COPING WITH THEIR LEGENDS
To their chagrin, both Luke Skywalker and Logan had to deal with the specter of their past exploits and how their legends obfuscate the disappointing realities of both men. Luke's heyday was over 30 years in the past, as the optimistic young Jedi who destroyed a Death Star and then redeemed his father Darth Vader while helping to bring down the Empire. While we know little else of Luke's life between Return of the Jedi and when Rey meets him on Ahch-To, the sad, old Jedi Master Luke had grown into was dismissive of his own legend and rejected Rey calling upon him to live up to her and the galaxy's idea of who Luke Skywalker is.
Logan's extraordinarily long life was spent fighting in numerous wars, enduring as both a victim and a killer, but ultimately, his greatest claim to fame is as one of the X-Men, a world-saving hero. His past came back to haunt him in the four-color pages of X-Men comics, which are sanitized and mostly fictional accounts of what really happened that he openly expressed disgust at. Logan was uncomfortable with any kind of hero worship, including the regard shown to him by the villainous Donald Pierce, who idolized Logan in his own way. Logan was much more comfortable with diminished expectations of him, like the kind Xavier and Caliban showed him.
In both cases, the younger generation, especially Laura and Rey, believed in the legends. When called upon to live up to their own idealized heroic versions of themselves, Luke and Logan both rose to the occasion in their own ways. Logan was a personal inspiration to a small handful of mutants who must now survive in a world that hate, fears, and hunts them. The legend of Luke Skywalker, however, has incalculable power in the galaxy, and Luke's final stand on Crait gave a new hope to the Rebellion. Luke gifted the Rebels the spark they needed to light the fire that will burn the First Order down. No matter the failings of the flesh and blood man, Skywalker's legend endures across the galaxy and continues to inspire the young to fight against tyranny.
THE FINAL SACRIFICES
As we've established, these two arcs share a lot of similarities and each does some elements better. But what really defines both stories is the ending - the death. Luke Skywalker's final sacrifice on Crait was a powerful moment, but was it as resonant as Logan's? No.
While Luke ultimately chose to own up to his past mistakes and face Kylo Ren, he did it through the Force instead of in the flesh. More importantly, though, Luke didn't face Kylo for a noble goal of saving his nephew from the Dark Side as he once redeemed his father. Luke never believed he could bring Ben Solo back to the light, nor did he try. Luke's last stand was merely to buy the Rebels time to escape capture on Crait. Luke tricking Kylo by making it seem like he survived a barrage of AT-M6 cannon fire and being struck down by Kylo's own lightsaber was an entertaining feint, but it loses impact by being an illusion, despite the effort of projecting himself across the galaxy via the Force literally killing Luke. His sacrifice, while still a noble and powerful gesture, loses luster as Luke didn't physically appear to right his wrong.
By contrast, Logan gave up all he had, body, heart and soul, to save Laura. Logan withstood inhuman amounts of pain and abuse on the road to finally seeing Laura and her young mutant friends through to Canada. Along the way, Logan lost Charles Xavier, and faced a more powerful and deadly clone of himself in X-24. Despite his healing factor unable to withstand the punishment Logan was accumulating, he nevertheless pushed himself beyond his physical limits one last time to kill his evil mirror and save Laura and her friends from the Transigen soldiers. Logan's reward was the love of his daughter; the final noble act of the Wolverine saved her life.
While no one shed tears for Luke on screen despite both Leia and Rey sensing through the Force that Luke was gone, Logan's death and all that it meant was an emotionally devastating denouement that brought tears to both the characters on screen and to the audience watching in theaters. Mark Hamill got to portray Luke's death - fittingly watching twin suns - after 40 years of playing the last Jedi, but Luke also has the luxury of being able to reappear as a Force Ghost in Star Wars: Episode IX. Logan was the definitive end of Hugh Jackman's 17 year run as the Wolverine and it is a high water mark for the superhero movie genre.
Ultimately, Luke's conclusion in The Last Jedi has proven to be divisive among fans, while Logan's acclaimed sendoff for the Wolverine has already become legendary. Though the two heroes walked remarkably similar paths in their final stories, both The Last Jedi and Logan are worthy final chapters in their own right. But in the end, Logan's last stand simply X's out Luke Skywalker's in impact, grandeur, and emotional resonance.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019