It’s probably my favorite line in Star Wars. This moment, when Luke refuses to listen to the Emperor. It’s here that Luke shows that he truly does believe there’s still good in his father. He’s been saying it the whole movie. Now, in a moment where it could cost him everything, he proves that he believes in what’s left of Anakin Skywalker.
Return of the Jedi was my favorite of the movies for a long time. As such, I always liked Luke. He’s grown considerably by this point. He’s still hesitant, and he never really grows past his fear of the Dark Side, but I think that comes from his inexperience and the lack of anyone to help him learn where to draw the line between the light and the dark.
The scenes at the end of Return of the Jedi on the Death Star are among my favorite scenes out of all the movies. I love the idea of legacy and recurring themes in a story, and when Luke refuses to kill Vader, and then when Vader saves his son from the Emperor, the story comes full circle.
Luke believes in his father. He tells Leia that he’s sensed the good in him, even after Cloud City. He tells Yoda that he can’t kill his own father. (And frankly I’m surprised that Yoda and Obi-Wan would even suggest that course to him…sounds like they would consider it the path to the Dark Side…) At this point, Luke has nothing to back him up except his own intuition and what he senses through the Force.
When faced with the Emperor on the Death Star, Luke gives in to his hate for a moment. But even in the fight with Vader, he still believes in him–up until Leia’s safety is threatened. But in the end, he stops. It’s this moment that sets him apart from his father. Anakin Skywalker was insecure and fearful. He held himself responsible for every bad thing that happened to those he loved.
Luke makes the choice to stand on what he believes in, even when that choice will likely cost him his life, even potentially putting his friends in danger. This is the point where Luke decides what kind of Jedi he’s going to be.
“I’m a Jedi, like my father before me.”
He still believes in the good in his father. He calls Vader a Jedi. He’s determined not to let the Emperor’s influence change him. Luke stands strong and proves that he’s not victim to the same faults as Anakin.
When faced with a similar situation with Count Dooku, Anakin didn’t hesitate to kill his enemy. Granted, Dooku wasn’t his father, but at this point in the story, Luke had no reason to save a father he’d never known, when his friends were in danger on the moon below. He will not do what the Emperor wants, because he knows that the moment he kills Vader, the Emperor wins.
This is where the legacy that I mentioned comes in. In storytelling, I love it when there’s an opportunity to tie the story back to an event that happened years before. Especially when it’s related to family. The moment Anakin killed Dooku, he let the Emperor control him, which led to his final fall. Despite Luke’s inexperience and lack of training, he doesn’t make the same mistake.
This is what I really love about Star Wars. I love the ties of family and friendship. The loyalty that they have for each other, while still having a vast galaxy where the characters are often separated and working through their own challenges. Through all the years and all the changes Star Wars has been through, that’s the one thing that will stick with me.