Note: This article contains no spoilers for The Last Jedi.
It’s been clear for months that Mark Hamill and The Last Jedi director Rian Johns-+on had profound disagreements over the path Luke’s life has taken in the 30 years separating Return of the Jedi from The Force Awakens. The actor clearly still isn’t happy with how Luke’s narrative arc plays out, and sees it as a profound betrayal of his own interpretation of the character.
Back in June, Hamill make similar remarks that set the Internet buzzing over the nature of his own disagreement with director Rian Johnson. At the time, Hamill said: “I at one point had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’”
Hamill backpedaled from those remarks later, declaring he believed Rian Johnson was an excellent director and that he (Hamill) had a thrilling experience once he came around to how Johnson saw Luke. That may be true in some respects, but it’s clearly not the whole truth.
“Jedi’s don’t give up,” Hamill says he told Rian. “Even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup, and if he had a mistake he would try and right that wrong, so right there we had a fundamental difference.”
“But,” Hamill continues, “It’s not my story anymore, it’s someone else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective. So I understood the requirements of the script and once I was honest with him about how I felt, I was able to go and do what I was supposed to do, which is, do my best to make that story as effective as possible and realize his vision. And that’s what I did.”
Hamill also argues that Luke would never have said “It’s time for the Jedi to end,” and that this interpretation also rings false for him. He adds “I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s Jake Skywalker, he’s not my Luke Skywalker.”
It’s not clear how polarizing TLJ actually is — members of the alt-right have claimed to be running a sting operation against the movie to make it look less popular, and it’s still expected to hit the billion-dollar mark over the coming week, with over $ 750M in sales as of Sunday. I haven’t seen the film yet myself but I’m aware of all the major story beats and events (I don’t really care about spoilers, personally, but I’ve avoided them in this story). Without giving anything away, I’ll say that based on what I know, I expect to love the film and have a number of friends who do. I also have others who very much don’t. But the way I’d parse Skywalker Hamill’s remarks is this: He may agree that Johnson presented an exciting or even a compelling Star Wars story, but it’s not the story that Hamill thought would follow the events of ROTJ, and it doesn’t follow a path for Luke that Hamill recognizes. And in fairness to Hamill (and again, without any spoilers for TLJ), it’s not the story most of us expected, either.
Most Star Wars fans, even those who never read any of the Extended Universe (EU) books, probably thought the post-Jedi future for Han, Leia, and Luke was bright. The Empire was defeated, so Luke could begin training new Jedi. Han and Leia would get married and have children or at least remain close. Mon Mothma and Leia would go on to form a new government, the New Republic, which would avoid the mistakes of the sclerotic Old Republic or the harsh dictatorship of the Empire.
The Force Awakens showed that very little of this came to pass, in the long run. Whatever initial successes they may have enjoyed, we are shown a Han and Leia estranged from each other. Luke is in self-imposed exile. Han, a grizzled old man now, is still running around the galaxy with Chewbacca, but he even lost the Millennium Falcon. Luke may have started a Jedi Academy, but he clearly lost control of it, and nearly his life in the process.
In real life, it’s downright common for rebellions and revolutions to lead to periods of profound instability as opposed to a glorious future. That might make The Last Jedi more realistic, but it clearly didn’t give Hamill or many fans the conclusions they were hoping for. That’s the needle I’d say Hamill is trying to thread here. He’s simultaneously acknowledging that Rian Johnson (and the studio execs that backed him) have every right to make their own vision of the movie, while saying he disagrees with much of the result.