How The Last Jedi Restored My Faith in Star Wars
I love Star Wars. From the first time seeing “A long time ago” appear in blue letters on the movie screen, I was hooked. As a kid, I collected almost every action figure and play set that Kenner toys ever made. It captivated my imagination, and I likely spent more of my childhood, at least mentally, in the world of Star Wars than I did in the real one. I remember hours spent in my bedroom, playing with my action figures. Or I’d be outside looking up at the stars, imagining what it would be like to travel in space, dreaming of someday being a Jedi.
When I was 10 or 11, my Aunt visited. She was a Carmelite Hermit, and obviously didn’t get out much, so a visit from her was a big occasion. She wanted to spend the afternoon with me and asked what I wanted to do. The answer was obvious: see The Empire Strikes Back for what must have been the 8th time. I’ll never forget the dinner we had afterwords, when she explained what it meant to be a follower of Jesus using the imagery from the movie. It changed my life. Now I no longer wanted to be a Jedi. I wanted to be a Christian Jedi.
To be honest, I still do.
I’m not naive. It isn’t a Christian movie. Actually, one of the great things my Aunt Rosie explained was not only what was good about the movie, but also what wasn’t in line with being Catholic. Even with its flaws, it is a spiritual movie, and let’s be honest: you don’t get that very often, especially in science-fiction. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it when movies touch on spiritual themes instead of acting like they don’t matter.
I love Star Wars, but I hated the prequels. “Hate” is a strong word, and I use it intentionally. Not that there weren’t good parts to them, because there were. But it changed the rules.
In The Phantom Menace, we were introduced to the idea of midichlorians—tiny symbiotic life forms that live within the blood. It was explained that this was how you knew if you could be a Jedi or not. Young Anakin had the highest amount of midichlorians ever seen, “even higher than Master Yoda!” a young Obi-Wan exclaimed.
So… if you want to be a Jedi you have to pass a blood test? Is this what determines whether you end up working in the Jedi Temple library or are on the Grand Council? Your ability to use the Force was genetically predetermined and there was nothing you could do about it? I remember sitting in the movie theater as this was unveiled on screen. It felt like a punch to the gut. I know I’m sounding like “it ruined my childhood”… but to be honest, it kind of did.
The other movies of the prequels continued in a downward spiral of blurring the lines between good and evil, Jedi and Sith. At the end, the Jedi were as much to blame as anyone else. From the original trilogy, I had thought the Jedis were the “guardians of truth and justice in the universe”, as Obi-Wan had explained to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. After those movies, I guess not.
When The Force Awakens came out, I braced myself, expecting to hear once again about the midichlorians… but it never happened. It felt a lot like A New Hope, so much so that its biggest critique was that it was too repetitive. But for those of us who suffered through the prequels, the repitition was welcome. The movie left us with some unanswered questions, particularly about Rey’s parents. I mean, if she was that strong in the Force, it has to be because of her bloodline, right? Obi-Wan must have shacked up with somebody somewhere—who else had that kind of midichlorian count in their blood?
The Last Jedi began with a heart-breaking image: a Luke Skywalker that had lost his faith. It wasn’t just that Kylo Ren turned to the dark side. He also learned about the history of the Jedi and realized it wasn’t what he thought it was. In a sense, he had watched the prequels. So he was convinced that the world didn’t need Jedi, that the Jedi were a part of the problem, and the best thing to do is to shut himself off from the force and kill the order.
And Rey, hearing him say this, says adamantly, “YOU’RE WRONG!”
Later in the movie came the big reveal. Rey’s parents were… nobodies. Junk traders. She had no “special liniage” to speak off. The implications of this were staggering: you can be strong in the Force, and it doesn’t matter who your parents are. It just matters who you are.
In the end, Luke is back to the Jedi he was always meant to be, and it is clear the Jedi order will rise again. The final scene was, for me, the most poignant. Three slave kids, playing with what were essentially Star Wars figures, get kicked out by their overbearing master. One of them walks to the hanger and reaches out for his broom… and it comes to him by the power of the Force. Then he looks to the stars. He dreams of going to space one day. Dreams of being a Jedi. And perhaps he will.
That kid was me. My faith in Star Wars was restored.
Disclaimer: Never lost my faith in Jesus 🙂