Third in a series comparing and contrasting the original Star Wars trilogy with the newest movie, The Force Awakens
Perhaps the biggest point of weakness for The Force Awakens, as compared to the predecessor it so closely resembles, the original Star Wars movie (“A New Hope”) comes in its relationship to the Force, the mysterious energy field that famously “binds the galaxy” together. In its newest incarnation, it’s essentially a set of magic tricks that can be performed by anyone of sufficient inborn talent –a portrayal still light years ahead of its unfortunate incarnation as a incoherent pseudoscience in the prequel trilogy.
In the original movie, however, the Force wasn’t merely a useful toolbox of mystical powers, it was the foundation of moral and religious philosophy with some actual intellectual heft and real world provenience.
One of the striking contrasts in the original movie between Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his one time student, Darth Vader, is in their relationship to the Force. Kenobi uses the Force sparingly, subtly, and in times of manifest need. His mastery of the Force is a spiritual discipline, an extension of his wisdom, and a sign of how deeply he is attuned to the universe. In contrast, Darth’s use of the Force is showy, aggressive and gratuitous, designed to frighten and intimidate.
This actually accords quite well with what I was taught during the several years I spent studying qigong, the Chinese philosophy/art that provided one of the main real-world inspirations for the Force. The true student of qigong is balanced, and in tune with nature. He or she never uses qigong in a flashy or showy manner. The study of qigong is to improve health and to serve as a foundation for martial arts and other physical and mental disciplines.
Many seemingly outlandish claims are made for mystical powers of qigong, of practitioners able to balance on a single finger, move an object with mental power, or become impervious to a bullet or a sword. Yet, according to the real traditions, no one should trust anyone who openly displays such abilities. Even in the case that their powers were real and not stage trickery of one sort or another, it would mean not that they had understood the core of qigong, but that they had missed it.
Advantage: The Original Trilogy – As shiny and cool as the Force is in the new movie, it’s a pale shadow of the original’s quieter version.