Let’s get nerdy with this.
First, a disclaimer. While I do really enjoy the Star Wars movies, I cannot admit to being a diehard fanatic or a bonafide “movie buff”. I’ve never read any of the books, and I’ve only seen The Last Jedi once (gasp). So, I can’t approach this movie in the same way many others have; looking for explanations, development of plot, and arcs of characters. I don’t know what those mean and I don’t know how to follow those subjects.
I am an avid fan of Christianity however, and can look at the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, as it tries to relate to my bigger picture of Faith, Existence, and the State of the Church today.
I want to look at several of the main characters of the movie as representing a certain demographic, or trend in the church. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the demographics of the church, but covers some of the more prominent ones.
The themes of Good and Evil are always evident in every Star Wars movie, but I think they hit it out of the park with their understanding and development of evil in The Last Jedi.
Snoke represents the Devil and his constant attack on the church and its members. Here we see evil in its constant pursuit of the human spirit. Snoke is ugly and distorted, an outward sign of the state of his intentions. Weighed down, and barely able to move, it reminds me of Dante’s portrayal of the Devil in “The Inferno”; frozen in ice, unable to move, pinned down by his pride and wicked spirit.
During the movie, Rey the hero, comes face to face with the evil Sith and as he tortures her for information he tells her forcefully, “Give me everything”. That is exactly what the devil wants: everything. He wants us to come to him under peaceful pretenses, only to take advantage of our weakness and take everything we are. But “everything” is never enough for the devil, as we see in the character of Kylo Ren.
Kylo is a pitiable soul, constantly at war with emotions of love and hate, longing and pride. He is someone who has given their entire life to the devil, to evil, looking for belonging and acceptance, only to be told he is a “disappointment” by his master (Snoke). You see, when we give our lives to evil, enough is never enough. Evil will take everything we have, everything we are, only to fill us with more of an ache and a longing to be loved and appreciated. That’s the nature of hate, it keeps turning in on itself. It tries to outdo itself in everyone it’s found. By its very nature, it longs to be more evil than the next guy and we see Kylo Ren start this progression as he kills Snoke and becomes the new “Supreme Leader”.
The movie does a great job of playing with our emotions in Kylo. We think he’s good when he hesitates in killing his mother Leah, and helps Ray, only to see him lead the First Order against the rebels and Luke in a totally sadistic attitude. Out of pride, he becomes obsessed with winning this fight to become the most powerful, the most evil ruler ever.
Rey represents the Millennial Generation and their constant search for meaning in a chaotic world. She knows she has this power, this Truth inside her, but she doesn’t know what it is, what it means, or how to use it. She’s constantly looking for answers and flees to the “Church” (Luke on his hidden island) for answers. What does she find? Negativity, pessimism, and impatience for her questions. When she doesn’t find comfort in this establishment, she turns the other way and looks for answers in the darkness, the abyss of society, the Dark Side. She literally “goes into” the dark side looking for answers and what does she find? More of herself. More isolation. More confusion.
The danger for millennials today, as it is for Rey in this scene, is that when we turn inward looking for truths, we will only find more of ourselves, until we’re forced to “create” our own truths, or simply give up looking. It’s when she returns to the Light Side with a renewed sense of hope that she settles her unrest and provides hope to the rest of the church (Luke).
Rey’s passion and energy scare Luke. He sees the worst in her and knowing his history and what he’s been through it’s hard to disagree with him. He fails to realize the potential this energy has until later in the movie.
I like to think of Luke as portraying a negative side of the church. One that has been in the church for a long time, seen the good and the bad it can cause, and decides the best way to preserve it is to hide it. To lock it up where it can do no more harm (and no more good). He’s upset, and rightly so. He’s seen the evil that can come from this establishment, the Jedi Order (the church). Abuse, scandals, corruption, these are terrible evils that have come about from bad people. He’s seen these evils and their effects and is simply out of hope.
It takes Rey’s renewed sense of purpose to ignite a flame of hope in his soul. Throughout the film, we see Luke come full circle, from negative old burn-out, to sacrificial bearer of Hope. His journey is complete as he assures Leah that “no one’s every really lost”; the subliminal message of Hope and Mercy that IS the Church.
Speaking of ignite, I want to touch on Yoda lastly as a figure representing objective truth in the movie. Luke is upset, completely out of hope, and decides the only way to prevent the evil from happening again is to burn the whole thing down. He thinks, get rid of the establishment – get rid of its evil side effects. Yoda shows up and says, go ahead! It’s not about the external establishment of the “Jedi Order”. Regardless of your lack of hope, the Force exists and the Light side exists and you can burn these books and this tree to the ground, but it won’t change that fact that there is an objective nature to existence that can still be found.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “burn the church down! Burn the establishment down!”, not at all! Besides, Jedi’s need other Jedi’s to train and perfect their craft. Without the Jedi Order, everyone would use the Force for their own good, or they would join the Dark Side. We need an establishment to help us interpret those Human Truths often misinterpreted or misused. The establishment can also help us find the Truth in the same way Jedi's can teach others the Way of the Force. But I am saying that those who have been burned by the negative side effects of the Church need to realize that the Church itself is founded on Truths bigger than itself. Even the Church answers to those Truths and until we as individuals can own these Truths, we'll have a hard time seeing the good of the establishment.
In the end, I think the underlying theme in the entire Star Wars universe is one of Hope. And isn’t that also the primary message of the Church?
That’s all I got.