Why Luke Skywalker is Actually a Terrible Hero
Before you get out the pitchforks and torches, hear me out.
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker saved the rebellion from the grips of the dreaded Emperor and his Imperial forces. Or so we are led to believe. Unfortunately, throughout the entire saga, Luke’s actions have been inflated to epic proportions leading all of us to believe he is a much greater hero than he really is. Below, I’ve picked out several reasons from Episodes IV-VI that illustrate that Luke is actually not the man we all believe him to be.
When we first meet Luke, he is a mere farmer on Tatooine, tending to the droids his uncle procures from the Jawas. After one of the droids suffers a malfunction from a bad motivator, whatever that is, he selects R2-D2 to join the already purchased C-3PO. What a great choice to make, considering all the good R2 will go on to accomplish. However, Luke only suggests R2 to his uncle at the recommendation of C-3PO, minimalizing his own contributions to the matter.
Even after death, Luke’s mentor has to look after him.Furthermore, in the Mos Eisley Cantina, he meets some devilish rogues who threaten his well-being. At this point, he’s basically shoved aside so Obi-Wan Kenobi can fight Luke’s battles for him, once again proving that Luke is only a mere recipient of everyone else’s good will.
Once on the Death Star, he manages to nearly drown in a waste container, destroy a bridge’s control panel, and even alert the Stormtroopers watching his master be defeated by Darth Vader to his and his allies’ presence via girlish scream.
Fast-forwarding to the end of the movie where (spoiler alert) Luke fires a torpedo into the exhaust port of the Death Star, thus destroying it, Luke is only able to focus on this task when Darth Vader is blasted off Luke’s tail by Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon. Han and Chewie return to aid his friend after taking his payment and fleeing, presumably because he assumed Luke would probably die without his help.
In the middle entry of the trilogy, we find Luke taking actions to become a Jedi like his father before him and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi and rescue his friends from Cloud City, only to pretty much fail at every turn.
Starting with the beginning of the movie, we find Luke and Han out patrolling on the frigid planet Hoth. After they both confer that pretty much nothing has happened, Luke states that he will stay out to check on something. Han heads back in, and Luke promptly gets his tauntaun murdered and himself captured by a Hoth monster. Later Han investigates Luke’s whereabouts while Luke awakens upside down in a cave. He manages to draw his saber toward him to escape, severing the monster’s arm, but all for naught. He is still going to do a horrible death out in the freezing cold on the ice planet. That is until Han shows up with his tauntaun to rescue his friend from certain death yet again.
At the end of the movie, Luke is left on a small rebel station, watching his friends jet off without him, I assume because they’re tired of having to look out for him all the time.After the Hoth battle, where Luke admittedly downs one Imperial Walker single-handedly (although the rebels are still forced to evacuate), he takes R2 and his X-Wing fighter to seek out Yoda on Dagobah for his Jedi training. When he arrives on Dagobah, he immediately crashes his fighter into a swamp, rendering it like 95% submerged. When he finally meets Yoda, Yoda basically refuses to train him, until the ghost of Obi-Wan steps in. Even after death, Luke’s mentor has to look after him. While training, Luke struggles to maintain focus, instead showing too much concern for his allies on the Falcon. He is chided by Yoda for this. He also directly disobeys Yoda during training, proving that not only is he a bad hero, he’s also a bad student. Luke senses something in the jungles of Dagobah and begins to strap on his weapon belt. Yoda tells him he will not need his weapons, but Luke takes them anyways because he doesn’t listen. Finally, in another act of insubordination, Luke packs up to rescue his friends whom he senses are in trouble on Cloud City, to the protest both Yoda and Obi-Wan. This is, of course, after Luke fails to raise his own X-Wing out of the swamp in which he dumped it, needing Yoda to do it for him.
Finally, in Empire, Luke rushes to Cloud City to rescue his friends. Once there, it becomes evident that this was all a trap meant to lure Luke to Darth Vader. After a battle that is crazily one-sided, Luke gets his hand lopped off and jumps down a seemingly endless pit. He winds up dangling from the bottom of the city, and needs the friends he was trying to save in the first place to save him instead. At the end of the movie, Luke is left on a small rebel station, watching his friends jet off without him, I assume because they’re tired of having to look out for him all the time.
When we first see our “hero” at the beginning of the last entry of the original trilogy, he is decked out in all black, quietly walking his way through the lonely entrance to Jabba the Hutt’s palace to seek audience with Jabba himself. This is a man who has grown since the last time we saw, gained more skill and quiet self-assurance. When he gains audience with Jabba and attempts to free Han Solo, he fails to be aware of his surroundings and plummets through a trap door into the Rancor pit. Once he kills the Rancor, he is taken prisoner, to be executed at the Sarlacc pit alongside Chewie and Han. He gives Jabba one last chance to free them, who laughs off the proposal, and enacts a seemingly brave rescue plan that frees his friends and ruins Jabba the Hutt. We are meant to believe that all this was Luke’s plan in the first place, but it doesn’t quite add up. His goal was to rescue allies. He could have easily done that without murdering everyone. This would imply that Luke intended to be dropped into the Rancor pit and taken prisoner. But watching the scene in which he battles the giant monster, the panic on Luke’s face is startlingly clear. His quick thinking is the only thing that aids in his defeat of the monster. If anything, Luke’s daring rescue is credited to his allies already on the scene, except for the blind Han Solo, who is just as baffled as I am.
Towards the end of the movie, while his friends are fighting in the Battle of Endor alongside the Ewoks, in order to take down the shield generator protecting the new Death Star that the Rebels are gearing up to take down, Luke has been quietly escorted to said Death Star to meet the Emperor. While Rebels and Ewoks are dying left and right, Luke is having a conversation. During this conversation, Luke’s anger gets the best of him and he strikes out at Darth Vader; the two engage in a lightsaber duel that ends with Luke anger-hacking at Darth’s saber until Darth’s hand falls off. Luke then throws his weapon aside and confronts the Emperor, who proceeds to electrocute the bejeezus out of him for an uncomfortably long time. And once again, just as Luke is about to die, someone comes to his aid. Darth Vader, who is confronted with a difficult choice, opts to dump the Emperor over the edge of a long, long drop, thus fighting Luke’s battle for him.
Over the entire trilogy, Luke has many ambitions. He wants to fight in the rebellion for the good of the galaxy. He desperately wants to become a Jedi Knight like his father Darth Vader and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately, he pretty much fails each of these ambitions, or at least vaguely succeeds at them through an over-dependence on those around him. These are the facts as I am able to discern them throughout the fantastic original trilogy, and through an objective lens, I am determined that Luke Skywalker is not all he is cracked up to be. I hope he can do something at least a little bit productive in the upcoming Episode VII – The Force Awakens.