In an interview with IGN published this week, Mark Hamill discussed the “tragic” trajectory of his iconic character Luke Skywalker as portrayed by Rian Johnson in “The Last Jedi,” which kills off Skywalker after presenting him as almost the antithesis of the idealistic, hope-filled champion of the light that endeared him to millions of fans over decades.
“There’s just such a huge gap between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Force Awakens,’ I had to really contemplate that,” Hamill told IGN’s Joe Skrebels. “I said, ‘Hey, how did I go from being the most optimistic, positive character to this cranky, suicidal man who wants people to get off his island?'”
As Skrebels aptly puts it, Luke’s story in the new trilogy has become “a corrupted myth,” a “subversive — even cruel — decision.” Rather than a triumphant return to stand in the breach when the universe most needs him, Luke has retreated from the good fight. The journey of his replacement (Rey) to finally meet “the last Jedi” proves to be largely a waste of time, despite Skywalker’s virtual battle with the new, far less intimidating Vader (Kylo Ren) — which disappointingly turns out to be yet another ruse in a film filled with ruses.
Johnson’s “Last Jedi” appears to have taken the “cruel” corruption begun in “Force Awakens” even further than J.J. Abrams intended, a “radical change” that Hamill clearly laments despite his understanding that “sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone is a good thing.”
“Part of me said to Rian, ‘But you know, a Jedi would never give up.’ My concept of the character was that even if I chose the New Hitler thinking he was the New Hope, yeah I’d feel terrible, but I wouldn’t secret myself on an island and then turn off the Force,” said Hamill.
According to the actor, Abrams had intended a more inspiring version of Luke than that portrayed by Johnson. When Rey first encounters Hamill, the final scene in “Force Awakens” and the opening of “Last Jedi, Abrams said he was going to emphasize Luke’s power.
“J.J. said, ‘Oh and by the way I’ll probably put in a couple of floating boulders to show the Force emanating from you, as strong as it is,'” said Hamill. “So I’m thinking for VIII, I’m going to have Force Lightning coming out of every orifice of my body. You know, lifting an eyebrow and toppling AT-ATs like dominoes. That would have been fun to be that powerful!”
Instead, Johnson has Luke bitterly toss his lightsaber over his shoulder, resigned to his permanent retreat.
Hamill noted that Lucas had the “overall arc” in his mind for the first trilogy, but Disney’s trilogy is “more like a relay race,” with each director handing off the series to the next, a challenge to continuity.
Hamill said that though he didn’t agree with the downward trajectory of his character’s arc, he had to find a way to make it make sense enough to portray the role. The best analogy he could find was the grave disappointment and “failure” of his own generation, the “Beatles generation.”
“When I was a teenager I thought: ‘By the time we get in power, there will be no more war, no racial discrimination, and pot will be legal.’ So I’m one for three,” he said. “It is tragic.”
In an interview with AP Thursday, Hamill commented on his Beatles analogy and echoed his thoughts about Johnson’s “radical change” to Luke.
“My view of the character was that he was the most idealistic character, he was the most optimistic character. And I said that even if I did something ghastly like picking the wrong young student, that I would redouble my efforts. I wouldn’t just go off to an island for 30 years,” said Hamill. “But that’s not my job. I have to do what I can do to best realize the vision of the writer, in this case Rian Johnson.”
He continued: “It was tough on me because I was sort of old-school George Lucas and you have to make way for the new generation. So I had to figure out, how can I best make this work. There’s lots of back story that I made up for myself that wouldn’t concern the audience in any way. And that’s when I made the analogy of being the Beatles Generation, where ‘All You Need Is Love.’ And in effect, we’ve failed because I think the world is much worse now than it was then.”