Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is The Force Awakens Just a Knockoff of A New Hope? A Thomistic Response

Summa bellum stellarum

Question VII
Of The Force Awakens

First Article

Whether The Force Awakens was a knockoff of A New Hope?

[Note: several plot potencies are actualized in this article.]

We proceed thus to the First Article:-

Objection 1.  It seems that The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope. For, as some have said, it features a protégé who betrays his mentor, as Kylo Ren betrayed Luke. This is just as when Anakin betrayed Obi Wan. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

Obj. 2. Further, A New Hope was about the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and The Galactic Empire and its ominous battle station. Similarly, in The Force Awakens, the conflict is between the Resistance and The First Order and its even more ominous Starkiller battle station. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

Obj. 3. Further, the main hero of A New Hope is a young person, apparently fatherless, who is from a desert planet. The main hero of The Force Awakens is also a young person, apparently fatherless, who is from a desert planet. Therefore it seems as if The Force Awakens is merely a remake of A New Hope.

On the contrary, It is written: The Force Awakensdishes out familiarity without apology and arranges it in such a way that, even as we recognize the patterns and beats, it feels fresh and invigorating and, lest we forget what's really at stake here, fun” (James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk).

I answer that, since The Force Awakens is the continuation of the saga of the first six films, and since those films revolved around the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, that in order to maintain that narrative arc, a similar cycle had to be repeated in Anakin’s family. Since Anakin is dead, and since he only had two children, the only logical option therefore was to focus on the elements of the rise, fall, and redemption of his grandchildren. If the sequels completely departed from this theme, they would totally undermine the integrity and diminish the beauty of the original six movies. Therefore, there had to be a fundamental similarity between the old movies and the new movies, and especially between episodes IV and VII, in which Anakin’s child/grandchildren are introduced as heroes.

Reply to Objection 1. While it is true that both movies involve the betrayal of a mentor, Kylo Ren’s murder of his father is unprecedented. Thus we do not have a simple “remake,” but an artistic mix of old themes with new variations.

Reply Obj. 2.  The repeated effort of a centralized power to control the universe (The Galactic Empire and The First Order) is hardly surprising, given the fact that actual history is replete with many examples of the same impulse toward empire  (Napoleon’s repeated efforts, Germany and Russia, etc). Further, acquisition of the ultimate weapon to secure power has always been a driving force in actual history, and it is no surprise that such a motif would reappear in the Star Wars saga. And of course, because freedom is also a powerful and natural impulse, there will always be resistance movements to such efforts. Therefore we do not have a mere “remake,” but a reflection of the way things are in history.

Reply Obj. 3.  There are two reasons something may be said to be just like something else. One is because it is a mindless copy. But the other is because it is an artistic motif. It is in this second sense that there are many similarities between Rey and Luke. The filmmakers want us to see her as a “second coming” of Luke, quite possibly as his daughter. Recall, one of the last things Yoda said before he became one with the Force: “Luke...the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned.” Therefore, we do not have a “remake,” but an artistic extension of Luke’s story in a new character.

And so this criticism fails, and amounts to nothing more than a giant pile of bantha fodder.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesdays with Thomas 3 - The Summa

Thomas Aquinas wrote over 100 volumes, but he is most famous for the Summa Theologiae (the Summary of Theology). Here is a new video explaining a little bit about how to read the Summa, and what we can learn about the method by which Aquinas tackled the topics in the Summa.