By Sean Gardner
In the age of social media, everyone has a voice. For better or for worse, we all know everyone’s opinions about everything. From something as trivial as what’s for dinner, to something as serious as the latest political scandal, people’s opinions are out there like never before. One of the topics this dissemination of ideas is most prevalent, is in the realm of Star Wars fandom.
Now more than ever before, Star Wars fans can go online and throw around rumors and speculations for the upcoming films. Social media brings fans from all over the world together and lets them discuss one of the greatest film franchises of all time. Through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, fans can even interact directly with the directors, actors, and writers. This is an amazing thing. Unfortunately, like almost everything else online, these discussions can quickly devolve into vicious arguments and truly embarrassing behavior.
Lately, these arguments among Star Wars fans have been centered around their take on the new set of films. Never before has a group of fans been more divided than Star Wars fans are now. I want to throw my hat into this ring and attempt to add some cool-headed rationality to the discussion.
First and foremost, we should be grateful we are even getting more Star Wars movies. Remember when Lucasfilm made the Prequels and they were basically the best thing since Citizen Kane? No? Me neither, because it didn’t happen that way. The Prequels stink. They have some redeeming qualities, but overall, they are Jeff Goldbulm sized piles of dinosaur crap. We could’ve been stuck with that stank under our noses for the rest of eternity. But, by the graces of the Hollywood gods (aka Disney), Lucasfilm was sold, and in 2015 we got The Force Awakens, bringing us back to the far, far away galaxy we all love. But, contention brewed as each successive new film became more divisive, culminating with The Last Jedi.
One of the criticisms I hear most often about The Last Jedi is, “The Force can’t do that,” or “they’ve never been able to do that before, so why now?” or some sort of variation thereof. While inconsistencies across franchises can be frustrating, (I’m looking at you, X-Men) allow me to offer three counter arguments to this particular criticism of Episode VIII.
First, as Yoda says in Empire Strikes Back, the Force “surrounds us, penetrates us,” is in and around all things, and is not limited to “crude matter.” In other words it is immense and infinite. It is, then, naive to assume that whatever we are shown that the Force can do, is all that the Force can do. It is often discussed that there are those strong with the Force, and those weak with the Force. The stronger ones can do things the weaker ones cannot. Yoda can lift the X-Wing out of the swamp, but Luke cannot. It is also possible to discover new things about the Force. Qui-Gon Jin discovered how to become a Force Ghost. Darth Plagueis could manipulate midichlorians. One could choose to, or to not, tap in to certain aspects of the Force. The Jedi focused on the Light, the Sith, the Dark. Overall, the point is that the Force is an expansive “energy field created by all living things,” according to Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, it’s impossible for one person, or group of people, to know how to do everything the Force allows them to do.
Second, because the Force is immense, and varied in its powers and abilities, it would make sense that it would be expanded upon with each successive movie. We don’t really know much about the Force in A New Hope besides what Obi-Wan says. But then, Force Ghosts and expanded telepathic powers are introduced in Empire. Force Lightning is used for the first time by the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Midichlorians, super speed, Force Visions, and stopping death were all added to the list of Force powers in the Prequel Trilogy. It makes sense to continue to expand the abilities of the Force in the Sequel Trilogy. In fact, Force Projections and mind bridging seem like a logical next step of expansion.
The third counter argument is probably the simplest one; it is, quite bluntly, that the Force is not real. None of it’s real. There are no Jedi. There are no Sith. There’s no Empire or First Order. There’s no Rebellion or Resistance. It’s all made up. The Force is a device of fantasy. It’s not like Neil de Grasse Tyson is reviewing scripts or walking around sets checking for scientific accuracy. If a writer or director wants to expand the nature of a fictional energy field, just let them do it. It’s all fake anyway so it doesn’t really matter.
I can imagine Lucasfilm executives reading these types of petty complaints on Twitter, throwing their phones against the wall, and screaming to the heavens, Gladiator style, “Are you not entertained!?!” They’re just movies for goodness’ sake. They are not meant to divide or anger us. They are meant to bring us together and engage us. So, I say, let’s all just get over it, and be thankful that we live in such a hyper-comfortable world that allows us to even have such amazing things like Star Wars.