New Star Wars film to have religious theme

by Gregory Tomlin |

(EW.com)In this still from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the blind warrior Chirrut Imwe, played by Donnie Yen, prepares to do battle with imperial Storm Troopers. Chirrut Imwe is apparently a devotee of the Jedi order, though he is accompanied wherever he goes by a non-believer in the supernatural.

HOLLYWOOD (Christian Examiner) – The upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will feature a religious theme that may ring familiar to Americans, the film's director claims.

That theme? Religious decline.

"The Force is basically in Star Wars like a religion, and they're losing their faith in the period that we start the movie," director Gareth Edwards told Entertainment Weekly Aug. 8.

Rogue One is set during the same time frame as Star Wars: A New Hope – also known as "Episode IV" – which introduced the classic characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. It chronicles the work of the spies who stole the plans for the Empire's Death Star, an event that served as the catalyst for the first movie in 1977.

In the 1977 movie, the main character Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is known as "old Ben," describes the Jedi Knights as a religious order that guarded peace in the galaxy for more than 1,000 years – until the Empire rose. Another character, Han Solo, calls the Jedi religion "hokey" and superstitious and seems to hint that the religion is all but extinct.

But there are others who still want to connect with the Force, according to Edwards.

"We were trying to find a physical location we could go to that would speak to the themes of losing your faith and the choice between letting the Empire win, or evil win, and good prevailing," he says. "It got embodied in this place we called Jedha."

Jedha, for what reasons the director will not say, is equally important to the Jedi and to the Empire. He did say, however, that the planet – which reflects a Middle Eastern feel – is an important site for religious pilgrims, or for people who still want to connect with the ancient religion.

"With its narrow market alleyways, desert sands, and Ottoman-inspired architecture, Jedha has obvious Middle Eastern influences, but it could be any place where far-flung followers would gather to pray, reflect, or meditate – Mecca, Jerusalem, Canterbury, Bodh Gaya," Entertainment Weekly reported.

The city streets on the planet are also filled with priests of the Jedi order, holy men and mystics.

Edwards didn't hint any further if real world religious conflict or actual human history directly translated to the film, but the plot seems reminiscent of recent conflicts over the land of Israel, what some say is the waning of Christianity in the West, and even Islamic conquest and the Crusades.

Much of George Lucas's Star Wars religion of the Force was taken from the world's ancient religions, such as Hinduism, where a metaphysical force unites all living things.