The cinema was packed, but we just had to see 'The Last Jedi' for ourselves. We were so fixated we took the last two seats in the front row. The anticipation was building as the text scrolled across the star filled universe. In a galaxy far, far away, a story was about to unfold that has captured the hearts and wallets of the people of the known world.
Fortune Magazine said, "Star Wars:
The Last Jedi blasted into theatres this past weekend, and the iconic movie franchise's latest instalment walked off with the second-biggest domestic opening weekend at the box office ever, at $220 million.
Many are predicting it will be the biggest Hollywood block buster of 2017. According to Wikipedia:
If ancillary income from merchandise is included, then Star Wars is the most lucrative of property; it holds the Guinness world record for the "most successful film merchandising franchise.
What is it about the Star Wars film series, conceived by George Lucas, that has made Star Wars the third highest grossing film series of all time? To find the answer we have to go to writer of the original script. George Lucas said:
I put The Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people - more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery. Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, "Is there a God or is there not a God?" - that is for me the worst thing that can happen. I think you should have an opinion about that. Or you should be saying, "I'm looking. I'm very curious about this, and I am going to continue to look until I can find an answer, and if I can't find an answer, then I'll die trying.
Joel Hodge in an insightful Conversation article titled, Star Wars offers enduring themes that appeal to our deepest selves says:
The story centres on the battle between the evil Empire and virtuous Rebellion, which appeals for its action as well as the injustice that is being fought. But the narrative moves beyond a conventional political and military fight to deeper considerations of character, friendship, technology, transcendence and redemption.
A viewer can enjoy the story on two levels, then: as an action-adventure of good versus evil, or as a reflection on the deepest human themes. Literary-critic and philosopher René Girard argues that the most enduring stories function on these two levels by simultaneously appealing to different audiences, with the deeper level effectively subverting and deepening the most superficial level over time…
This movement is shown in the primary story-line of Star Wars – the fall and redemption of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Vader began as the archetype of the evil villain, following Star Wars: A New Hope.
Yet, as the series progressed, it became clearer that Vader was a complex character. In fact, he is the "Chosen One" who is meant to provide balance to the Force.
Here we see clear allusions to a saviour figure, even to Jesus Christ.
I cannot but help agree with Joel Hodge. There is something profoundly spiritual behind the story lines of the 8-part series. I remember as young man going to see the first Star Wars movie – A New Hope in 1977. The story blew me away. I could see the clear allusions to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as Don Mclean so poignantly and cryptically sang in his hit American Pie.
So, what has Star Wars got to do with Christmas? Well if you want to talk about franchises there is no bigger franchise than Christmas. And yes… Christmas has captured both the hearts and wallets of the known world. The difference being that Christmas is an open source franchise. The original franchisor gave the franchise away to help others.
Corporations, like Disney that now owns Star Wars, have ridden the Christmas gravy train, and yet 'The Christmas Story' is bigger than the merchandising corporations that try to own it. Carols by Candlelight are an example of the unfettered open source celebration of The Christmas Story so prevalent in Australia and around the world.
Whether it is the Melbourne Music Bowl, or the Broken Hill Carols by Candlelight, with an attendance at times one quarterof the town's entire population, the attendance in Australia at such transcendent events is growing, not decreasing. Maybe George Lucas's plan to awaken spiritual hunger through his movies is working. This year perhaps over 5 million Australians will collectively gather in some part of Australia to sing Carols by Candlelight and millions more will watch on TV.
Who is the original franchisor of the Christmas Story?
Jesus Christ, who came as the baby from Bethlehem, born into the midst of the battle between 'Good and Evil'. The battle was so intense that all the babies born in Bethlehem under two years of ago were killed while the Christchild escaped to Egypt with his life. His time had not yet come. The Christmas Story has all the twists and turns of a Hollywood blockbuster and yet as Mark Twain said, "truth is stranger than fiction".
A beautiful illustration of the true open source nature of The Christmas Story arrived in our letterbox. My wife sings at retirement homes as a volunteer. One of those is in the faith based retirement villages of Hammond Care. Interestingly, four out of the top five charities in Australia are faith based.
Steve Judd, CEO of Hammond Care wrote a prescient Christmas message of thanks quoting a verse from the Bible about Jesus Christ:
Who, being in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
While there are many similarities between the story of Star Wars and The Christmas Story, the big difference is between the original franchisors. One was a businessman and one was a servant to all mankind.
George Lucas sold his Star Wars franchise to Disney for just over $4 billion US. The original franchisor of the Christmas story not only gave His story away, but grew up and give His life away as a ransom for many.