We’ve talked about the backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi in these pages before, and hundreds of thousands (maybe millions, counting social media) of words have been written on the subject. Naturally, the most passionate fans either believe The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back or the worst since…well, whichever one a particular fan hated before The Last Jedi. Yet, one thing almost all Star Wars fans agree on is that Dave Filoni gets Star Wars. Not only is he the storyteller behind The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and The Mandalorian, Filoni is the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Lucas’s Qui-Gon Jinn. That’s why it is a bit surprising that Dave Filoni revealed that the most controversial decision in The Last Jedi is something that came from the Master, George Lucas, himself.
There are a lot of things The Last Jedi did that displeased fans. From General Leia Organa flying through space with an assist from the Force to the film ending on the infamous Broom Boy. Yet, nothing displeased hardcore Star Wars fans more than its treatment of Luke Skywalker. The fact that the fresh-faced farmboy who used to bullseye womp rats in his T-16 back home became the jaded, cynical man in the film was unfathomable. As important as Luke Skywalker is both to the story and the fans, this was unforgivable. Even Mark Hamill famously had trouble accepting this character development, the subject of The Director and the Jedi, the documentary on the movie’s home release.
Yet, for all the so-called fans angry at Rian Johnson for Luke’s fate, the person they were really angry at (as always) is Lucas himself.
How George Lucas Inspired Luke’s Fate in The Last Jedi, As Told by Dave Filoni
Image via Lucasfilm
As mentioned above, Dave Filoni is having something of a moment right now. After ending, some might say too soon, Star Wars: Rebels in a spectacular fashion, he helped create the biggest Star Wars pop culture moment in years. The Mandalorian, and Baby Yoda, captured audiences’ hearts and imaginations like the original films did so long ago. On top of that, he was able to finally finish his first love, The Clone Wars, bringing Captain Rex and Ahsoka Tano through the war and Order 66. And while some fans can’t contain their disappointment of the films, they equally can’t stop praising Filoni, calling him Lucas’s natural successor.
There is no question that the Pittsburgh native takes Star Wars seriously. Filoni didn’t just learn from a dynamic filmmaker how to tell visual stories. No, with Lucas he learned about the intricacies of the Force from the man who has thought about it for longer than any of us. A fan first, Filoni got the rare chance to ask Lucas about the questions that bothered us. One of the biggest has always been: Why did the Jedi all go into hiding after Order 66? Dave Filoni tells us that the attitude about the Jedi Order in The Last Jedi is something that George Lucas decided a long time ago.
As he told Deadline about the final scene of The Clone Wars:
“I always had in mind an ending that would somehow involved Vader. I thought it was really compelling and the imagery of the lightsaber and him holding it; that spoke so much. It also spoke to something that I discussed with George (Lucas) over the years as far as the aftermath of the Clone Wars. The reason why we never saw too many Jedis fighting against the empire is the fact that a lot of them felt that they failed in their goal to protect the Republic, and they were all deceived. And so a lot of them realized that fighting a war maybe isn’t the best way and created violence. They set their sabers down, they tried to find different paths to helping people than perhaps, you know, being violent, and so there is an old idea there.”
This is a huge revelation. Sure, the “real” answer is that if the Jedi restarted and fought the Empire, then Luke Skywalker wouldn’t have been the one to save everyone. (or, at least, the one to save Darth Vader.) Yet, good storytellers come up with reasons why they do what they do in their tales. And this reason from Lucas fits very nicely into the framing of The Last Jedi when Luke walks away from it all. George Lucas told a story about how the Jedi strayed from the path of the Light Side, and thought that they needn’t act like Jedi to find their way back to it.
The canon stories involving Luke after Return of the Jedi show a different Luke than we remember. He is kind, compassionate, and only rarely resorts to violence. His greatest wish was to restart the Jedi Order along with the New Republic. Only, his greatest apprentice turned to the Dark Side because of his failure and ushered in another fascistic Dark Side power. In trying to recreate the Order of the past, he ended up repeating their greatest mistake. Like many of us might, Luke blamed himself and felt the only answer was to walk away because the Jedi only make things worse.
Why George Lucas’s Take on the Jedi Makes Sense
The first thing Star Wars fans have to understand is that the Light Side of the Force and the Jedi are not the same thing. In fact, the entire arc of the prequels and The Clone Wars deals with how the Jedi strayed from the path of the Light by fighting in Palpatine’s war. When promoting The Phantom Menace in 1999, Lucas appeared on The Big Breakfast to talk about the film, which you can see above. In the interview, he compares the Jedi, the heroes of the film, to enforcers in the Mafia. Filoni has also said in the past that the Jedi would often negotiate by, essentially, placing their lightsaber on the table as an implied threat and forcing a peaceful resolution. The Star Wars philosophy is how certain “systems” are corrupted by the Dark Side, the Jedi Order is not immune to it.
We also know that Rian Johnson borrowed some ideas from Lucas’s original treatment from The Art of the Last Jedi book. And central to Lucas’s ideas was that Luke went from being a bright-eyed youth full of hope to a broken, bitter old man. The reason Luke turned his back on the galaxy and the Jedi was because, like in the prequels, he felt the institution was not worth saving. The Last Jedi is, ostensibly, a meditation on failure. As always, Yoda gets the best lines. “We,” he says, meaning “masters” or teachers or simply just the older generation, “are what they grow beyond.”
As Palpatine might say, “It’s ironic.” Because the very rigid and immutable ideas fans had about both the Jedi and Luke Skywalker are the kind of absolutist thinking that Lucas imagined destroyed the Order from within.
Remember: In The Last Jedi, Even Rian Johnson Thought Luke Was Wrong
Image via Lucasfilm
One thing the odious members of the so-called “Fandom Menace” love to latch onto as an example of Disney and Johnson’s hate for Star Wars is a line from its villain. Kylo Ren said that they should let go of the past, “kill it, if you have to.” Yet, just because he says it doesn’t mean that is how Johnson feels about Star Wars. (In fact, any objective observer would see that Rian Johnson is as big of a Star Wars nerd as any of us.) In fact, if he’d merely adapted Lucas’s plans for the sequel trilogy instead of building on it, Luke might have been painted as right in his choice about the Jedi.
Instead, Luke recognizes the error of his ways thanks to Rey and Yoda. Instead of rebuilding the Jedi Order as it was, he trusts the real Last Jedi, Rey, to do it differently. Lucas was always far more interested in the Force than the Jedi, and one need not be a Jedi to follow that path. So, even though the seed of the idea came from George Lucas, it likely means that Johnson and company see more good in the Jedi Order than even their creator does.
What do you think? Do you agree the discussion between Dave Filoni and George Lucas inspired Luke’s take on the order in The Last Jedi? Does this change your mind about the film? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.