Director Rian Johnson talks to Mark Hamill on set

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Mark Hamill stands by ‘Last Jedi’ as fans use his comments against him

His criticisms were taken out of context—and have now fueled a backlash.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published Dec 27, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 6:45 am CDT

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuted to critical acclaim and applause, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been fandom controversy and backlash that’s been amplified by its audience Rotten Tomatoes score and continues to this day. So much so, one of the film’s stars is distancing himself from his previous comments in order to extinguish the negativity.

Among the many criticisms people had with The Last Jedi was what it shows us about Luke. The film reveals a broken-down and cynical man who gives into fear when he senses darkness in Ben Solo, which leads to the destruction of his Jedi Temple, the deaths of several of his students, and the creation of Kylo Ren. When we find Luke on Ahch-To in The Last Jedi, he has closed himself off from the Force and has been in exile for years before making one triumphant last stand against his former apprentice.

Even Mark Hamill wasn’t initially a fan of the character’s direction, something he’s been very open about for months; Hamill told Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson after reading the script that he “fundamentally disagree[d] with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character.”

Now fans are pointing to more recent interviews as proof that Hamill doesn’t like The Last Jedi or what the film did to Luke, with some are using Hamill’s own initial doubts and quotes as evidence that The Last Jedi did Luke wrong. One comes from an interview with IMDb where Hamill remarks that “I’ve had trouble accepting what [Johnson] saw for Luke” while he told Spanish outlet SensaCine that “I almost had to think of Luke as another character.”

After nearly two weeks of growing criticism, Hamill is now apologizing for the upheaval that his previous comments have made. He quoted a tweet pointing out the missing context in one of his interviews and noted that the issues he took with Luke were usually the sort of thing kept under wraps. After seeing The Last Jedi, he says he’s thrilled with the movie that Johnson ultimately crafted. (For what it’s worth, he had similar disagreements with Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner.)

In the era of coveted RTs and hot-take reviews, there’s been great focus on what critics and fans think of a movie, particularly when they don’t align or a movie is critically panned. Filmmakers and actors are asked to atone for bad reviews, which results in viral moments like the interpretation of Ben Affleck’s face in this video-turned-meme. They can lead to movie studios using Rotten Tomatoes as a scapegoat for when a movie underperforms—and sometimes even thoughtful and nuanced conversations about the film the cast and crew did or didn’t make, depending on how it was received.

So regardless of its critical and financial success, the perception of the Last Jedi backlash—which is believed to be a small subset of fans amplified online—has led to Johnson and Hamill to address negative responses from fans, some who got a fundamentally different Star Wars movie than they expected.

But like Hamill noted, what’s often missing from fans’ looking back at his many interviews is context. For instance, the IMDb interview being referenced as proof that Hamill hates The Last Jedi doesn’t include what Hamill said afterward: “I’ve had trouble accepting what [Johnson] saw for Luke. But again, I mean, I have to say having seen the movie, I was wrong.”

It’s far from the only soundbite that is cut and pasted to prove Hamill disliked the writing of his character. Hamill first expressed doubt at Star Wars Celebration back in April after fans learned more about The Last Jedi and saw the film’s first trailer, but he also offered up the possibility that his reservations might be unwarranted.

“When I read VIII, I told Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character,” he told ABC News in April. “But might be a good sign because I was really wrong about VII.”

Hamill stated another version of that quote to Vanity Fair in May: “I, at one point, had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’”

A month later, Hamill walked back his comments, noting that he had gotten in trouble for them and that his fundamental disagreement with Johnson was one more of surprise.

“It was inartfully phrased,” Hamill said. “What I was was surprised at how he saw Luke, and it took me awhile to get around to his way of thinking. But once I was there, it was a thrilling experience.”

Even the SensaCine interview in which Hamill said that “I almost had to think of Luke as another character” showed Hamill coming around on Luke’s story.

“It’s not my story anymore,” Hamill said. “It’s somebody else’s story and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective. So I understood the requirements of the script, and once I was honest with him about how I felt, I was able to go and do what I was supposed to do, which is do my best to make that story as effective as possible and realize his vision.”

And while Hamill might see the Sequel Trilogy’s version of Luke as a different character than what George Lucas created—and said this version was “not my Luke,” sparking a hashtag among some detractors—he ultimately played the character the story called for.

“Listen, I still haven’t accepted it completely but it’s only a movie,” he added. “I hope people like it, I hope they don’t get upset, and I came to really believe that Rian was the exact man that they needed for this job.”

It’s completely understandable that Hamill had plenty of thoughts on what happened to Luke before The Force Awakens. He’s played the character on off-and-on for more than 40 years—of course, he’s going to be protective of it. In the past, he’s offered considered answers on whether Luke was gay or bisexual and had his own opinions on Luke’s tragic and non-canon backstory.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we too care about what Hamill thinks about The Last Jedi and how it handled Luke. But ultimately, you can love, like, or hate the film independent of Hamill’s viewpoint. It can inform your opinion, but it doesn’t have to be your opinion. For what it’s worth, Hamill believed that Johnson made a great film—and some fans have cited the very things that Hamill disagreed with and what others disliked among the film’s highlights.

Regardless, Hamill’s apology isn’t sitting well with everyone; some believe that Hamill is being pressured to backtrack his previous statements by Disney while at least one account is pushing a rumor that Hamill is being punished for his comments.

Sigh, it seems a Jedi’s work is never done.

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*First Published: Dec 27, 2017, 1:58 pm CST