“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” — George Orwell 1984
At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, the three heroes of the original trilogy have achieved internal and external success. Luke has become a Jedi, restored his father to the Light Side and helped his friends defeat the Empire. Leia courageously led the Rebel Alliance to victory and opened her heart to Han Solo. Han Solo led the Rebels to victory, won Leia’s love and cemented his character as a selfless hero. There is great promise ahead. Luke will train a new generation of Jedi. Leia will take on a pivotal role in the formation of the New Republic. Han will continue to fight for good causes and start a family. The prophecy of the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, who will bring balance to the Force has been fulfilled through his destruction of the Emperor and by his offspring restoring order to the galaxy. This seems like an appropriate way to end this six-part fantasy story, but we all know that Disney decided to keep the story going to cash in on the franchise. So in part seven of a now nine-part story, they decided to hit the reset button and subvert the achievements of our heroes.
Thirty years after the destruction of the Second Death Star and defeat of the Empire, we find our far away galaxy in a sad state. Luke Skywalker has abandoned his family and friends. Leia is once again having to lead a rag tag band of resistance fighters. Han has returned to his former life as a smuggler, separated from his wife. The New Republic, which was established just a few decades prior, has already grown complacent in the face of an immensely powerful threat in the form of the First Order. By the end of The Force Awakens, the New Republic is completely annihilated by a First Order superweapon, effectively resetting the progress made in the galaxy since the Empire was defeated. We’re not going back to Episode 6; we’re going back to Episode 4, and that’s why The Force Awakens is basically an Episode 4 reboot with new heroes.
Star Wars used to be one film with a beginning, middle and end. Then George Lucas decided that it was part four of six. This not only meant that it was now the first film in a trilogy, but also the fourth part of a six part story. Luke is the hero of the second trilogy, and Anakin is the hero of the first. Another way of understanding this is as the story of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One. In the first trilogy we see him turn to the Dark Side, destroy the Jedi and become Darth Vader. In the second trilogy he destroys the Emperor and returns to the Light Side. George Lucas is clear that he understands Star Wars to be the story of Anakin Skywalker and his offspring. So isn’t it unsatisfactory in the context of the larger story to introduce a new hero, Rey, who is apparently unrelated to the Skywalkers or anyone else from the first two thirds of the story? And beyond that, isn’t it unsatisfactory to rob all of the core characters of the original films of their forward progress and development? And worst of all…worst of all… isn’t it unsatisfactory to defile, not only the hero of the original trilogy, but the archetype of heroism for the entire series?
The Last Jedi subverts Star Wars on many levels, but nowhere is that more apparent, or more infuriating, than in its treatment of Luke Skywalker…
Part 3: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Luke Skywalker