#StarWars #TheForceAwakens in Canonical Perspective

First, **SPOILER ALERT**

 

Second, for those who don’t know me, I teach Bible and Hermeneutics at Oklahoma Baptist University. One of my overarching emphases in all my classes is reading the Bible canonically. This means paying attention to the order and shape of the material, textual links between books, and following the arc of the story. As I watched and have continued to think about TFA, these principles seem to help understand exactly what Abrams is doing with Episode VII. (Which is not, contra Ross Douthat, just an homage piece with no originality.)

I’ll start with the similarities between TFA and the original trilogy, and these are (almost) legion.

TFA starts almost identically to A New Hope. The movie opens over a desert planet, Jakku, and the leader of the First Order is searching for Republic plans. Instead of plans to the rebel base, it’s a map to Luke Skywalker, but still, same. These plans are hidden in a droid, which is found by an inhabitant of said desert planet. It’s Rey, not Luke, but she’s a great pilot and skilled mechanically. She escapes the planet with the plans with Han and Chewie and heads to the Republic to hand them over. Once there, a super weapon destroys the planet on which the Republic government is settled. The first half of the movie, then, is definitely ANH rehashed, although I don’t think that’s a negative.

The reason I think this is intentional and not just lazy homage is because of what Abrams does next. Instead of continuing an ANH reboot with new characters, he jumps into Episode V in the next part of the film. While Rey’s character was portrayed as a new Luke in the first half, both Rey and Ren are portrayed as new Lukes in the second half. Rey reenacts Dagobah’s cave in Maz’ basement, while Ren reenacts the climax of Empire on the bridge with his father. But it’s Empire reversed. In V, Luke is confronted by his father on a long bridge, with no chance of escape, and given an ultimatum to turn to the dark side or die. Luke refuses, sealing his fate as a Jedi, not a Sith. Ren is the exact opposite. He is confronted by his father on a long bridge, with every reason and ability to walk away, and asked by his father to turn back to the light. Ren refuses, kills his father, sealing his fate as a Sith, not a Jedi. This is the climax of VII, and a reverse of V.

But there’s more. Abrams doesn’t stop with IV and a reverse V; he ends with VI recapitulated instead of returning to IV rehashed. As in Return of the Jedi, Han and Chewie plant charges in order to destroy base defenses so that the Republic can destroy the super weapon. And the scene where the weapon is destroyed is almost identical to the same scene in VI – the Millennium Falcon is the first out, followed by X-wings, and then the blast comes right behind. Go watch VI and then VII again and you’ll see.

In other words, Abrams has recapitulated the original trilogy in one film.

(Incidentally, I think this mitigates against the criticism that some of the film, especially character development, is rushed – yes it is, but for a reason.)

When you read the Bible and you see stories repeated over and over, you notice not only the similarities but also the differences. And I think this is where we really start to see where this new trilogy is going.

  1. This film doesn’t end like VI. There is no celebration, and Rey finds Skywalker. This latter bit is unprecedented, really. This should tell us quite a bit about what is going to happen in the next two films.
  2. Rey and Ren take up Luke’s mantle. Rey is light recapitulated, Ren dark. (This is why I think they’re twins, not cousins.) Before you say Luke has always been with the light, go back and watch VI again. Luke doesn’t go to the dark side, but he’s certainly not unambiguously light throughout, especially in his climactic battle with the Emperor and Darth Vader. Luke gives in to his anger and aggression but always ultimately pulls back from the brink each time. It’s still there, though. I think this is why Ren goes bad – Luke tries to train it out of him, but he’s not pure enough himself to do it. And whatever Ren subsequently did, it was bad enough that Luke never wanted to be seen again. (I think Joe Rigney’s comment on my earlier post are largely correct; go check it out.)
  3. Finn is Force adept. He awakens during the battle on Jakku, but doesn’t yet realize it. That’s why he’s the only non-compliant Storm Trooper, EVER, and why he can wield a light saber long enough to at least not get killed. I’d imagine we will see more people wake up to the Force as the series continues, and go to Luke (or Leia?) for training.
  4. Snoke, as many have pointed out, is probably Darth Pelagius, finally come back from the dead. He has to be destroyed, along with Ren, to balance the Force.

So again, Episode VII is fantastic. What makes Star Wars great is its simplicity. At its heart it explores the themes of good v. evil, redemption, temptation, and zero-to-hero through the lens of one family, the Skywalkers. This trilogy is going to give us the end of that story. Finally. And I can’t wait to see how it does it.

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8 thoughts on “#StarWars #TheForceAwakens in Canonical Perspective

  1. Love it, but I think Anakin/Luke parallels should play into this somewhere. Their relationship was/is the original recapitulation, with the appropriate inverses of course (both from Tatooine, both from broken families, both are trained by Obi-Wan, both have connections to C-3PO, both have their hands cut off, etc., etc.)

    Thus, Rey might be more of Anakin’s anti-type then Luke’s direct type. She, like Anakin (and unlike Luke) was abandoned by her family at the age of 7 to 9ish. She, like Anakin, clung to the hopes of a reunion. She, like Anakin, had a way with droids (that far surpassed Luke’s). Like Anakin, she lived in servitude (hers functional, Anakin’s actual) to a junkyard boss. She was also a force-intuitive pilot–even more so than Luke, etc. etc. But unlike Anakin, she faces the death/abandonment of her family and does’t give in to fear, anger, hate.

    Kylo is the anti-type of Luke, however, as you have said. He is the son of a famous war hero. He has the force in his blood. He is at odds with his father. He faces his him in battle, but unlike Luke, kills his father instead of sparing him.

    This is essentially a *concurrent* recapitulation of the character arcs from the sextilogy. Instead of Anakin, then Luke, we have anti-Anakin and anti-Luke at roughly the same time (but in reverse order, chiasm-style, since Kylo’s force awareness slightly predates Rey’s).

  2. Yes, that’s good. I still think Rey is directly typing Luke, but you’re also right that Anakin needs to factor in to my analysis. I think probably what I’d say is Luke is Anakin reversed, and then Rey is Anakin reversed but Luke recapitulated (and perfected) whereas Ren is Anakin recapitulated and Luke reversed.

    • Nice. I like it.

      Also, for what it’s worth, I saw virtually all the same parallels you mentioned in this film. I’ve been talking to my buddies about the recapitulation of the original trilogy in this film, with the space to take things into new directions.

      From what I’ve read, it seems we’re not alone in noticing such things–which is great news. It means that we’re not projecting things back onto the film that weren’t really there. (Like I accused my high school English teachers of doing, whether rightly or wrongly so.)

    • One more thought:

      Since the film introduced new elements, there remains room for additional recapitulation. The finale of this film left us in a post-ANH/pre-ESB place (even though elements of ESB had already occurred). The death star-like object has been destroyed. There is momentary peace for the rebellion/resistance. And we are left waiting for the perfected-Luke and anti-Luke to receive their respective trainings in their own Dagobahs. Both are immature and weak, but we know they won’t remain that way for long.

  3. c ur point about the twin…also like luke and leia..separated at birth..a replaying of history…but also see pointers in movie to cousin theory… being lukes daughter impacts the movie alot.esp. the last scene with possible father daughter reunion

  4. Pingback: 5 and 1/2 Reasons Jesse Monday is a Little Snitch | Ryan Ellington

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