Unlike earlier versions, the new Star Wars saga movie “The Force Awakens” raises more questions than it answers.
And this is a good thing.
Although George Lucas endowed his previous six films with mythology, his tales often lacked depth of plot, and more importantly, limited characters.
Desperate to play off the father-son theme he explored much better in the Indiana Jones series, Lucas created in Star Wars a somewhat superficial father-son conflict – that fortunately, the Disney film takes off from and expands upon greatly.
The first film in what is expected to become a whole new series is all about family.
This theme is announced very early in the film when Kylo Ren confronts Lor San Tekka seeking the map that will lead the film’s villain to Luke Skywalker.
Tekka tells Ren he knows where the villain came from and it is about family.
This announcement ties into more conventional mythology, and defines devil as anything that breaks apart of the bounds of family.
This is something Ren knows well, and struggles with through out the movie, always drawn back towards the light side of the force. He knows deep down that he is like his grandfather, Darth Vader – whose downfall as the villain in the original films was his love of his family – son and daughter.
In order for Ren to achieve his ambition to become evil, he must destroy all ties to his family – but more than that, he must destroy his family. This is the personal motive behind his actions throughout the film, and his desperate need to find Luke, who is his uncle, and the same man who brought down Ren’s hero, Darth Vader.
But there are levels of darkness in this film, as each of the main characters engages in a similar conflict, for each character is scarred by separation from family members.
Rey, the female lead, was abandoned by her family and lives with the pointless hope of their return. There are many clues as to who her family is, especially her father, although this fact will not likely be revealed until Star Wars 8 is released later this year. The bigger question is why she was abandoned. Was it a similar reason as when Luke and Laia were hidden from their father?
Finn, the storm trooper, is part of a Spartan-like military order, which robs its recruits from the cradle. He doesn’t know who is family is either, and perhaps part of his eventually story will be seeking them out.
But even the great heroes of this film are not free of guilt.
Laia, Ren’s mother, betrayed family when she sent her son away to be trained with someone other than Luke.
This allowed Snoke, who serves as this film’s version of the evil Emperor, to lure Ren over to the dark side of the force, and use Ren, to do again when Anakin did back in the original series, destroy the Jedi.
Luke apparently was so distraught over Ren’s betrayal of family that he fled into solitude.
Ren is consumed with living up to his grandfather’s legacy as a villain. This self deception reaches deep into the Lucas mythology since it echoes Anakin’s foolish pursuit of vengeance as a result of his mother’s murder.
Like many of the characters in this film, Anakin never knew his father, and reportedly did not have one.
Ren, of course, loves and hates his own father, Hans Solo, mockingly Rey for his admiration.
“He’s the father figure you always wanted,” Ren tells her. “But he’ll only disappoint you.”
This suggests that Hans Solo somehow disappointed Ren. (The similarity of names Ren and Rey suggest that there may be some other family tie between the two of them to explain how powerful both are with the force.)
Perhaps Solo’s return to his own sly ways as a smuggler soiled his reputation in Ren’s eyes as a hero.
Hans was always a gray character in the otherwise black and white world of Lucas’ mythology.
And since Ren could not become as good as Luke, he appears to have decided to become as evil as Darth Vader should have been.
Ren, like so many kids in our world, is the product of a broken marriage.
Some of his criticisms of Hans may come through Laia, who clearly was disappointed in Hans herself.
When the two meet again in this movies, both Hans and Laia are full of regrets for what once was, and what could have been, and perhaps what should have been, and they still struggle over some of the issues that tore them apart in the first place
Hans continues to try to be helpful in small things, but clearly he doesn’t meet Laia’s expectations. She has no confidence in him.
Maz Kanata – this film’s version of Yoda – blames Hans for giving up the fight, not just against evil, but to retain his place in the family as father.
“Go home,” she tells Hans.
“Laia doesn’t want me there,” Hans tells Maz.
But as this film progresses, Laia falls back onto the old faith as she once said back in The Empire Strikes Back.
“You have your moments,” she said. “Not many. But you have some.”
When push comes to shove, Laia relies on Hans to save their son, the way Luke helped save his father, Anakin.
“Bring our son home,” she tells Hans before he goes off to fight the big battle.
In this film, the need to reunite the family is the real cure for evil, and this is the central message behind the film.
Whether or not each of the numerous characters in conflict succeed in finding their family roots remains the stuff for future films to resolve.