I’ll only give this warning once, if you haven’t seen “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, I recommend you don’t read this yet.
After two viewings of the film, I’ve also done a lot of thinking. There are a lot of things to be gleaned from the stories of the film. There are issues of the balance of the Force and of hubris. Science fiction has a way of pointing to something in our world, and though I wouldn’t call Star Wars science fiction (it’s space fantasy, if you want science fiction take a look at classic Star Trek and enjoy) there are moments that may parallel our reality.
The Balance of the Force
A Post-Modern viewpoint would look at a gray area in which the Force resides. They wouldn’t classify either side as fully good or evil, just two sides of a balance. A suggested resolution to this viewpoint might be that either Kylo Ren and Rey will have to kill each other, or that both must live to maintain the balance. That’s a very interesting viewpoint any I’m sure many are convinced of it. However, taking the prophecy of one bringing balance to the Force, we can look at it being Anakin after all, even though I’ve heard wonderings of it being Rey. Did Anakin bring balance to the Force by turning to the Dark Side, or did he bring balance by returning to the Light Side?
What is this balance? Is it light and dark living together? Or is it simply a circle of life. After all, life creates the Force and makes it grow (thanks Master Yoda). As was stated by Raiden in the Mortal Kombat film, “It’s not about death, but life.” The cycle of life and death is big in this movie. Death feeds life but in the end life will die…to once again feed life. That seems to say that life is the important state since either you are alive or are allowing life to continue. What of the hot and the cold? Cold doesn’t truly exist; it is simply a lack of heat energy. Same as with darkness and light; darkness is an absence of light. The power lies truly on the light side and the Jedi seem to be a keeper of that balance.
Until hubris steps in with its arrogance and the balance is lost. This loss of balance would be what gives rise to the Dark Side. The light loses its way and the Empire is born from the Dark Side’s hubris of desiring domination. The dark is often shadowed by the light, and that is a natural state. So what happens when the darkness drives away the light? Imagine your shadow was made of light and all around you is darkness. The natural balance is lost. Anakin restored the balance by defeating the Emperor when you look at it from this point of view.
A Reflection on Our World
Let’s talk about a religion that focused on peace and justice. They serve a higher power and hold to a solid doctrine in an attempt to guard that peace and justice. There is no room to waiver or to extend grace. This religion works best when the ideals and morals of the religion hold opinion in the political issues of the day and act accordingly basing their opinions on deeply held beliefs taught by the higher power. What happens when the political opinions interfere and suddenly the religious view is affected by a political opinion? The state and the church are no longer separated in that the state now has some measure of control of the church. Next thing you know, the Jedi who have stated they are not soldiers are called to fight a war in which not only decimates their numbers, but allows the Dark Side to gain strength. The Jedi didn’t see this coming because of the hubris of their arrogance that the Dark Side could not rise to power as long as they were there to keep the peace. The Dark Side however is deceptive and illusive, working in the shadows to bring about the end of the light.
Does this mirror our world? Has not a faith been intruded by political opinion and when instead moral views should influence political opinion? Just today I’ve read how a former youth pastor lost faith because he was berated for having a differing political opinion and it interfered with someone else’s political belief as if it was upheld by sound doctrine. Where was the grace? There is surely room for the rules given by Higher Power but we must extend grace to those that agree with us on the moral rules but feel the need to express that in a differing opinion.
Something Old, Something New
There are themes in this film of the old generation passing away while a new generation steps up to take the reins. There are also two different depictions of how this passing can be accomplished. In one sense, we see the violent and destructive methods brought about by hatred and anger. Kylo Ren often tells Rey they need to burn away the past and let it die. He destroys the old leadership (Snoke) and even went so far as to murder his own father. He nearly kills his mother, but he hesitates because he is yet conflicted at this time.
The other side of this coin is shown in the Light. Luke Skywalker has had a crisis of faith. He has fallen into doubt and closed himself off from what he once believed. He has not extended grace to the failure of his forbearers. He has not extended grace to himself for his own failure. Rey shows up holding onto new ideals and wanting to learn the old ways. He is not interested in teaching her the old ways, but does help her to tap into the living Force. He has kept old texts (he’s never read them) safe in a Force tree for years. Rey, however unseen, has taken those books away. We see them again on the Millennium Falcon as Finn opens a drawer to extract a blanket. We briefly see those books underneath. Rey, the new generation, is taking what she can learn from her forbearers and forging a new path on the wisdom of those that came before.
Yoda must have known she had the books, he tells look she already possesses them as he burns down the old tree. The knowledge is passed, and yet a new Jedi will read without a teacher and learn in her own fashion. She will be allowed to fail, and learn from her failures on her own. Luke then learns from his failures, learns from Yoda that indeed the old Jedi order failed but can return better and stronger if they can learn from that failure. Some of the old ways must be left behind to help serve the original wisdom of the Light. The old Jedi lost their way, but as Luke states, he will not be the last Jedi. The Jedi will continue with Rey and even a little boy who uses the Force to summon a broom to his hand.
Poe’s arrogance of youth tries hard to take the reins forcefully from his predecessors, but finds failure by ignoring what they could have taught him. However by the end of the film we see he has learned to trust the older generation, and gains wisdom that even Leia agrees with.
The light side passes the torch of wisdom and knowledge, while the youth take that knowledge and will discover even more wisdom and knowledge. It’s not about destruction; it’s about building on the past while learning from past mistakes.
Canto Bight is an interesting story. I got a new perspective listening to Rebel Force Radio. Jimmy Mac points out that the weapons dealers aren’t really to blame for what the buyers do with the weapons. The make weapons, and sell them. The First Order uses them for domination, while the Resistance/Rebellion fights against that domination. The makers aren’t controlling the actions taken with the weapons.
You might then ask, “Don’t the makers have any ideals or morals governing to whom they sell weapons?” That’s a good question, and one that it may not be easy to answer. Perhaps though, if you refused to sell a product based on moral or idealistic convention you’d have to deal with the backlash.
Despite Luke’s aversion to being known as a legend, we see that the legend of those that went before us can inspire our own greatness and purpose. Luke unfortunately gained arrogance from his own legend and threw away the legends of old, losing his faith in them. However, he regains his faith thanks to Yoda and builds a new legend by taking a stand against the Dark Side. His legend spreads out to even the smallest and meekest persons in the galaxy; slave children. We see that the legend inspires a young boy before the credits roll.
Rose says it so well, “We win not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.”