Earlier this year, on Star Wars day, I looked forward to seeing The Rise of Skywalker again and I indicated that I was giving up on Star Wars think pieces for a while. That lasted a few months, and then I came across this post from Hannah Long on Arc Digital.
I love to see the variety of posts on Arc Digi, but this one reminds me of something that would have come from another of my favorite publications, Christ and Pop Culture. In it, Long examines the centrality of faith in the Star Wars universe and how, of all the new properties, The Clone Wars series handles that aspect best.
Because here’s the thing people don’t get about Star Wars: it’s not about the space battles and laser swords. Nor is it about politics — in fact, the more political it is, the more boring it grows. Star Wars is about faith. (No wonder people get so mad about it online.) That explains the way we treat it and the way it’s written. It’s only by recognizing and embracing the religious nature of the story — and of its almost religious status in pop culture — that storytellers can capture the elusive “real” Star Wars.”
I have only seen parts of The Clone Wars series from George Lucas apprentice Dave Filoni.1 One day, my oldest son told us that the series started off a bit slow, but that it ended up being highly critically acclaimed. My youngest son took this to heart, and binged his way through the seven seasons of the show. This is how I became exposed and though indeed in the beginning it felt a bit formulaic and stilted, it gradually began to tell some fascinating stories. The Siege of Mandalore 4-episode arc is singled out in Long’s article for special praise.
In the piece, Long writes about what sets the TV series apart from the recent Star Wars sequel movies. She looks at the difference in how the recent films have handled fidelity to the original stories.
The difference is in The Clone Wars’ religious philosophy. Unsurprisingly, Filoni approaches Star Wars with a religious sensibility similar to Lucas’s. Neither are worshipful and careful of the old canon like J. J. Abrams — both Lucas and Filoni take creative chances. But unlike Rian Johnson, neither are they instinctual iconoclasts.
Long goes on to speculate about the religious beliefs that seem to drive Filoni’s stories.
Unsurprisingly, Filoni draws inspiration from Tolkien’s books, which fueled his imagination as a kid. He’s compared Luke to Frodo and Ahsoka to Gandalf. He’s always posting Tolkien stuff. I don’t know anything about Filoni’s own religion, but I’m willing to bet his moral vision of the world is profoundly influenced by Tolkien’s, which was itself Catholic. Perhaps it’s a shaky connection to find, but those similarities lead me to predict that Filoni’s moral vision will prove more robust than that of competing stars in the Disney Star Wars constellation.
Having not seen the entirety of The Clone Wars, and not having followed Dave Filoni closely, I can only comment so much on the conclusions that are drawn by Long in the piece. However, her analysis of the Star Wars movies I have seen is spot on, so I’m inclined to give her thoughts credibility. I will be watching for more Star Wars projects from Dave Filoni with great interest.2