When I was a kid, my hero was Luke Skywalker.
I realise that’s not the most fashionable thing to say. For most people it’s Han Solo, the dashing rogue that gets the princess, but, as a child in the ’80s, that never resonated with me. For me, Luke embodied the hero that I dreamed of being.
He was everyone that’s ever longed to find their place in the universe, who was sure they were meant for something greater. He finds out that he’s not just like everyone else, he’s special. He matters and can change everything.
To me that, and a lot of others, that was what I longed for too. To be taken out of the mundanity of life and find that I mattered too. I could live vicariously as Luke discovered the potential that was always in him.
As the films progress, Luke faces the darkness in himself, and the revelation that he’s been lied to, just like all children. In the end, the good prevails. Luke breaks from his past and the expectations on him, and becomes his own man, symbolically burning his own father, which allows him to move on. He really was the hope for the future.
That’s where we left him. In my head, he went on to have hundreds of adventures, making his mark on the universe. He was a giant metaphor for everything I hoped that I’d be able to be when I grew up, free and able to carve out his own destiny. The future was whatever I wanted it to be.
But now we have an ending. The Last Jedi shows where Luke went, and what happened next. He withdrew from life, never quite living up to his potential. He faced setbacks, and wasn’t able to overcome them. It’s not unfair to say that wasn’t popular with everyone.
For me, it showed the disillusionment with life and the idea of lost dreams that so many people feel. When we left Luke at the end if Return of the Jedi, he had the universe at his feet. He could be anything, do anything. Sadly, life doesn’t always work like that.
It’s tempting to see Luke’s retreat as a downbeat commentary on adulthood, on the failure and despair at the sense of wasted potential tghat so many feel, but to me the real story is in his redemption. He slowly realises that he still matters, that all of his potential is still there.
Luke’s story shows us that it’s never too late. No matter how much we may feel we’ve failed, or not achieved everything we wanted, it’s never too late to make that one final stand and show the universe what you’re capable of.
As Luke stands in front of the twin suns one last time, he comes full circle, back to when we first met him all those years ago on Tatooine. He’s become a man that the boy who longed for adventure would be proud of. As he leaves the stage, it’s with the knowledge that, in the end, he mattered.
And with that, Luke Skywalker is still my hero.