Update: Ive found a new complaint: “Luke was an immature baby.” While this doesn’t necessarily reflect bad character on the part of the complainer (in any obvious way), it just isn’t true. Through The Last Jedi, Luke isn’t complaining about anyone but himself, his pride, his mistakes and the extreme dualism he had given himself to. His teaching that the force “belongs to no one” (or whatever) cuts against his messianic complex and the satanic persona dark-force users take on in their quest for control: both believe the force is a substance to control, possess or be possessed by. It isn’t that Luke has seen the Jedi’s mistakes and turned away from the Jedi: he has come to (rightly, in my opinion) question the division between light and dark as mapping neatly onto the division of good and evil. The Star Wars universe is not a theistic world where some divine, immaterial being grounds moral divisions. The Force is being, not a being to be possessed or which possesses (think Heidegger).
The proper balance of the force is not one in which light dominates, as in a theistic eschatology–Luke realized this. Imagine your view of the universe utterly collapsing. Sorry, buddy, but you’re going to become very bitter, and withdrawn. It’s not an immature reaction. Luke’s disappointments and refusal to propagate the Jedi are perfectly rational given that he is correct.
The conclusion of the movie is Luke’s reversal: he comes, through the help of Yoda, once more to embrace the light as superior to the abuse of the dark. But this return is not a return to his prior beliefs: it’s a return to a certain dualistic view. Whether or not that’s correct within the Star Wars universe, that’s what happened.
“Luke was too sulky.”
“Luke didn’t fight.”
“Luke’s death didn’t do the character justice”
“Luke was LAME, dude!”
Apparently Luke “deserved better” (according to one popular tweet I won’t bother providing a link to). But what does this mean? Something like this: Luke being weak, giving into despair, and refusing to be heroic until the very end is inconsistent with his noble and adventurous character. Luke isn’t selfish, many charge, and the movie makes him out to be.
People change, especially after losing everything they constructed–why is Luke’s development unbelievable? Luke starts as a naive and selfish character–he sought glory in A New Hope, and was highly impulsive in Empire. Return of the Jedi marked his emotional development, revealed it to be unstable (see: Luke’s rage in the throne room scene), and cast Luke as an overly self-confident and sarcastic (but undertrained) Jedi Knight (see: falling for Jabba’s trap). I don’t detect much of a change.
What other complaint can be levied here? Throw out the charge of unbelievable change and it seems fans will still complain about Luke “deserving better”– I can only take this to be expressing a wish to see Luke grow to be a wise and wonderful Jedi Master, nearing perfection. Why is this desirable? To look for perfection in mankind is to be disappointed; to do so without disappointment is to ignore the truth.
And just what about Luke’s death is unwarranted? The desire to have Luke live on makes no sense to me after I have moved beyond my primal instinct to protect the things I care about. What would his further living accomplish? What would he contribute to resistance? Nothing: Luke is tired and broken, ready to move on after having performed a last action. He needs no more bodily life to help Rey, and by passing away with non-violent dignity he inspires hope. But, I suppose that a few backflips would be “cool AF.”
As I see it, fans are either asserting that their character should not change because they cannot stomach the thought of a cherished sameness vanishing, or that he should be written as a totally respectable person. Take your pick: do you resist change (for no good reason), or want a one-dimensional messiah who lives on only for the sake of being badass? The former marks a refusal to let go and face your own march towards death; the latter reveals a tendency towards immediate, shallow gratification and a drive for grandeur, rather than a desire for quiet, meaningful work.
Rian Johnson has talked about “pushing the audience and characters” to grow and develop. He does a great job; he provides new material to think about, new motives to try to empathize with, and new non-archetypical characters to grow attached to. Unfortunately people generally don’t want to grow, or be challenged. Laziness prevails: most want everything to stagnate so they can pretend death isn’t inevitable. Most desire to place their heroes on a throne they cannot sit on: to force them into the mold of an unchanging moral exemplar. Most prefer cool visuals at the expense of actions imbued with meaning.
Quick Note–What about Captain Phasma?
“Phasma didn’t do anything cool.”
“Phasma had an anti-climactic end.”
“Phasma’s actions showed her to be all flash and without substance.”
Yes, she didn’t have substance: because she’s not a character of substance. She’s an annoying, faceless and emotionless drone of evil wearing an impressive costume to instill the most shallow form of respect: fear of an alleged badass. Like Kylo Ren, everyone can see through the mask to a soul eaten away by selfish, evil ambition to control with no true nor noble aim.
Why expect anything more than what Phasma was? The enraged audience wishes Phasma to be more impressive in the least challenging way–to do more cool tricks and deliver more witty lines. But what would the point be? What would doing this add? Nothing more than establishing a character who contributes nothing to the progression of the story and growth of its characters. She does, however, contribute some sick ass armor.