Star Wars contains a number of repeated themes throughout its running, such as family, the presence of myths, and a new generation taking the torch from the old. Another common theme, one we’ve seen even in The Force Awakens, is obsession. From the very first movie to the most recent additions to the canon, obsession has dominated Star Wars.
What’s Your Obsession?
From the beginning: In A New Hope, the story begins thanks to an obsession about the Death Star plans. Both sides want them – the rebels need them – and so a wide hunt begins. Halfway through the movie, Darth Vader learns of Luke’s existence, and he becomes obsessed with the boy. In The Empire Strikes Back, the obsession continues. Emperor Palpatine aids it, until the confrontation on Cloud City.
In Return of the Jedi, Palpatine and Darth Vader are both obsessed with Luke, and this drives a great deal of the plot. In turn, Luke is obsessed with not becoming the next version of his father. When these obsessions collide, on the second Death Star at the film’s end, Luke’s wins out. Darth Vader turns against his still-obsessed master, and the rebels win.
The prequel trilogy has an even clearer emphasis on obsession. Anakin’s obsession with protecting his loved ones is the obvious, prominent example.
First, it was his mother. He had dreams about her suffering during the events of Attack of the Clones, and those dreams soon become reality. This galvanizes his desire to protect his loved ones, chief among them his new wife Padme. For one reason or another (Palpatine’s influence? The Force? Who can say) the dreams return, showing Padme in danger. Anakin finds help from the Dark Side of the force, leading to Padme’s tragic death and the rise of the Empire.
Finally, in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren obsesses over his grandfather, Darth Vader. He wants to “finish what you started.” He wants to bring an end to the conflict and rule the galaxy. Putting his grandfather’s melted mask on a shrine can be nothing but obsession.
Obsession weakens the mighty
Why this theme? It’s common in fiction, and fantastic fiction even more so. Incredible power, such as the Jedi and Sith possess, can make things difficult for writers. As their physical power increases, other roadblocks must be placed in the way of the characters. If Anakin Skywalker, Jedi extraordinaire, was perfectly mentally sound, Star Wars would cease to exist. This also allows us to see how terribly things can go when, despite amazing technology and power, you refuse to let something go. We see how power corrupts, and how, even with great strength and a future, your own mind can ruin your life.
The possible lessons to learn are numerous. Is it possible to care about your loved ones too much? When should one stop pursuing further power? The movies give us plenty of examples of what happens when an idea, a person, or a goal locks in someone’s mind. As we can see in Star Wars, it often goes badly.
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