“Where is Luke?” is the most debated question surrounding The Force Awakens, even more so now that the hero of the original trilogy is absent in the official poster and trailer. Some fans are worried that Luke’s absence in the promotional material means his presence in the film is minimal, and we will not see Luke display his full mastery of the Force that surely has grown in the 30 years between episodes. Other fans are excited about more Star Wars regardless of how Luke appears in the film. I’m hear to tell you that it does not matter.
While it’s hard not deny a fanboy part of me inside that wants to see Luke show off some lightsaber skills against opponents, I think those who believe this kind of action will make or break the film need to take look closer at why they feel this way. Luke is one of the big three and served as a great hero figure to millions across the world. Audiences witnessed Luke’s incredible growth and transformation from a naive farm boy to a conflicted Jedi knight. I understand why the powerful connection to fans exist with this character. I also recognize that we have many good reasons not to worry.
First, it’s important to understand why fans tend to like Luke in the first place. Outside of some whining, Luke is nearly a blank slate when we see him A New Hope. He’s stuck in a mundane life on a remote world and longs to be involved with something bigger. We recognize this when he perks up at C3PO’s mention of the Rebellion against the empire. All the galaxy changing events seem to be happening far away from Luke’s desert home. I think there are times in life where things don’t go our way, and it feels like everything big is happening somewhere else.
Early in A New Hope, Luke experiences the tremendous loss of the only family he’s ever known when he finds the charred remains of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. If audiences did not feel for the young farmer, they definitely did now, recalling their own moments of loss and conviction to right wrongs. Then, there is the call to adventure and ties to a long lost mystery from the past through a wise teacher. Much has be said about Star Wars’ ties to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, or hero’ journey, narrative concept. It’s through this frame that we take our first step with Luke into a larger world, and start a journey to conquer fear.
These fundamental story concepts that provided the foundation for the Star Wars saga are the reason why fans feel so passionately about Luke. I argue that it’s more important for The Force Awakens to tap into the elements that formed the bond with Luke in the first place, rather focus on the character we know. In a sense, Luke’s arc was completed at the end of Return of the Jedi, and now we need to see the new generation of heroes in the same light. Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo will have transformations of their own, moments of triumph and despair, and may perhaps change the galaxy forever. Rather than worry how many minutes Luke has on screen, we need to remember that he is just part of the grand saga in which we all participate.