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OK, it’s finally over. My childhood movie fascination is now complete—I’ve seen “Episode Three.” I have in many ways “grown-up” with Star Wars. I was six when the first (I mean the fourth) movie came out, and I saw all of the original three (Episodes 4, 5, and 6) in the theater when they first came out. I had all the Star Wars figures, the Death Star, the Millennium Falcon, the Land Speeder—you name it, I had it. All of my friends had them too…we were the Star Wars generation.
Incredibly though, the new trilogy of movies (Episodes 1, 2, and 3) has captured the imagination of a whole new generation. My son was more excited to see the movie than I was. He wore his Darth Vader tee shirt and sat in patient anticipation through the obligatory “coming attractions.” And it was interesting to observe the reactions of people as they were walking out of the theater two and a half hours later. For the fathers and mothers, it was sort of like a sigh of relief, a moment of closure. They weren’t so much energized by the movie as they were contemplating it. You could see wheels turning and brains buzzing putting all of the Star Wars pieces together. The kids on the other hand were all ablaze with what they just witnessed, they were talking about their favorite parts and “Anakin this” and “Yoda that.” One movie—two very different reactions.
Being a parent and well on the “contemplative” side of the age gap, I found myself mulling over what I had just seen as we walked to the car. With my son talking a mile a minute about his favorite parts, I kept replaying a certain scene in my mind. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll remember the scene, if not, let me try to paint the picture. Anakin (Darth Vader) and Obi-Wan are fighting. They stop fighting to discuss why they’re fighting (in typical Hollywood style). After voicing his displeasure with the Jedi (the “good” side), Anakin turns his back to the audience and tells Obi-Wan, “Whoever is not with me is my enemy.” Obi-Wan looks at Anakin unbelievingly and states emphatically, “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” The Sith are the Dark Side’s equivalent of the Jedi. Obi-Wan is saying that Anakin is now a full-fledged “bad guy.” This scene took the magic of the whole Star Wars series that has been building ever since I was six and instantly deflated it. The whole “good vs. evil” story that had been the staple of all of the Star Wars episodes was a sham. I had been had.
I realized at this point in the movie that Darth Vader wasn’t the “bad guy” because he was on the bad side of the force, it was because he was so sure he was right. Obi-Wan and Yoda constantly lament Anakin’s association with the Chancellor of the Senate, Palpatine (who becomes the Emperor). They begin to fear that Palpatine is a Sith. About this they are right, Palpatine is a Sith and he is slowly turning Anakin against his former mentors. The turning point for Anakin comes when a member of the Jedi council, Mace Windu, is ready to kill Palpatine because he is “too dangerous” to leave alive. Anakin tells Windu that this is not the Jedi way (which it’s not), but situational ethics are the name of the game for Windu. Anakin sees the hypocrisy in this and his view of the Jedi instantly changes, and he does nothing as Palpatine (now the Emperor) proceeds to kill Windu. Anakin becomes Palpatine’s disciple—and consequently, Darth Vader—on the spot.
The troubling part about all of this for me was the post-modern double standard that we are faced with in our own day and galaxy. You see, Anakin is constantly counseled in all of the first three episodes that the Dark Side of the force is bad and the Jedi are good. But we get to the real deal in Episode Three when Obi-Wan makes this revealing statement about only the Sith dealing in absolutes. What does the Jedi deal in then? Feelings, emotions, hopes? On what basis does Obi-Wan make his assessment that the Dark Side and the Emperor are “evil?” This is exactly the same dilemma that the court at the Nuremberg Trial found itself in. The Nazis argued that they acted in accord with the laws of Germany and were simply following orders, yet were on trial for crimes against humanity. The “sovereign nation” ideal had its limits. Obi-Wan wants the same thing here. It’s easy enough to proclaim that the Dark Side is evil, but it’s really another thing to prove it when the Jedi are also out trying to eliminate those that they deem “dangerous.” It all becomes relative; the only true “bad guy” is one who “deals in absolutes.”
What would Obi-Wan have said to Jesus, who said much the same thing as Anakin in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Jesus makes an emphatic statement here. He is declaring for all who read and hear that there is no middle-ground, there is no neutrality. As much as our post-modern world would like to have each viewpoint as valid as the next, they can’t live this way. Obi-Wan couldn’t live this way either. If Anakin’s absolutist worldview was just another valid viewpoint (presumably Obi-Wan doesn’t deal in absolutes), then why bother fighting him. Why not shake hands and wish him well in his future galaxy-conquesting endeavors? Why not? Because Obi-Wan is an absolutist too, he just doesn’t want to admit it.
As I said, this scene revealed the whole Star Wars series for what it really was. George Lucas showed his true colors here. He was not making a grand good vs. evil epic. He was making a modern commentary, complete with double-standards and non-sequiturs. Lucas was simply toeing the line of modern politics. The only real enemy in today’s world is the one who thinks in terms of black and white—the fundamentalist. Whether they are Christian, Muslim, Democrat or Republican, the only one who is wrong, is the one who thinks he’s right. But we, as Christians, must remember Jesus’ (and Anakin’s) words. There is a war of ideas going on, and you must fall on one side or the other. Neutrality is not an option…as much as we would like it to be.