Force and Faith: Seeing Star Wars Anew Again

Force and Faith: Seeing Star Wars Anew Again

Attack of the Clones was on TBS the other day. I dutifully and joyfully put it on. This under-appreciated episode of the Saga is much maligned, and I think that is wrong. While viewing this visually stunning masterpiece, I realized that I was reciting all of the lines along with the movie. Like some people sing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Sweet Caroline” or “Frankenstein,” I find that speaking along with these movies is comforting and helps me to find new depth in them. So then the question arises: How can we see these movies for what they are, and not what we expect them to be? By this I mean an even more basic question. Can we ever see these movies new again?
For the past decade we have been treated to The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, each of which has offered new insights to Episode II (among other things); and I would say that it has made it an entirely different movie. So, I ask myself, can I see this movie fresh, or is it constantly going to be colored by preconceived notions that I, myself, bring to each viewing? What if I had seen Episode II after the various cartoon series? And if I had, what would have changed? Certainly not the cinematic output, but me. I would have changed with more insight, or having been at a different stage in my life.

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And I realized that Attack of the Clones being the middle installment of a Trilogy, was robbed of the suspense that such a movie deserves. We knew going in what the outcome would be. We knew who Anakin would become, where Yoda would end up. The end of the story was known before the first reel ever rolled. And an existential crisis for the viewer continued.
The crisis is that we put judgments onto things because of our own prejudices and experiences that almost become indelibly part of that experience. It is nigh on impossible to reinterpret an event, an experience or a piece of knowledge after it has been decided upon. How many of our brothers and sisters in fandom speak about the earliest viewings of A New Hope? And the younger generation that speaks as if Ahsoka has always been around believes that this is so. What glorious fruits of contemplation could we uncover if we could experience all of this again, as if it were the first time?
Image result for the thinker statue in winter On the one side of this equation, I propose, is anxiety. I know that I myself am afraid to let go of my personal understandings, to reexamine my judgments, lest I find out that I am not, in the end, the arbiter of all things truthful. I am confronted when my judgement or expectation must change in the light of some subsequent information or development.
On the other side is freedom. I find that when I am open to interpretations or well-considered teachings of the more knowledgeable and righteous of a given community, whether of fandom or of faith, I can be brought to greater levels of understanding that are not dependent on my own myopic experience. The world doesn’t depend on me! I am not at the center of the universe! This is a most freeing realization.
Image result for naboo lake Where I live in upstate New York we have breathtaking vistas of high rolling hills, miles long lakes and ancient creeks that have witnessed every epoch of human habitation. And on queue, the earthy fall foliage was covered with an expanse of white snow. As expected. Thousands of commuters were caught off-guard, and many citizens thronged the stores for their French toast ingredients (you know: bread, milk and eggs!). The news droned on about the same old disaster we have each year. But what if we looked differently right out our own windows? What if instead of slick roads and damnable weather, we saw something new and wondrous happening? Instead of the hustle of everyday life, running to and fro, we have an opportunity to see the world anew, instead of the tired backdrop of an unexamined life. The muck of life covered by a forgiving and cleansing blanket of white. Intellectual and emotional freedom are available to all, and offered throughout the world just outside of our home’s windows.
This freedom is all around us. And I would like to propose that the unknown conclusion to the Sequel Trilogy offers the same delicious opportunity.
Image result for episode 9 logo What do you think about how the Sequel Trilogy ended? I am truly asking, it is a serious question — and a very important one. Have you already come to a conclusion about where this trilogy is going? Are you expecting a parallelism or an anti-parallelism to one or the other of the previous trilogies?
I would bet that more than a few Star Wars fans have some inkling to the answers to these questions, though they would not have known that they were already answering them. And your answer will be highly personal, based on real world experiences, commitment to the saga and the amount of free time one has to contemplate such things. But what if your expectations were on changing yourself, and not on imposing yourself upon the Trilogy? Listen to Elsa, my friends: Let it go!
Image result for yub nub Since 1983, we have actually known too much. The outcome of the Saga has always been known for 35 years. Even the prequels had a very definite ending to which they were trending, and we knew it. But now we have one movie to tie together a complex trilogy. Do not go into the theater with an expectation, but with an openness to the profound wonders to come. In a world that tells us to put on the masks of self-importance and pretense of individual omnipotence, we fans have the glorious opportunity to grow our souls through being witnesses to the greatness of a story that we are seeing new for the first time.

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  1. lovelucas
    November 22, 2018 at 13:04 Reply

    Thank you! I’ve seen AotC more than any other Star Wars film. And there’s a reason for that. Happy to know you’ve discovered it now, too.

  2. Melinda W
    November 27, 2018 at 09:16 Reply

    Can one unlearn what one has learned, James? Is it truly possible?

    When I went to Marine Corps basic training many, many … many 😉 … years ago, that is one of the first lessons the drill instructors tried to impart on their young charges. (I was considerably older than most of my peers, and understood what they, the DIs, were trying to get across. I know many of my counterparts — some almost 10 years my junior — had a tough time grasping that notion. How can one forget what one has learned, even if that piece of information is only cursory?) Leave your civilian life behind. Forget most of everything you knew before (it is a good idea not to forget everything; for instance, knowing how to tie one’s shoes — quickly! 🙂 — comes in pretty darn handy when lacing up those boots! 😉 ). Why? For the simple reason you, the recruit, can be “reshaped” into “a lean, mean, fighting machine”. None of us were “machines”, but being in the military means looking at life, the world in a different way. As odd as this may seem, being a “lean, mean, fighting machine” who would have to put her life on the line wasn’t what scared my mom the most about me joining the USMC. It was that I would be “brainwashed” and come out of my tour of duty much different than the person I was before boarding that bus to Parris Island, SC. Perhaps it was because I was so much older and experienced (with life) than my younger fellow recruits, but my mom had nothing to worry about on that score. I could take the best parts of what it means to be a Marine, and absorb it into my basic makeup. For the record, I do believe it is impossible to totally unlearn what one has learned … but it is possible to separate one’s knowledge learned beforehand from the present (if that makes sense 😉 ). Depending on the circumstances, and if one has a strong enough presence of mind, one can temper one’s preconceived notions to go into (a theater) with no biased notions. (More people should try that. 😉 I think it would save them a lot of disappointment when, for instance, a “Star Wars” film does not unwind the way they “think” it will or should. When sitting down to watch a Star Wars movie — even for the umpteenth time — shove those prejudiced ideas out of your head, and tell yourself that you are going to watch whichever film as if it is for the first time. It takes practice to be able to do this successfully, but like anything — practice makes perfect. 🙂

    That all being said… 😉

    I echo your encouragement, James, to our fellow brothers and sisters in Star Wars Fandom. Since “Return of the Jedi”, so many fans have expressed their disappointment about each of the Star Wars films that have been released. Even “A New Hope”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and ROTJ had their shortcomings — but fans put the three films up on a pedestal (and in doing so, do the films an injustice). Unlike ANH, TESB and ROTJ, some fans have been unable to accept the fact that various facets of the Star Wars Story have gone in directions that they don’t like (which is each individual’s prerogative), and complain, complain, complain — even going as far as to express their disdain for everything Star Wars that is not the OT! What it all boils down to is — just how open-minded is one willing to be? How willing is one going to be to shed all preconceived notions about where one believes/thinks each new chapter should go? Just like in all aspects of life, if one is going to be closed-minded, one won’t be able to enjoy what is put right in front of him/herself. That’s what it all boils down to (in the world of Star Wars). If one is so close-minded about something as simple as a movie, I shudder to think what that individual is like when faced with facets of life that really matter!

    With each new film, I have walked into the movie theater with two basic tenets — to know I am going to be treated to something visual that is exceptional and to know I am going to spend the next two or three hours on one wild ride. You know what? I haven’t been disappointed once!

    Quite frankly, this newest trilogy has taken Star Wars in a bit of a new, different direction. I love it! I can’t wait to see what happens in Episode IX. Already, sadly, my very favorite Star Wars character has become one with the Force but that isn’t going to cloud my enjoyment of next year’s film. I want to see where Rey, Finn, Poe and even (cough, cough) Kylo Ren wind up. I want to know if the galaxy will be saved from the tyranny of the First Order or whether its denizen will be able to live in peace and security once again. I am open to every possibility. And I’m ready for that exciting, exhilarating ride!

    Great read, James! Thank you so much for sharing your — always — insightful approach to our favorite saga. 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

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