I was three years old when I saw the Empire Strikes Back for the first time.
Luke Skywalker was the immediate draw. He'd ascended from farm boy pilot to commander in the Rebel Alliance, and his abilities with the Force were growing. He was still very much a boy, though; headstrong, reckless, and impulsive. These tendencies reared their ugly heads on Dagobah and were realized when he took that fateful trip to Cloud City.
I'll never forget that first battle with Darth Vader, where the Sith Lord summed up his son's status with that iconic line.
|"The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet."|
Luke Skywalker wanted not just revenge for the death of Ben Kenobi and his father (poor kid), but he wanted to prove himself a full-fledged Jedi, capable of standing against the deadliest single force in the universe.
It didn't take long for him to see how in over his head he was. His initial overconfidence proved to be his undoing as Vader battered him senseless before sending him running for his life. I imagine Luke was angry but terrified, facing an angry Vader on that precipice and trying to find any safe location to avoid the Dark Lord.
Then, with that terrible revelation, his entire world was shattered. From that moment on, he was a different person. The Luke Skywalker who began the story was not the one we saw at the end.
The Luke Skywalker we saw in Return of the Jedi was such a different character that when I was younger, I thought he was played by two different people. Gone was the wayward, headstrong boy. Luke Skywalker was a man now, and on the verge or being a Jedi Knight. His command of the Force was downright formidable and the lightsaber he wielded was his own, not his father's.
I always loved that scene when he, Han, and Chewie were en route to Endor and Luke actually felt his father's presence, and realized that Vader had allowed them to pass. In his heart, he knew he would that business with his father would be soon concluded.
The transformation of Luke Skywalker reached its zenith during that final confrontation on the Death Star. There was absolutely no fear in Luke as he crossed sabers with his father. He was offensive, fierce, aggressive, and confident. One of my favorite points in the boat is at the beginning, when Luke steps forward with an overhead slash aimed directly at his father's head. It's a lure, guiding his opponent to a disadvantageous location where Luke could deliver a strike. It was a technique he lacked the confidence--or ability--to execute on Bespin.
He was never afraid during that last fight. He was so powerful at that point that even as he battled the Emperor's psychological warfare, he tried to redeem his father. He wasn't running for his life this time; he didn't want to fight his father anymore. (I always loved that line; "I can't do it, Ben. I can't kill my own father").
At end, Vader had no chance and he knew it. Not only was Luke no longer afraid of him, for just a few, fleeting moments, Luke was actually ready to kill him.
The very end of the scene is one of my favorite scenes in any film, where Luke takes that deep breath, deactivates his lightsaber and then throws it away. "Never. I'll never turn to the dark side. You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi; like my father before me."
|"I'll never turn to the dark side."|
At that moment he has come full circle, his arc is complete, and even by the Emperor's quiet, enraged admission; Luke Skywalker is a Jedi Knight.
The Star Wars films for me are about courage and rising up, how a boy from nowhere can become powerful enough to take down the big bad guy. It's about anything being possible and good guys are never alone, and bad guys are almost never completely beyond redemption.
Star Wars, for all of its pitfalls and triumphs, is where I learned some of my life lessons.
I would love to know what it means to you.
May The Force Be With You.
Thank you for reading.