Sunday, January 31, 2016

Star Wars: The Mother of all movies

February 1, 2016

When I talk about the new Star Wars being “the mother of all movies,” I don’t mean because of its sales figures.
I mean it literally.
This is a movie about parenting, fathers and sons – as in past Star Wars movies, but with a new wrinkle giving greater emphasis on the mother figure.
While we saw how Darth Vader’s mother influenced him, she was largely a background character, and not a central figure in the mythological plot taking place.
While The Force Awakens still follows the myth of search for father as the original New Hope series, female characters play a significantly vital role, especially Rey, who appears to be in search of her father, while at the same time plays the role as one of the central mother figures in this film.
She is tough, and yet tender, and it is hoped that as the series continues, the writers will avoid the mistake Lucas made with Leia or the Jackson made in the Lord of the Rings, by softening the character too much in later episodes.
There are four obvious female characters in The Force Awakens: Rey, Raia, Maz and the storm trooper captain.
Although Raia at one point refers to Snoke as “she,” I think this is a mistake or a slurring of words since everybody else in the film refers to Snoke as a “he.”
But there should be another fifth female and may be in future films, a femme fatal or evil mother figure operating in the name of Snoke, someone who helps seduce Ren to the dark side. This part is pure speculation, but clearly a missing element in a film so otherwise built on solid mythological foundations – a female character that helps balance out the obviously good mother figures fully embraced in this film.
Leia and Maz are clearly examples of “good” mothers, though Leia blames herself for Ren’s turning to the dark side.
“Leia, I saw our son,” Han tells Leia when they finally meet again. “He was here.”
Han regrets the fact that every time Leia looks at Han, she is reminded of Ren.
“Do you think I want to forget him?” Leia says. “I want him back.”
“There was nothing more we could have done,” Han tells her. “There was just too much Vader in him.”
“That’s why I wanted him to be trained with Luke,” Leia said. “I should never have sent him away. That’s when I lost him. That’s when I lost you both.”
“We lost our son forever,” Han says.
“No, it was Snoke, she (he) seduced our son to the dark side,” Leia says in what may simply have been a mistake or slurred word, but raises some question as to how Snoke deduced the young Ren, and if indeed there is yet another powerful negative female force to be unveiled in this series.
“But we can still save him,” Raia goes on. “Me and…you.”
“If Luke couldn’t reach him, how can I?” Han asks.
“Luke was a Jedi, you’re his father,” Leia responds, filled with the perpetual faith only a mother can have.
Maz is the clearly the wise mother, the Gaia figure who though is not a Jedi, is aware of the force, understands its ways, and become a guardian of its secrets and an advisor to those fighting on the side of the light.
“Maz is something of an acquired taste,” Han says in describing her. “She has run this watering hole for a thousand years.”
Maz is wise enough to recognize Rey’s potential, and connected enough to have Luke’s light saber in her possession. How she got it is among the many back stories spin off novels may convey but the film does not.
“A good story,” Maz says, “Best saved for later.”
Maz is savvy enough to know that Rey must continue on the path fate or accident has set her on.
“Those you are waiting for are never coming back,” she tells Rey. “What you seek is ahead of you, not behind.”
Lacking a strong female character on the dark side, we are left with the storm trooper captain, who oddly enough, isn’t bad enough to balance out dark and light. She represents a whole different kind of mother. But she is not a mother utterly detached from her storm trooper children. In her own right, she offers protection. But she is a strict disciplinarian.
Finn resent her the way many kids resent strict parents, which is why he goes off on her later saying, “I’m in charge, now. I’m in charge,” as if unleashing rage pent up over a long period of time.
Although clearly an agent of evil, the storm trooper captain fails to live up to the significant mythological heaviness of an all devouring mother figure, or even irresponsible femme fatal figure this film clearly needs. She is incapable of seducing anyone to the dark side.
Since this film is the first part of a larger tale, we might expect another powerful female figure to emerge in the future, someone that may even rival Snoke for ill intent.
But this film is not without bad parents, even though they remain invisible to us.
While Leia takes blame for failing her son, Ren (or Ben), there is plenty of evidence of truly bad parents, mothers and fathers who failed to live up to their obligation to their children.
Although the back stories are most likely told in the novels about the main characters, the film only alludes to some of the events, suggesting that Rey was abandoned by her parents who promised to return to get her. There is a girl screaming during the first scene with the light saber which may be a flash back to Rey’s parting from her parents.
Equally sad is Finn’s story, which has him plucked away from his parents as a child to be raised a nameless number in order to become a storm trooper.
Raia waits in vain for the return of her parents, which Maz claims won’t every return. Finn pines for a family he will never know.
Rey, Finn and even BB8 are orphans seeking new relations much in the way Harry Potter clung to his godfather in that classic film series.
“He’s the only family I have,” Harry says.
Rey, of course, is the film’s main female lead, savvy enough to survive on her own, yet not bitter. She is a story still in transition, and in some ways, the female character in the middle of the opposing forces, the way Luke was in the New Hope series, capable of turning to light or dark, although it is clear, she prefers the light.
She is capable of becoming the mother few other characters can become. Early on, she displays these motherly instincts when she adopts BB8 and repairs its antenna, a tender moment that reminds viewers of what a mother might do to help fix something her child might have broken.
She also appears to adopt Finn (and for that matter Han), although Finn seems destined to become her love interest.
Rey indeed acts parent-like when scolding Finn over a part she needs to make a repair, repeating the word “no,” as if a mother scolding her child.
Although clearly old enough to have already experience physical puberty, Rey’s experience with the light saber seems to suggest her coming of age – and this has several meanings, including obvious sexual ones, as well as the symbolic rejection of responsibility as hero or parent. The first encounter with the phallic light saber scares her into saying she never wants to touch that thing again.
There are huge implications in this moment, as heroine, coming of age woman, and her role as mother. Control of the light saber doesn’t come easy. She accepts it only at the point when Finn’s life is threatened, a motherly act that allows her to overcome her fear and doubt.
Since Rey is likely Luke’s daughter, her battle with Ren is significant as well, a sibling rivalry for control of the family.
It is no accident that the names Rey and Ren are so similar.
It is also no accident that Rey must eventually bring the light saber back to Luke, presenting it to him as if he was royalty or a powerful godfather or even a god.
This brings to mind an almost innocent conversation early in the film which talked about Leia being royalty.
Passing the light saber is very much symbolic of passing on an icon of power, or passing of a torch.
Rey is destined to become the queen mother Raia once was.

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