Unlike most social media users, I have yet to watch “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.” I have, however, seen fragments of the hatred being thrown at ‘The Last Jedi‘ director Rian Johnson for the events of the previous film. Even the cast and crew of the film have hinted that they are much happier with the narrative put forth by J.J. Abrams, and once that happened, it was open season on Johnson on Twitter. And, like a champ, Johnson has quietly taken it all on the chin.
Except for this one comment. Earlier this week, several Twitter users tagged Johnson with a post arguing that his decisions flew in the face of the ‘Star Wars‘ franchise as a whole. Johnson, finally, weighed in.
Here’s the original post, courtesy of a Twitter user named – at least as of 12/21/2019 – Not Rian’s Luke:
Next time anyone says, "You only hate #TheLastJedi because [INSERT STRAW MAN HERE]" feel free to share this with them. I don't even care if you give me credit, I just want @Disney and its TLJ sycophants to UNDERSTAND. pic.twitter.com/WNM5Ajowna
— Not Rian's Luke ???? (@_LukeCSkywalker) June 28, 2018
I’ll leave you to struggle through the teal-on-gray manifesto if you like. Still, the briefest possible summary is this: according to the author, Luke Skywalker’s moments of doubt regarding Kylo Ren effectively invalidate the entire franchise. Since Luke’s ascent is positioned as the inverse of Vader’s fall, having him gain mastery over his emotions – ability enough to throw away his lightsaber at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi‘ and refuse to deliver the killing blow – proves that he has moved beyond the actions he (almost) took in ‘The Last Jedi.’
Here’s what Johnson had to say:
Gil, I understand that point of view but I completely disagree with it. In fact I think it disrespects the character of Luke by treating him not as a true mythic hero overcoming recurring wounds & flaws, but as a video game character who has achieved a binary, permanent power-up.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) December 20, 2019
Johnson is right. Even if you ignore the fact that ‘Star Wars’ canon is full of ancient Jedi who fell to the dark side after decades of faithful service, the Jedi aren’t the science-fiction equivalent of karate classes. It’s not like you get a black belt and then will be able to kick your way through a wooden board for the rest of your life. You get old, or you stop training, and you will lose control of some of your previous disciplines. The video game comparison is particularly apt; if characters in ‘Star Wars’ could never change, then Darth Vader would never have been able to mount his deathbed conversion. He would have “leveled” too far in the opposite direction.
And granted, it’s been a while since I was a book-reading, Extended Universe-worshipping ‘Star Wars’ fan, but that hasn’t faded my memories of storylines like the one in the Dark Horse Comics series “Dark Empire.” In that series, Luke Skywalker flat-out gave in to the dark side, requiring the intervention of his sister to pull him back to the path of the light. There are countless examples throughout the ‘Star Wars’ Extended Universe of characters succumbing to anger and fear and struggling to regain their inner peace – or, in extreme cases, dying tragic deaths, too far gone to find redemption. To suggest that Luke’s journey in ‘The Last Jedi’ would not appeal to true ‘Star Wars’ fans makes no sense. “True” ‘Star Wars’ fans have watched Skywalker walk a tightrope with the dark side since the early ’90s. You cannot claim an absolute form of fandom and ignore the stories that essentially formed an entire decade of stories.
Anyways. The moral of this particular story? You can like or dislike Johnson’s decisions in ‘The Last Jedi,’ but let’s not pretend like he did not do his homework or that had no precedent in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. He did, and they do.