The Force is Too Strong With This One: Why ‘Star Wars: Episode 7′ Needs Less Jedi Magic
Last week, at least a partial cast was revealed for 'Star Wars: Episode 7'. Almost immediately, speculation began on who the new actors would be playing. Will John Boyega be a young Jedi? Will Adam Driver be a Sith Lord? Will Daisy Ridley (who is strongly rumored to be the daughter of Han and Leia) be a Jedi, too?
Good grief, I hope not. As I’ve written before, Jedi are boring.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why 'Star Wars' fans gravitate so strongly toward Jedi so much that they actually want to see more. Sure, Jedi are interesting to learn about, but when they are actually on the screen, they are some of the least exciting characters in the ‘Star Wars’ movies. I don’t have a crazy wish list of things I want to see in this new trilogy (though, it will be cool to see the Millennium Falcon again), but I do hope this new team downplays the Force again. By the Prequels, the Force turned Jedi into superhuman, magic-wielding, super-speedsters. In the original ‘Star Wars,’ a case could be made that the Force wasn’t even real.
Now, I want to be clear: I am not saying that the Force is fake in the fictional world of ‘Star Wars.’ I am saying that the Force is so subtle in the first film, that it’s understandable that someone like Han Solo would doubt its existence. The reason I’m bringing this up is because these movies were better when the Force was subtle.
In the original ‘Star Wars,’ there’s not one instance of the Force being used to levitate an object – which would be pretty obvious proof to someone like Han Solo that, hey, this is a real thing. (As Han would finally find out when Vader snatches a blaster away from him in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’) Put it this way: There’s no way Han Solo could have been at the dinner table with Anakin Skywalker in 'Attack of the Clones' as Anakin is putting on a clown show of tricks and dismiss it as "luck." (In this scene, Anakin admits that Obi-Wan would disapprove of using the Force to levitate fruit. Obi-Wan was a wise man and Anakin should have listened to him.)
In 'Star Wars,' there are nine possible instances of the Force being used and each one could be technically explained away by a Force agnostic like Han Solo. (This does not take into account what we learn in later movies, so you’re pretending you’re seeing this movie in 1977.) Here is each instance, along with what Han Solo would say to discredit each act:
- Ben tricking the Stormtroopers on Tatooine: “I’ve seen magicians hypnotize weak-minded people.”
- Darth Vader feeling Obi-Wan’s presence on the Death Star: “Yeah, well I get gut feelings, too."
- Darth Vader choking Motti on the Death Star: "If a seven-foot-tall half robot stared me down, I might feel some tightness under the collar, too. Remember that hypnotist I mentioned? I saw him make a guy think he was a chicken."
- Ben tells Luke to "use the force": "You’re hearing things, kid."
- Ben hearing "millions of voices suddenly cry out" when Alderaan is destroyed: "My dad thinks his knee will tell him when it’s going to rain."
- Obi-Wan disappears after being struck by Vader’s lightsaber: "How should I know what a lightsaber does to you? Maybe it’s supposed to vaporize your entire body?"
- Ben distracts two Stormtroopers on the Death Star: "I’ve seen ventriloquists throw their voice, too."
- Luke deflecting the lasers from a remote while his blast shield is down: "I call it luck." (Han actually did say this.)
- Luke blowing up the Death Star: "Great shot, kid. That was one in a million." (Han actually said this, too.)
'Star Wars' is just a much more interesting universe when the Force isn’t, let’s say, so much in our face. We believed the Force was real – even though Han didn’t – because we wanted to believe it was real. We wanted to believe this kindly old man, Ben, who is telling us all of these incredible stories. The Force piqued our sense of wonderment and the possibilities that laid ahead, instead of showing us how to impress girls by levitating fruit. If Han were there, I’m sure his response would be, "Okay, you made your point, the Force is real. And it’s also obnoxious."
The first time we actually see the Force in its undeniable form was in 'The Empire Strikes Back' when Luke uses it to grab his lightsaber as a Wampa approaches. For whatever reason, Lucas had decided to up the ante on the Force – because soon Obi-Wan appears to Luke as a ghost, instructing Luke to travel to Dagobah. (Fun fact: In the first script for ‘Empire,’ Vader was not yet Luke’s father and the ghost that appeared on Hoth was of Luke’s father.) But it still wasn’t overdone. The story still focused on the story of Luke, Han and Leia (because, really, that’s the relationship we care about with these movies) and when something remarkable happened – like Yoda levitating Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp – the music swelled and we gape at the screen with a "holy shit" look on our face.
Which is the biggest problem 'Star Wars: Episode 7' has to overcome: The prequels have us so desensitized to the Force, if they tried to recreate that X-Wing moment, it would be met with a shrug. "Ohhhh, you moved a spaceship. But can you run at superspeed while fighting with two lightsabers?" The Force as an entity is boring. The Force as an idea is fascinating. I hope, somehow, 'Episode 7' can recapture the sense of wonderment that’s supposed to come from the Force, not the sense of entitlement.
Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.