When it comes to the “Star Wars” film franchise, I’ve always found myself in the middle ground between casual movie goer and uber-fan.
I’ve seen each movie multiple times and end up researching the smallest facts about them after each viewing, but by no means would I consider myself a diehard fan who nearly dies of anticipation in the weeks leading up to a new movie’s release. I recognize the cinematic beauty behind each scene (even in the prequel trilogy, which was still a beautiful tri-film piece despite the quite notable void in terms of storyline and acting chops) and find myself severely interested in the premise, but by no means do I fanboy over it as much as I would, say, Harry Potter or Superman.
But something about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story caught my attention, and I liked it.
Before I go on, I think it’s safe to say that a *SPOILER ALERT* is necessary, especially since, at the time I’m writing this, the movie came out less than twenty-four hours ago. This isn’t a movie review of any sorts, but I’m honestly too lazy to censor myself from discussing things that might spoil it for those of you who have not seen it. So, as one final reminder, I am letting you know that spoilers are free to be discussed starting…now.
Alright, so back to the movie. Going into Rogue One I was a bit skeptical, primarily because despite the good reviews I’d heard about the movie from early screenings, I was afraid that I simply wasn’t a big enough fan of the source material to be thoroughly entertained by what the movie provided – which was, essentially, a 133-minute movie based off of one line from the original trilogy.
(Okay, so sure, this scene may have very well been referring to the SECOND Death Star in RotJ, but we can only assume that they used it as some inspiration, right?!)
However, at the end of the movie I found myself pleasantly surprised, though it’s not for the reason you might think. While, yes, I found the movie to be a masterpiece in and of itself – the first of the Star Wars movies to emphasize the “wars” over the “star” – and found all the characters compelling, it wasn’t the beauty of the movie itself that was the biggest send-off for me.
It was the Force.
Okay, so it’s no secret that I love analyzing movies, breaking them down, and looking for the little things within them that make them so amazing (I have friends up in College Station who will stay over until 4 in the morning just analyzing movies with me), and it’s also known that sometimes I will go to movies in theaters three or four times just to pick up on more details that I might have missed. Going off of that, it’s also no secret that if there’s something that I fanboy over more than Harry Potter or Superman it’s my buddy Jesus, and my favorite movies are the ones where he seems to pop up without me even having to look for him, where the symbolism is so strong that it’s inevitably the notion that the movie-going audience is supposed to pick up.
Rogue One was one of those movies.
It all starts with one line that caught my attention early on in the film: “The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.” It’s a line that is repeated over and over by multiple characters throughout the film (most notably by Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe), and while at first it seems like a throwaway mantra that is repeated over and over in a Buddhist-like style, eventually it is clear that something about the insistent prayer introduced to us by the self-proclaimed Jedi wannabe has some sort of hidden power capable of intergalactic wonders.
In fact, it was this very line that left me pondering at 4 o’clock this morning (after I had finally gotten home from the theater), making me reconsider the Force as it is presented in Star Wars canon as a whole. It is no secret that the Force is representative of God or at least some sort of supernatural energy (heck, George Lucas himself admitted as much), but something about Rogue One left me with this gnawing feeling that the story I’d seen on screen was something way too familiar, something I’d most definitely seen or heard before (and in case you are wondering, I’m referencing the Bible).
Let’s back up a bit, though, and let’s return to the character who introduced us to that “one with the Force” line: the blind, spiritual, warrior-monk Chirrut Imwe, played by the always awesome Donnie Yen. An obviously spiritual person meant to mirror the Buddhist monks of our real world, Imwe is a well-practiced warrior grounded to the world by his utter calm and stress-free countenance presumably garnered by his seemingly endless meditation on the ways of the Force. It is this character, I would say, who represents the ideal Christian of the Star Wars mythos, displaying an unfaltering faith in the unseen force that controls the universe, putting all of his hopes and dreams into that single power that is beyond his control. (I recently wrote a 30-page research paper comparing many Buddhist beliefs to Christian ones, and in fact Imwe’s “one with the Force” line more directly reflects the “one with God” viewpoint of John 17:21 than it does any Buddhist belief of themselves with nature.) Imwe is not a Jedi but is instead a regular man with lofty aspirations, yet he finds himself content with where the Force has placed him and always eager to fight for balance in the Force despite his obvious limitations.
Speaking of which, let’s not forget to directly address Imwe’s most notable feature (and I’m not talking about his kick-butt bo staff skills): HE’S BLIND! Nevertheless, despite what many people would call a “limitation,” Imwe seems to have a greater understanding of the world around him than do any of the other characters in the entire film. His physical blindness is not a weakness but in fact a strength, allowing him to hand his reins over to the Force to provide for him and see for him, so that while he is the only physically blind person amongst his comrades, he is in fact the only one displaying true sight throughout the progress of the story. True sight, in the Christian faith, comes whenever you recognize that you have been blind all along. Just as Jesus healed a man born blind in John 9, His entire goal during His earthly ministry was to be the Light of the world (John 8:12): the shed light and therefore sight onto those who were surrounded by darkness and therefore blind.
Imwe is like the day-to-day idealized Christian: going about each and every day with a non-stop trust in God to take care of him during even the toughest times of life. He is constantly mocked for his repetitive prayers to the Force, yet despite the opposition he is consistent: “The Force is with me and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me and I am one with the Force. The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.” And, in the end, Imwe ultimately dies for the betterment of humanity, his final act of heroics being a final display of his unrelenting faith in the Force that so many doubt. His final words are that fateful prayer of his, and it is his faithful death that inspires his deepest friend (Jiang Wen’s Baze Malbus) to place his faith in the Force as well. In the same way, a Christian’s greatest testament to their faith is the way they live their lives, and that influence can have a direct impact on where those around them decide to put their trust. If Christians live by their faith relentlessly and trust in God even through the hard times, it will inspire others to do the same (especially when, like Imwe, such Christians can display such an unnerving calm and peace despite the chaos that surrounds).
(Likewise, notice that whenever people pray to the Force throughout Rogue One, their prayers are answered in some way. It might not work out how they expected it to or in the way they would prefer, but the Force always – always – answers their prayers. Is it not the same when we pray to God?)
Having taken this little snippet of information from the movie, my mind start running as an even bigger picture came into view. As I stepped away for a second and looked at the Star Wars anthology as a whole, I realized, “Holy crudmonkeys! Star Wars is essentially the story of the Bible!” Don’t believe me? Just think about it…
The prequel trilogy is the age of Jedis, all of them waiting for the day when one will arrive to restore balance to the Force. It is a time of great political upheaval and tragic betrayal, and when at last someone arrives who people believe to be “the Chosen One,” he fails miserably and makes them realize that they put their faith in the wrong person. This is exactly like the Old Testament: the people of God and many heroes of faith (the Jedis) are awaiting a Messiah (the Chosen One) who will restore Eden (bring balance to the Force), and they often put their faith in the wrong person. Throughout the Old Testament there are many would-be messiahs (“messiah,” in fact, simply means “anointed one,” so pretty much any leader of Israel could qualify), yet every single leader fails to live up to the expectations that Jesus would one day meet.
Next in chronology comes the story of Rogue One, a previously silent period in between the trilogies that tells of a time where many people have lost faith in the Force and have begun to doubt that a savior is truly coming. This is like the Silent Years between the Old Testament and the New Testament (the 400-year gap between Malachi and Matthew), a time where faith in God was dwindling and many people turned away from him. Only a few, such as Rogue One’s Chirrut Imwe, maintained their faith that the Force/God was/is in control.
Then comes the original trilogy, the favorite of the bunch. This tells a story of a farmboy (Luke Skywalker) being raised by his adoptive parents in the middle of nowhere, descended from the person (Anakin Skywalker) who failed to bring balance in the past. He rises up despite opposition and succeeds in taking down evil, saving the day and re-introducing the world to the Jedi race. In the New Testament, we read of a boy born in a stable (which I’m gonna claim is pretty dang close to a farm), descended from those other people who failed to restore Eden (Noah, Abraham, David, etc.), and raised by someone who is not His true parent (SPOILER ALERT: Joseph isn’t His real dad). Despite opposition, He grows up to restore Eden by defeating sin and death itself, re-introducing the world to the heroes of old by appointing apostles to go out and proclaim the Good News to the nations. So yeah, that’s all pretty neat.
But let’s not forget the Force Awakens. I won’t claim to know about Episodes VIII or IX, but what I can say about TFA is that Luke Skywalker has gone missing and people have once again begun to doubt the Force (some people claim that the Force and the Jedi didn’t even exist, and that they were all simply figments of people’s imagination, despite all the evidence proving otherwise). This savior-figure (Luke) didn’t bring balance to the Force in the way that everybody thought he would, so they see it necessary that he return so bring balance once and for all. A new generation of believers (Rey, Finn, Poe, etc.) – mentored by an older generation who holds on to their beliefs (Han, Chewie, Leia, etc.) – arise to prepare for the return of the person they need to put an end to evil once and for all.
NOW LET'S BE HONEST...this is our place in the timeline. Jesus came and died for us, but He didn’t establish worldwide peace in the way that the Jews of His time had expected Him to. He waged war of the heart rather than of the body, and as a result there is still strife and pain and evil within the world. And then He went missing, gone from the face of the earth. As a result of this, many people have doubted Jesus and have turned away from Him – and some even claim that He didn’t exist or that, even if He did, He couldn’t do the thing He claimed to be able to – but a few hold onto that faith in Him and prepare for the day when He will return and make everything right. We are searching and we are waiting for the day when the Force awakens and returns to us, providing not a new hope but an everlasting hope for all of us.
So yeah, this is what happens when I see a movie late at nighttime. I could be onto something, I could be making stuff up, I don’t know; all I do know is that if it fits, it ships, and this simple pondering has garnered within me a whole new appreciation for the Star Wars film franchise. I hope it does the same for you.
May the Force be with you.