Man gropes for a glimpse of metaphysical combat that Scripture has already outlined in blinding relief.

As i drove away from the theater my six-year-old daughter, Kelly, asked, “Daddy, is the Force Jesus?” We had just seen the second George Lucas space epic, The Empire Strikes Back. I had gone to decide whether or not the Star Wars sequel merited a metaphysical checkup in CHRISTIANITY TODAY. My daughter’s question rendered the issue rhetorical.

The fabric of this galactic odyssey is woven from what Lucas calls the ultimate search. He explains that, “On a theoretical/philosophical level the ultimate search is still the most fascinating search, what is it all about—why are we here and how big is it and where does it go—what is God and all that?” But dressing up this good guys-bad guys series as a philosophical heavyweight would encumber it with a seriousness it doesn’t deserve. It’s not that these films are undeserving in any critical sense. Lucas first of all means to reinspire today’s youth with the spirit of fun and adventure he portrayed in his first moneymaker, American Graffiti. “The sort of [childhood] heritage we built up since the war,” says Lucas, “had been wiped out in the sixties and it wasn’t groovy to act that way anymore. Now you just sort of sat there and got stoned.”

So Lucas, who has said, “I don’t like to come out with a big sign and say this is significant,” doesn’t take the Star Wars serial seriously in the same way Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was meant to be taken.

Nevertheless, comparison of the messages, the anthropological content of these films, may reflect some subtle shifts in the popular culture over the two intervening decades. Like Kubrick, Lucas focuses his cinematographic sights on ...

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