The Force Awakens universal questions


December 2015 On the Star Wars geek-o-meter of 0-10, I’m probably a “5.” I know all the major planets in the Star Wars galaxy, but there’s no way on earth, you’ll find me standing in line for a week to be the first in line for Friday’s midnight showing. But I have had December 18 marked on my calendar for over a year. So, prior to the premier, some random thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but I promise no spoilers!

First, I hope to find answers to the big questions:

For instance, how does Star Wars creator, George Lucas, come up with spaced-out names like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Grand Moff Tarkin, Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Jar Jar Binks, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hut, and Chewbaca? Perhaps a drunken Scrabble game? And why, in a galaxy far, far away, is no one ever named Jim?

How do light sabers work? Shouldn’t two beams of light—even if they’re super-energized from a galaxy far, far away—pass right through each other? And isn’t BB-8 the coolest robot since R2D2? I love how magnets keep its “head” atop it’s rolling spherical body! (I so want one for Christmas!)

Where do space royalty go for their hair and makeup? The Princess Leia look of two bagels bouncing on the sides of her head never really caught on in this galaxy. And Queen Amidala apparently had her makeup done at Ringling Brothers. And did Darth Maul get his ink at Tatooine Tattoos? (And do his seven horns have apocalyptic meaning?)

Where is Luke?! Some 10-rated fans believe it’s his bionic hand that we get a quick glimpse of in the trailer. And where is Jar Jar Binks? (Hopefully, he has met a quick death in the Sarlacc pit!)

Will Han and Leila have two adorable twins who are separated at birth with one following the light side and one following the dark side of the force—thus guaranteeing Episode VIII through CVIII?

And will we learn more about the force, now that it has awakened? Lucas admits he is fascinated with the search for something or someone beyond our world. “It is still the most fascinating search—what is it all about—why are we here and how big is it and where does it go—and what is God and all that?” As Yoda would observe, “Confusing, it is The Force.”

Star Wars may be the biggest movie and marketing machine in the Milky Way precisely because the series deals with the big questions of the universe—along with the really cool licensed characters and computer graphics! (Little known fact: the original title for Episode VII was The Sales Force Awakens!)

Is there a force for good and a force for evil? How does Anakin Skywalker turn to the dark side of the force and become Darth Vader? (The change seemed much too sudden for me.) What force or forces determine who we become? Can we overcome those forces and be redeemed? Yoda—and many sociologists—would think not. “If you once start down the dark side, it will forever determine your destiny,” the Jedi master tells Luke Skywalker.

And yet, in Episode VI, Darth Vader, who has spent most of his screen time trying to skewer Luke with a light saber, saves the young Jedi knight and destroys his evil boss.

Lucas pointed out in an interview with Bill Moyer in TIME, that he merely wants to raise the questions— not provide religious parables. Obi-Wan is not a Christ figure, although he does sacrifice his life and come back to life. The Sith lords, who all go by the name Darth, are not Satan-figures, although Darth Maul certainly looks like a cartoon version of the devil with red face and horns. And the Force is not God!

But Star Wars does raise cosmic questions that we deal with each day right here on the third planet from the Sun. But for a real discussion of the issues of good and evil, rebellion and redemption, as well as supernatural forces of good and evil, I’d suggest a church rather than a movie theater.

Granted, there are no computer generated characters or light-saber battles at your local house of worship. You may, however, see a few Princess Leila hair styles! But you will find people who are searching for answers to the big, universal questions.

And if you’re a person of faith, Star Wars will give you ample opportunity to discuss your beliefs following tonight’s midnight release.

See you at the theater—and may the force be with you!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts:
Star Wars III: modern morality play
This Force never sleeps
Top ten signs Han Solo has turned 70
Top ten surprises in Episode VII

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