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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The wait is over. Star Wars is back.

After less than a month in theaters (I’m writing this review in January), the new addition to the Star Wars storybook has already made more money at the domestic box office than any other movie in history. It is well on its way to setting records that may stand for a long time.

Reviewing this movie may be useless by now since so many reading these thoughts will have already seen it for themselves. But thinking about the phenomenon that is Star Wars may bear some fruit since the experience of this story has meant so much to so many.

So the story first. We are now thirty years after the triumph of the rebellion and the death of the emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. The dark side of the force is once again concretized in what is now known as The First Order, and once again a resistance has formed. A new robot, small, smart, feisty and fiercely loyal to its master, has an important message that an uneducated outlier on a rural, backwater planet has to bring to the rebel headquarters so they can use it to destroy the huge, deadly weapon the First Order has developed to put down the resistance once and for all.

Hmm. Sound familiar?

The great thing about The Force Awakens is that it uses so much of the same material employed by George Lucas in The New Hope in such a way that the viewer watching the movie doesn’t really care. The story is a good one and bears retelling. Good confronts evil. Evil is powerful and fearful but depends on power to implement its will. Good on the other hand stumbles towards its goals, uncertain, ill-equipped and weak, but is able to triumph in the end because of perseverance, hard work, ingenuity and most of all humility and team work. Ethically speaking, Star Wars should be nothing but encouraging for the Christian viewer because its many virtues are so in line with Christian thinking.

Metaphysically speaking, however, the latest episode of Star Wars continues to preach the universalism of Joseph Campbell. Embedded in the pantheistic view that God encompasses both good and evil, constantly struggling against each other on an equal footing in His being, the Force is ultimately amoral. Christianity stands in direct contrast to this view. God is good in this faith; evil opposes God; God ultimately triumphs over evil, whatever its form. If this sounds like Star Wars to you, it is; the original story had a self-contradictory nature, even according to its creator, George Lucas. In 1999, when asked what religion he was, Lucas told a story of his son being asked the same question and answering, “A Methodist Buddhist”. He laughingly told the interviewer, “That sounds about right to me.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens provides a rollicking good time. Just know what you’re buying into, when you praise it without caveat.

Drew Trotter

December 18, 2015

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