Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi
3 (non-spoiler) themes to look out for when you watch it!
This morning I joined hundreds in a cinema in Wembley at midnight to be among the first to see the brand new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. It is expected to take $425 million in its first day alone! Here is the movie trailer if you haven’t already seen it.
Why do we love fantasy stories so much?
J.R.R Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Ring’s) in his essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’ made the case that we escape into fantasy stories not purely for escape alone but actually because they have a way of connecting us with a greater reality, a greater story, Tolkien believed this to be the story of what God is doing in the world. Fantasy stories such as the ever-growing Star Wars franchise take into account the harsh and often difficult realities we each face, yet they also speak of the gospel - the good news that there is hope and redemption. At Christmas we remember this good news story that God entered into the chaos and mess of His creation to bring light, hope, forgiveness and renewal in Jesus.
We could say then… we love Star Wars, not because it offers a welcome escape, but because its story points us to God’s greater story of hope…
Here are three ways the latest movie did that. I have kept these purposely vague so not to spoil anything! Look out for these themes when you see it, did you notice any more?
1.) Passing on to the next generation
A prominent theme from the last instalment (VII - The Force Awakens) which continues into The Last Jedi is the passing on of wisdom and knowledge to the next generation. We were thrilled to see the return of many of the original cast, but their role has mainly been to take a backseat, to support the next generation of heroes with their struggle against the First Order.
The way fantasy goes about this “passing on” is by being invited to share in the life of our heroes. Whether that be an invitation for a Hobbit to go on a journey with a Wizard, Tony Stark (Iron Man) inviting Spiderman onto a mission or flying around the galaxy in spaceships with a Jedi Knight, Smuggler, and a Princess - we are invited to share in their story, for it to become our story.
The good news of Christianity also invites us into a story, it invites us to link our ordinary everyday lived experience and to connect it to the larger story of those who have gone before us. It is not something that is learnt from a book, but from realising the work of God in and around our lives.
What is so interesting in The Last Jedi is that the older generations are learning to come to terms with their mistakes and weakness’. Learning to share these parts of their story to the young emerging heroes who have only heard the “good bits” - the tales and legends of strength and victory at the height of their power- is difficult. Yet there are a number of “sacred moments” in the movie where we are invited to share in the weakness and struggles of our heroes, there is something inherently spiritual about these moments as the audience is surprised to stumble across hope and strength within tragedy.
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
2.) Rebel Scum
The last Jedi continues unfolding the back stories of our new heroes & villains, we begin to understand more about where they have come from and how they have ended up on “their chosen team”. Yet one theme that is picked up on time and time again throughout the movie is that “it doesn’t matter where you have come from or what you have done, there is always an opportunity to turn it around, there is always an opportunity for a spark that will start the fire of something new”.
At Christmas we remember that 2000 years ago God did something truly amazing, he joined himself to a scandalous family tree, and later as a man gathered rebel scum around him: terrorists, national traitors as well as humble fisherman, woman & children (all seen as holding a lower status then). God moved in to be close to rebel scum and the marginalised, to draw them to him and to transform them to be his agents of transformation for a galaxy in need of renewal.
“Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." - 1 Corinthians 1:27
3.) The right kind of radical
Towards the end of The Last Jedi a question is posed, (paraphrased heavily because I can’t remember it fully!) “Would you rather sacrifice yourself to destroy something that is evil or to save something that is good”. The resistance must wrestle with this tension, is their goal to destroy the first order? Or is to save and protect what is good? On the surface, the difference seems subtle, but actually, these are two very different stories. The first story, destroying the first order, invites its participants to fight by any means necessary, to retaliate and to bring destruction. Yet, the second somehow holds the power to break the cycle of violence and to value and protect all that is good instead. Someone has written (I can’t remember who), “We must be as radical about the pursuit of peace as are the warriors who lay waste to it”.
Or as Poe puts it in the Last Jedi “We are the spark that'll light the fire that'll bring the First Order down”.
The “spark” we are called to is one of peace, love, justice, grace, truth and hope. If we live for these things in Jesus’ name there will no longer be any room for the darkness as God establishes his kingdom rule in and through us.
Enjoy the movie if you go to see it!
About the Author:
Paul is employed full-time as our Youth Pastor to encourage holistic growth and a whole load of fun with those aged 11-19 both at CCR and in our wider community including local secondary schools. He loves cooking curry, star wars, adventure sports and books. He is married to Harriet, the proud parents of two cats (Merry and Pippin).