Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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The Force Awakens
By Joseph Tavano

It’s time to wake up.

The Force has been sleeping, and you didn’t even know it. This entire time, all that’s happened has been under the guise of a dream. The energy field that binds the universe together is about to rise from its slumber, and what happens next is the contents of a new era in Star Wars.

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Wait—how can the Force sleep?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the makings of the most evocative title this movie franchise has ever presented. There’s a tonal departure here that can’t be ignored. The early sci-fi, pulp-styled titles seen in the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy have shifted to something quite different. Where in the first six films, the titles have described actual characters or groups of characters, the seventh movie is decidedly taking its name from the present state of the universe and a natural phenomenon that will affect everyone.

We’re talking big ideas here. Clones attacking, empires striking, Sith revenging and Jedi returning are all events that pale in comparison to anything that the Force does. If we’re to treat the Force as a natural phenomenon, we could compare it to, say, gravity. Imagine the headlines if the world’s scientists announced that “gravity has awakened!” It would shatter all conceptions of what we knew about existence, and cause us to reassess our place in the universe.

But this doesn’t address the big question; has the Force has been sleeping? If so, what does that mean? Is the Force sentient? In simple terms, only living beings can sleep, and the implication is that what is sleeping has been awake before, and will be awake again.

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That doesn’t sound like a mystical energy field to me. In fact, I don’t believe that “sleeping” really comes into the context of The Force Awakens at all. I like to interpret the title in a way that uses the other definition of awaken, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

“To rouse into activity; to stir up, excite; kindle (desire, anxiety, interest, attention, etc.).”

In this sense, I think the idea of the Force awakening is exciting beyond belief. This is a scenario where the Force has been inactive, and now it is being roused into activity. The Force is being stirred up; it is being excited; the Force is now kindled.

But, how long has it been inactive?

Does this all tie back into Mace Windu’s sentiment that the Jedi’s “ability to use the Force has been diminished”? Or, was that solely due to the imbalance of the Force, which was tipping at that time to the dark side? I get the impression that, when unbalanced, the Force is never at its true potential. Perhaps certain aspects of the Force are only available to the dark side if the balance is in favor of the dark; perhaps certain powers are only available if the balance is in favor of the light. But in either case, I wonder if an imbalance in the Force creates a certain type of detuning, where the overall power of the Living Force and the Cosmic Force cannot be accessed. After all, Yoda explains that life creates it, and we learn from The Clone Wars that the cumulative output of this Living Force feeds in to the Cosmic Force, which is the energy field spread throughout the universe. Therefore, there is a delicate interplay between what is created, what is distributed, and what can be accessed by Force-sensitive individuals, and any messing around with the light and dark balance inside of that interplay is going to mess things up big time.

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Fast forward to the end of Return of the Jedi, when Anakin (finally) balances the Force by killing the Emperor and then dying as well. At that point, the sole balance of the Force is residing in Luke Skywalker, having a deep connection with the light side, yet being from a lineage that was entirely created in the dark side by Plagueis and Palpatine (this is heavily implied in Episode III). Now, does the Force snap back into attunement, or does it need time to swing back into alignment? Does the rebalancing create a sort of “null time” where no one can access the Force?

We can go down a long and winding road of ponderings here, but I will posit one final idea:

Will the sequel trilogy present a unified, balanced, and pure Force that is neither light nor dark, thus shattering all ties and bonds to the ancient religions of Jedi and Sith, and a scenario that Luke Skywalker and Force users around the galaxy must learn to interpret anew?

Lucas had always said that a sequel trilogy would be about shades of gray, and I cannot think of a better representation of that ambiguity than a unified Force that is neither (and at once both) light and dark. Who knows what a Force sensitive being can do using the unified Force? What direction will it take? The thoughts are astounding!

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I’m not going to be disappointed if this never comes true. I take Star Wars as it is presented to me, but make no mistake about the fact that when given a title like The Force Awakens, I am going to speculate and have a great time doing so. However, this title was not applied for speculation’s sake; it has a meaning tied to the actual plot of a movie, and when I do see this movie, I’m sure all pieces will fall into line beautifully. But, until then, all I have is three words to work with, and I’m going to keep imagining where this movie will take us until it finally takes us on that thrill ride that only a Star Wars move can.

-JT

Joseph Tavano was born just months before Luke found out who his father was, and has been fortunate to have had Star Wars in his life as long as he can remember. Growing up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, he can remember substituting sticks for lightsabers and BMX bikes for speeders. He loved Droids and Ewoks, and in 1984, when he embarked up a lifelong interest in martial arts, it felt like Jedi training. During the dark times, books like The Essential Guide to Characters sustained him before Star Wars roared back into the limelight with Shadows of the Empire, the special edition re-releases, and the prequels, which he loves. Nowadays, he’s happy to share his love of Star Wars with his daughter; they watched every episode of The Clone Wars together. Though an accomplished drummer, he doesn’t crave adventure (as much) any more, and prefers his old haunts in Salem, Massachusetts, where he resides with his wife. He owns and operates RetroZap.com, a site for in-depth analysis of film, TV and other narrative art (mostly Star Wars), and is working on his first novel. Buy him a glass of Scotch and he’ll return it in kind.

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