Joseph Gordon-Levitt has never been shy about his Star Wars fandom — look no further than the full-on face paint Yoda getup he wore to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere. And now, in the wake of the fired-up fan response to Rian Johnson‘s The Last Jedi, the actor has penned a lengthy essay defending and celebrating the film, in particular, how it handles Luke Skywalker.
Gordon-Levitt is quick to acknowledge he’s got a bias on the matter — he’s close friends with Johnson, starred in Brick and Looper, and even has a cameo in The Last Jedi. However the actor insists Johnson didn’t know he was writing the piece, and ultimately he makes some thoughtful points about Luke’s arc in The Last Jedi and how we consume media in general.
The subject of how The Last Jedi handles the OT Jedi hero has become the most heated of all in a still-raging debate that ranges from, weirdly enough, green milk to the existence of women altogether. A lot of fans feel that Luke’s turn away from his heroic roots is a betray of the character they know and love, but as Gordon-Levitt explains in his Medium piece, he sees the Luke’s evolution as not only a natural progression of the character, but a unique opportunity to explore the universal experience of aging and all “the joys, the terrors, the puzzles, the pitfalls, the surprises, and the inevitabilities that come along with doing so.”
“Leaving Luke unchanged would have been a huge missed opportunity. Think about how rare this is. A trilogy of movies is made with a young protagonist played by an actor in his 20s. Then, no fewer than 40 YEARS LATER (A New Hope came out in 1977) this actor gets to play the same character as an older man. I don’t know how many times that has ever happened in the history of movies. Has it ever happened?”
But it’s not just that Luke’s story provides a lens through which to explore the hard human truths of getting older — “No one is a perfect hero or a perfect villain,” Gordon-Levitt continues, “we’re more complicated than that, every one of us” — it’s also a matter of risk. For the actor, the fact that a studio as massive as Disney was willing to make bold moves with one of the franchise’s most iconic characters demonstrates the integrity of his development.
“That a big Hollywood studio would take such risks on such a big property — again, to present their central hero in a drastically different light than ever before, to unflinchingly deliver the ominous message that even the most pure-hearted idealists can struggle through darkness and doubt — these are not the kinds of decisions that get made when short-term profitability is prioritized above all else. These are risks taken in the interest of building a world that is not only good for selling popcorn and action figures this year, but that thrives in the long-run on a bed of literary substance and artistic dignity. As a fan, I take it as a sign of respect that the movie was not only a good time, but a provocative challenge. A lot of studios and filmmakers don’t think so highly of their audiences.”