I was finally able to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Tuesday with my good friend, Jon Wharton. I thought it was a great movie but today I do not want to write about why I enjoyed the movie. Rather, I want to briefly consider how it relates to something larger than mere entertainment. Now of course we are talking about a fictional world here but it does, like all good art, accurately reflect reality. So what exactly am I talking about then? Well this blog post got me thinking about the fact that The Force Awakens in many ways ruins the happy ending of The Return of the Jedi. The original trilogy ends with the defeat of the Empire and a celebration. But this victory of the Rebellion was really only one battle. The war had not been won, and in a short 30-something years the evil Empire has been replaced by an even worse First Order and the victorious Rebellion is a seemingly even smaller guerrilla force called the Resistance. The Jedi have disappeared. Things have not become better but worse! The blog post I linked earlier calls this the sadness of expanded universes. As the story continues the happy endings are no more. That writer compares The Force Awakens to a work that J. R. R. Tolkien started but never finished called The New Shadow that took place a century after The Return of the King. He quotes Tolkien’s reason for never finishing,
I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.
The Force Awakens is similar only it was actually finished. While we thought there was peace, justice, and prosperity at the end of The Return of the Jedi there was actually only more evil, injustice, oppression, and death. It does prove to be both sinister and depressing. There is sadness in this extended universe and even more so when you consider how this mirrors the actual world we live in.
Do a quick flyover of history since sin entered the scene and there has always been “new shadows” after the “happy endings.” Evil dictators die and are defeated only to be replaced by others like them (or worse). Genocides end only to be followed by more murder and death. World War II brings the Holocaust to a close only to be followed mere decades later by the present holocaust we call abortion. Wars cease only to be followed by more war. Tolkien was right. “Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good.” Sure we can zero in on bright spots in history, but they are bitter-sweet because we know the truth, deep down, that more shadows are coming, and often the new shadows are deeper and darker than those that came before.
This is true of all except one Bright Spot, the Lord Jesus Christ. He, God himself, entered in the shadow. He, the Creator of all things, became one of his creations, a human being. He did this out of love because even though our rebellion against God, our sin against his perfection, was the very thing that started this cycle of shadow, Jesus chose to die for our sins. Jesus allowed the darkness to kill him so that he could take the punishment of death that we deserved. But the darkness could not hold him. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Death could not keep him and he rose from the grave. In so doing he broke the cycle of darkness. Yes, we see the shadows still but they are not so deep and dark. There has been a true awakening. Jesus rose from the grave and raises other from the dead as well, those who were dead in sin but now are made alive together in Christ Jesus. We too pass through shadows now, but a day is coming when the shadows will be no more. All the wicked who have refused to turn from their sins to follow Jesus Christ will be cast into hell and the darkness will no more attack the light. Those who Jesus rescued from the darkness will be with him forever in a new heavens and new earth where his glory shines forth so that no shadows remain. There will then be eternal peace, justice, and prosperity. History will end with the final defeat of evil and an eternal celebration. Now that is story worth finishing.