I’ve seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. For the most part, I love what J. J. Abrams has accomplished. Have you seen it yet? If not, you won’t want to read further. There are some major spoilers.
It is only a minor spoiler to mention the fact that, when the introductory text rolls at the start of the film, we learn that Luke Skywalker has gone missing. Only later do we learn the backstory to that. He had begun training a new Jedi order. One of his apprentices had turned against him, leading him to abandon the entire project and become a recluse. That apprentice, introduced as Kylo Ren (one of the Knights of Ren), turns out to be Han and Leia’s son, whom they named Ben Solo. We also discover that the Force is very strong with Rey, who is expecting her parents who left her on Jakku to come back for her, and has no Jedi training. Her back story, that of Max von Sydow’s character who has information about where Luke Skywalker is, and the story of Supreme Leader Snoke are left a mystery.
The tragic story of Ben Solo is not filled in in detail. Who is Snoke and how could he get access to one of Luke’s apprentices and lead him astray? Ben feels the light side calling to him, describing it as temptation in much the way a Jedi would experience the call of the Dark Side. There is something beautiful about this, rather reminiscent of Jesus’ idea of infectious purity, that purity can make the profane holy, rather than it simply being the unclean which can contaminate and render impure. And the action which he takes in an attempt to be free of his pain and cut out the lure of the light once and for all is one that I didn’t see coming, and which I’m still not sure I’m ready to talk about. But the whole thing is in keeping with what George Lucas said about the previous six films. It is about parents and their children, the legacy we leave and the way they in turn change our lives. And so, while some might view the similarities to the earlier films as a bit too much – desert world, droid with important information, etc. – it symbolizes well the fact that history is full of stories which are very similar. History repeats itself, because there is no final victory of good or evil. Both are woven into the fabric of life itself, and the interplay never ceases, even as the dominance and dynamic may change. And so the idea that remnants of the Empire don’t just vanish, but emerge again and seek to make a comeback in a fashion that reminds us of fascism, even after the Republic has been restored, isn’t at all implausible.
There are great visual moments in the film, such as when the Star Destroyer blots out the planet from view, and when Kylo Ren stops a blaster bolt in midair. I was surprised that I didn’t find any new themes in the score that immediately wowed me in the way Williams’ melodies have in the past. But the use of themes from previous movies, and new music which was reminiscent but different, was just right.
I assume if you have read this far that you have seen the movie too. What did you think of it? In particular, what do you think of the spiritual and ethical themes in the film and the way they are treated?