Shopping Maul said:
But here is where and why ROTJ is the oddball. Luke has faced Vader and lived. He starts out the story by rescuing Han. Jabba and his main henchmen and hangers on are all dead. Luke has mastered the powers and skills that Yoda taught. Luke is at the top of his game. He is the last Jedi (save Yoda on Dagobah). He turns himself in to Vader rather than risk his friends. He starts of determined not to fight. Why does he fight? The Emperor taps into his failings. The ones we’ve spent two movies dealing with. He incites Luke to draw and fight. That and Vader doing the same thing a little while later prove that Luke is not the poised Jedi Knight he is pretending to be. ROTJ shows that Luke is not perfect, but the overall impression is that he is now a full Jedi Knight. But he has a lot to learn yet. But now he has no teacher. The cracks showed on the Death Star. So when years later he establishes a Jedi school and half his students turn and kill the other half, Luke’s wave of success crumbles and his failings show for all to see. Just because they are nicely hidden in ROTJ does not mean they are not there. Many fans have speculated that he almost turned to the dark side - that he actually drew on the dark side to defeat his father. He has his father at his mercy and he hears the Emperor urge him to finish him and listens to something else that makes him stop and throw down his light saber (something he evidently did in a more permanent way after the fall of his school).
But to say that ROTJ clearly shows a changed Luke ignores all the flaws that the movie shows are clearly still there. The Luke of ROTJ is riding a wave of success and has matured, but those old tendencies to defeatism and recklessness are still there. Rian tapped into all the complexities of Luke from the OT when crafting the story for TLJ. If you gloss over the flaws that ROTJ shows are still there, or just ignore those parts of the movie, you get Luke the epic Hero. Luke the Legendary Jedi Knight. When you dig you find Luke the person and that person would do exactly what JJ and Rian have said he did. Even Mark Hamill has fallen for Luke the Hero. But once he got past the surface and realized what the story did, he agreed with it.
ROTJ is the aberration in Luke’s journey because it was his greatest success. His flaws were under control.
Well this is where it gets really interesting for me, because I actually think Luke’s actions in RoTJ are morally bankrupt. The essence is fine - Luke realises that he is a liability and turns himself in so that the mission can proceed. That stuff is great.
But the details ruin it for me. Luke says to Leia “if I don’t make it back, you’re the only hope for the Alliance”. This is arrogant nonsense. As I mentioned earlier, Luke is nothing but a liability. Furthermore his showdown with Vader/Palpatine has no bearing on the mission or the war.
Then he states that his mission is to try and turn Vader back to the ‘good side’. This is selfish in the extreme. Vader is a war criminal, a profoundly evil man. While it might be a nice idea for Luke personally, Luke’s primary focus should have been a) getting out of the way (which he stated) and b) taking down the Emperor even if it’s by way of making sure Palps is on the Death Star when it goes boom. That would be a noble mission and a very worthy one. Instead Luke’s spoken stance is “while you guys fight for the galaxy’s freedom I’m gonna go save my war-mongering dad”.
I will never understand the ethics of what goes down on the Death Star. Luke, a man who has killed countless enemy numbers and to great applause, suddenly decides that total pacifism is the key here - and only because he selfishly wants daddy to turn good. While people are fighting and dying all around him for the cause of freedom against a brutal dictatorship, Luke is hiding under a stairwell refusing to fight. After losing his temper and (rightfully IMO) beating Vader to a pulp, Luke throws his weapon aside and proudly declares his own enlightenment. Again, an actual war is being waged outside, and Luke is busy congratulating himself on his personal spiritual victory. He doesn’t challenge the Emperor. He doesn’t attempt to address the carnage being wrought by the Death Star or at least get Palpatine in a headlock and force him to recall his forces. No, he just stands there and boasts “I am Jedi”. Great. Meanwhile the actual galaxy is being saved by Chewbacca who has had the foresight to hijack a Scout Walker. Give that Wookiee a medal please!
So Luke gets fried and Vader, seeing his own flesh and blood in danger, kills the Emperor. Suddenly killing the bad guy becomes a viable path to enlightenment. Uh, okay. Vader and Luke hold hands and all is wonderful.
At best you could argue that Luke inadvertently prevented Palpatine’s possible escape from the Death Star. But that was just a lucky consequence of Vader’s sudden sense of paternity. Luke’s actions had no bearing on the war. For all the build-up, for all the ‘that boy is our last hope’, Luke was pointless (outside of recruiting the Ewoks). If anything the idea of training a new Jedi Order - ie a bunch of guys who aren’t allowed to fight and could turn irreversibly evil at the drop of a hat - is ludicrous. The idea of Luke even becoming a legend for his actions on Death Star II is laughable.
The only thing Luke has going for him at this point is his unwavering dedication to family over doctrine. Remove that and you’re not left with much.
Well, I disagree with you strongly about all this.
First, Luke saves the strike team. By linking with the Ewoks, it leads to the eventual success. Without the Ewoks, the mission would have been a failure. Palpatine had planned for a strike team and had countered it, but he failed to counter for the Ewoks. Second, Luke confronting the Emperor ensured he remained on the Death Star. And if he killed the Emperor, the war was virtually over. And his insistence on not fighting was mostly against his father. In the end he threw down his light saber because he had tapped into the dark side, seen how tempting it was, and rejected fighting and anger as a way to win the day. And while Palpatine’s focus was on Luke, he wasn’t paying attention that the strike team had planted explosives and the only thing protecting him from the Rebel plan was about to go poof. While Palpatine was focused on Luke, his death was approaching. Luke took the Jedi path of non-violence to face Palpatine. Palpatine tries to kill him and it is the one thing that could trigger Vader to turn back to Anakin. This is one place where I think the PT made the OT more powerful. We know he lost Padme (something that could have always been guessed at with Luke and Leia being orphans from a young age) and he does not stand by to watch his son die.
And the entire redemption is that at the core, a person can find good even after horrible actions. In Star Wars we get the Dark Side which entices and temps, but in reality, power can corrupt. You call Vader a war criminal, and a profoundly evil man, but is that true? He is Palpatine’s lackey. He acts on his masters orders. He is a slave of Palpatine as much as he was a slave to Watto. Not that he is innocent by any means, or that he would not have been held accountable for his actions, but the point was his soul/spirit/force energy. Luke was able to redeem his father. Had he lived he would have been executed by the Rebels, but his sacrifice was heroic. Luke’s actions were heroic. It is an epic end to that part of the story. Luke saves his father who at the end killed the Emperor. And all the bad guys die. Ultimately Luke’s efforts are the key to the Rebel victory. They had hoped to catch the Emperor on the station and for him to die there, but Luke proved how easy it would have been for him to escape. That he did not was all on Luke. I’m sure the legend in universe got spun a bit. But the result is the Luke’s actions resulted in the Emperor’s death. Without Luke the strike team would not have succeeded and the Emperor would not have died. Luke’s journey then was not about the war.
Interesting how you have pointed out that even in ROTJ, Luke wasn’t as concerned with the Galaxy as the he was with the Jedi. That idea is echoed in why he is in self exile on Ach-To. In ROTJ, Luke goes to do what Yoda and Ben want him to do. None of them said anything about the Empire/Rebellion conflict. He doesn’t do it quite the way they think he should, but he goes all the same. He wants to save his father, they want him to destroy the Emperor. Nothing about helping the Galaxy. His attitude remains unchanged in TLJ. He has put down the saber after the fall of Kylo and his instructions to Rey (including in the deleted scenes) echoes the teachings of Yoda. Not to interfere. Luke is intent on letting the Jedi die. Yoda influences him to see otherwise. Rey has already taken the sacred texts. Yoda makes him see that she will be a Jedi and that if he thinks there are failures, he’d better go to her and fix it. For the first time since TESB, Luke acts to save his friends rather than follow the old Jedi teachings. Your point leads to interesting ideas.
Like I said, I agree about the Ewok thing. That was all Luke. But Palpatine? Yes, Luke’s actions inadvertently prevented Palpatine’s escape, but that was not Luke’s intention and he certainly did not pursue this directly. As the dialogue clearly states, Luke only cared about a) getting out of the way of the mission and b) turning Anakin to the ‘good side’.
Again, this was of no help to the cause whatsoever. At best Luke prevented Palpatine’s escape by accident. Hardly the stuff of legends and certainly not worthy of the build-up in the previous two films.
You say Luke rejected fighting and anger as a way of saving the day. Okay, but what was his alternative? Nothing. Wow, these Jedi are so useful! So it’s okay to destroy the first Death Star with all the collateral damage that entails? He even got a parade for that one (and ghost-Kenobi certainly didn’t complain or deem it a ‘path to the Dark Side’)! It’s okay to shoot down TIE fighters and AT-ATs full of people, or gun down stormtroopers willy nilly. But when the Emperor is shooting down entire shipfulls of sentient beings with a super-laser, even as your deadbeat dad is threatening to turn your sister into an evil agent, apparently turning on your lightsaber is a path to ‘the Dark Side’? This is ludicrous!
For me this would have made more sense if Luke’s focus was on the Emperor rather than on himself and his daddy issues. This could have been achieved with just a little dialogue. Instead of the “I can turn him back to the good side” stuff, Luke could have said to Leia something like “I’m endangering the group and our mission if I stay here. The best thing I can do is face the Emperor myself. I’ll keep him occupied while you and Han get the shield down.”
That right there would change (or restate) Luke’s intentions in a way that makes him as hero, a Jedi, and a legend. His focus is still the war, even though he’s been thrown a curve ball, and there’s nothing selfish about his path. He could still go through all the supposed temptation stuff (although I’d prefer something more sophisticated than ‘strike me down with all your hatred’ - Jedi are allowed to act in defence and, given the death toll, I think defence qualifies here) and the Anakin redemption could be an added bonus rather than Luke’s only goal. Palps could still fry Luke at some point, with Anakin saving the day and being redeemed, but it would all be for a greater good rather than simply Luke/Anakin’s religious trip and family reunion.
Everyone forgets how evil Vader actually was. The first thing he does in ANH is lift a guy by the neck and snap his trachea. Throughout TESB he murders everyone who annoys him. It’s kind of slapstick in the film, but it’s pretty brutal when you think about it. Luke was so horrified by the guy in TESB that he attempted suicide rather than side with him. Luke’s sudden softening towards Vader in RoTJ makes little sense. That’s why I think it would’ve been better if Luke’s focus had been on a rebel victory in RoTJ, with Vader’s turnaround being something of a nice surprise.
This would also tie in better with the events depicted in TLJ too, because redeeming family members irrespective of their war crimes would never have been Luke’s primary focus. So when he sees Kylo’s potential future, he might well give in to a moment’s despair because the fate of the galaxy would have been demonstrated as his primary concern, not just the spiritual well-being of his relatives.