Have you ever watched a movie, followed along closely, and felt as though you could predict the outcome? Or you felt that you had seen it before even though you haven’t? Or perhaps you recognized elements from it? There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for that…you have! Almost all film and television plots borrow from other sources, and some use real world issues hidden within metaphors to convey a story. Along with other works of the ancient past, such as the Illiad by Homer (I will save that comparison for another day), the good ole Christian Bible has been mined for story themes – story beats – morality plays – characters and plot points for ages.
Whether deliberate, unintentional, or coincidental almost everything you see today in books, films and TV will have a shared similarity with anything written out of The Bible. There’s a good reason for that. The Bible was one of the very first books ever written, it was written by a number of different people spanning centuries, and there are a number of key themes in the book that have carried forth thru the centuries since it was originally written. I thought it would be a fun exercise to cross-examine and discuss some similarities between the Christian Holy Book with one of the greatest filmed space epics of all time…Star Wars! Now keep in mind some of these similarities are deliberate, some were unintentional, some only work “if you squint really hard”, and some are linked to the movie because of external ties (ie: James Earl Jones narrated The Bible for a special and he also played Darth Vader in the Star Wars films!) But first, for the record I am not a theologian, heretic, devout, nor zealot. I am an individual who has read the Bible front to back (both the original texted and the illustrated one), attended Sunday School for six years as a kid, watched all the Star Wars movies at least two dozen times each film, retains knowledge and often finds patterns, similar themes, and trivial tidbits in things. So without further adieu…let the force be with you, and also with you as…
IMSTILLAKID Presents: “Long, Long, Ago…In the Beginning“
LET MY PEOPLE GO
In the Star Wars universe, many of the worlds that are visited by Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker and company – can be likened to the various lands described in the Bible. The first comparison is the planet Tattooine, birthplace of Anakin Skywalker and home to Luke Skywalker. It is a direct reflection of Ancient Egypt. The governing body of this world, is a monstrously sluggish overlord by the name of Jabba the Hutt. Much like the ruling Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Jabba holds court with a royal advisor (dual tentacle-headed servant Bib Fortuna), a dancing slave girl (the blue girl he feeds to the Rancor), and a fool (the bouncing and maniacally laughing muppet knock off — Salicius Crumb). Both the Biblical Pharaohs and Jabba live in grandiose palaces teeming with servants. In the book of Exodus in the Old Testamentof the Bible, Moses was in direct conflict with his adoptive step-brother — the Pharaoh — about releasing “his people” (the oppressed slaves of the people of Judea). This led to Moses issuing an ultimatum that if they are not freed then all upon this land shall be made to suffer God’s wrath. The Pharaoh rebuked Moses’s warnings and soon Egypt was over wrought by ten plagues that resulted in the deaths of many.In Return of the Jedi, Luke offers a similar bargain to Jabba the Hutt for the release of his captured friends Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C3P0, and R2D2 (also so that Lando Calrissian can take off that Skiff Guard disguise he’s wearing in the palace and flash the viewers his pearly whites and signature macho mustache — but I digress…). The plea falls on over-confident deaf ears with Jabba as well, and he sentences all to die in the desert. Enacting on a plan the group had put together before their arrival at Jabba’s palace, Luke’s team overcome the minions of the court and destroy Jabba — his cohorts — his vessels — and make their hasty escape.After experiencing the death of his first born child due to one of the ten plagues wrought upon them, the Pharoah sought the death of Moses and all of his people. Leading a multitude of people away from Egypt, Moses finds them all trapped at the shores of the Red Sea with the Pharaoh’s men quickly upon them. As the story goes, through the will of God, Moses was able to part the Red Sea and have his people cross. Once they were on land on the other side of the sea, Moses had the waters rush back to the natural state which drowned the Pharaoh and all of his soldiers in pursuit.
Where Tattooine was indicative of the lands of Egypt and the plight of the pharaohs throughout the Old Testament of the Bible, in The Phantom Menace the planet Coruscent was a more evolved homonym for the classic Roman Empire. Both had large scale armed and trained soldiers at the helm, both were the capitals of their empires, both had conquered numerous territories, and a governing rule that spanned countries and solar systems. Both had Governments comprised of Senators, Viceroys, Chancellors, Royal Guards, Stormtroopers, Centurians, and of course…an Emperor!
FAITH AND SPIRITUALITY
Given that the Star Wars mythos is rife with spirituality, by way of the “force“, it isn’t really too hard to draw comparisons to the Bible here. In the Good Book, all of nature and it’s connectedness between all things, is often referred to as the work of the hand of God. In the Star Wars franchise, all things are bound by the force – a living energy that drives thru everybody. Only those trained to channel and harness the power, be they Jedi or Sith, are able to manipulate the natural and physical bonds of objects.
Both the Bible and Star Wars weigh their messages heavily on the notion of a prophesied savior. Both were conceived thru immaculate conception. Where the Bible encourages the birth of Jesus as a miraculous extension of God, Anakin Skywalker was born because of sentient genes. The introduction of the midi-chlorian molecules being the origin of Anakin was a thinly veiled attempt by director George Lucas to have the elder Skywalker be akin to Jesus; born to a non-sexually active (or virginal) woman…prophesied as being “the one who will bring balance to the force“. Even the salutations ‘May the Force be With You…May the Lord be With You‘ are the same message except using the word ‘Lord‘ personifies the blessing whereby ‘the force‘ keeps it all aloof. Although The Force is referenced and stated a considerable number of times in the entire Star Wars franchise, at no point is there any reference to any other belief system — no Gods, no other deities…nothing. You either believe in The Force or you believe in nothing (similar to Han Solo’s smug reaction to Luke and Obi Wan’s first training session on the Millenium Falcon).
In the Bible, it is inferred that a soul will travel beyond the mortal realm into everlasting life once the mortal vessel has expired. In fact, much of its core belief structure stems upon the notion of eternal peace for the immortal soul in heaven after death.
There are also instances described in the Good Book that have people seeing spirits, angels, and ghosts and purportedly hearing the voice of God. In the Old Testament alone, Noah was told by God to build an ark, Abraham spared the life of his son that he was about to sacrifice when God told him to stop, Lot was visited by two Angels imploring him and his family to leave Sodom and Gammorah before it was to be destroyed by fire, Jacob wrestled an Angel when he saw a ladder ascending to heaven, Moses spoke to God thru a burning bush in the desert, Elijah saw an Angel on a flaming chariot, Isaiah had visions, Daniel was the only one who could read God’s shorthand, and countless other examples. The theme continued in the New Testament as well. Mary was visited by an Angel to notify her that she was pregnant (that must have been an awkward conversation with Joseph afterwards); Jesus saw the spirits of Moses, Abraham and Elijah on the hilltop, and Jesus’s resurrected being was witnessed by his disciples three days after his death. In the Star Wars cannon, the Jedi believe that they “become one” with the force and that their consciousness lives on through the force after death. In New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi speaks to Luke Skywalker and assists him with destroying the Death Star. In Empire Strikes Back, he appears to Luke on several occasions — on the ice planet Hoth and on the swamp planet Dagobah where he also spoke to fellow Jedi master Yoda. Finally, in Return of the Jedi, Obi Wan appears in spirit form to Luke once again on Dagobah, and later again accompanied with the spirit forms of Anakin Skywalker and the recently deceased Yoda. Personally, I always felt that having Obi Wan Kenobi’s spirit keep showing up throughout the trilogy was going to the well a few too many times.
This one is the “squint really hard” subject I alluded to earlier, but an argument can be made here that both Jesus and Luke Skywalker had a team of Disciples. In the Bible, Simon Peter – James – John – Andrew – Philip – Bartholomew – Matthew – Thomas – James II – Thaddaeus – Simon and Judas Iscariot are the anointed disciples (or Apostles) of Jesus. They assist in escalating and elevating Jesus’s preachings to the people, and in some accounts some of theme were able to perform similar miracles as JC. In Episodes 4 thru 6 of the Star Wars series, Luke is greatly assisted in his journey by several individuals:
*Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter were two pilots in the Rebel Squadron that also grew up on Tattoine with Luke. They were pivotal in helping him destroy the first Death Star.
*Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar are two high ranking officials in the Rebel fleet that have the utmost faith in “Commander” Skywalker’s abilities to disengage a signal jamming bunker on a forest moon of Endor. They supplied Luke with an army and weapons to perform this job.
*Obi Wan Kenobi and Master Yoda are his mentors and trainers in mastering the ways to harness the powers of the force.
*C3P0 and R2D2 are the droids that fell from the heavens with a message that started Luke Skywalker on the path to fulfilling his destiny.
*Princess Leia is the sister Luke never knew he had, and also likes to practice french-kissing with.
*Han Solo and Chewbacca were initially the hired pilots, the journeymen, that were to help Luke reach a destination. Adventure, combat, and victory turned them into loyal and trusted friends.
*Lando Calrissian – although later redeeming himself in Return of the Jedi, he turned out to be a bit of a Judas Iscariot figure in Empire Strikes Back when he sold Han and company out to Darth Vader and Boba Fett. It’s a stretch, but seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation to me!
In the early 2000’s, James Earl Jones – the actor with the booming bass voice – narrated the entire King James version of the Bible for an audio book produced by Barnes and Nobles. As Mr. Jones was the towering voice behind Lord Vader, I would find it difficult to listen to this audio reading of the Bible and not picture Darth Vader trying to convince Adam, Abraham, or Absalom to migrate over to the dark side of the force. *Curious and want to pick up the audio book for yourself? You can purchase it here on iTunes!
In 313 A.D. Roman Emperor Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christian worship and indoctrinating Catholicism as the belief structure of the Roman Empire. Since that time, the religion has gained followers from around the world, from all languages, races, and nationalities. In 2010, it was suggested that there are currently more than 2 billion practicing Christians in the world. That’s a third of the world’s population! In the 1700 years since Constantine legalized Christianity, it had evolved — generated regional offshoots — grown exponentially — and had lasting effects and influence on laws, ethics, literature, and art.
Similarly, not so long ago and also in this galaxy, when George Lucas was in the early stages of making Star Wars, he realized that he didn’t want it to look hokey or as if it were all on strings. In order, to have his picture look and sound precisely the way he wanted it too, he created his own specialized effects house with Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and his own sound studio with Skywalker Sound. In 1983, prior to the release of Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm developed and released the ground-breaking THX sound technology. This was done as a measure to ensure that the soundtrack for Jedi, would be accurately reproduced in the best venues. Not only did George Lucas create a lasting legacy with the Star Wars film franchise, but his technologies and companies developed to make those movies have expanded far beyond the confines of one movie franchise. Theaters around the world are equipped with THX sound systems — DVDs and BLU RAYS are digitally mastered with THX sound, ILM has become the prominent special effects studio in the world, and has been utilized by countless films since its inception.
George Lucas had a vision that his little space movie was going to be a success. He convinced the studios to allow him to keep the licensing rights of the characters in his movies. With that, Lucas built a toy and merchandising empire that has consistently earned him millions of dollars a year in royalties for the better part of forty years!
Both The BIble and Star Wars have had lasting legacies and even greater influence on society and popular culture. Who knows, maybe in 1000 years from now kids of all ages will attend mass on Sithday and bring balance to the force?!