Ever since The Last Jedi was released late last year, the hate and bashing from the fans have been relentless. Enough that celebrities and friends of director Rian Johnson have gone to social media to defend him and the film.
This week the latest to defend him was close friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt who went and wrote a 2,000-word essay.
The 36-year-old actor voiced alien Slowen Lo in the scenes on Canto Bight in the eighth installment of the sci-fi saga.
In the essay, Gordon-Levitt made an impassioned defense of the film and in particular why Jedi Master Luke Skywalker had to be portrayed as a grizzled grumpy old man.
He wrote: “We all get older, and those of us who are lucky enough to survive our youth all face the joys, the terrors, the puzzles, the pitfalls, the surprises, and the inevitabilities that come along with doing so.
The Luke Skywalker we meet in The Last Jedi is very different than the Luke Skywalker we remember from the original Star Wars movies. In the past, Luke was hopeful, an idealist, deeply driven to venture out into the galaxy, find his destiny, and do the right thing, no matter the cost. Now he’s apathetic, cynical even, hunkered down on an island and seemingly passionate about nothing but his own isolation. He’s wasting his talents on an eccentric day-to-day routine of laughable animal husbandry and death-defying spearfishing. When a young potential Jedi with profound aptitude, Rey, comes to find him seeking a mentor, he literally tosses her lightsaber over his shoulder into the dirt. And later, when facing said youngster in combat, he ends up on his knees, defeated.
And even worse than becoming personally weird and physically weak, he’s become morally questionable. The plot hinges on a moment from the recent past where Luke contemplates killing Ben Solo, his own nephew, in his sleep, sensing the young man’s attraction to the dark side of the Force, and fearful of the damage he might cause. I saw the point made several times that decades earlier, in Return of the Jedi, Luke is so righteous, so forgiving, he even refuses to kill the reprehensibly villainous Darth Vader. Clearly this is an enormous departure.
Gordon-Levitt went on to explain how rare it is to have a series where we have the same actor playing the same character 30 years apart. He adds:
Speaking as an actor, when I’m considering whether or not I want to play a certain character, I’m always looking for a healthy balance of virtues and shortcomings. Otherwise, it doesn’t feel real. No one is a perfect hero or a perfect villain, we’re more complicated than that, every one of us. Flawless characters feel thin. And forgive me if I blaspheme, but the young Luke Skywalker always did feel just a little light to me, which is why it was so cool this time around to see him fill out into a more imperfect human being.
A flawed main character is one of the main distinctions between a story with substance and a gratuitous spectacle. It’s often through a character overcoming their flaws that a movie can really say something. Yes, when the movie begins, Luke has grown cynical. He’s lost faith in what it means to be a Jedi. He’s let fear of the Dark Side of the Force corner him into isolation and inaction. But he needs to start there, so that he can overcome this grave deficit.
It took him a bit longer to catch the film since he just recently had a kid, but his first thought after watching the film was to see what fans thought:
“Anyway, getting home from the cinema, I was curious to see what people were saying about the movie, and what I discovered surprised me While most critics and many fans loved it as much as I did, there was also a passionate contingent who decidedly didn’t. I was intrigued. A lot of my favorite movies polarize audiences. Many, many voices had much to say, and I only got through reading a tiny speck of it, but right away, I noticed a recurring theme in the various objections.”