For decades, Luke Skywalker was the Jedi hero who brought peace to a divided galaxy and helped maintained it. These were the stories fans grew up on, whether it be through George Lucas’ movies, or the hundreds of books and comics to follow over the years.
Time, however, changes everything. What existed as Canon became EU Legends, erasing everything post Return of the Jedi.
Suddenly, Mark Hamill is thrust back into the lead role as Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi after his very brief re-introduction in The Force Awakens. The young boy who whined about almost everything (drinking game for every time Luke whines in the OT), is once again labeled as the “last hope” in the galaxy.
Except, Luke played a role in creating said evil this time around, rather than being an innocent byproduct of it.
Putting aside the Canto Bight arc and Poe’s act of rebellion, the most divisive issue in TLJ revolves around fandoms interpretation of Luke Skywalker. According to Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker’s actions reflect his persona and character traits within the original trilogy.
Would the Luke Skywalker — we know and love — abandon his friends after he defies Yoda to save them in Empire Strikes Back? Would Luke become selfish and distant after risking everything in Return of the Jedi to save Han and his Sith Lord father? Why would any reputable Jedi toss a lightsaber away in a vital moment?
These are the questions many have asked. Most often, however, they’re asking from a perspective of “this isn’t the Luke Skywalker I know.” Because the Skywalker in Legends EU is not the one in Canon.
So, who’s the real Luke Skywalker?
Is it the young (slightly arrogant and naïve) boy who became a Jedi in the OT, or the Grand Master Jedi (married to Mara Jade) who fought to the bitter end in Legends?
The EU Legends Luke Skywalker
The Luke Skywalker presented in the Star Wars EU is one who faced many hardships early on after the fall of the second Death Star but overcame them through the love his friends, his wife Mara Jade (former Hand to Emperor Palpatine), and his desire to always do what is right.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In Legends, Luke turns to the dark side of the Force for a hot minute, his nephew becomes a Sith apprentice who kills his wife, and his own son almost becomes a Sith as well.
And yet, Skywalker never ran away or gave up fighting until the day he passed and became one with the Force. The Luke in EU Legends continually fought side-by-side with Han, Chewie, Lando, and Leia — further strengthening the bonds between them as they served the galaxy following the destruction of the Empire.
Even when their own children betrayed them, this original OT crew relied upon one another to get through every disaster life threw their way.
Canon Luke Skywalker
Unlike the Luke Skywalker presented in Star Wars EU Legends, the Luke in Canon exists strictly in the OT movies (and a handful of new Canon material). He never fell in love and married Mara Jade, and he didn’t continually fight battle after battle for the sake of the galaxy alongside his friends.
The Luke Skywalker in Canon plays a very minor role in the New Republic, seeking knowledge over violence. He forms a school when Ben shows immense strength in the Force and decides to teach future Jedi. Much like the Luke in Legends, his nephew turns on him and becomes a Sith apprentice.
But — and this is a huge but — Han, Leia, and Chewie all go their separate ways after Ben’s betrayal. They’re all wallowing in their own failures. Nobody steps up to the plate and declares the newly formed Kylo Ren must be stopped until it’s way too late (decades later). And by this time, Luke has already secluded himself, lost amongst the stars, wishing to be forgotten.
And to be honest, who could blame him?
In Luke’s depressed mind, he failed everyone, and they all abandoned him. Even Han deserted Leia and returned to his old scoundrel ways. This is the story presented in the new Star Wars Canon. It’s not that Luke doesn’t want to help Leia and the Resistance when Rey seeks him out — he doesn’t believe in himself, the Force, or love anymore. Three key things, by the way, which drove him to be the Jedi hero in the original trilogy.
Resolving The Skywalker Debate
Is it really Rian Johnson’s fault fans didn’t like TLJ or Luke’s character adaptation? Or, did fandom assume the Luke Skywalker of EU Legends would suddenly become the one in Canon, despite his story being completely different following Return of the Jedi?
This is the issue at hand, and it isn’t going away with Episode IX. Luke eventually snaps out of his funk in the TLJ and resolves his past the only way he knows how to. But he’s still the Luke Skywalker of the new Canon, not of EU Legends. When he appears as a Force ghost in Episode IX (as many assume, he will), it’ll be important for fandom to remember this.
J.J. Abrams played a major role in The Force Awakens (direction and script) setting up the Luke Skywalker we know in Canon. Rian Johnson simply followed through on what was already established. While Abrams can adjust Luke slightly, he can’t retcon what he helped create. At least, he shouldn’t, because it would only make things worse.
The Star Wars Canon is what it is. New stories are being created, on top of existing ones based on the OT. Some we’ll like and others we won’t. But regarding Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens and Episode IX, he’s perfectly aligned with George Lucas’ version in the original trilogy.
And that my fandom friends, is simply a Canon fact.
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Should Disney have adopted the new Canon more directly around EU Legends? Are you happy with the new Luke Skywalker or do you prefer the one presented in the old books and comics? Let us know your thoughts and “May the Force be with you, always.”