“The Last Jedi” came out this past weekend, in case you are the only person in North America who didn’t notice. From a strict movie point of view, it’s a hot mess. There’s a meandering plot, gratuitous scenes, campiness galore (Porgs? Really?), an occasional foray into SJW-land, and some incredibly unsatisfying moments. Who is Snoke? And in the name of all that is holy, why can’t that giant ship catch the little one for half the movie?
Despite all of this and more, this movie moved me as few movies have done in recent memory. The reason is simple. It got the one thing right that matters.
Love means sacrifice. It means learning to be vulnerable, to fail, to be present even when it stinks, and it means doing something about what is wrong, even if the cost may seem more than you can bear. That’s what “The Last Jedi” got at a very base level.
Rey is willing to risk everything to turn Ben. Rose risks her life for Finn. Luke faces his failure for the sake of his sister. Time and time again, we see people acting in love for another. At one point in the movie, one of the new characters, Rose Tico, makes a profound statement: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”
Our culture today is filled with hate, more than at any time that I can remember. We hate what we fear, what we don’t understand, and above all, we hate those with whom we disagree. Spend five minutes on Facebook and tell me I’m wrong. Especially for Christians, though, it would behoove us to remember that hating evil is not the point. What matters is the “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be,” as the hymn attests.
Because of all this, I found myself weeping as I watched “The Last Jedi.” This is no small feat. I take drugs to prevent me from such emotions (thank you, SSRIs). But I couldn’t help it. When a commercially driven Disney enterprise like the Star Wars franchise can’t help but show that humanity is about self-giving, that is a cause for rejoicing.
That self-giving ties us to the image of God given to us in creation and restored in Jesus Christ. I don’t think that’s what director Rian Johnson had in mind, but any story of heroism and true sacrifice will ultimately point to The Sacrifice, whether the writer likes it or not.
The original Star Wars was at its heart a story of redemption, the redemption of one Anakin Skywalker. I haven’t decided yet if this trilogy has a redemption arc or something else. Time will tell, but this modern trilogy has elements that may point to a similar or related theme, like hope. We will have to see what J.J. Abrams and company have in mind.
If you want a nerdy interpretation of the movie, I recommend the podcast “The Incomparable” and their recent panel discussion of the movie. And if you want things to crab about as a conservative, I’m sure there’s more than adequate fodder (women in combat, for example).
But from a Christian point of view, the movie got one thing right. Loving another person means sacrifice. That one, simple point ties this modern mythology to the one true story of the God who became man in Jesus Christ so that we can be saved from sin, death, and hell.
As Christians in a post-Christian world, we need to learn how to see that tie wherever it is. Yes, even in Star Wars.