5 things the new Star Wars Trailer Tells Us
Possibly the most anticipated movie of the decade is due to arrive in cinemas on December 18th 2015. Today the world was given an 88 second glimpse of the opening of the 7th chapter of the Star Wars story with the global release of the teaser trailer for Star Wars “The Force Awakens.”
1. There’s been an awakening.
The first scene of the trailer shows a terrified storm trooper on a desert planet. We are told in a spine tingling voice over “There has been an awakening” that apparently we all should have felt. This is a new phase in the story of the Force but I must admit I have always struggled to understand the Force. In Episode 1 we were told by Qui Gon Jin about the strange connection between microscopic life forms and one’s ability to discern the force’s will:
“Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you.”
Qui-Gon Jinn, to Anakin Skywalker
There’s been an ongoing problem in my mind with understanding the force because the force is described in both personal and impersonal terms. Obi Wan calls it an energy field but Qui Jon describes it anthropomorphically attributing to the force “a will.”
“Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
The force has both a good side and a dark side and can seemingly be commanded for completely different purposes at the same time. Eg. Yoda can fight the emperor both using the force at the same time.
To be honest too many people try to use prayer in the same way that the Jedi and the Sith use the force. People often say prayer is powerful. But I know that in war time both sides will often be praying for completely opposite things. So unlike the the force a Christian understanding of prayer puts all the power in God’s hands not in the person praying, nor in prayer itself but in God. Prayer is a means of speaking to God inviting him into a situation that his will is done. We pray asking not that some impersonal force is wielded by us, but rather we ask that God our heavenly father intervenes in our situation and we place ourselves at his disposal.
2. Robots Rock… and Roll
The second scene of the trailer shows an R2-D2 like robot rolling across another desert landscape. It’s a novel design that looks like James Dyson has been asked to redesign an astro-mech droid and he has riffed on his ball vacuum cleaner theme. The droids are the only characters to survive all the way through the Star Wars films and like all good Science Fiction movies raise exciting questions about the possibilities artificial intelligence can bring. R2 D2 has been a conundrum for me as he (?) clearly is sentient – taking initiative to rescue Anakin and Luke, celebrating and even arguing with C3P0 on many occasions. Whoever designed him had the sophistication to give him sentience and yet not able to give him the ability to speak. So we get the skippy the kangaroo problem trying to communicate with him – only C3PO and Luke seem to be able to understand what he is saying.
For me I guess we sometimes underestimate the power and complexity of speech. For Christians thinking about the fact that central to our belief is a speaking God. We must be careful not to treat God like Skippy the bush kangaroo and pretend we know what he is saying and really just load on to him whatever we want him to be saying.
3. The Empire is not over
The third scene shows sleeker and cooler looking Storm Troopers but Storm Troopers none the less. Despite the overthrow of the emperor and his fleet after a ferocious Ewok attack ( I am personally rejoicing that there is no sign of the annoying fuzz balls in this film ); the Empire lingers.
Star Wars has always tapped into the classic good versus evil epic storyline. It nuanced it with characters moving to and from both sides and had at its heart a strong redemptive narrative with Annakin travelling to the darkside and then back again thanks to the unwavering love of his son back to the light. Although episode 6 ended with a victory there is still a fight on.
Christianity has always posited a good verses evil perspective to human existence. Like Star Wars redemption has always been part of that story with God’s looking to redeem a fallen and broken world. Christianity also sees redemption made possible by the unflinching love of a son. But this time the son was not saving the Father but instead working with the Father to save creation.
Right from the original episode IV women have not been treated as damsels in distress in need of rescuing. From Princess Lea to Padme there have been strong women at the heart of the Star Wars narrative. With the fourth scene in this teaser trailer we see a young woman gunning her land speeder and jetting off into the distance.
I have read too many Christian books arguing that men are to be the heroes and women like to be rescued. Sadly this is not bourn out neither in the Star Wars Universe nor in the Bible. What do you do about heroines such as Deborah, Ruth, Jael or Esther with such a strange understanding of gender roles.
5. The past will be honoured
The barrel rolling Millennium Falcon complete with the JJ Abrams trade mark lens flare is a good sign that Abrams is going to honour the past Star Wars canon. He shows a reverence for what went before and yet looks set to innovate.
Theologians for a long time have been talking about the way in which the church plays out biblical truth by both honouring the canon of scripture and extemporizing in a reverent way its performance in the world today.
Dr Krish Kandiah is President of London School of Theology and you can follow him on twitter at @krishk. His latest book is Paradoxology : Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.