Old Concept Art Show Luke's Arc Was Planned Long Before THE LAST JEDI
A small but vocal contingent of fans disliked the recent Star Wars film The Last Jedi. They had many reasons for this, which I generally don’t agree with (not generally, I think The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars film ever), but a major complaint was the film's treatment of their Hero, Luke Skywalker. This complaint I can sort of understand. I mean, I still don’t agree, but I get that if you grew up idolizing Luke Skywalker, it is disappointing to find out he grew up to be, well, a disappointment.
Most of the blame for this has been laid at the feet of Rian Johnson, the writer and director of The Last Jedi, who happens to be one of my five favorite directors currently working, so... (I was never going to be objective about this, but in fairness, neither are you). However, Johnson has recently been vindicated (Of NOTHING! in my very humble opinion) by a piece of concept art. A piece of really old concept art. I mean, kind of old. It's not like the Venus of Willendorf or the caves of Lascaux or anything.
A concept artist named Christian Alzmann shared an amazing piece of art Lucasfilm commissioned him to make in January 2013. That’s less than six months after Disney bought Lucasfilm. That is pre-J.J. Abrams, never mind Johnson. Johnson wasn't even a twinkle in Kathleen Kennedy's eye at that point. This is Alzmann's description of the piece and his brief:
"My first image I made for Star Wars : The Force Awakens. This was January of 2013. Luke was being described as a Col. Kurtz type hiding from the world in a cave. I couldn’t believe I was getting to make this image and I got a George “Fabulouso” on it to boot."
COLONEL KURTZ?! You guys should be bowing down to Johnson as the savior of Luke Skywalker if that is accurate. Colonel Kurtz had a wall made of human skulls, you guys. Chilling out on an island, milking weird aliens and eating porgs is pretty tame by comparison.
It’s interesting that he notes that he “got a George ‘Fabuoloso’ on it,” because unless I’m on glue, that means Luke’s arc was part of George Lucas’s plan for the character. After the prequels (and maybe after that Ewok movie I saw in a theater as a kid), I have not had a lot of faith in George Lucas to guide the Star Wars franchise, which is probably unfair. But I do think it would be interesting to know what he envisioned for the sequels he never made.
And listen, the fact is, Luke's absence from The Force Awakens can only be explained by his withdrawal from the Force, and Luke was only going to do that if shit went really bad. Like almost killing your nephew bad. What the original trilogy taught us about Luke is that he is selfless and brave and incredibly loyal to Han and Leia. In Empire Strikes Back he went tearing off across the galaxy to save them when he realized they were in danger, but Kylo Ren kills Han, and Luke does nothing? That's unthinkable, unless Luke doesn't know because he has shunned the Force. You can be mad about it, you can wish they had taken things in a different direction, but you can't blame it all on Johnson. The Fathier chase scene that went on a bit too long? That's all him, though. Be pissed as hell about that if you want.
Come at me in the comments (I am not going to read the comments), but try to keep the airing of the grievances off Alzmann’s Instagram. He made a cool piece of art, not all the creative decisions you hate.