Film Studies Paper – Star Wars
What is the point of a teacher, aside from the obvious work of teaching? Is he merely there to talk about things in a hypothetical manner? Is he there to pass on things that he has learned even if they mean nothing to him? Is he there to take credit and blame for all of his student’s achievements and failures?
These questions have always buzzed around the heads of teachers and students since the dawn of time but one thing that is known about this profession is that there is nothing more rewarding in such a stressful job than to see your students surpass you in every way; that not only did they take your lessons to heart, they have also applied it, add to it, evolve it and change their lives with it.
In this sense we take a look at one of the most famous student-mentor relationships there is in film history. This relationship has seen development not only in the movie where it started but also in many other media’s such as books, videogames, and comics of the mythos of the franchise: Grand Master of the Jedi Order, Luke Skywalker and his mentor, former Grand Master of the Jedi Order, Yoda.
While the Star Wars franchise boost many other great student-mentor relationships, and Luke did have a teacher before Yoda (even naming his son after said mentor Ben) the relationship is well known because of how their lives played out, the physical appearance of both parties and more importantly, how they met. To better understand this we must first look at their biographies even at a glance.
Let us first take a look at the student: Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker began his story as a farm boy from the desert planet of Tatooine, a planet of no consequence even within the history of the series. While strong in the Force (a mythical field of energy created by all life) to begin with, he had in no way, the makings a history maker, let alone a great teacher himself. When the world first meets him in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, he was brash, headstrong, impulsive and more than willing to let his emotions get the better of him .
Regardless Luke would still learn this lesson painfully when, not only did he gets his hand cut off, but when he learns a truth that he was not ready to hear (and subsequently one of the biggest reveal in film history) the main antagonist, Darth Vader, is his father.
In the end though, Luke would help redeem his father from the Dark Side of the Force, defeat the Emperor with him, go off and help save the fledging government the Rebellion sets up on numerous occasions, have adventures that changes the fate of the galaxy, and go on to teach students of his own who would also influence the galactic history of the mythos and lead with him on the Jedi Council. Almost forty years have passed since the world first met Luke Skywalker and his story is still evolving to this day through various books, comics and videogames of the franchise .
Yoda in turn was from an unknown race of aliens from an also unknown home world who was rescued when he crash landed on an unknown planet with a friend . Over the next 900 years of his life he will do extraordinary things such as having a hand in the training of the entire order, being the master a few prominent apprentices, becoming a master of the Force and every known Lightsaber form and rising to the rank of Grand Master of the Jedi Order .
Luke could not believe that this green creature who barely stood four feet was the Jedi of legend and Yoda in turn was hesitant about training a new student who was also strong in the Force and hard headed like his father (the man responsible for the fall of the Jedi). In the end however, Yoda did train Luke in the meager time they had in every aspect of being a Jedi. Luke once again failed a self-discovery test when he entered a cave tainted with the Dark Side of the Force and, against the orders of Yoda, brought his weapons with him. The most crucial hour came, however, when the spaceship of Luke was finally sucked in by the swamp of the planet and he couldn’t get it out.
Yoda: That is why you failed.
After this Luke engaged in his training more enthusiastically, no longer did he question Yoda’s commands nor did he second guess his master. Fate however intervened when during one of their training exercises, Luke was doing so well in his exercise that he received a vision about his friends being tortured and dying. Once again, Luke’s hot headedness gets the best of him and he leaves Yoda’s tutelage for a three more years. In this time he finds out about his father, his hand gets cut off and he helps the rebellion in many more ways including facing a crime lord who was hunting him . By the time they meet again in the sixth film of the series, Yoda is now wizened and old to the point that he is now on the brink of death .
Their last meeting doesn’t last a day, let alone what seemed like an hour. In the end Yoda confronts Luke about his lineage, what was left to do in his Jedi training and left him a final lesson which will take the resurrection of the Emperor for Luke to understand, never underestimate the Dark Side of the Force. As Yoda was about to reveal the other Skywalker that remained alive, his time finally came and after 900 years of exploits, the legendary Jedi master finally died. While he no longer had anymore speaking lines in the film proper after this, he, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, still reappear in the last scene of the film as Force-ghost to show Luke that despite their physical deaths, they were still with him .
Yoda’s relationship with Luke is studied more deeply in other mediums of the franchise, an accepted part of the history of the lore that has come to be known as the “Expanded Universe”. Here we learn that even before Luke was born, Yoda prophesied to a group known as the Dathomiri Witches that a student of his will defeat them someday, a prophesy fulfilled by Luke despite the fact that he had no knowledge about it. Another illustrated their training in detail, such as the Fate of the Jedi series of books .
The things that Luke learns from the Jedi master are also highlighted in the way he rebuilt the Jedi Order. While Luke did holocrons (repositories of knowledge in the Star Wars mythos) that also guided him in the more traditional way of the Jedi Order, his first few students learned directly at his feet, from his experiences and from what he also learned from his masters. In this manner he kept all the lessons of both his master Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi and especially Yoda .
But what truly made this relationship remarkable is the fact that Luke will go on to help establish a new government, face multiple threats from different directions and survive, redeem fellow Force-users, defeat the leader of an extraterrestrial threat to the galaxy and most especially rebuilt a destroyed order and bring it back to the apex of their glory in but a few decades. While he could have accomplished none of these had he not been trained by Yoda and Obi-Wan, this is not enough to diminish the fact that in the following decades after his formal training, Luke had gone on to surpass both his masters in every way .
This may have not been the goal of Luke to begin with, but it was nevertheless a goal he achieved successfully to the point that he had every right to proclaim himself as Grand Master of the Order when the time came . This in itself is a great accomplishment of a character that started out as a nobody whose only dream was to ensure that he wouldn’t live a life of fear from an empire that would (and did in fact) make his life miserable simply because he saw their reign as miserable .
In many ways however, Luke still had to struggle to get to the point in the story when the galaxy was finally awed by his mere presence. He stumbled along the way, even helped the Emperor for a while when he resurrected himself through his clones, he could not save his order from being hunted down during the Yuuzhan Vong war and he even allowed himself to be exiled when his nephew, Jacen Solo, fell to the Dark Side of the Force and he decided to go off with his son, Ben, to look for answers as to why Jacen fell in the first place .
Yoda in turn, also did not become the Grand Master without his own failures. In the nine hundred years that he lived he had a hand in the success of many Jedi, subsequently, because he had a hand in training the entire Jedi order at the time, he also had a hand in the downfall of many students who left the order. There even came a time when two of these said students tried to murder him and steal a sum of precious material that the Jedi were protecting at the time . The plot was foiled, thankfully, by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi who was at the time merely an apprentice of his master Qui Gon Jinn.
But his greatest “failure” no doubt came in the form of an apprentice that he himself would train to achieve the rank of knighthood known as Count Dooku. Dooku was a proud boy who came from a rich family (hence the title of Count). While this boy would also become a powerful Jedi Knight in the future and go on to train his own apprentice, Qui Gon Jinn (who in turn would train Obi-Wan Kenobi who would also in turn train both father and son, Anakin and Luke Skywalker), Dooku soon became disgruntled by the politics that mired the Jedi Order at the time and left, becoming one of the only twenty Jedi Masters to leave the Order voluntarily since the Ruusan Reformations Act .
In his absence, Dooku would become the apprentice of a man named Darth Sidious, who was known to the galaxy as Senator Palpatine of Naboo. It was this man who, like his predecessors, held the vision of a galaxy controlled by the Sith and with Dooku’s help, he would achieve it. Dooku would go on and help build a Confederacy of Separatist that would instigate a war that would destroy the Republic and set into motion the events of the film series .
It can be argued that this was not Yoda’s fault, just as much as the achievements of Luke are not Yoda’s achievements, but there was a moment in the film that Yoda had the chance to end Dooku’s life but did not take it to save the lives of Anakin and Obi-Wan. In a series of causalities, Yoda’s actions that day lead to the deaths of thousands of others because of his hesitation, a memory that would haunt Yoda for years to come .
It is interesting to note this in Yoda’s life as this will affect his method of teaching to Luke in the weeks that they were together. As Yoda himself puts it, the training of a Jedi takes years, but what took years, Luke had to do in days and as such most of his lessons were about being careful about his actions and the possible ramifications it will have upon the lives of others .
It is also interesting to note that both of Luke’s and Yoda’s most notable moments in life were mostly because of causality. While they are fictional characters, in the forty years that their characters had time to evolve, they started having lives of their own that would inspire others who were introduced to it. Their lives were mostly a series of events that had many “what if” moments that didn’t happen. This moments were looked at in many ways in the expanded universe of the franchise, mostly in books whenever the character had an internal monologue whenever they reviewed their lives (coincidentally, meditation and self-exploration are fundamental to a Jedi’s life) .
It is also worthy of note that it is easy to see how much Luke had progressed in his life as most of it is well documented, while the nine hundred years of Yoda’s life is still being formed. Nevertheless, it can still be argued that Luke had a much harder time than Yoda, and that he is more deserving of receiving the recognition of coming further than his master because of the mere fact that he is human. As stated above, Yoda dies at the age of nine hundred years old. Within all that, he had more than enough time to do extraordinary things. Luke in turn is only human and will be luck to live to the age of one hundred, especially with the dangers he has to constantly face as a guardian of peace and justice.
While the relationship of this duo is only scratched in the film (most likely due to time constraints and to better illustrate just how unready and brashly Luke was to face Darth Vader) it is nevertheless expounded upon by many novels, radio dramas, games and so forth of the franchise. Also, despite the shortness of the student-mentor relationship that the two had, it was still one of the most memorable in film history as it was this relationship that set that when it came to power and the ability to teach “size matters not” and that we should never judge someone because of it; as Yoda himself adequately puts it before helping Luke reaffirm his faith in himself “judge me by my size do you?” .
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