilities, is a reminder that the instruction the two Jedi Masters have given up to this point has been sporadic and incomplete. By the time Luke is about to take off to rescue his friends, Kenobi’s desperation can be felt when he proclaims “…that boy is our last hope.”
Luke’s mentors were deceiving, conniving and selfish individuals, delicately balancing their own insecurities and lack of faith in Luke’s full potential. Yoda himself instructs Luke to erase everything from the past, to “unlearn what you have learned” and use only his teachings, however misguided they may be, to be his one true source of guidance. Both masters encourage Luke isolating himself from others, another path away from outside corruption and toward their own doctrine and agenda.
But only one of Luke’s mentors was true to his word, no matter how brief or twisted his logic may have been. The careful guidance and understanding of Emperor Sheev Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, Lord of the Sith. He is the one mentor that shows Luke the true nature of the Force. Not once did Palpatine deceive Luke during their brief meeting on the second Death Star. The Emperor may have failed in his quest to turn son against father, due to the Sith Lord’s blinded arrogance and misunderstanding of a parent’s love for their child. Palpatine believed every word he uttered and had a deep commitment in his dogmatic view of the Force
Luke was deeply tempted by the Dark Side when thoughts of his sister Leia betrayed him and he went in for the kill against Vader. Striking Vader down and cutting off his father’s mechanical right hand, it was at this moment Luke let the Dark Side flow through him. Skywalker understood this power and needed to remove the one person standing in his way for absolute power; Emperor Palpatine.
Yoda’s and Obi-Wan’s assignment of killing Vader was not achieved, because Luke did not kill his father. The two old Jedi Masters plan to eliminate Vader and not the Emperor is a curious predicament. It is possible the two hermits realized they were potentially creating the ultimate Jedi/Sith partnership if Vader had lived and ruled the galaxy with his son.
Luke’s unwavering faith in his father’s redemption may have been dismissed by Obi-Wan, Yoda and the Emperor for their own personal reasons, but the young Jedi had the advantage of understanding the love between two people. This trait was never explored by any of the prior Jedi Knights or Sith Lords, a complete lack of understanding that led to their individual downfalls.
Luke loved his sister, his friends and even his father. It was passion that drove him to strike against Vader and releasing his anger. Luke managed to harness his power at the very moment he was teetering too far in one direction. His advantage was compassion, however risky it may have been at that precarious moment when he tossed his light saber and proclaimed “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
But did Luke obtain his ultimate goal of becoming a Jedi Knight? Or does did his dance with the Dark Side tempt Luke toward an unforeseen endgame? Let’s face it, a few days in a swamp and a couple of duels does not make one a Jedi Knight. It’s not even the equivalent of a high school diploma in the relation to ancient Jedi training.
It has been over thirty years since that climatic duel of fates on the second Death Star, with Anakin Skywalker finally shedding the veil of the Dark Side and throwing his Master down an endless pit into hell. The death of the Master cut the evil umbilical cord that fed Vader life for decades and the physical being could no longer survive without the Master.
This was Luke’s misreading of Force. He believed that redemption would include a rebirth into Light Side of the Force for his father. Luke’s circle was not complete at the end of Episode VI; he was both the Master and the apprentice of a lost Order. His quest of saving his father included Anakin living several more years, where both Skywalkers’ could rule the galaxy as father and son.
Luke now must spend the next thirty years in both a physical and mental isolation to contemplate his role with the Force. The foundation for a new order needs to be established and the challenges are especially daunting for someone not properly trained, his early lessons thrown into constant chaos and confusion and finally the temptation to go down the wrong path. The Force awakening within Luke Skywalker can be full of turmoil and disturbance as it was for his father.