Star Wars’ Endless Rebellion

Last night my wife Karen and I saw the most recent, and surely not the last, movie in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I came to it with high expectations and came away with mostly positive but various views. It was good. It was also too long.

But I’ll resist the urge to go into the fine points of film criticism and zero in on my main point about the decades-long Star Wars saga. How long can they keep telling the same story?

The first Star Wars film came out when I was 17 but it’s still fair to say I grew up on Star Wars. I saw the first three. Skipped the next three, which were actually the “first” three in the story line. (I hear they all sucked) I started up again with The Force Awakens and I’ve seen the next two after that.

Though never a Star Wars geek, I spoke the Star Wars language with its many references and allusions… a language shared by nearly all Americans of my age. I admired the genius of George Lucas in creating a myth so powerful that to resist it was futile.

But then I saw The Last Jedi and I wondered how much longer this rebellion can keep on rebelling, especially if the point is to keep cranking out good movies.

Sure, Star Wars is a fantasy, but a fantasy won’t make sense if it’s not grounded in reality, and George Lucas’s world is grounded. The Empire is clearly Nazi Germany. Take one look at Darth Vader’s SS uniform and that becomes obvious. The Force is borrowed from Christianity’s Holy Spirit.

The rebels are… OK that’s a little more tricky. They’re the good guys, for sure, but are they the French Resistance in WWII? America has a strong mythological story of good-guy rebels but ours fought the British, who weren’t quite the same tasty villains that the Nazis were.

And these Star Wars rebels just don’t seem to have a plan, or any allies for that matter. At the end of Return of the Jedi (that movie came out 35 years ago) our rebel buddies have killed Darth Vader and they’re partying with the Ewoks and everything seems great. But next thing you know the Dark Side is back in business and everything sucks again.

So there I was watching the end of The Last Jedi where the rebels are on the run — again — from some new incarnation of the dark lord. It’s just like it was at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Like I said… they’re telling the same old story.

Rebellions don’t go on forever, unless it’s by some institutional fakery. You know, like those old commie leaders who wanted have a continuing revolution so they could accuse of people of being counter-revolutionaries and lock them up or string them up.

The American revolution showed how a revolution leads not to more revolution but to a new institutional authority. It was an authority that was flawed and racist and expansionist, but it did lead to something. The Star War rebellion doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I’ve been watching Star Wars for what feels like my whole life but all good things come to an end. I know there will be a sequel but The Last Jedi could end up being the last Star Wars I’ll ever see.





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