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Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005) and Looper (2012), and briefly appeared in The Brothers Bloom (2008). Thus it’s no enormous surprise to hear that he’s a fan of the filmmaker’s foray to a galaxy far, far away: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a blockbuster in which Gordon-Levitt has a voice cameo during the Canto Bight sequence. What is somewhat unexpected, however, is that, after seeing the film, the actor took to Medium to write a lengthy essay on the mixed fan response to the latest series installment — and, in particular, to the heated reactions to its older, less feel-good version of Luke Skywalker.
In “A New Old Skywalker,” Gordon-Levitt begins by confessing to his working-relationship bias toward Johnson, and admitting that he’s more than happy to have others disagree with his take on the film. As he says, “If you feel differently than I do, I’m 100% cool with that. I think it’s often in these very differences of perspective that movies can be at their most enlightening, helping us learn something about each other and ourselves.” With that out of the way, he then gets to his defense of Johnson’s treatment of Mark Hamill’s hero, whose optimistic do-gooder attitude has, in The Last Jedi, turned to isolationist cynicism born from his failure to stop nephew Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver) from turning to the Dark Side — and from his own thwarted attempt on the kid’s life.
Gordon-Levitt realizes that this dark depiction of the character was bound to be upsetting, but he thinks that it’s here the film achieves one of its triumphs: “I’ll admit, it’s almost hard to see. But in that glaring contrast between the Luke of old and the new Old Luke, The Last Jedi offers a uniquely fascinating portrayal of a man’s life marching inescapably forward. Time changes us. Go talk to anybody in their sixties and ask if they feel very different than they did in their twenties. The look on their face will almost surely speak volumes.”
Moreover, he thinks that Luke’s flaws are what now make him so fascinating:
“A flawed main character is one of the main distinctions between a story with substance and a gratuitous spectacle. It’s often through a character overcoming their flaws that a movie can really say something. … 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. … As a fan, I take it as a sign of respect that the movie was not only a good time, but a provocative challenge.”
Whether one agrees with Gordon-Levitt’s stance or not, it’s refreshing to see an actor write eloquently about a big-budget feature like The Last Jedi. And at 2,000-plus words, his essay provides enough fodder for at least one more round of the ongoing pro-con Luke debates that have been raging online for the past month.
Watch our Luke Skywalker “In Memoriam” tribute:
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