Friday, December 4, 2015

"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

“Empire” tends to be the undisputed best of the Star Wars movies. It certainly has the best structure, acting, moments, direction, etc. And, it has the moment that singlehandedly takes this from a great trilogy to one of the most important in pop culture. “No, I am your father.” Wow. What a moment!

(Also, the best argument that fictional works need to be consumed in the order they were created, not following internal chronology. I mourn for the generation that has come to “Empire” and to that big reveal and simply had to shrug their shoulders. In a spoiler-shy culture you would think people like Lucas would know better. This also applies to other series like the Narnia books.)

However, in addition to all of the above, “Empire” is also the most religious, or at least spiritual of the films. And where one could try to make the argument that “Star Wars” was open enough to include Christian ideas, here we see that things are clearly not of that bent.

“Star Wars” established that the force was impersonal, but here that is made clearer. It is truly just a power akin to gravity or movement. And it is neutral. In the Star Wars universe evil is a thing. It is not simply the absence of good, it is good’s opposing power, and to hear Yoda speak, it is more powerful than good. Therein lies the real danger for Luke. He is not just learning how to wield goodness, he is playing with a power that more readily lends itself to evil.

Now, in imaginary worlds it is fine to play with ideas. And there are even lessons to be learned here that can help us in the real world. But it is also helpful to understand where a fictional work differs from reality. Some people struggle with that to varying degrees. On one end there are already people who have worldviews that are more similar to Star Wars, like Buddhists, Zoroastrians (are there any of those left?), and some Gnostics. Then there are those post-seculars who—looking to religious forms not for truth but rather meaning—find new imaginary structures as good as any other and opt to adopt the religion of Star Wars for themselves.

I for one choose not to base my direction in life on something imagined by the likes of George Lucas. Just have another look at Jar Jar Binks.

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