It’s strange how much I wanted to love the movie, while at the same time recoiling at all the problems you pointed out. I felt like a little kid at a carnival who wanted a cotton candy so desperately. At the beginning, everything seems great — it’s huge, sweet and feels like it will last forever. By the end you realize the whole thing was nothing more than sugar and air.
Of course, a famous actor with 68,000 followers wrote about how great it was and the risks the studio took with allowing Luke to become an old grumpy hermit, while getting 26,000 claps.
He made the valid point that Luke had to change. However I wouldn’t call the idea that becoming old, bitter, and cynical is a brilliant risk. For every Dylan Thomas who rages against the dying of the light, there are probably hundreds of people who succumb to age and depression long before infirmity stops the body from functioning.
In a way, it shouldn’t be surprising that the thoughts of the actor who has aged the last 40 years with Luke Skywalker were completely ignored by a 40-something director who has so far managed to avoid two of the three events (marriage and children) that most transform the human experience.
I think the fans who were old enough to see the original Star Wars trilogy when it came out in theaters generally reacted negatively to the changes in Luke’s character because they are now facing the same struggle against age and mortality. And if a true hero like Skywalker succumbs to fear, failure and bitterness, what chance do any of us have?
Personally, in the last couple of years I have experienced ageism for the first time, losing a loyal, long time customer simply because his younger partners “wanted to work with a young designer.” It had nothing to do with my skill, cost or reliability. They simply assumed that a younger designer would have a fresher take on a product whose target market is (you guessed it) people who are 40–55.
Finally, if we view Luke’s story arc from the perspective of Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development, we see that Rian Johnson truly gave us cotton candy instead of another installment of the Star Wars mythology (based on Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking work).