I haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet. Don’t spoil it for me! I’m going tomorrow.
What I find fascinating is this: Why is there such a difference of opinion between critics and movie-goers? 9 out of 10 critics like the movie whereas only 5 out of 10 people who paid to get in enjoyed it. My limited research suggests that audiences who hated the money think it diminishes the legacy of the episodes preceding it. Rian Johnson has, for haters, written and directed a movie that is incoherent and epically unsatisfactory. The plot doesn’t hold together. The characters viewers expected to love and hate are dumb and simplistic.
Conversely, critics like MaryAnn Johanson relish that Johnson creates a disturbance in Star War’s 40-year long cinematic relationship with The Force. This movie takes the story in a different direction. Johnson assaults Star Wars orthodoxy. Critics appreciate his originality.
[Most everyone agrees that the movie is too long. Try sitting through the Oberammergau Passion Play if you think a three hour movie is too long.]
My inference is that there’s a reformation going on with Star Wars’ spiritual, psychological, and narrative midi-chlorians. Some people enjoy having their expectations and foundational views of the world, scientific fiction or otherwise, jumbled up. Some don’t. Thus the movie is getting its mixed reviews.
I live in the realities of paradoxes and uncontrollability; so, I expect that I’ll enjoy The Last Jedi. I think this will be true despite the series’ ongoing messianic message and dualistic cosmology (Manichean/Confucian dualism). Is the universe inherently designed upon a battle between good and evil, dark and light? Or, is the universe religiously pluralistic and morally relative? This argument provides some basis for people’s difference of opinions. Maybe it just sucks or excels. I’ll see.
For me, the Star Wars is a spirituality saga. I spend lots of time contemplating the nature of why and how universal creatures make choices. Theology means a lot to me. One of the factors that I admire most about these movies abides in the characters’ psycho-spiritual depths. Why do they (we) decide to go to the Dark Side? What motivates them (us) to recognize and acquiesce to imperial and carnal desires. Why do Darth Vader and Kylo Ren for whatever evil reasons choose to surrender themselves to their deities: Snoke and Palpatine (Darth Sidious). On the other hand, why do the protagonists elect to abide in The Force’s panentheistic truths? Luke Skywalker and Rey seek The Force and learn its values? The course of their life channels them toward Yoda and Obi Wan Kanobi. Why? Is destiny singularly relevant? It doesn’t seem so because the characters are constantly striving to persuade one another to make different choices. “There is still good in him.” “I will show you the Power of The Dark Side.” Conflict continues in The Last Jedi. Rey must fight Kylo Ren again….unless there is a deviation in the epic’s typical narrative trajectory. Why?
Well, because human beings tell stories, strive to make meaning of the world, and often don’t have a frickin’ idea why the universe works the way it does or why we do the illogical and emotionally unintelligent things that we do. We are emotional more so than we are rational. We don’t unplug from anxiety or passions particularly well. Heroes like Hans Solo and villains such as Jaba reveal these truths.
George Lucas created, composed, and crafted a spiritually pertinent and heterodox religious myth whether or not he intended to when he began this work back in the 1970s . He suggested in a 2014 interview w/ Charlie Rose that he created Star Wars as a vehicle for exploring psychological motifs. He pondered whether or not modern people worried and wondered about mythical and oral beliefs in the same manner as ancient people did. Why do some people make heroic sacrifices while other people don’t? What does it mean to be someone’s friend? Why do we make enemies knowing that our wars will perhaps kill us and others?
Lucas furthermore explained that, as an 8-year-old he asked his mother why there were so many religions if there is only one God. His inquiry may be the basis for the reason that the Star War movies blend so many spiritual and religious themes. Myths shroud whether or not The Force (God exists). Believers and sages of both The Dark Side and The Force gather in temples, sit in councils, and contemplate their relationships with nature and other beings. For goodness sake, The Force Awakens ends on Skellig Michael. 6th Century CE Celtic ascetic monks chose this sea crag as the best destination to pursue greater union with God. (World Heritage, nd) These monks, like Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far, faraway during a time long, long ago before them, withdrew from civilization. They isolated themselves to yoke themselves to the Divine following conflict with spiritual and secular foes and frustrations. In sum, George Lucas and his disciples have sought to do the same thing that Moses, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu and other spiritual-religious prophets and mystics have done. They creatively use myths and beliefs to explain the universe and humanity’s place in it.
I’m going to head to the movie theater tomorrow for the same reason that I will sit silently in Centering Prayer tonight. I will worship God this weekend in church as well as learn more about God at AMC Classic Bloomsburg 11 because all of these endeavors will provoke me to think about life and death. Evil things happen every day. I am evil sometimes. Other times I am very good. Grace occurs when we least expect it Why do I make the choices that I do? Why do you believe what you believe? Why did Luke abandon his friends? Why didn’t Darth Vader return to The Force before mortally dying? Seemingly, some of the characters in The Last Jedi are going to make choices that their predecessors didn’t make. The course of universal constructs may change because Rey or Kylo don’t make absolute choices as their mentors did before them. One reason that some people like this movie and others don’t is that not everybody possesses the same fears and anxieties. Neither do we all have the same genetic composition for managing trauma and/or health. Some of us need deities that are molded in stone. Others of us need ethereal, malleable gods.
I’ll let you know what I gained from seeing the movie in my next post.