But he really shouldn’t have to apologize.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi both unsurprisingly and shockingly became one of the most polarizing movies of 2017. Things have evidently gotten so bad that Mark Hamill has taken to Twitter to express regret over publicly revealing any less-than-stellar reactions he once had to Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson‘s characterization of Luke Skywalker.
I regret voicing my doubts & insecurities in public.Creative differences are a common element of any project but usually remain private. All I wanted was to make good movie. I got more than that- @rianjohnson made an all-time GREAT one! #HumbledHamill https://t.co/8ujJfBuEdV
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) December 26, 2017
In the years since audiences got a taste of The Force Awakens, headcanons and passionate “discourse” fueled the landscape of the Star Wars fandom until it hit a fever-pitch as The Last Jedi drew closer. Many accused Johnson of an indulgence in fascist imagery and worried over the potential sidelining of one of The Force Awakens‘ lead characters, Finn (John Boyega). There were also huge concerns over the relationship between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), which will undoubtedly remain a hugely contentious dynamic until Episode IX sees the light of day.
In some capacity, all that apprehension has been expressed through understandable critical lenses. The whole concept of fandom discussion obviously isn’t a bad thing — it fuels the life cycle of anything as huge as Star Wars. However, there have also been people who came away feeling legitimately jilted by their experience of watching The Last Jedi, and ones who are very vitriolic about it online. Some of that blatant negativity definitely gets through to the cast and crew, hence Hamill’s tweet in the first place.
Hamill has so far been candid and positive about his overall working relationship with Johnson. Nevertheless, he did have certain reservations about Luke’s characterization going into The Last Jedi, as it differs pretty starkly from the person Luke was in the original trilogy. “I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s Jake Skywalker – he’s not my Luke Skywalker,” Hamill said in an interview promoting The Last Jedi. Sequel trilogy!Luke had to be someone completely different to Hamill, with him admitting that it was a journey towards discovering how the character could end up in such a dark place.
“I had to do what Rian wanted me to do because it serves the story well … I still haven’t accepted it completely.”
Honestly, Hamill’s mixed feelings generally just depict a sense of honesty that not many actors afford the press in the lead-up to a movie. Consumers mostly expect the promotional material of any film to be overwhelmingly positive. The giant Disney machine makes that even more apparent; Star Wars movies are not cheap to make and you have to push it to make as much money as possible. Yet notably, Hamill never trashed The Last Jedi despite his disagreements with Johnson’s approach to Luke as a character. Clearly stating that he believes that Luke’s arc “serves the story well” highlights his appreciation for Luke’s journey in the film. He has openly praised the film’s overall quality and hasn’t boycotted the press tour either. Instead, Hamill earnestly participates with the rest of the cast and remains more than cordial to Johnson, even going so far as to post a photo collage of appreciation with many kind regards earlier in the month.
The bottom line is that whether people loved or hated or liked or disliked The Last Jedi, Hamill shouldn’t have to constantly defend Johnson and the film this ardently, given all that we know about his sentiment towards the film and production as a whole. All Hamill has ever said was that he didn’t connect with Johnson’s vision at first, but grew to accept what Luke’s role in The Last Jedi ultimately became. Having to watch others cherry pick through your own words has to come across as a misrepresentation of sorts.
Fans’ search for validation from someone like Hamill is thoroughly understandable, regardless of fandom affiliation. Hamill’s belief in the Jedi as an institution remains as pure as the original trilogy Luke’s, and in a world as depressing as ours in 2017, that kind of spark has been tough to find. Johnson’s choice of narrative in The Last Jedi isn’t simplistic by any means, but it’s as close to a full 180-degree turn away from the hope and light that Star Wars has ever gotten, least of all because this might mark the end of the Skywalker bloodline.
That is, until the very end. Last year’s very bittersweet Rogue One came close to indulging too heavily the darkness by killing all its protagonists, but the film came away with an expression of hope. The Last Jedi does play on that, even if it means suffering throughout the middle of it for many fans.
The two and a half hour long journey towards the ending of The Last Jedi just did not fulfill the expectations of many. That’s okay, but it isn’t on Hamill. His expression of regret genuinely saddens me when he has always made his views on the subject clear.
Star Wars is a massive institution, and everyone will have their own readings of the franchise no matter what. Ideally, this more apparent split in fandom opinion in the wake of The Last Jedi should fuel fruitful, respectful discussion, but somehow, that hasn’t happened in the slightest.
Thankfully, Hamill remains a hugely vocal and positive social media user regardless, and we’re all the better for it. But his statement is a sobering reminder that the continuous incessant pestering and juvenile badgering of the cast and crew over one potentially disagreeable portrayal reaps no benefits. It’s frustrating that there even needs to be such a reminder.