The Long Awaited One
Totally geeking out here! You’re reading the words of one who had the Star Wars sheets on her bed, the action figures on her shelf and the trading cards in her desk drawer when she was a kid. Actually, I think my brother, George, still has the cards stored alongside his baseball cards somewhere. I also wore out numerous cassette tapes listening to the famous John Williams soundtracks over and over again, much to Mom’s chagrin.
So, of course, I contributed my $10.00 to the $238 million that Star Wars: The Force Awakens made on opening weekend. Along with millions of other fans, disappointed by the trilogy of prequels, I awaited the boom of the trumpets and scrolling text that signaled the beginning of the long awaited Episode Seven, this time with J.J. Abrams at the helm. If anyone could resurrect the Star Wars franchise, it was him. After all, he did it for Star Trek. As the notes blared forth, the theater erupted in applause and the clapping rose up as each beloved character from the original films debuted on screen.
The Force Awakens yellow scrolling text told us that the Empire had fallen but out of it grew the nasty First Order. Their mission: to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), currently in hiding, and kill the last Jedi. Of course, princess-turned-general Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), still leading the rebellion, now called the Resistance, is trying her darndest to locate her missing brother (with the help of other awesome characters like Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the very cute BB-8 droid).
Old and New Combined
The great delight of The Force Awakens is the melding of old and new seamlessly. We meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a poor scavenger girl on a planet that seems to be full of nothing but sand and junk. She’s definitely more than meets the eye. We meet Finn (John Boyega), the stormtrooper with a conscience. Throughout the story, it’s obvious that these are the characters that will carry Star Wars into the next generation. They meet Han Solo (Harrison Ford) like he’s a legend come to life. “The Force, the Jedi, it’s all true,” Solo tells them as they escape a bunch of First Order stormtroopers in a very beat-up, familiar looking piece of junk that once made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
The story Abrams has crafted brings together many tidbits from the original trilogy keeping geeks like me loving all the throwbacks. There’s the wonderful cantina scene and at least one character mumbling, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Starkiller base is the Death Star x a gazillion lorded over by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), but like Darth Vader, he is the lackey of another, this time Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Even so, The Force Awakens has a lighter feel than the previous six films. There were plenty of times I laughed out loud like when Han Solo, interrupting a reunion of Rey and Finn, says, “Escape now. Hug later.”
Searching for a Savior
Just like its predecessors, Star Wars: The Force Awakens handles the themes of light and darkness (as well as others but those would involve too many spoilers), very Christian themes, especially as we say goodbye to the Season of Advent and look to the birth of the Savior at Christmas. The more I think about it, I think The Force Awakens would be a great film for an Advent retreat. The whole plot focuses on the search for Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi. In a sense, the Resistance is looking for a savior against the First Order, scions of the Dark Side. Is not that what Advent is for us Christians? We await the time when the darkness of sin and death is overcome by the light that comes into the world, Jesus Christ.
Christmas doesn’t only celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem long ago. It celebrates the coming of Christ into our lives every day in so many ways. Christ comes to us through the smile of a stranger, the small kindness given to another, the offer of forgiveness to one who has hurt us, a prayer of gratitude, and most directly, the great gift of the Eucharist.
As we Catholic Star Wars fans enjoy the thrills of Episode Seven, let us remember to incarnate the Light Side, the love Christ brings, into our lives so that we can do our part in dispelling the Dark Side.