Darkness Rises and Light Meets It

      Much has been said about the most recent addition to the “Star Wars” franchise. Many fans  enjoyed another adventure into that galaxy far, far away that we love so much, but there seems to be an equal number of fans who left theaters in disappointment. I myself did quite enjoy the film, but I am not writing this as another movie review. Regardless of whether “The Last Jedi” is your favorite film in the series or your least favorite, there is something that we can gain by looking a little closer at what Disney has been doing over the past three films, “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One,” and “The Last Jedi.”

      When the original “Star Wars” films debuted, audiences witnessed for the first time the mystical energy that connects all living things: the force. The force has long populated the conversations of average moviegoers and philosophers alike. Many Christians use it as analogy to talk about faith and spirituality, and for me personally, it was always more than just magic. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” the sequel to the original film, master Yoda tells Luke that the only limit on the force is our faith (or more accurately, lack thereof) in it. Children everywhere who watch the films for the first time are captivated by the force, and learn something very fundamental about belief all the while.

      This is one of the things that always made the original trilogy so compelling, and was also why the decision George Lucas made with the force in the much maligned prequel trilogy is so painful. Early in the first prequel film, we are told that microscopic organisms called the midichlorians are actually what allows people to interact with the force. What once required a leap of faith was now a simple genetic lottery.

      This is where the yet unfinished sequel trilogy has begun to redeem the force. What was only touched upon in “The Force Awakens” was fully explored in “Rogue One” with the characters of Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, two former temple monks of the church of the force. We meet Chirrut, a man who is not a Jedi, but one who believes in the force so wholeheartedly that he runs into combat against Imperial stormtroopers only armed with a stick. Throughout the film, he proclaims “I am one with the force. The force is with me.” This idea is now front and center in “The Last Jedi,” where in the opening battle we watch as a seemingly random rebel soldier, Paige Tico, pilot her bombing craft toward the First Order dreadnaught. She attempts to arm and use the bombs in her ship, but is knocked down the bombing shaft with the detonator far out of reach. She kicks and kicks at the ladder to try and knock the device to her, but cannot get it to move. With nothing else to turn to, she clenches her necklace (which is of religious significance to her) and kicks the ladder one more time, knocking the device down to her where she heroically activates the bombs and destroys the enemy ship as well as her own.

      This moment is in line with what master Luke is trying to teach Rey throughout the film, that the force is beyond any one person, and beyond the Jedi. We learn late in the film that unlike the Skywalker dynasty, Rey is not genetically gifted, but connected to the force independently. This culminates in the final scene, where we see a stable boy (who helped the rebels earlier in the film) lift a broom to him with the force. The force is mystical again, it requires faith, and anyone can be a Jedi. If nothing else, that’s something “The Last Jedi” gets right. May the force be with you, always.

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