New Versions of the Same Old Story

After watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was disappointed to see the reviews that called it a remake of A New Hope. Sure, there were a lot of similarities. The movies are set in the same universe. It would be unbelievable if it were to be completely different – as unbelievable as the sequel to ‘Water World’ being set thirty years after the original on the same world, only this time in a world-wide desert. As unacceptable as the sequel to Star Trek being set in the Star Gate Universe.

To be honest, human history is the same old story, the same song and dance. We see it in Judges, First Kings and Second Kings; either the people of Israel would go their own way and end up in trouble that only the judge whom God raised up for them could get them out of, or each generation of ruler was progressively worse than the one before in imaginative ways of doing evil. The point isn’t so much that it is the same story told over again, it’s whether or not the next generation is doomed to follow in the footprints of the one before it.

In the Star Wars universe, it’s been established that Luke is the last Jedi, members of his family are strong in the force – and since Jedi excel at turning from the light side to dark and back again, it shouldn’t be surprise that Luke’s relatives are force sensitive and on both sides. So it should not be a surprise that the new story proceeds from the old story. It should be understood that the same basic rules still apply because the concept of the Force is very well explained in previous stories and it would stretch belief if it were to break it’s own rules. For every vacuum of power, somebody rises to fill it – and a few decades is barely enough time to restore peaceful order to a galaxy ruled by the dark-side, so it should be no surprise that the First Order took advantage of the situation to gain what foothold they did.

So when I noticed some familiar elements, I wondered: “Will this character be able to resist the temptation of the dark side? Will that character be redeemed and restored to the light side? If so, will people find it easy to trust him? What does it look like when a former dark-side devotee becomes a reformed light-side Jedi? Will this other character fall under the power of the dark side? If so, what motivates them to do so?

With Luke, there was never really a doubt that he would remain on the light-side. With Anakin, we saw him fall to the dark-side, but we never saw the struggle of a him returning to the light-side, wrestling with the destruction he caused and deaths he was responsible for while avoiding the lure of being called back into the dark-side. With Leia, she barely began to understand that she had some force sensitivity, but she never seemed to want to explore it. With Han, the question was whether or not he would revert to being a shady smuggler or would continue to change for the better.

To some degree, these have to be the same story just to explore every variation there is in the theme – there has to be something good that fights against the something evil, the judge that is raised up to rescue everybody for the umpteenth time, the king that is more evil than the king before him – just to see if there will be a time when peace reigns for decades or a good ruler will come to the throne – having learned from the mistakes of the past and set all the wrongs right.

This is, after all, the human story – about betrayal and redemption, right and wrong, good and evil, cruelty and compassion – whether it’s in one of our oldest books or newest films, we are not to hate the repetitive patterns that exist but look out for the hope that as bad as things gets, there’s always a choice and there’s always hope even for the worst of us and forgiveness for the best of us, and when we lose our way, there will always be someone to help us find it again.