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Flawed Faith: Disney, Post-Modernism and The Meaning of Star Wars

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 

Is there a franchise of movies more deeply beloved and mercilessly scrutinized than Star Wars

It has been seven years since Disney purchased Lucasfilm and Star Wars, and during that time, we’ve watched the fandom’s relationship to the property evolve. We spent over a decade, from 1997 to 2012, lamenting the Star Wars Prequels as the greatest tragedies in the history of cinema, only to watch some of those same fans develop a schizophrenic attachment to them. We’ve watched people complain that – the most heavily commercialized franchise in the history of film – is suddenly becoming overly merchandized. Everything old is new again. 

I have an unpopular opinion in some circles, in that I’ve enjoyed most of Disney’s decisions in producing their new films, with the caveat that there are flaws in the process. They haven’t done a great job with worldbuilding and explaining the political landscape of their new films. Their vision of the franchise is overly myopic and obsessive with the aesthetics of the original films, which doesn’t give them any room for organic progression (i.e. Why are they still flying Tie Fighters thirty years later when this universe seems partial to radical and constant aesthetic changes?).

Much of the character writing has been inconsistent. They’ve been extremely shy about letting writers fill in the details in the margins while the main saga films were still in production, which has dramatically hurt the many writers who have wanted to expand upon details that would improve the stories. Potentially great legacy revivals like the Thrawn books are kneecapped by Disney’s indecisive plans for the long run. While I’ve approved of most of their decisions regarding directors, they’ve mostly tampered riskier creative choices down in favor of their house style. We came close to having a Star Wars spin-off from the creators of The LEGO Movie… Still, I’ve appreciated what most of these films have been going for and applauded some of their riskier decisions. 

If my twitter and YouTube subscriptions are any indication though, I’m a minority in this opinion. A lot of people genuinely hate these new films. They hate the new characters. They hate the direction of the series and how it’s handled legacy characters. They hate the mostly lukewarm quality of the films. Many fans hope prominant executives like Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson get fired. Some even want George Lucas to return and take creative control of the films back. I hear these complaints and I understand them (mostly). I remember saying back in the fall of 2017 that if The Last Jedi failed, it was going to turn the entirety of the Star Wars fandom against Disney. Lo and behold, I was half right. Half the crowd adored the film and the other half hate it with a burning passion. 

We’ve arrived at a strange status quo on the eve of the premiere of Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker. Some life long fans are so furious they’ve refused to ever watch a new Star Wars film again. At the same time, the film has done some of the highest preorder sales in film history. At this point saying you like/dislike a Star Wars film is like publicly proclaiming your stance on a contentious political view. 

Like I said, I’ve been fine with most of these decisions on the caveat that I’m hoping Disney starts taking more risks in the future. Their goal to me always seemed to be to get a safe, contemporary trilogy done at the get-go while saving deeper cuts and riskier ideas for a decade or so out. Personally, I hope that the new film for 2022 is a Knights of the Old Republic movie. I hope we get films set in new time periods with risky new directors with bold ideas. I’m even fine with them doing yearly releases if only because it gives them a chance to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I understand though that this isn’t what a great deal of people want. They wanted a straight-up sequel to Return of the Jedi with Han, Luke and Leia in their prime. 

I understand the impulse. The fandom’s desire to see a live action version of something like Heir to the Empire is understandable. That said, the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy was never going to do that. According to George Lucas, his original plans involved doubling down on the Midiclorians from Phantom Menace and crafting a story with more experimental themes. He was quoted saying it would involve getting “into a microbiotic world” and that “a lot of the fans would have hated it.” It would’ve also involved Luke Skywalker training a young female Jedi named Kira at an ancient Jedi temple. Considering how the Prequel Trilogy was executed, maybe we dodged a bullet. Maybe the trilogy we got is the best one we could’ve received under the circumstances, even with the understanding that it’s not the series most fans wanted. That doesn’t satiate most fans though. Whatever you can say about what could’ve been, fans still believe deeply that Kathleen Kennedy and Disney have irreparably damaged Star Wars.

 

Yet in contentious discussion, at the end of all this I’m left with a simple question: What is it us fans want from Star Wars in the first place? 

We’ve spent decades trying to collectively decode the meaning of Star Wars. We all sat together in collective therapy trying to figure this out during the releases of the Prequel films, and now we’re doing it again with the new movies. The fandom struggles to find the words to describe what the ethereal appeal of the original trilogy is. Something like The Mandalorian or Rogue One can recapture the aesthetics and tone of Star Wars, but they never truly recapture the alchemy that made those movies perfect. Are fans merely satiated when we see Gonk droids, Monkey-Lizards and Twi’leks walking around in the background? How do we recapture the spirit of Star Wars in a new trilogy without JUST recapturing the aesthetics alone? 

I think the answer is that no matter what you want out of it, Star Wars isn’t just one thing. It’s a universe of limitless possibilities, ideas and themes all brimming with excitement, joy and optimism. Whether you love the space fights, the lightsaber duels, the fun characters, the political topicality, the swashbuckling action, the homages to classic films or the limitless lore found in the books and video games, there’s something here for every kind of fan. Star Wars in a lot of ways is the culmination of cinema. It was an enormous pot of ideas, swatches, and cultural influences, thrown into a melting pot and interpreted through the lens of a fiercely creative and successful artist, coming out in the one time in the history of cinema that such a film could’ve been made in the late 1970s. 

Watching culture dig through the five new cinematic entries in the Star Wars (six if you count The Mandalorian) you see a kind of culture wide therapy session happening in real time. You see people’s passions, loves, secret impulses and beliefs laid bare. If you want to know why these movies are all so aesthetically and tonally different, it’s just because so many people glom onto this franchise for different reasons. The only thing we all seem to agree on collectively is that the first two movies from 1977 and 1980 are great. Beyond that, there’s no agreement. Disney’s first instinct with their approach seems to be to recapture the aesthetics of Star Wars first, and with different directors like J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards and Jon Favreau in the driver’s seat, you see variations on what those directors all take away from the classic films. 

If there’s one malady that plagues the new trilogy, it’s their impulsive desire to be so unlike the Star Wars Prequels that they actively tie their own hands up in order to do what they think will please fans. People rightly criticized those movies for burying its audience in long digressions on intergalactic trade and politics, in what’s supposed to be an adventure film. Unfortunately in their desire to recapture the magic of the original trilogy, J.J. Abrams went as far out of his way to forgo world-building and the political landscape so that he could focus on making the fun parts of Star Wars he knew people liked. This new trilogy is theoretically a story about a demilitarized New Republic being destroyed by a cult of space terrorists funded by the galactic military industrial complex, and how a proxy war resistance group inspires the galaxy to come together one last time to destroy the Empire once and for all. There’s a bold and interesting story buried in there, but just watching the movies you wouldn’t pick that up from the way it conveys information. Instead the movies have been myopic in their focus on this small group of characters and they’ve damaged their films in the process. 

Maybe that isn’t the most prescient issue. Out of all of the new slate of films, The Last Jedi in particular is the movie that tends to get fans most infuriated. It’s also the one that ventures off on its own the most into new philosophical territory, fundamentally shredding the moral framework of the original movies and asking viewers to reconsider the themes of the first seven films in a new light. It’s the first truly Post-Modern Star Wars

Now I don’t have space here to go into a full breakdown on the nature of postmodernism given its breadth and complexity. I’m NOT a philosopher. Put simply, it’s an artistic movement that’s founded on a rejection of grand meta-narratives. Those narratives include everything from religion and political ideologies, to the idea of objective morality as a concept. In postmodernism, there is no objective truth, only narratives. In the case of The Last Jedi, the film is designed to uproot the notion that the groups and individuals we believed to be purely good or evil are what they seem to be. It’s a story that speaks to the modern crisis of meaning. Our society is has reached a point where no major cultural institution hasn’t been laid bare as corrupt or broken. The moral relativism at the core of the movie shows a desire to try and move forward. In order to do so, The Last Jedi lays the concept of Star Wars bare and asks what it is and what it can mean in a new context. To paraphrase the video essayist “Implicitly Pretentious”, The Last Jedi feels like what would happen if you wrote Game of Thrones as a direct sequel to Lord of the Rings. You aren’t just writing something tonally or aesthetically different, you’re writing something actively hostile and skeptical to what came before it and cutting it down to the bone to figure out what it’s made of.  

You see the implicitly in the characters of Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Luke is a galactic legend who redeemed Darth Vader and destroyed the Empire. Ren is the inheritor of that legacy and he rejects it in a moment of nihilistic rage in a desire to wipe away the institutions that betrayed him. Characters who we know to be good in nature do bad things, while bad characters are justified in their indignant rage. Luke Skywalker has always been in touch with the dark side of the force, as we see at the end of Return of the Jedi where he nearly kills Darth Vader in a moment of anger. Like his father before him, he’s tempted with a moment of darkness to slay a Padawan who threatens to destroy his world and the temptation alone is enough to permanently alienate himself from Kylo. Justified as he is given that his master attempted to kill him, the movie doesn’t advocate Kylo’s desire to “let the past die” though. It’s very much still affirming that there is a right and wrong to adhere to. It’s just that this new notion of right and wrong isn’t tied to the institutions of the past. For this reason, the movie frowns upon the character of DJ, who is so disconnected from morality that he betrays the rebellion for profit. The movie is suggesting that you can become so disconnected from reality that you allow evil to further it’s own goals in the absence of good. The movie is functioning at a level of moral complexity that affirms the objective morality of the light and dark side of the force, while criticizing those who claim to totally adhere entirely to one or the other.

It’s understandable though why most of this wouldn’t appeal to fans of Star Wars. Most people want to indulge in a series that lets them pretend to be space pirates and space knights without the moral considerations of how such sustained and perpetual conflict affects the average person in the galaxy. At the same time it does this, it’s playing fast and loose with story logic and overall continuity in ways that legitimately bother fans of a series who care about how the physics of hyperspace work. It’s hard to fully describe the ways in full that people hate this movie, since so many people have made so many arguments about it. All of them share a basic conclusion though; Rian Johnson’s vision betrayed something fundamental about Star Wars, and the acrimony it has achieved has cut more deeply than ANY movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t think you do that just by mishandling a handful of characters or making continuity mistakes by itself. You do it by fundamentally changing the moral logic and physical landscape of the story being told. The Last Jedi does that with an enthusiastic abandon and I can understand why that bothers people.

The movie is ambitious in the extreme and tries to fit in enough ideas, themes and story threads that you could reasonably build 2-3 movies out of the material it’s trying to cover. It wants to be a Taoist reflection on detachment, a political thriller about corruption, oppression and the military industrial complex, a meditation on maturity and second guessing your impulses, a quasi-nihilist anti-authoritarian barn burner (see also Fight Club), and a post-modern deconstruction on the nature of morality in a Post-Religious world. It’s mind splittingly difficult to figure out how it all fits together. 

None of this is to say that postmodernism and moral relativism aren’t in themselves objectionable. There’s a very modern moral solipsism to the movie that affirms Rey’s status as a savior in spite of her inexperience. Supreme Leader Snoke suggests that she’s a manifestation of the light side of the force, and that her unnatural power comes from the fact that the force has chosen her to counter the rise of the dark side. However, none of that dictates that she’s more wise or intelligent for being chosen. When Yoda suggests that she has everything she needs to handle herself without the wise guidance of the sacred Jedi texts, he dismisses the wisdom of the past as a “bunch of old books” worthy of being burned.

He treats the wisdom of the past with the same smug dismissal of a New Atheist asking what Christianity can teach humanity that we can’t figure out by ourselves. Simply put, Rey at this point isn’t mature enough to be wise with her power. She needs the wisdom of the past to discover her own path. It’s a very modern attitude to believe that the purity of youth is a good replacement for the wisdom of the past. The fact that the Jedi Order failed to stop the rise of Darth Sidious isn’t a suggestion that their religion needs to die. It’s a suggestion that it needs to be reformed. Sadly the movie is quite radical and depressingly modern in this point. Still, the fact that we can parse the details on this kind of philosophy is a testimony  that this movie is written with the kind of complexity that you can discuss at length unlike The Force Awakens. A misguided movie is better than a vapid one any day. 

The Last Jedi’s attitude towards religion, even in antipathy, seems to understand that the power of our religious stories are more than something that deserves to be thrown away. To paraphrase Jonathan Haidt’s excellent book The Righteous Mind, the human brain can be best personified as a man riding an elephant. You have control over a small part of it, and the rest of it can’t be controlled by logic. If you want to change someone’s mind, you have to convince them by talking past the human being to the subconscious. Stories are one of the most powerful mechanisms for convincing people to change their positions because they appeal to the illogical, emotional and biased areas of our minds, and offer it new perspectives and empathy. Human beings aren’t rational. In a universe like Star Wars, Rian Johnson suggests that the most powerful way to change hearts and minds is to throw a powerful story. 

Luke Skywalker is in many ways a secular retelling of the Gospels. It draws upon the universal story as described by Joseph Campbell in Hero With a Thousand Faces. He’s the universal archetype best embodied by Christ. George Lucas is both a self professing Christian and a Buddhist, and the hearts of both of those sets of ideas drive Star Wars. The curveball The Last Jedi throws at Old Man Luke is that it reminds us he’s still a normal man living a fallen world despite his amazing power and that he can be broken. The movie is doing to Luke Skywalker what Martin Scorsese did to Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s humanizing and demystifying him. It’s also not dissimilar to how John Ford deconstructed the myth of the American West in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The legend may not be true but the value of that story is more powerful than the truth we tell ourselves. As a result, Luke’s incredible sacrifice galvanizes the galaxy and sets the wheel in motion for the final battle between good and evil. He creates a new story from the ashes of his failure that inspires others. It’s all encapsulated perfectly in the movie’s final shot, where the young force sensitive slave child looks up to the stars with a renewed sense of hope that people like Luke Skywalker are out there, trying to make their world a better place. 

The Last Jedi is a reminder that the world we live in is complicated. Our heroes falter, sin is attractive, and our gut feeling is often the most dangerous option. Those aren’t always fun things to think about. The same can be said for The Empire Strikes Back. The horrible reveal of that movie is that the evil inside ourselves is a lot closer to us than what we’re willing to admit. We can be consumed by the sins of our fathers, and we can fail those around us, barely surviving the day. People hated that movie in 1980 and praised Return of the Jedi for offering closure in a way that its predecessor didn’t.

We want our escapism to take us to a galaxy far far away and The Last Jedi took us to a place that was much too close to home. You’re not wrong to dislike that. Most people don’t want a philosophical deconstruction on chivalry, morality and politics. Most people legitimately want an unironic movie about space knights. That’s why so many fans who hated The Last Jedi have praised The Mandalorian as a redemption of the franchise. It doesn’t pass judgement on it’s main characters or suggest what kind of societal breakdown it took to make the world corrupt enough for someone to make money as a bounty hunter. 

For me though, it’s why I love The Last Jedi and much of Disney’s regime over the franchise. This is the most deadly serious look at the core of a major film franchise we may have ever seen. This is the kind of massive deconstruction you can do when a franchise is THE most popular thing in the world. All this is in service of a story that’s designed to accomplish an answer to the question of what Star Wars actually means to us.

The conclusion it comes up with is that, in a world as complex and cruel as ours, a good story itself is a value in and of itself. Morality may be trapped in shades of grey in this world view, but that doesn’t mean that what we do in the world doesn’t matter. Good people like Luke Skywalker screw up. Bad guys like Kylo Ren can do good and aren’t beyond redemption. The Last Jedi teaches us that as silly, myopic and bad as these stories can be at times, that Star Wars is a powerful story. There’s a reason people love even BAD Star Wars content. It’s all beautiful and valuable. Even the objectively terrible stuff like The Holiday Special becomes fun in time as we find other things we can enjoy in such a huge franchise. There’s always something else to check out. After a while the hurt goes away and you’re just left with the stories as they are. 

Maybe when The Rise of Skywalker is out later this month, we’ll have a moment of collective breathing to finally close the door on this new trilogy. Historically none of these trilogies have been totally embraced until he final cathartic conclusion. Finally having a resolution to these four year old mysteries may allow us to finally embrace this new trilogy for what it is, without the wound of having to anxiously wait for answers.

Why do we love Star Wars?

We love it because it’s exemplifies the story that we want to tell ourselves.
It’s a shaggy, awkward and enthralling retelling of the hero’s journey, brought to life with a vision, love and scope in ways only incredibly talented people can conjure up. It’s a reminder that even the most skeptical, broken and hopeless people can be inspired to do the right thing. It’s a reminder that the worst people can be forgiven. That’s why these movies inspire a religious zeal in its fans. They’re almost a religious experience. We can and will spend a lifetime debating the nuances of how these movies fail and succeed. If you don’t like these stories, I hear and respect you. Let’s just find a way to still be friends!

God Bless you, Happy Holidays and May the Force be with you always! 

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The Future of Star Wars: Trying to Make Sense of Argument and Frustration

  Okay Star Wars fans, it’s time for a little therapy!

The last decade and a half has been rough on Star Wars fans. We all suffered through watching the Prequel Trilogy struggle to meet any sort of expectations. We all watched as the Disney Corporation swallowed the franchise whole and attempted to turn it into a cash cow larger than it was seemingly capable of generating with a massive toy line that largely hasn’t sold. We’ve spent the past three years arguing about the quality of the four recent films from The Force Awakens to the most recent Box Office failings of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

In all that, I’ve never seen as many as a well thought out articulate film criticisms both for and against a single movie than the dozens upon dozens of fanboy and film critic deconstructions of recent Star Wars films. Even the famed Plinkett Reviews seem antiquated in comparison to just how much ink has been spilled in fanboy arguments trying to make sense about The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. At the end of the day something about Star Wars touches at the very core of our being and yet we really can’t seem to agree what it is and what these new films should be to represent that part of us.

We here at Geeks Under Grace have some very complicated and nuanced opinions on the recent controversial Star Wars films. Several of us love the recent films and several of us despise them. Five of us sat down to offer our thoughts on the state of the franchise and where Disney ought to take Star Wars in the future.

Starting off, please give us a quick rundown on the four recent Disney Star Wars films and what you think about all of them? 

Juliana Purnell: 

The Force Awakens alleviated a lot of fears, demonstrating a return to form for the Star Wars franchise. I actually predicted a lot of the plot beforehand thanks to trailers, while I also found the nostalgic moments to be cheesy. But overall I enjoyed it!

Rogue One is my favorite out of the four. It was refreshing to see how the Star Wars universe would work without the presence of the Jedi. I also sensed that there was more creative license; since it was a spin-off, there was less pressure for it to conform to everyone’s ideas.

Once I got over my initial shock with The Last Jedi, I really began to admire this film’s boldness, creativity, and bravery for going against the grain. It contains a lot of depth; I like that Luke and Kylo Ren share the same beliefs but are still on opposite sides. I also developed newfound appreciation when it dawned on me that Poe is the main character in this one, with Finn and Rose being an extension of his character journey. So, I respect this film, but due to the runtime and the heaviness of the plot, it’s not my “go-to” favorite film in the series.

For Solo… it wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t bad either. Once everyone got together and everything had been established, that’s when I really started having fun. Yet I felt as though it ultimately wasn’t an interesting story to tell.

Derek Thompson: 

Rogue One was the best. Even though it eschewed the EU like they all did, it fit into “movie canon” well and had a charm to it. Solo was second, mostly for the same reasons–lots of fan service. Force Awakens had a lot of strong things–great directing, well-placed humor, diversity of cast–but didn’t really “do” anything. Also, the new FIVE-PLANET DEATH STAR and the Nazi bad guys (Empire 2.0) were idiotic and recycled. Much lower than the other two. TLJ is disgusting, primarily because of how out of character Luke is for the entire movie and how idiotic Leia’s force flight scene is. (And… much more.)

Sarah Bennet: 

With the exception of Rogue One, the writing feels rushed in the latest installments from a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars had simple characters in against-all-odds situations who we all fell in love with. Rogue One, in my opinion, kept that feeling. The other three, especially Solo, cut corners with characters by loading them with backstory. I believe the casting was brilliant for all four films.

Trey Soto:

  • Force Awakens: Fun, enjoyable, but definitely a nostalgia film that is almost identical to the original Star Wars of 1977.
  • Rogue One: Surprisingly entertaining and engaging in the area of the plot and pacing, but unmemorable characters, both protagonists and antagonists.
  • The Last Jedi: Somewhat solid main plot, but had a number of plot holes and boring side stories and missions. Also, that kiss between Rose and Fin….why?
  • Solo: Have not seen it yet, so I don’t have any opinion on it.

Tyler Hummel:

  • The Force Awakens: One of my favorite movies of 2015. JJ Abrams knows how to cast/direct/shoot a film to maximize the style and fill every scene with energy and love. Sadly without a wholly original story or a more solid script, the movie has struggled to hold up after several years of repeat viewings. It’s still a ton of fun though!
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: My original reaction to this in 2016 was that of being unimpressed. Having let it age it’s now my second favorite of the new films.
  • The Last Jedi: I unabashedly love everything about this film. I love how many risks Rian Johnson took. I appreciate just how many risks Disney took on arguably the most important chapter of their franchise in giving it to one person to be the sole writer/director. I appreciate just how coherently he is able to write his characters and how it manages to use the weakness of both the previous film and this film to build towards thematic statements. I love how beautifully it crafts the aesthetic of Star Wars and uses its top of the line CGI to craft incredible images like the Light Speed jump. I could talk for days about just how much depth there is in the script and how its ideas deconstruct Star Wars while affirming how powerful and necessary it can be. I digress.
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story: Most meh Star Wars film I’ve ever seen in my life. Shy of a few moments I was intensely bored and surprised by the depths the film was going to fit in bad fan service.

Both The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story have been received to widely mixed reviews and have generated some heated opinions from fans and critics alike. What have your discussions about the film been like with family/friends/fans?

Juliana Purnell:

In my experience, discussions about Solo haven’t been mixed or controversial. Everyone I’ve met has agreed with me–it’s an average film, not bad or good. Just meh.

The Last Jedi is a different story. When I wrote the review for GUG, I found the majority of my friends agreed with what I said about liking the film but not loving it. Except what people enjoyed and hated differed from person to person. For me, this was the first film in the franchise where I became really irritated about how some of the laws of physics in space were adopted, and others blatantly ignored.

Whereas my friends didn’t have their suspension of disbelief shattered, rather they were more upset about Luke’s character, or Finn and Rose’s subplot (which is something I ended up appreciating). The more I reflected on the film, the more I liked it, though my brother had the opposite experience. He is concerned that no one has developed an overarching plot, so each director seems to be doing their own thing; there’s no consistency or through the line. But for the most part, myself and a lot of my friends are willing to suspend criticism till we see how it connects with the next episode in the series.

I do have one friend that absolutely despises The Last Jedi. They couldn’t come to terms with Luke’s characterization, and whenever anyone tried to present a different viewpoint, my friend would just dig his heels in further. His anger over it still hasn’t dissipated to this day. Basically, he has embraced the idea of being a Last Jedi hater, and I don’t think anything will change his view because he has made it part of his identity. It’s his thing if you get what I mean. He did boycott Solo; I’m not sure of his reasons, whether it’s still out of spite or merely disinterest, but after hearing the news that Disney may be slowing down on Star Wars releases, last I saw was that he was starting to question his actions.

Derek Thompson: 

I think the Solo backlash is primarily from TLJ hate, as far as fans not going. Critics are crazy, I liked the movie a lot. (Critics also gave TLJ high praise…) TLJ was entertaining the first time, but the more I considered the consequences and depth of the movie, the angrier I became. I can’t find the thread but I saw a video of Rian Johnson from about fifteen years ago where he said “Movies that everyone likes are boring. I want to make movies that half the people love, and the other half hate.” Mission accomplished, dude.

Sarah Bennett: 

TLJ had some facepalm moments, the biggest being Leia’s survival and subsequent Mary Poppins flight. I haven’t met anyone who sees that plot moment as anything but ridiculous. The moment before, though, when her son doesn’t pull the trigger? Boom! That’s the Star Wars we love.

The talk of Solo around the table usually concedes with a couple of opinions: 1. On its own, it’s a decent watch. 2. They (the writers and Ron Howard) tried too hard to force the viewers to love a young Han Solo. It’s like a little girl strangling a cat, yelling, “LOVE ME!” Sure, the cat is cute, the girl is cute, but the whole thing is just a big, “Nope.”

Trey Soto:

Again, no opinion on Solo. As for The Last Jedi, I thought it received more praise than it should have from critics. I honestly enjoyed the main plot between Luke, Rey, and Kylo. Their character development was great, their interactions definitely leveled out, and it a lot of growth for all three. The side stories and subplots, however, were either boring, uninteresting, and even outright ridiculous–i.e. Snoke’s death, Rey’s parent’s reveal, Holdo’s horrible leadership, Poe’s incompetence, etc. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop now.

Tyler Hummel:

I’ve listened to so many debates, discussions, deconstructions, and analyses of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and much more recently in the context of Solo: A Star Wars Story. The conversation regarding TLJ really has struck a nerve. I was completely taken aback by the 53% Rotten Tomatoes score back in December and since then the discussion has gone to some bizarre places with people calling for Disney employees to be fired. I’ve almost gotten into some nasty arguments myself over the film’s quality with dear friends.

There are between 6-9 Star Wars films in development between Rian Johnson’s trilogy, the Game of Thrones writer’s trilogy, and the three potential Star Wars story films including Boba Fett, Lando, and Obi-Wan. Are you excited for any of these films?

Juliana Purnell:

It’s exhausting just reading the question. I do adore what David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have done with Game of Thrones. The prequel trilogy demonstrated that Star Wars could be a political beast, except George Lucas struggled to make it interesting on screen. That weakness is Benioff and Weiss’ strength. So I’m curious to see what kind of story they’re going to produce and whether they have the skills to create rather than adapt.

I was blown away by Donald Glover’s performance as Lando Calrissian. He nailed that role. I would love to see how “the stories” are true. With these spinoff movies, I feel there’s more room for creativity–it’s not locked in so much in terms of tone and vibe. Solo aimed to be a heist film, which would have been fantastic, but unfortunately just missed the mark.

Yet I do like the idea of mixing it up with different genres, as though each director brings their own flair to the Star Wars universe, within reason. It has worked at times the for Batman and Superman franchises. For instance, anthology films have made a comeback, particularly in Europe, thanks to movies like Ghost Stories and The Field Guide to Evil. Lando’s spinoff may work best in that format, where it’s a set of short stories all loosely connected together; just something different, mixing it up. Of course, you’ve got to get permission from the fanbase first. Yikes!

Derek Thompson: 

I’d rather Rian Johnson not touch Star Wars again.

Sarah Bennett: 

For me, everything depends on the writing. Not terribly interested in Boba Fett, since we had a cursory glance with the (awful) prequels. Lando could be fascinating, but again, it depends on the writing.

But count me in for Obi-Wan. He was pivotal to the original trilogy and I’m disappointed he didn’t make an appearance in TLJ (Come on! Just a quick CGI of Sir Alex next to Yoda would’ve been magnificent!).

Trey Soto:

Definitely excited for Obi-Wan. I have been wanting that for so long and I really hope we get it soon. Even though I am more of the Dark Side (have been since 1998 when I first saw Star Wars), Obi-Wan has been my favorite protagonist in both the originals and prequels. I’m kind of interested in Boba Fett considering his death was highly laughable and his impact on the Star Wars films was second rate other than his uniform.

Tyler Hummel:

In light of the recent news of the spin-off films being scrapped, I think that ultimately not having many more spin-offs would benefit the series. I’m totally on board with Rian Johnson doing his own thing for a trilogy. I hope whatever editorial dust-up is currently ongoing at Disney gets resolved without him losing his gig. I’m also really excited to see what the Game of Thrones writers have cooking. They haven’t confirmed what they’re working on yet but considering their wheelhouse I’m hoping what they end up doing winds up being an adaptation of Knights of the Old Republic. That would be tremendously fresh territory to stretch the franchise out into.

What SHOULD Disney do going forward?

Juliana Purnell:

I feel that in order to answer the question, one has to find the root of the problem, which is multi-faceted. I have a lot of thoughts, so it might be best if I dot point them for ease:

  • Star Wars was a landmark film for cinema as a whole. Deep down, people know that the more films that are created, the more the gloss of the originals are going to be tarnished because the chances are that they won’t live up to their legacy.
  • People may not have agreed with everything George Lucas did, but they respected the fact that it was his dream and creation. Now that the property has been opened up to other people, there’s more room for criticism and less cohesion with the direction of the brand.
  • Since it’s an old franchise, there has been a lot of fan fiction (or “fanon”) generated since Star Wars’ inception, and the studio will be up against the fanbase’s cognitive dissonance when those ideas aren’t adopted.
  • Fans say they want more Star Wars films, but they haven’t accepted that it also means the happy endings of their beloved characters will be destroyed in order to make room for a new adventure.
  • There’s this weird attitude right now where somehow only Marvel is allowed to have a cinematic universe. Also, there have been a LOT of “spectacle” films lately, and I’m starting to sense that maybe it’s starting to tire audiences (or maybe I’m just optimistic). So fans aren’t welcoming the idea of committing to another movie universe that’s going to bombard them every year.
  • Unlike other fandoms, Star Wars hasn’t been rebooted or reimagined as of yet. So the fans are going to experience some growing pains when this eventually occurs.

While Disney will want to get a return on investment with the franchise as soon as possible, I think it may be best if they pump the brakes for a while. Solo revealed two things: the fanbase is rather fickle and its power has been underestimated, and that Star Wars works best when it’s something “special” and not an annual event. With sequels, in general, being splashed out across screens, audiences have grown wise to the idea that it’s all a moneymaking strategy. If Disney pops out a film simply because it was set on the calendar, people will grow weary of the poor quality.

So first Disney needs to complete the current trilogy, and then just check the pulse of the franchise and the health of cinema as a whole (Marvel could be on the outs by then, and there could be a greater demand for a particular genre that Disney could exploit). From there, they should take a page from Pixar’s book and only make films if they’ve got a story worth telling. It could be in two years time, it might be a decade. But by trickling out films, fans will be more receptive (as absence makes the heart grow fonder) and theoretically, the quality should be higher, therefore ensuring the longevity of the franchise.

Derek Thompson: 

They don’t realize just what a rabid fanbase this is and just how much they screwed up by negating the EU. It might be too late for an entire reboot of the new stuff, but I have one (well two) basic suggestions. Remove Rian Johnson (too many fans hate him now) from the entire franchise, have Kathleen Kennedy step aside and put Dave Filoni in as the Kevin Feige of Star Wars. The dude successfully incorporated EU stuff (Thrawn), created one of the most liked characters (Ahsoka), and managed to make six seasons of a show where ANAKIN SKYWALKER IS LIKABLE.

He is the only one left with any clout who truly understands Star Wars, IMO. Quit hiring random big-name directors and put someone who’s been in deep with the universe for a long time over it. Also, there are thirty years where they can weave in the EU where they can, to appease fans. Like, make a Luke movie that shows him meeting and growing attached to Mara Jade, but maybe in this universe, it doesn’t work out. But you can still work in SOME appeasement for EU people like Filoni did with Thrawn.

Sarah Bennet: 

Go back to the George Lucas drawing board. I’m not saying to recycle the characters line by line because the vision should move forward. But strip the new characters back to simple motivations: Luke had nothing left to lose, Han was a hustler, Leia a princess. Rely less on CGI to tell the story (I’m eyeballing you, Grand Moff Tarkin). Hopefully, they don’t churn out new Star Wars movies every year. We fans live for long, agonizing waits and camping in front of theatres.

Trey Soto:

In terms of Star Wars? I personally think a trilogy or series on The Knights of the Old Republic would be awesome. It would definitely be something new that does not rely heavily on the Skywalker family let alone the original cast. While Knights of the Old Republic is not new to Star Wars fans, it would be great to see it on the big screen because it actually would be something new, cinematic wise. Honestly, I doubt that Lucasfilms/Disney would allow it since they threw out the foundations of Star Wars in the novels, comics, games, and so on. Still, there is that glimmer of hope.

Tyler Hummel:

There are two things I’d like to suggest.

What I personally hope they do is shake up the visual aesthetic of the franchise and place a series of movies in a brand new part of the timeline. I’ve heard so many people bring up that Star Wars is a limited campus for a science-fiction franchise but where the universe really finds its mileage is in the Expanded Universe where different time periods and factions are given room to breathe. The Old Republic, The Clone Wars, The New Republic, and the dozens of other conflicts and factions open up tons of space for potential refreshing takes on the franchise. Don’t focus every movie on the Galactic Civil War. It makes the visual iconography of the franchise stale.

Secondly, I believe strongly that Disney needs to trust its artists. So far the company has booted four directors off of three of their films before the films have been released and it’s created a PR nightmare for the studio. They need to find talented artists like Rian Johnson and honor their visions and ideas. Maybe this means that they honestly do need an editorial shake-up if Colin Trevorrow’s claims of Disney’s work environment being toxic are true. I just hope that Disney has the bravery to find artists with the ability to match talent with voice to create films that people will love for decades to come. Star Wars deserves nothing less.

With all that said what are your thoughts on the recent four films? The Prequels? The Future? Star Wars in General?

Let us know down in the comments. Please be respectful! We all love Star Wars!

Categories
Comics Comics/Books Reviews

Review: Star Wars – Shattered Empire

51vtJTH3bYL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Marco Chechetto
Publisher: Marvel
Genre: Sci-Fi
Rating: N/A
Note: No Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this review. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you should rectify that post-haste. You can find our spoiler-free review for the biggest film release ever right here.
While we’re all still on a Star Wars kick, I thought it wise to take a look at some of what’s happened since that fateful battle on the forest moon of Endor. Much to my chagrin, Disney has rendered all of the expanded universe developed around the original Star Wars films non-canon. However, since Disney owns both Star Wars and Marvel (effectively giving Disney a stranglehold on pop culture), any Star Wars comic that Marvel creates from here on can be considered in-canon. So let’s take a look at one of the first forays into the new expanded universe, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakened: Shattered Empire.
The book was written by Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Gotham Central) and drawn by Marco Chechetto (Avengers World, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up),  a team famous for their seminal run on Punisher (which you can look forward to a review of in the future).

Story

Our tale opens during the space battle taking place above Endor. While Luke Skywalker confronts destiny aboard the new Death Star, rebel pilots fight valiantly to prevent disaster. We follow the journey of ace pilot Shara Bey from the climax of the battle, where the Millenium Falcon destroys the new Death Star, to celebrations on the forest moon, to the endless wartime against the Imperial Remnant.
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Despite its title, this story does not take us right up to Episode VII. Rather, it serves as a sort of continuation of Episode VI. And really, the story here isn’t all that much to write home about. That’s strange to say about a Rucka production — and don’t get me wrong, the man can still set a stage and write great dialogue — but it just felt like the book was being careful to hold too many important details lest non-comic readers be at a disadvantage. The story isn’t bad, just sort of hollow, in a sense. There’s much more emphasis on action here than there is the narrative, which is kind of disappointing. There are only a few real developments of consequence, one of which is… [SPOILER ALERT] the early reveal that Shara’s husband is none other than Kes Dameron, making the pair Poe Dameron’s parents, which is neat.
You do get plenty of appearances from your favorite ragtag band of acquaintances turned war generals. Luke, Leia, and Han all get chances to show off how cool they are. It’s especially great to see Han leading Spec Ops missions. Star Wars media that turns up the grit and tamps down on the whimsy always gets bonus points from me, and Rucka does a great job of grounding it.

Content Guide

Journey-to-Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Shattered-Empire-3-preview-mgojxard3e8cbh851rnl7o1va9oq4m4pnkbp7jgp2g
Violence
Being Star Wars, there’s actually a lot of death. Between the visceral dogfights and vicious guerrilla attacks, the body count gets up pretty high. However, since there’s no blood and lasers appear to just do concussive damage, you could just as easily believe that people were being knocked down. In light of that, I would say that if you’re okay showing your kid any of the Star Wars films, or even the animated media, then they should be fine with this book.
Spiritual Content
Nothing beyond the occasional command to, “Trust in the Force”.
Positive Elements
There are plenty of examples of bravery, loyalty, and strong female characters here that will get that John Williams score playing in your head.
Language
None
Sexual Content
None
Drug/Alcohol Use
None

Presentation

I really wish that Marco Chechetto drew more books, because he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. The book is very action heavy, which gives Chechetto’s art a chance to shine.  The numerous space battle scenes are gorgeous, with X-Wings, A-Wings, Y-Wings, and TIE fighters all engaging in dogfights. There’s a lot going on, but it very rarely feels crowded. The opening spread, with Luke fighting Darth Vader juxtaposed against X-wings strafing a Star Destroyer sets an epic tone for the art that persists throughout.
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Shoutout to Andres Mossa on the colors. I don’t usually note the colorist on a book, but the colors here are very rich and the shading is expertly done. Between Mossa and Chechetto, the art makes all the action engaging, so that it doesn’t feel wasteful.

Conclusion

Shattered Empire is a decent story with well crafted characters and dialogue. It feels like Rucka was limited and the story is actually irrelevant when it comes to preparing for the film, besides establishing that there is indeed an Imperial Remnant. However, excellent art and action help to make up for that, making this book a satisfactory read for anyone looking for a Star Wars fix. It is pretty exciting, and I read it all in one sitting and made all the blaster noises in my head. If you can’t get enough of that galaxy far, far away, then this book will do right by you.

 [amazon text=Buy it from Amazon&template=carousel&asin=0785197818,B01542FPNU,B016APHPQA,B016N4JEPS]

Categories
Action/Adventure Movies Reviews Sci-fi/Fantasy

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterDistribution: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/LucasFilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions
Director: JJ Abrams
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt
Stars: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Action-Adventure
Rating: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Action Violence)
[The following review will be spoiler-free. We promise.]
At the tender age of seven years old my father first introduced me to the fascinating world of Star Wars. He had been a long-time fan of the films through a Spanish audio tape reading of a children’s book adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back (I had just moved from Puerto Rico to New York City not too long before and Spanish was my primary language at the time). As I listened to this story I became deeply mesmerized by the concept of the Jedi and the Sith, the Force, the never-ending galactic conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, and who can forget those lightsabers?
Not long after, I managed to finally watch The Empire Strikes Back in its original cinematic glory when it was re-released on VHS back in the mid-90’s. It quickly became an experience I would never forget. My father and I began to collect anything bearing the name “Star Wars” on it, mainly action figures, comic books, and movies. I would join in mock lightsaber battles during my youth group days at my former church, drew the Millennium Falcon in heated space shootouts with TIE fighters in my books while doing school lessons, and even sat through the entirety of The Phantom Menace at my local cinema just because. My love for Star Wars has even reached out from beyond my childhood and has influenced me in many ways.
Okay, so maybe at this point you might be thinking, “Enough about you! Where is this review you speak of?!” The main point I am really trying to settle here is that the Star Wars brand is more than just a movie, but a cherished life experience millions around the world hold dear to them.
As you are reading this review, please do understand that first and foremost I am writing from the perspective of a critic and a fan second. Yes, as much as I love Star Wars, I needed to put my pride for the series aside and view it from an objective point of view. Secondly, when I give the movie praise, I do it from both a critical lens as well as from the perspective of the child-like fan within me. When reviewing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one isn’t merely reviewing a film, but an experience that will impact both old and new generations alike. It is from this foundation that I would like for readers to consider the following praises and/or critiques I may have about the film. Now without further ado, let’s get on with the review.

Storyline

For the purposes of this review, we are upholding our promise to grant you a spoiler-free article. That’s right, in order to respect you, the reader, we want to give you the best review possible without succumbing to the obligation of having to go into details about plot points. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a special breed of film that should be experienced with as much untainted freshness as possible as there are many elements in the story (both big and small) that play a huge role in driving the experience for not just the film itself, but the future ones to come.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: The movie decidedly pushes the envelope a bit here in terms of violence. While it is far from gory, The Force Awakens uses some blood in scenes to show the effect of an injury on a character. As tame as it is, it’s probably the most violent Star Wars film to date.
Language/Crude Humor: There is one mention of the word “Hell” and a vast amount of great meta-humor the series is well known for, but nothing crude or inappropriate.
Sexual Content: N/A
Drug/Alcohol References: N/A
Spiritual Content: It is difficult to delve into spiritual themes without talking about plot points, but there are some great spiritual analogies that can (and will) be pulled out from The Force Awakens. I also do want to add that the theme of “the Force” in the Star Wars films is one that shares similarities with Eastern religions and not consistent with the Biblical worldview on a whole. Please do exercise discernment when trying to pull out theology from the film.
Negative Content: One can view the Dark Side of the Force as a negative aspect of the film since it is a power that is acquired by performing evil acts, but never glorified.
Positive Content: Star Wars has always been a story of self-sacrifice, heroism, love, and forgiveness. The Force Awakens continues this trend by keeping it as family-friendly as possible, but also catering to the more mature fans of the series.

Presentation

So, how is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you say? Well, it’s good–in fact–it is very good. While I do not want to go too much into plot in an attempt to keep your viewing experience as fresh as possible, the only thing I will mention is that this film begins a full twenty-nine years after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Yep, that’s all I want to go into.
After taking much time to think about whether I should give a quick summary of The Force Awakens to give the reader some sort of context, I decided in my best judgment to not even mention the plot at all. This is because as soon as the infamous yellow letter crawl goes up on screen, we’re already given plenty of info worth pondering about in itself.
However, as much as I would love to discuss the plot of the film (and trust me, there is PLENTY to talk about), I would like to focus this review on the actual presentation of the film. At a budget of 200 million dollars and legions of devout fans, The Force Awakens has a lot to prove. Thankfully, it does just that due to JJ Abrams focused direction.
Abrams is famous for being show-runner on cult TV series’ Alias and Lost and for directing the first two movies in the Star Trek reboot. Here with The Force Awakens, Abrams plays a similar role, albeit one with thousands of tons of pressure on his shoulders. There were truly a lot of balls being juggled here.
See, TFA works not only as the next big entry in the beloved franchise, but it also is a series reboot of sorts. When Disney bought LucasArts back in 2012 for a whopping $4 billion dollars, they managed to acquire Star Wars along with the purchase. From here came the idea of revitalizing the franchise by releasing a film based in the same SW universe every year beginning with the one we see now.
For those worried that The Force Awakens might hit another case of prequel blues, I can safely say it manages to avoid all of the traps that befell those films, but it also manages to erect some powerful pillars of foundation for a very promising future for the series. For example, TFA features its very first on-screen female lead in the series in the form of “Rey” played by Daisy Ridley. Now there are several female characters in the Star Wars universe, but the reason this is so significant is because the main story in TFA truly focuses on her journey as a character. Along the way we meet John Boyega’s “Finn,” a First Order Stormtrooper with a dark past, and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, a Resistance fighter who is sent on a mission to… well, again, let’s keep that part spoiler-free.
Those fearing the new leads wouldn’t work, have no fear. Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac are wonderful and inject the film with a vibrant youthfulness that is often playful, self-aware and appropriately somber when the story calls for them to be so. Without giving away too much, the film holds some of the best character moments in the series by far and much of that is due to the strong performances here.
A special mention has to also be given to Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, who gives a great performance as the film’s lead villain. Kylo Ren steals every scene. He is easily the best Star Wars villain in years. Of course, it is majorly because of this cast that the film succeeds. Let’s not also forget the addition of BB-8, the new member to the Droid family. Yes, he is as cute as he looks and even has some fun scenes of his own.
The other half is held up, of course, by the brilliant original cast and even some surprise cameos from certain cult characters the series is known for. Seeing them reprise their roles on screen after so many years was the equivalent of seeing old family members after being apart for years. Simply put, The Force Awakens often feels like a gigantic homecoming celebration.
Visually, the film is no slouch, throwing every kind of effect into the mix. From visual effects, practical effects, motion capture, there’s not one thing that director JJ Abrams leaves out. In fact, the film’s numerous set-pieces often makes use of a combination of all of these elements truly selling you into this world we are watching on screen. The places the characters visited throughout the film aren’t just backdrops, but places rich with history and lore from long ago.
Back to the set-pieces: This is hands-down the most a Star Wars movie has ever had. Lightsaber battles, aerial dog fights between TIE fighters and X-Wing fighters, Droids, and the iconic sound effects that accompany them–it’s all here. All of it delivered a child-like fervor to me as a fan that the prequels failed to capture. With that being said, do be on the lookout for numerous references and easter eggs that will occasionally pop up throughout the film that will have you saying, “Hey, I know what that is!” and even other elements hinting at the direction of the franchise’s future will have you excited for more.
But, of course, as much as the child in me would like to cherish all of the great things found here, my unfortunately critical adult mind must now kick in. As I watched The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of familiarity with it all, in both a good and not-so-good sense. While I did rather enjoy many intricacies and plot twists the story ultimately delivers, I couldn’t help but to feel that I have seen it all before, albeit it is all being presented here in different variations.
The film borrows many story beats from its predecessors (mostly from the original trilogy) and while it often does feel like a tribute in one moment, in others I just couldn’t help but to be overcome by a sense of familiarity. If you’ve watched any of the original Star Wars movies, you can just about predict what may or may not happen, but the writing here by JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt, and series master Lawrence Kasdan imbue the old elements with much freshness towards the source material presented, however from my personal opinion I would have liked a more original story with its own new ideas.
Speaking of new ideas, to be completely fair there are numerous amounts of new settings, and plot devices here that are enough to get one excited, but I also couldn’t help but to notice the various amounts of characters who are given great introductions and are barely ever seen in the film. It’s a bit of a disappointment since the marketing campaign really put a lot of focus on certain characters in the film only for them to have such a minimal impact in the overall story. Still, we have to remember that The Force Awakens is the first in the new trilogy (along with various other spin-off films that will jump around in the timeline), so I have no doubt that we will see these characters again as by the end of the film multiple plot threads are left up in the air.

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The IMAX 3D Experience

I had the great opportunity of watching The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. I can honestly say it was one of the greatest movie experiences I’ve ever had. Technically speaking, the IMAX 3D version of The Force Awakens is a true wonder to behold. The film was presented on a 70mm IMAX screen and while only one scene was shot in true IMAX format, I cannot express enough how much more it added to the sequence.
The entirety of the film was shown in 3D. This added really great depth to a lot of the action scenes and even transitional shots in between. Again, I am trying my best not spoil any surprises, but if you are in an area where a screening The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D format is available, and have the extra cash to spend, I cannot recommend it enough and I truly believe this is the best way to experience the film to the fullest.

Conclusion

After twenty-nine years since the original films and a ten year hiatus after the prequels that almost permanently damaged the franchise’s legacy, Star Wars was showing its age. While it still remained young in the hearts of millions of fans, it was also apparent that it was becoming more and more difficult for younger generations to connect with the films and discover what truly made the franchise unique in a world filled with so many other similar properties.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns after many years to once again reclaim its crown and remind the world why it is the biggest science-fiction property in history. While the film does have some minor flaws, they are easily overshadowed by a sense of celebration, a passing of the torch from one generation to the next. If it is any indication as to where Star Wars is headed after this, we should all be excited, very, very excited. The Force has never been stronger than it is now.
Categories
Articles Articles Christian Living Movies

The Force Awakens: An Act of Providence?

kathleen-kennedy
HOLLYWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 14: Kathleen Kennedy, pictured with First Order Stormtroopers.

As many may know, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had its world premiere last Monday night, and some of the comments from the film’s producer, Kathleen Kennedy, have stuck with me since then.  According to Entertainment Weekly, she spoke to the crowds about several sets of coincidental encounters over the past several decades:
“I can’t believe we’re here!  It’s a real privilege to make movies and everyone involved in The Force Awakens knows how lucky we’ve been to carry forward this incredible legacy that George [Lucas] began almost 40 years ago.  The Star Wars saga is about a series of seemingly chance encounters. They impact the destiny of everyone involved. So… here’s a story for you:
“In 1962, an 18-year-old boy named George Lucas was drag-racing his car. He skidded out of control and wrapped his hot-rod around a tree in Modesto. My step-brother’s grandfather pulled George from the wreckage that nearly killed him… Fifteen years later, I stood in line for A New Hope, just like many of you, only to find myself later going to work with George Lucas and his best friend, Steven Spielberg,” Kennedy said, as Spielberg and Lucas listened, seated beside one another.  
“Steven’s next movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was produced by George Lucas and written by Lawrence Kasdan (the co-writer of The Force Awakens)… After its release in 1982, a box of super-8 movies Steven made as a kid had long been lost, but were found,” Kennedy said. “I hired two 16-year-old young filmmakers to restore them. One of those boys was J.J. Abrams… We paid him $300, then we watched for 30 years as his career flourished. When George offered to have me step into one of the greatest jobs in show business, taking the reins of Lucasfilm, ushering in new Star Wars films, only one person seemed perfect to direct that first movie.  J.J. has incredible talent, a love of Star Wars, and enormous respect for George… And destiny? Fate?  I had to ask myself: was every one of these events, this whole progression, moving toward this?  Is it the Force?  I think so. If I’m right, then tonight, may the Force be with us all.”
Now, I know producers are always in the perpetual business of building up their movies, and that hype is their game from beginning to end. All of that ‘the Force is real’ talk at the end is just for fun… surely.  Regardless, I was struck by how all of these lives, separate strands in the tapestry of the making of this cinematic saga, were connected, even years ago, without each of them knowing at the time. My mind began to think of all the ways God orchestrates so much in our lives without us directly knowing. Many things God does in our lives are only evident and understood (even minimally) with a little hindsight. You may be thinking that I could take this article and turn it into a weighty piece about pro-Calvinist views versus free-will as playing a part in salvation. I could, as the thought came to me to do so, but that discussion did not begin here, and it wouldn’t end here either. Still, both sides of the argument must see the God shown in the Bible to be an omnipotent and omniscient God Who has pull and control in ways that we humans cannot even fathom with the vantage point of our own lives here on Earth.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Sphero BB-8 attends the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Sphero BB-8
HOLLYWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 14: Sphero BB-8 attends the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

I know what you may be thinking, clicking this article.  I am aware that the article’s title may make one think, “Really?  He’s gonna try to tie the concept of God’s providence into this movie?”
Trust me; I am not trying to denigrate the elevated position of God that Scripture shows. I’m also not trying to elevate the practical importance of the Star Wars canon to people’s lives. What I ask is that we look at my topic from the position of seeing providence slightly removed from the context we usually regard it as Christians and students of the Bible. Yes, providence is deeply rooted in the guiding and protecting hand of God, but in an alternative definition I found, it means “timely preparation for future eventualities.” With this definition in mind, it’s hard to argue that such seemingly random occurrences don’t have something to do with each other, leading to the formation of the film. I believe from this perspective, “providence” has culminated in what looks to be a wonderful continuation of the Star Wars saga.  Even though I believe God has his hand in the extraordinary in this world, as well as the mundane, seeing “providence” mentioned as responsible for a film could seem mildly blasphemous to some. Truly know that I do not mean to cause any distress. Instead, what I’d like to do is use this as an opportunity to transition back into a view of godly providence that is applied to us all. I share a particular Psalm, one that has stayed on my mind since hearing these remarks at the premiere.  It speaks in regard to the amount of knowledge and control God has in each of our lives:
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
                                                              ~Pslam 139
Today, I don’t write this as a deep analysis of this particular psalm (to be entirely honest, my anticipation for the film is at a distracting high level). I will leave that to the future work of my fellow Geeks Under Grace writer, Ricky Beckett, who just started a phenomenal series, Geeking About The Psalms, that will eventually cover this passage in depth (you should absolutely check out this series and get hooked into it at the beginning). Instead, I write this piece as encouragement for you each to know some vital truth: God knows each of us intimately, whether we know Him or not. He places people, events, and circumstances in our lives that challenge us and build us into the unique individuals that each of us are. We can be built up or allow ourselves to be defined or destroyed by things in our lives, and none of these events are unknown to Him. There may be people we meet seemingly by chance who prove integral to our lives years later. There may be contacts made remotely or online (here through Geeks Under Grace or elsewhere), that we may never meet face-to-face, who come into our lives and, in time, change us greatly.
While Kennedy’s comments are admittedly cool about all the power players behind The Force Awakens, trust me when I say that there are much more important and wonderful things God has in store for each of us. At the end of the day, no matter how much we may enjoy Star Wars (and trust me… I do), all of the movies are just that–movies. Very important pieces of cinema history, each a part of an ongoing saga, but still… just movies. They are fantasy, make-believe, science fiction stories that will entertain millions of people; still, they are earthbound in their reach.
Here in our day-to-day reality, God is working together your story and my story, and our lives do not end here among the good and bad of the everyday. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we accept his gift of eternal life, and God continues to weave into our lives people and events that can grow us in our Faith and lead us to even greater things than we would have found left to our own devices. I challenge you to look everyday for all of the ways God is helping you write your story, and never shy away from what He has in store for you. You may read the greatest of novels and watch the most engaging of film series, but I want you to know that your life is the greatest story you will ever know… Yes, even more so than that story a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
When it comes to your life, live it, love it, and seek the One who makes it all possible.