Fans have been widely and wildly divided over “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” including the actor at the center of the movie – Mark Hamill. Hamill has been outspoken about both his reservations over Rian Johnson’s film and more importantly to him – how the film treated his signature character of Luke Skywalker.
In the wake of the film’s release, Hamill was one of the more vocal critics of the movie and while his stance has softened with time, he’s still grappling with the film and the way it changed the perception of his character. Speaking with IGN this week he says:
“There’s just such a huge gap between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Force Awakens’ – I had to really contemplate that. 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?’. It was a radical change, but I think sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
Although a 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.”
That lies at the heart of the division over the film where fans went in expecting Luke to have stuck with his optimistic outlook and mastered the Force to the point of effectively becoming a superhero who could solve everything. Instead they received one haunted by his personal failures and burned out to such a degree that he has put himself in self-imposed exile for years.
It’s actually truer to real life in many ways, what we aspire to do in our teens and early twenties rarely turns out to be what one is actually doing in their forties or fifties (should one survive) and we accrue guilt, remorse, and regret over the years to differing degrees. But there’s also the argument to make that such ‘realities’ do not have a place in what is a piece of fantasy escapism and one that has always leant on grand myths and aspirational archetypes.
If the early trilogy was about a relentlessly idealistic farm boy who learns some hard lessons, ‘Last Jedi’ is a counterpoint with a deeply cynical type allowing some rays of sunshine to slip in through the cracks in his armor. Hamill himself is coming around to that admittedly depressing understanding as he’s seen it himself in his time on this Earth and understands the tragedy of it:
“It is tragic. I’m not a method actor, but one of the techniques a method actor will use is to try and use real-life experiences to relate to whatever fictional scenario he’s involved in. The only thing I could think of, given the screenplay that I read, was that I was of the Beatles generation – ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘peace and love’.
I thought at that time, when I was a teenager: ‘By the time we get in power, there will be no more war, there will be no racial discrimination, and pot will be legal.’ So I’m one for three. When you think about it, [my generation is] a failure. The world is unquestionably worse now than it was then.”
‘The Last Jedi’ will likely remain a divisive film for years to come whether it forever soiled your innocence with its alien tit milkshakes, superfluous subplots to casino planets and illogical reasonings for character duplicity; to others calling it the best film since ‘Empire’ for refusing to see good/evil simply and asking questions about the more complex systemic reasons that perpetuate that conflict while suggesting the next generation can break that cycle and instil proper change that will stick.
For now the franchise, in the wake of the box-office disappointment of “Solo,” stands at something of a crossroads with J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode IX” expected to avoid the risk-taking of ‘Last Jedi’ in favor of something more along the lines of classic “Star Wars”.