First published December 9, 2014 on Mockingbird.
On the Mockingbird website, it is hard to miss the emphasis on God’s grace and our passivity. Grace as God’s overriding disposition toward the human condition in Christ and passivity as suffering the work of an interested and loving God on His people. All of the grace, celebration, joy, redemption, and catharsis we receive rest on The Great Ending of One Finished Act of God we suffer… an act we observe and hear about instead of work to bring to pass. This Great Ending is the basis of all of our mining on Mockingbird.
So, count me as one who is deeply reticent about Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Don’t get me wrong…I will go see it, and quite happily. Like you, I viewed the trailer over the Thanksgiving holiday and found myself captivated by the potential of a J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars film. His Star Trek films were terrific (if exhausting).
I will advise you, though…watch the original trilogy again…and again…and again…before the new movie is out. Why? Because after Episode VII is released, the cathartic and glorious end of Episode VI will forever be mitigated. The thrilling defeat of the Emperor and the triumph of the Light will go from satiating and final to temporary and parenthetical. The great ending will be reversed.
This is a sad thing. Why? It seems to me like an artistic rendering of our collective loss of faith. It mirrors the recession of hope in the Ultimate Victory that has been ingrained in the West since it became known as the West. As we all approach death, it seems we now have little more to hold onto than the pursuit of happiness and the elusive promise of the good life…pathetic consolation prizes.
This became clear to me after I saw the 1922 version of the film Nosferatu alongside Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of the same. In the 1922 version, the vampire, Count Orlok, moves into a modern town and brings pestilence, death, and dread with him. They trick the vampire to stay up until dawn and the sun eviscerates him. All is restored, sickness turns to health, and the bitten become human again. It all becomes new!
The ending of the 1979 version of Nosferatu is quite different. The vampire is tricked and dies but the bitten does not return to humanity. He escapes an intentional but futile attempt to trap him in a circle of consecrated Host (!) and gallops off into an uncertain future to the tune of a Requiem Mass, presumably to further spread evil. It is an ominous end and one that consciously shatters the Great Ending. Classic Herzog.
Think about your childhood in the 1980s…the constant diet of slasher films. Friday the 13th Part 10: Jason Goes to Space, Halloween Part 12: Michael Myers Goes the Nursing Home, etc. The slasher often assumes supernatural characteristics over the course of the series and continually comes back…as long as the producers see a lucrative promise. In its course the “Word” received by the young mind is that the Great Ending never comes and we are trapped in a prison of a horrific and malevolent chaos theory.
One of the great contrasts to that collective and artistic loss of faith was Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The defeat of The Empire (Nazi uniforms and all), the permanent liberation of Anakin Skywalker from the horror of the Dark Side, and the permanent triumph of the Good.
Again, don’t get me wrong…I am looking forward to this movie and I will be first in line to see it. The trailer looks great and the possibilities are thrilling… and, after all, it is just a movie. There will be a mourning for me, though…for that 10 year-old boy who, with wonder and awe, cathartically connected with the Great Ending of the “Eucatastrophe” (as J.R.R. Tolkien put it) and recognized that Great Ending later in the promises of the Finished Act of God…the new hope that seems to be slipping away from us.