Last night I was privileged to attend a showing of Star Wars –The Force Awakens. For at least a week now I have been reading posts on Facebook in which it was suggested that if someone were to tell an Episcopalian “The Force be With you” that the automatic response would be “And Also with You”. Of course for those of us who have spent many years using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer we would be more likely respond “And with thy spirit.” Having endured this barrage of humorous innuendo I jumped at the chance to actually see the movie.
My main take away is that you are never too old to be an admired action hero in the movies as was aptly demonstrated by Harrison Ford. The phrase “looks like a movie star” will never bear the same meaning for me again. Mr. Ford’s performance is a true inspiration for those of us who, while gaining in years, still like to see ourselves as a Hans Solo or Indiana Jones types rather than as the stereotypical grandfather sitting back in the rocker and “watching” his grandchildren play. In this day and age it is clear that this stereotype is way past its usefulness and needs to be chucked. Harrison Ford is now my hero for real not so much for the characters he plays but rather for his ability to continue being a vital contributing actor well into his later years.
Ford’s Hans Solo pulls the action together and in his deft, craggy way he reprises a character who is likeable and lovable despite his obvious ethical lapses and who gives the story a sense of continuity and purpose. He is especially supportive of the performances by the two main characters: English born actress Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey and English born actor John Boyega who plays Finn.
Mark Hamill makes a well portrayed cameo appearance as the long lost Luke Skywaker and Carrie Fisher admirably portrays an aging Princess Leyla complete with braided hair. The dark side was well represented in the performance of Adam Driver as the “insidious” Kylo Ren. And, Oscar Isaac does well as the straight shooter pilot hero Poe Dameron. Of course the real star of action adventure movies is always the special effects which were expertly and overwhelmingly done by the folks at Industrial Light and Magic.
And, finally I must mention the performance by Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka. Mr. von Sydow remains a movie icon and just does not seem to be aging . His cameo was short and sweet but comforting to see an old hand do his job so well. Some of us remember Mr. Von Sydow’s performances as Jesus in the Greatest Story Ever Told, and as Father Merrin in the Exorcist. No other actor has been able to duplicate the Merrin that von Sydow created. I am still amused by the scene in which the younger priest with a degree in psychiatry attempts to explain away the possession as an “illness” in response to which von Sydow’s Merrin simply grimaces and says “Father, let’s get started”.
The best part of the film for me was in the performance of Ms. Ridley and the scenes in which her character Rey suddenly has an Epiphany of faith. She discovers that there is a power greater than her upon which reliance is the key to victory. In one scene Rey is forced to look deep within herself to summon the strength to endure in a battle for her life. To her amazement she finds that her reliance on her own personal strength and skill pales to insignificance before the power of her reliance on “the force”. And, it is in that moment that victory s achieved. For me this metaphorically illustrates our need to rely upon God as we battle forces in our lives that seek to destroy us. And, I am not talking about physical destruction from an adversary, but rather, the destruction of our spirit, our very soul, by sinister forces not seen. These are the same sinister forces that cause fear and hatred to erupt within ourselves and our nation in reaction to a threat and which turn us into something far worse than what we fear. As is stated in saint Matthew’s Gospel “(A)nd, do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.
Personally I can attest that there have been instances in my life very much like the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren. These were not physical battles but truly spiritual battles in which a confrontation with anger, or disappointment, or fear, threatened to pull me to the “dark side” of the force. Such a confrontation occurred just last Thursday, Christmas Eve, and I was gladdened to find, like Rey, the strength to resist the forces of evil and turn not to the dark of anger and wrath but rather to the light of patience, understanding and ultimately love.
Enjoy the movie and may the force be with you when and when times are hard may you remember not to rely totally on you own strength but on that of a truly loving and caring God.
ART: Holy Night (Nativity) by Albrecht Altdorfer ( cir. 1502 ) licensed under Creative Commons.