Star Wars: Last Jedi Director Responds to Mark Hamill’s Biggest Criticism

By Savannah Sanders Updated:
Mark Hamill Last Jedi Star Wars

Thanks to The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the upcoming releases of Andor and The Bad Batch, 2022 has offered more Star Wars content than ever before. What is missing and has been since 2019 is Star Wars on the big screen. 

While the launch of Disney's sequel trilogy with The Force Awakens was a massive success, certain corners of the fan base got a bad feeling about this trilogy upon the release of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi in 2017.

Among those fans was Luke Skywalker's Mark Hamill, whose sequel trilogy role truly began in The Last Jedi

But despite critiques from fans and Hamill, Johnson has continued to stand by his time "at bat" and what Episode VIII had to say.

Rian Johnson Explains The Last Jedi's Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker
Star Wars

In an interview with Empire, Rian Johnson shared that he's "even more proud" of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the years following the film's release:

"I'm even more proud of it five years on. When I was up at bat, I really swung at the ball. I think it's impossible for any of us to approach Star Wars without thinking about it as a myth that we were raised with, and how that myth, that story, baked itself into us and affected us."

The director also acknowledged that The Last Jedi isn't just a Star Wars movie but rather a movie about the meaning of Star Wars:

"The ultimate intent was not to strip away - the intent was to get to the basic, fundamental power of myth. And ultimately I hope the film is an affirmation of the power of the myth of Star Wars in our lives."

While the director claims his intent was "not to strip away," certain members of the audience, as well as Mark Hamill, felt differently. 

In a prior interview with Den of Geek, Hamill expressed his shock and disappointment with not only Johnson killing off his character in The Last Jedi but also J.J. Abrams killing Han Solo in The Force Awakens:

"I just thought, 'Luke's never going to see his best friend again.' You look at it in a self-centered way. I said that it was a big mistake that those three people would never reunite in any way. I guess I was wrong, because nobody seems to care! I have to stipulate that I care, but it didn't really seem to affect the larger audience. Luke, Han, and Leia will never be together again, and I'll probably never get to work with Harrison again."

Hamill also confessed that he felt tricked or "hornswoggled" by how his return was pitched to him:

"Then the second thing was that they killed me off. I thought: oh, okay, you should push my death off to the last one. That's what I was hoping when I came back: no cameos and a run-of-the-trilogy contract. Did I get any of those things? Because as far as I'm concerned, the end of VII is really the beginning of VIII. I got one movie! They totally hornswoggled (tricked) me."

But even so, the actor was on board with the new trilogy's focus on its new cast, admitting that "it's all about the new generation, as it should be:" 

"Listen, I never expected to come back. We had a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's what I said: why mess with it? It's not something that worries me, because it's all about the new generation, as it should be."

While most of Hamill's interview comments were focused on screen time, that wasn't his real problem with the trilogy. 

Rather, it was the lack of regard for who Luke Skywalker was as a character, explaining, "They had me walking by 3PO, not even acknowledging him. I said: 'I can't do that!':"

"They had me walking by 3PO, not even acknowledging him. I said: 'I can't do that!' He (The Last Jedi's director, Rian Johnson) said, 'Okay, go over and do whatever.' So I went over, and I did whatever. They say it in the script: 'Forget the past, kill it if you have to,' and they're doing a pretty good job!"

However, Rian Johnson sees his handling of Luke Skywalker in a different light, noting that his Episode VIII death is actually "defying the notion of, 'Throw away the past':"

"The final images of the movie, to me, are not deconstructing the myth of Luke Skywalker, they're building it, and they're him embracing it. They're him absolutely defying the notion of, 'Throw away the past,' and embracing what actually matters about his myth and what's going to inspire the next generation. So for me, the process of stripping away is always in the interest of getting to something essential that really matters."

Did Rian Johnson Go Right or Wrong With Luke Skywalker?

While no one would say that The Last Jedi is a poorly made film, the two most common complaints are how it (literally) tossed aside what The Force Awakens set up and its approach to Luke Skywalker. 

In terms of the latter, Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill are both representations of how audiences received the film. Some see it as a masterful commentary on what Star Wars is and can be while others see the film as too self-aware and more message-driven than character-driven. 

It's especially fascinating to hear Johnson's own interpretation of the film, particularly in terms of how its message isn't about rejecting the past. 

This is because many of The Last Jedi's fans perceived this as the film's theme in 2017 and hailed it as the right direction for the franchise moving forward. 

Perhaps the issue isn't Johnson's message but rather the various ways it could be interpreted

After all, it's strange that Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker was key to the film's message, and Johnson never clued him in on what that message was or considered how he would act alongside 3PO. 

Also, while Johnson's focus on myth was also the basis of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke, Han, and Leia were the heart and illustrations of that myth. 

For some fans, it seemed that the sequel trilogy was more focused on what it wanted to say and what it randomly decided to do than fully developing its new cast of characters. And, all the while, actively killing off original characters who were developed and representations of that original message. 

In a way, Luke's death felt like Lucasfilm was cutting ties with the franchise's core without anything sure in return. 

Would Luke's death have been better received if one director had been at the helm of the entire trilogy? 

While audiences will never know, Johnson's perspective of The Last Jedi is something that they now do. And, hopefully, it will help fans continue to come to terms with Star Wars' last big screen trilogy as they await the next. 

- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.