A New Religion

The classic tale of good versus evil in the "Star Wars" films has been compared to both heroic myths and organised religion. But could claiming that Luke Skywalker is the messiah with a lightsabre be going just a bit too far?

It's no secret that George Lucas was greatly inspired by author and mythology guru Joseph Campbell and his book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces". The book is an analysis of various Hero's Quest myths from around the world and points out common elements which see the hero pass through a crisis or conflict to emerge a changed person. Using this template, Lucas fashioned his own hero's quest about farmhand cum Jedi knight and made millions of dollars in the process.

However, take any film and the chances are Campbell's theories will apply, so why does "Star Wars" get singled out for special treatment? Perhaps it is because fantastical sights such as Jawas and Hutts have a lot in common with the krakens and medusas of Greek legend, and give the series more of a mythical feel than, say, "Training Day", another example of the hero's quest.

Many observers have also drawn parallels between "Star Wars" and major religions, particularly Buddhism and Taoism, and Lucas himself has said in interview that he has indeed referred to the mysteries of the orient as source material for the current trilogy. But you wonder if there isn't some back-pedalling going on, and that Lucas isn't beginning to believe his own hype, attaching significance to the films that might not be appropriate if they weren't so monstrously popular.

There have even been suggestions that audiences are not drawn to the gob-smacking special effects and freakish aliens, but to the spiritual message of good versus evil and the all-encompassing Force, which some see as a shorthand for either god or God.

Of course, with several thousand people in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand believing (however incorrectly) that by writing 'Jedi' as their religion on last year's census forms it would become a recognised religion, there's a light hearted side to the issue. But even allowing for a healthy element of intellectual film critique, there's a point when you have to agree with Carrie Fisher and scream, "It's only a movie!"