Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It’s Time for the Jedi to End

Shortly before The Force Awakens came out, I wrote an article trying to get my head around the Star Wars saga up to that point. It's a long read, but the brief version is that I rethought a lot of things, including my feelings about the Jedi and my interpretation of the prophecy about the Balance of the Force. For the Balance, I realized that as portrayed in the prequels, the Light and Dark sides of the Force are not actually about Good and Evil, but about Reason and Passion. Which means that the Jedi of the prequels were not the defenders of Good, but advocates for Reason. And as it turns out, rather complacent, arrogant, and narrow-minded ones.

Seen this way, balancing the Force starts to make sense as a worthwhile goal. Why would anyone want to balance Good and Evil? That's ridiculous. We want that scale tipped all the way over to the Good side. But balancing Reason and Passion isn't just beneficial, it's crucial. And as I argued in the previous article, that's what Luke does.

The teaser trailer for The Last Jedi supports this idea and makes me extremely excited for the new movie. It not only prominently mentions the Balance as a theme; it also suggests how Balance might be achieved.

If the Jedi aren't champions of Good, but of Reason, then theirs is just one way of relating to the Force. It's been the dominant way for however long (I'm not clear on the timeline since it was rebooted), but  Rogue One in particular goes to great lengths to show that the Jedi Way is not the only "good" way. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.

The Force Awakens does this too, but more subtly. For better or worse, it comes out especially clearly in interviews with JJ Abrams when he talks about going back to a vision of the Force as suggested in the original Star Wars.
"I’m not someone who quite understands the science of the Force. To me Star Wars was never about science fiction — it was a spiritual story. And it was more of a fairytale in that regard. For me when I heard Obi-Wan say that the Force surrounds us and binds us all together, there was no judgement about who you were. This was something that we could all access. Being strong with the force didn’t mean something scientific, it meant something spiritual. It meant someone who could believe, someone who could reach down to the depths of your feelings and follow this primal energy that was flowing through all of us. I mean, thats what was said in that first film!"
We see Rey tap into that with no Jedi training whatsoever (that she can remember, anyway) and Leia's another good example with her raw supernatural connection to Luke in Empire and Return of the Jedi. There are also suggestions that Finn may be Force-sensitive if you want to read some things a certain way. And Kylo has also taken an unconventional approach to mastering the Force. He rejected Luke's Jedi teaching, but it's also clear that whatever Snoke's teaching him isn't precisely Sith, either.

With all that in mind, the very title The Force Awakens takes on an added layer of meaning. Until recently, I assumed that the Force had been sleeping only since Luke shut down his failed Jedi school. But what if the Force has been sleeping for much, much longer than that? Like, since the Jedi codified it and turned it into something specific and scientific. It's not that the Jedi weren't using the Force, but they'd limited it. And now, with Rey's awakening to it, we're seeing the Force awakened as well so that it can be used in new and different ways.

In the Last Jedi trailer, Luke tells Rey to reach out and tell him what she sees. "Light," she says. "Darkness." And finally, "The Balance." And Luke says, "It's so much bigger." Because the Force encompasses so much more than just the traditional Light and Dark sides. The Balance negates the extremes and throws off the limiting definitions that the Jedi imposed on it, so that Force is not just awakened, but now also allowed to grow and flourish.

Luke recognizes this, which is why he also says, "I only know one truth. It's time for the Jedi to end." He's not training Rey to be a Jedi, he's training her to use the Force in this new way, balancing Reason and Passion. Thanks to the way that the Last Jedi was titled in some non-English translations, there was some speculation that the Jedi in the title is plural, but Rian Johnson has clarified that - for him at least - it's singular. "They say in Force Awakens that [Luke] has gone to find the last Jedi temple and Luke's the last Jedi."

And I couldn't be happier about that.


Paxton said...

As usual we align in many of our views of a movie. I too like alternate views of the Force. Something more than light side/dark side. That it's not the Force itself that's light and dark but the intent with which you use it. Also, I agree that the Jedi, in trying to quantify it, have weakened the state of the Force. And we've talked about how we feel about the Jedi during the prequels.

There was a book back in the 90s. I can't remember which one it was. It talked about "Force noise". Luke was still sort of new to being a Jedi (it was after Return of the Jedi. Possibly even after the Thrawn trilogy) and learning what using the Force meant. Because of this, he was using the Force for EVERYTHING. Even small tiny things. He would use it and use it and he felt his connection to it was becoming disrupted. He would find out later that constantly using the Force for everything caused this sort of "feedback" (or Force noise) that amounted to standing in a loud room and trying to hear someone talk to you from the far side of that room. Luke had to learn to not constantly call on the Force and learn to quiet his mind and let the Force connection just happen and not "force" it (pun intended).

I always like that little subplot. You don't always get little insights into the Force like that, but when you do it's always fun.

And I'm stupid excited for Last Jedi. I'm going to try to not watch any more trailers but I can't guarantee that I won't fold like a deck chair and watch the inevitable next trailer this summer.


Michael May said...

That book sounds great. That's what I want from the movies regarding the Force. Not scientific explanations about midichlorians, but little insights that spark ideas while leaving plenty of room for wonder.


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