History tends to repeat itself. I just rewatched The Last Jedi again, and something really stood out to me. All of our favorite characters, whether it be Yoda, Obi-Wan, Luke, Han, Anakin, or Leia, have all had monumental failures.
Star Wars can be conjured up as the saga of people trying to fix others’ failures. The Jedi failed to realize they were prolonging the Clone Wars, letting the Sith grow from (literally) right beneath them. Yoda and Obi-Wan failed to see the darkness that was growing in Anakin. Anakin failed to be a true Jedi, and succumbed to his dark desires. The Emperor failed to recognize that Anakin Skywalker wasn’t totally gone, and died because of it. Han failed to be the father his son deserved. Ben Solo failed to be the next great Skywalker, and Luke failed at unlocking the potential of Ben. Star Wars and failure are combined.
So, why is failure such a big part of Star Wars? I think this comes back to the idea that Star Wars is for everyone. When Lucas created Star Wars, he included this idea of an “energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” This idea was put into motion so that everyone could relate to this “force”. Most humans believe in a power greater than themselves. The force is an example of something that all people can relate to.
Another things we can all relate to is failure. It’s one of the most basic human acts. We all fail, some more than others. In Star Wars, failure has two outcomes: positive and negative. Anakin’s failure, while negative at the time, balanced the force. Luke’s failure to train Ben correctly ended with his new Jedi Order being killed, and gave the galaxy a new villain to insure mayhem.
How a person overcomes their failures is what brings us to Star Wars. In order to fix the failure of letting his apprentice become Darth Vader, Obi-Wan’s journey is to protect Luke, and ultimately help him become a Jedi. Speaking of Obi-Wan, I think he’s the best example of someone who had such monumental failures, but through perseverance was able to overcome and conquer. Obi-Wan saw his master die at the hands of Darth Maul. He couldn’t save Qui-Gon. He saw Maul kill the love of his life, Duchess Satine. In season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, Obi-Wan is confronted by Maul. He kills Maul, but doesn’t let his hatred consume him. Before he falls into Obi-Wan’s arms, Maul says to the former Jedi, “Look what you’ve become: a rat in the desert.” Obi-Wan’s failures have brought him to a life of exile, where his only task is to protect a child from his father. Obi-Wan responds to Maul by saying “Look what I’ve risen above.”
This is one of the key lines that makes Star Wars, Star Wars. All of our greatest characters have risen above things. While watching The Last Jedi, I realized the parallels to Luke and Yoda’s stories. They both let Padawan’s destroy their Jedi orders. They both fleeted to self-exile. They were both confronted by someone seeking guidance, unwilling at first to train them. Then, at the end, they fulfilled their purpose: to extend the Jedi Order and overcome the failures they’ve experienced. Yoda restored a spark of light to the galaxy in Luke. Luke restored a beam of sunlight with Rey. Even Rey experienced the hardships of growing up alone. She rose above her unforutnate circumstances to become the heir apparent to Luke Skywalker, much like Kylo Ren is now the heir apparent to Darth Vader. The light and the dark. Both breaking free of their chains, but in different ways. Two sides of the same coin.
Kanan Jarus is another character who embodies what Star Wars is. He had promise as a padawan, but the result of Order 66 left him running for his life, and all alone. He didn’t become a Jedi (well not for a few years). Kanan essentially became an alconolic who only cared about himself. Later on, he meets Ezra and suddenly he has a purpose in life: to train this young boy and teach him the ways of the force. While doing this, he’s confronted with the fact that he never even completed his own training, and he did many things that Jedi don’t do. Yet, he overcame these issues to help train Ezra and much like Yoda and Luke, died so that the Jedi can live on.
The point is, failure is the most human of actions. For every success we have, we have multiple failures. Star Wars recognizes this, and is able to tell amazing stories by the attempt to overcome these failures. And because of this, Star Wars is the most relatable franchise in movie history. As Yoda says in the Last Jedi, “the greatest teacher, failure is.”