After Luke Skywalker’s Jedi school was totally destroyed by Kylo Ren, it’s understandable that he’d be a little bit upset, but did walking away from everything make him a coward? Director Rian Johnson says “figuring where [Luke’s] head was at” was his top priority when writing Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
“I had to crack this,” Johnson told EW on Thursday. And the thing he had to crack was coming up with a reasonable explanation as to why the greatest science fiction hero of all time took himself out of the game. In response to whether or not fleeing made Luke a “coward,” Johnson said, “I didn’t want it to.” And yet, what that reason is hasn’t quite been revealed, yet. But Johnson is clear on the point that “the entire movie explores” — the very question as to why Luke would, in essence, give up on everything he’s presumably worked so hard to build.
In fairness, there is a total precedent for a Jedi or two going into hiding after a major catastrophe. Both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda went into hiding after the Empire rose, and the Jedi were all killed. In terms of numbers, it seems like Yoda and Obi-Wan’s losses were a lot greater than Luke’s, and audiences never really saw those two as cowards. Still, the most recent season of Star Wars Rebels acknowledged this idea when Hera mentions that Obi-Wan must be dead, otherwise there’s no way he would let the Rebellion fight without helping. And yet, he totally did. Was Obi-Wan a coward? Probably not. But still, Luke and Obi-Wan are not the same kind of hermit (or coward) in the eyes of the audience.
In the original Star Wars, Obi-Wan had always been in exile, meaning we had no cowardice to forgive him for in the first place. Luke is different. His journey from annoying farm boy to Jedi Knight is what Star Wars is all about. Meaning, there’s more at stake, even for a casual viewer if Luke decided to give up on all of it. How can we truly accept this? Johnson’s Last Jedi script already feels way harder to write than The Force Awakens.
In many ways, the trickiest aspect of The Last Jedi will be adequately solving the mystery of why Luke went into hiding, but even more challenging, convincing the audience to be okay with it. Because if we can’t trust Luke Skywalker, who can we trust?
The Last Jedi opens on December 15.