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The Last Jedi and Irrelevant Religion | Bigger on the Inside

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The Star Wars franchise has had plenty of ups and downs, but The Last Jedi was a two-hour-and-thirty-minute expression of those ups and downs all in one shot. There were cheerful moments (moments when everyone cheered) and “Seriously?” moments. The movie was too ambitious and accomplished less by doing too much. There was a very interesting commentary on the role of religion in society as we see Luke’s struggle with the use of the Jedi and his desire to end the religion.

 

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry

 

This image shows the intricate structure of part of the Seagull Nebula, known more formally as IC 2177. These wisps of gas and dust are known as Sharpless 2-296 (officially Sh 2-296) and form part of the “wings” of the celestial bird. This region of the sky is a fascinating muddle of intriguing astronomical objects — a mix of dark and glowing red clouds, weaving amongst bright stars. This new view was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Jen Schlameuss-Perry connects faith and pop culture every so often with her Bigger on the Inside column.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole history of Star Wars was when, in A New Hope, Admiral Motti, has the nerve to call Darth Vader’s use of The Force “your sad devotion to an ancient religion.” This statement, of course, resulted in a special throat hug for Motti at the “hands” of that ancient religion. The Force was relevant, Jedi and Sith were relevant, and they wound up bringing balance to The Force…for a while. For a good deal of the movie, The Last Jedi presents a sense more reflective of our current culture and its relationship with religion–it’s there…most people ignore it…The Force is in everyone and doesn’t need a religion to regulate it, and as long as you’re a good person, you don’t really need it.  In the end, though, Rey is proof that the Jedi are invaluable to the Rebellion, and to establishing freedom and justice throughout the galaxy.

 

Is it appropriate for your kids?

Except for the prequels, and only because I hated them, I’m never going to say that any Star Wars movie is inappropriate for anyone. Star Wars rules. Of course there are battle scenes and fight scenes and maybe some scary elements. Not a lot of bad language, no sexual overtones (when Kylo Ren is shirtless, Rey even tells him to put a cowl or something on).

If you’d like some other opinions on this, check out what Common Sense Media has to say, or Catholic News Service’s review.

Preview the movie with this trailer.

Plot overview

Caution: Contains spoilers.

In Episode VII, Rey and Chewbacca had been sent to find Luke Skywalker, who the Rebels believed would be the spark of hope that would ignite the fire that would spread throughout the galaxy and defeat the First Order (the new Empire). Episode VIII picks up with an evacuation attempt from the last base that the faltering Rebellion had. The final few Rebels were about to be blown up by a massive machine called a Dreadnought. The Rebels were somewhat ready for it, and had bombers ready to take it out. The plan went wrong…everyone died, but they did ultimately destroy the Dreadnought. The remnant of the fleet jumped to hyperdrive, but unfortunately, The First Order figured out how to track them when they were in it, and showed up a few seconds later. Running out of fuel, and knowing that they’ll be found wherever they go, the Rebels are caught almost defenseless with their fleet being picked off fairly rapidly.

Kylo Ren’s forces continue to attack the main ship, and take out the X-wings and the bridge. Leia is knocked out of commission and another admiral put in charge. It looks like they’re doing nothing, so some of our friends from The Force Awakens take action. Poe and Finn make a plan to get through the defenses of General Hux’s ship so that they can turn off the tracker for a few seconds, get the fleet to hyperdrive and get out of there. In the meantime, Rey and Chewy are in negotiations with Luke to get him to come back and help the Rebels. Luke, because of his failure with Ben, who became Kylo Ren, doesn’t want anything to do with it. He sees Rey’s incredible power–her connection with The Force–and is afraid that she’ll follow the same destructive path. Eventually, he gives her three lessons, but won’t go with her, so she, Chewy, and some of the token cute comedy relief critters from the island return to the Rebels to help.

While all this was going on, Snoke, the really evil guy in charge, has been manipulating Kylo and Rey, making them able to transcend time and space and see and hear one another. They each are fooled into thinking that they can turn the other to their way, and Rey becomes determined to see Kylo to make it happen. As Luke predicts, it doesn’t turn out the way Rey thinks it’s going to.

Through some fortunate happenings, the Rebels are able to get to a place where they can make a stand against the Order, Luke makes an appearance giving them time to make a proper escape, and they live to fight another day. And Rey becomes living proof that the way of the Jedi is every bit as relevant as it was in Luke’s day.

 

 

Some Themes for Discussion

  • Luke’s fear and what he perceived to be his failure with Ben Solo caused him to retreat from the world and deny the necessity of the Jedi (Remind you of someone else? I’m looking at you Obi Wan!). He forgot the history of the Jedi, and his own personal history, and wanted to destroy the Jedi religion because it wasn’t 100% successful all the time. How does our Church history, and our personal histories with success and failure in faith, relate to Luke’s feelings? How does our society view us in light of our 2,000 year history? Do you ever feel like giving up when you experience a failure in yourself or in the Church?
  • Rey felt The Force awakened in her and had a sense of its power. She wasn’t equipped to train herself, or confident in really using The Force without help. How does belonging to a faith community, and a faithful family, help you to become more equipped to understand how to use God’s presence in you to help others?
  • Whenever we see characters who are truly powerful in The Force, they experience a lot of internal conflict. There’s a struggle between good and evil. Do you ever feel conflicted? Do you ever feel a battle between what is right and what you might rather be doing?
  • The scenes when Rey and Kylo Ren were connecting even from very far away, although it was happening by the aid of Snoke, showed the power of The Force to unite us. Some of Rey’s experiences were also similar to some of the Christian mystics. Check out Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, St. John of the Cross, or Theresa of Avila to see some interesting parallels between The Force and our tradition.
  • When Vice Admiral Holdo was holding down the fort, as it were, in Leia’s absence, Poe, not understanding the plan, got restless and caused a mutiny. He saw her gentleness and faith as weakness and inaction. How does our impatience, or lack of trust in other people’s wisdom, cause us to act irresponsibly? What can we learn from Holdo’s calm and Poe’s hubris?
  • When Rey was looking for answers about who her parents were, she was left only with a reflection of herself. What The Force was really showing Rey was that her parents’ mistakes don’t define her; her actions do. When Kylo Ren told her that her parents were nobody and she was nobody and worthless to everyone but him, he was trying to make her believe that she had no identity, except in her value to him. He was trying to make her feel that all of her importance relied on his appreciation of her; he tried to make her forget her importance to the people who loved her, to the mission she took on, or to herself. How much does your identity rely on how others value you? How much of your identity relies on your actions and choices? How can you find balance between your natural need to be loved and valued (two good things!!!), and your choices to live out what you are called to be? Do you ever fall into the trap of believing that if one individual doesn’t care for you that you’re worthless?
  • Kylo Ren believed that the only way to move forward in his destiny was to kill the past–to erase it from who you are. He came to this conclusion because of lies he was told by Snoke, and because of the pain he wanted to bury. Luke reminded him that when we try to kill what hurts us, it stays even closer with us. How can we deal with our individual past hurts, failures and disappointments without trying to deny them or let them rule our lives? How does our faith give us ways to acknowledge the past, live in the present, and look to the future; bringing true balance to our lives?
  • Things looked really dark for the Rebels when they sent out a distress call and nobody came. Their belief that they were doing what was right, and their commitment to defending justice and truth for the galaxy who wouldn’t fight with them against the darkness of the First Order (along with Rey’s presentation of it to him), brought Luke to their aid. The tales of their bravery and what they did there, spread throughout the galaxy and planted seeds in the next generation. They were the spark that would start the fire that will burn until evil is wiped out. How do you see yourself as part of that fight–not for the galaxy–but for those who aren’t brave enough to fight for what’s right? How do you help bring a spark to your family, your friends, your school, your workplace, your parish?
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Pastoral Associate

Jen is a massive fan of all things Sci-fi, Superheroes and Cartoons. These things, more than any other, occupy her mind & keyboard as she ponders them through the lens of her Catholic Faith. Jen is a Pastoral Associate for a Catholic Church, a wife, and mother of two boys.

2 Responses

  1. Jean Schoonover-Egolf
    | Reply

    You had me at “except for the prequels.” And you’re standing next to a dalek in your Twitter pic. I think my family loves you. Great read!
    What do you make of Kylo and Rae still being able to communicate after Snoke dies? And do you think Kylo is telling the truth that Rae is a “nobody?” Also, I want one of those rebel rings that opens up!

    • Jen Schlameuss-Perry
      | Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Jean! I think Rey and Kylo are very, very linked–I’ll be Snoke started it, but they are so powerful that they kept it up. Bad guys are liars, so he probably took credit for more than he did. I read that Kylo believed what he was saying when he said that about Rey’s parents, but, again, his info was from a liar–so who knows! I’ll bet that ring will be the next hot item–Disney won’t let that marketing opportunity go by. If your family loves Doctor Who, I love them, too. 🙂 Did you see the promos for Twice Upon A Christmas? It looks awesome! Thanks again for commenting!

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