- - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My sons saw “Star Wars” on Tuesday and they loved it. They wanted to tell me about the whole movie (I haven’t seen it yet), but they remembered my rule I instituted before they went: If you tell me spoilers, I’m kicking you out of the house. 

Just kidding.

If you want to read a basic review of the movie that lacks spoilers and has some Christian theological reflection at the end, my friend Andrew Pritchett has done us a service by penning the following. Pritchett is a pastor-theologian…and a self-admitted science fiction geek too. So this piece is fun.

“Star Wars Episode VII: A (spoiler free) review with Christian theological reflection,” by Andrew Pritchett

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? $100 million of presold North American tickets, over $14 million worth of Day 1 revenue, and the most purchased ticket on Fandango in its history say you should have. Think about that, a movie in a franchise that dates to 1977 is the most purchased ticket ever on Fandango. More than any Lord of the Rings or superhero film. Given this sort of money, we must pay attention.

Literature has been joined by television and film as being applied philosophy, ethics, and even theology. If we want to know how to speak to our children, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about Jesus, God, the church, and the gospel, it would not hurt us to be somewhat attuned to what The Force Awakens is telling and asking us.

I promise this review will be spoiler-free, save for what has been revealed in previews and trailers.

As new characters join the old, things are not quite what we expected when the credits rolled at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi in 1983. Peace and justice do not reign across the galaxy. The future has not turned out brightly.

The writing by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt is superb, as is the direction as provided by Abrams. They keep the viewer guessing, questioning what will happen next. The picture provided to the viewer is both more sleek and bleak. The First Order’s starfighters, officers, and stormtroopers have been given a clean and crisp design, but the Resistance (the next stage of the Rebel Alliance) is as beat-up as ever. Adding to the visual display, Harrison Ford is Han Solo, but he is an old Han who is simultaneously more grizzled and a little softer. Our new characters show potential from the beginning, but we’re treated to the knowledge that their lives have been nothing short of torment. Kylo Ren, our next generation Darth Vader, is power scarcely under control. His powers through the Force are vast, but they are juxtaposed with his impulsiveness and often counterproductive behavior. He is not the Vader who became a fan favorite through calculated ruthlessness; however, his powers will leave the viewer stunned just the same. The ugly Supreme Leader Snoke stands as a symbol that evil remains uncomely, even under a refined surface.

I went into the movie expecting to interact with Jedi sage wisdom, and I was not disappointed to find it mainly absent from the movie. Instead, as mentioned above, the ideas of The Force Awakens are found in their applications. As you watch the movie, be ready to look for questions and the beginnings of answers to them. Be ready to think upon the lines below.

What is your answer when things turn rotten from a place of hope? What does this do to your confidence, your trust for the promise of the future? What happens when the plot of life takes a tragic, unexpected twist? Are you jaded, discouraged, or willing to abandon what you love or have held to be true? What does this say about the depth of your faith?

When tragedy strikes, what old pattern do you fall back into? Is it a good one? Is despondency a live option?

What does redemption mean, and do you desire it for others? Who can be redeemed? Does your heart yearn for return of one who has willfully and intentionally abandoned what is good and noble? To what length will you go to show and tell that person that he can, indeed, he must return from the dark side? What happens when your call goes unheeded or spurned? What of evil actions with permanent consequences? The Force Awakens poses these questions in the most heart-wrenching way.

I find these questions incredibly compelling as a fan of these movies and as one who is trusting a crucified man for salvation. To be clear, that crucified man is God Incarnate, but he is a crucified man nonetheless. He is the man who speaks thirty-six verses of woes and condemnations against the religious leadership of his people in Matthew 23. Yet, the chapter ends with two verses lamenting their rejection of the prophets and of him. He is the one who endured much suffering, and he died a death that required a new word to be invented in order to describe it: excruciating.

I’m asking no one to import a Christian faith onto any character in Star Wars. However, when faced with the true-to-life struggles of these characters, how would you respond? Are you one to retreat into yourself or lash out in anger and fear? Or instead, are you ready to provide an answer for the hope residing in you (1 Peter 3:15). What does Christ’s suffering death and resurrection life say to these things?

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