This post is going to discuss the theology and metaphysics of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, specifically as relates to the characters of Rey and Kylo. I will attempt to avoid spoilers for the film, but I will be discussing the overall story arc and so if you have not seen the film and intend to, you may want to avoid reading this post.
The Force, we are told, is a mystical energy field generated by the sum total of all living things. Those who are aware of the Force and sensitive to it respond in one of two ways. They either surrender to it and let it guide their actions, or they seek to control it, and through it, other living things. The first are called the Light Side, the second are called the Dark Side.
I don’t think that this mythology was used to its full advantage in the original franchise. In my opinion the choice between the Light and Dark Sides was presented primarily as a stylistic one, and secondarily as a political one, with the theological ramifications largely overlooked.
Much has been made of the character Rey, and her seemingly inexplicable skills. For me, though, her abilities were not inexplicable at all, but were the natural consequence of the Light Side.
In my opinion she wasn’t a Mary Sue, as some have claimed, who was able to do anything because she represented some wish fulfillment of the authors. Instead, I see her as an analogue of David, the shepherd boy who was able to do great things not because of who he was, but in order to show that God could accomplish great things.
What Rey did in the film wasn’t because she was anything special, but because she allowed the Force to work through her. As evidence of this thesis I offer the fact that she spent most of the movie saying that she wanted nothing more than to go back to the desert world she came from and her life stripping parts from wrecked ships. She did not accomplish that, however, because the only things that she did surpassingly well were those things that drove her onward towards the goals that the Force had set her towards.
The other character trait that seems to bother commenters on the film is the emotional volatility of the character Kylo. He frequently acts like a spoiled child, with sudden bursts of destructive rage and bouts of self-absorbed sulking.
This, too, seems to me to be in keeping with the theology of the Force. Those who follow the Dark Side must grow narcissistic, assuming that they don’t start off that way. The entire focus of the Sith discipline is the focusing and feeding of the ego. Yes, submission to one’s superiors is a virtue in their value system, but it is submission based on self-interest. They obey simply because the other is stronger–and only so long as that is the case.
The Dark Side seeks to harness God as a beast of burden–only a cyclopean ego could contemplate such an act.
Watching this film I had, for the first time, a solid impression of the Force not only as source of magic tricks, but a spiritual power . I believe that J. J. Abrams, in The Force Awakens, has made an essentially religious film, and has given the Force the attributes of a deity.