Measured heads prevail in a news cycle that finds men’s rights activists celebrating a butchered, illogical cut of Star Wars: The Last Jedi simply because all of the women have been removed. Enter Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s here not to respond to that particular piece of news (there’s only one way to respond, after all), but rather to the most prevalent non-bigoted reason people are hating on the sci-fi blockbuster.
That would be the film’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker, who many find has been divorced from the ideals of the character in service to Hollywood storytelling. Gordon-Levitt, who not only starred in Johnson’s Brick and Looper, but also cameos in The Last Jedi as Canto Bright alien Slowen-Lo, understands that his affiliation with the director might drive people to see him as a shill. “I’m NOT speaking for him here,” he emphasizes. “He doesn’t even know I’m writing this.” Gordon-Levitt’s just a Star Wars fan like the rest of us.
What Gordon-Levitt points out is that “[leaving] Luke unchanged would have been a huge missed opportunity” given that no person thinks or operates the same at 60 as they did at 20. The Skywalker we see in The Last Jedi is bitter and dismissive when he used to be bright and virtuous, but the truth is that a flawed, fallen character is infinitely more interesting in a film that’s already overflowing with heroes. Luke’s journey in the film also helps illustrate the film’s themes.
To me, this is a story about not losing faith: faith in the outside world, faith in your allies as well as your enemies, in the future as well as the past, in the next generation that will take your place, and yes, faith in your own damn self. Luke has made mistakes that had terrible consequences, and his regret is so strong that he wants to give up. We need to see that despair, hidden under a crusty front of indifference, so that when he finally decides to put himself out there and make the ultimate sacrifice, it means something. It means more than just stalling the First Order to let the remainder of the Resistance escape. Our protagonist has arrived at the end of his journey. He’s re-found his faith, both in the past and the future of the Jedi Order, and even more importantly, in himself. Again, it’s in that glaring contrast between a journey’s beginnings and its end where we find a story’s meaning.
That’s a lot more interesting than Mark Hamill popping in to do some flips and slaughter a few storm troopers, eh?
And if you don’t agree, that’s cool, too. As Gordon-Levitt puts it, “Dear oh dear, folks. This isn’t politics or sports. The fruit is in the subjectivity.”Amen.
You can read the rest of his post on Medium.