When we think of Star Wars many of us think of the Force, Jedi and Sith, space battles, lightsabers, and such. But perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of Star Wars is how the films handle love. While it certainly isn’t the theme that jumps out at us immediately, upon deeper reflection love has huge ramifications in the franchise. Anakin’s love for his mother and Padme is what made him so susceptible to the dark side. Obi-Wan’s anguish at nearly killing Anakin at the climax of Revenge of the Sith stems from his deep connection to him as he laments: “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you”. Selfish love (pride and narcissism) is the hallmark of the Sith who put their own wants and needs above all others.
Love is a bit tricky when it comes to nailing down an exact definition for it. According to Merriam-Webster there are many kinds of love. The love between parents and children, the love between best friends, the love one feels for themselves, and of course the romantic love between lovers. Star Wars has traditionally handled all of these pretty well, but the trickiest to stick, by far, is romantic love.
Romantic love just doesn’t seem to play out well in Star Wars. While it could just be that George Lucas is bad at writing romantic dialogue (and he is), I believe there is more to it than that. To quote Keanu Reeves character from the movie, Speed, “I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work“. And that is the situation here in Star Wars. Romantic love can work out, but after the fighting and wars are done with and the dust has settled.
Could have Padme and Anakin have worked out? Perhaps yes if they had waited til after the Clone Wars to get romantically involved. Could have Kylo Ren and Rey been more? Yeah, you know, if they were at least on the same side after Snoke’s death. Did Han and Leia have a happily-ever-after? Clearly not since we find that they are separated in The Force Awakens, the pressures of the galaxy and The First Order were too much for their relationship.
That being said, just because none of the major romantic relationships in the films have panned out doesn’t mean there were not any stirring or sincerely romantic moments. Despite their eventual failures, each trilogy had romantic moments that hit. For at least a scene or two, these moments had us believing that love can bloom on the battlefield.
Now we all know that part of the reason why Attack of the Clones is regarded as the worst (or damn near one of the worst) films of the franchise has to do with creeper Anakin trying to wear down our dear Padme with cringey dialogue. However near the end we are hit with one of the best shot and more intimate moments of the whole prequel trilogy. Anakin and Padme had just been captured in their poorly thought out attempt to rescue Obi-Wan. They are bound next to each other in a chariot, about to be wheeled out to their execution. Realizing the helplessness of their situation they throw out their sacred convictions to their social roles and careers and decide that, here at the end, they might as well surrender to their feelings while they have precious little time.
Had they known about the rescue from the Jedi and the Clone troopers in advance, they might have been less inclined to throw their inhibitions out the window. But it was the hopelessness and desperation of their plight that made the kiss between these young doomed lovers particularly impactful. It was romantic in the Shakespearian way. Even in those dire circumstances they had each other at last to lean on, and they would die together. Well, at least that was the plan.
We all knew if there was one moment of romantic love to represent the original trilogy, it was going to be this one. Han’s answer to Leia saying “I love you” with “I know”, could there be a more badass response than that? If anybody in Star Wars embodies the charming swashbuckling’ rogue, it’s Han “lock-up-your-daughters-and-mothers” Solo! What makes this moment hit hardest is realizing the situation Han is in. There is no guarantee of him surviving the carbon freeze process, and even if he does he will still be taken prisoner. Yet we get that one last kiss from Leia, never knowing if they will ever be able to romantically embrace again and she puts her heart on the line for him. The way Leia looks longingly at Han afterwards makes it the top romantic moment of the original trilogy.
I know what you are thinking, there was little to no buildup to the kiss that Rey and Ben had together at the climax of Episode IX. I challenge you, when you have the time, to rewatch the sequel trilogy back-to-back and examine their relationship throughout the films. There is an old adage that goes “There is a thin line between love and hate”, and the emotions these two have towards each other can be best described as “intense”.
Rey knows Kylo’s most intimate thoughts when she reverses the mind reading / torture session in The Force Awakens, exposing her knowledge of Kylo Ren’s deepest fear of not living up to the legacy of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Later we see the incredibly strong connection between Rey and Kylo in The Last Jedi where they can phase matter between them through a special personal connection, a force ability we had never seen before. Sure, Snoke takes credit for this, but they have this power long after his death.
Lastly, once Kylo rejects the title of the leader of the Knights of Ren, and discards his persona to be Ben again, he joins forces with Rey to defeat the Emperor one last time. Ben uses the force to heal Rey completely but it ultimately costs him his life, and we sense that he knew it would. They embrace, they kiss finally having the chance to be together without any obstacles, only for Ben to succumb to the force and fade away. It’s not a timeless love like how we view Han and Leia, but it didn’t feel as forced (pardon the pun) as many say it was. Love isn’t always easy and straightforward, in Ben and Rey’s situation it resulted from a complicated history, circumstances, and a strong intense personal connection.
Love is complicated and, much like how it is handled in Star Wars, it can be messy. Just because it is poorly executed in the franchise doesn’t mean there are not any moments where it shines through and hits. Ultimately the films are about the various bonds the characters share and the hero’s journey, but there is a sprinkle of romantic love in there.
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