Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, has said that he has:
“… very strong opinions about Hollywood movies and how they can be a waste of resources and seem totally gratuitous and dumbed down for an audience and sacrifice story for spectacle.”
That’s not without its irony, since one popular criticism of The Force Awakens is that it was a soft reboot – a “retro movie” that didn’t attempt to further the Star Wars story, but simply rehashed familiar tropes as fan service.
The odd thing is that – in spite of what Star Wars dignitaries such as the guys from Red Letter Media say – the Star Wars universe is actually capable of supporting nuanced characters and deep philosophical stories.
Don’t believe me? You should definitely have a look at KOTOR 2 then. And just a quick warning – the following contains spoilers for that game.
KOTOR 2 is short for Knights of the Old Republic 2, an old video game from 2004. The game was consciously written in an effort to go beyond the two-dimensional, black-or-white characters so often seen in the Star Wars universe. Let me give you a few examples of the complexities of the game:
- You play as an ex-Jedi who was exiled from the order. What evil deed did you undertake in order to be cast out, you ask? You rushed to defend innocent civilians who were being slaughtered by enemies of the republic. The Jedi council did not want to interfere in the slaughter, since they feared a greater threat was at play. But you could not stand idly by, so you defied the council. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
- There is also a Jedi librarian who, out of pride and love of the Jedi order, gathers Sith teachings and masters them. She rationalizes to herself that she can use the teachings of the Sith to destroy the Sith and build a new and more powerful Jedi order. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
- Your mentor in the game is an old and powerful force user cares neither for Jedi nor Sith, but preaches a message of radical individuality and freedom from pre-fabricated labels. She instructs others to find their own path, rather than narrowly following the code that has been handed down to them from others. She believes the truth is something one must find for oneself. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
So who is evil and who is good? It’s hard to tell. Rather than the one-sided good vs. evil trope, the major characters have nuanced motivations that make sense from their own point of view. And that’s just the characters – the story is interesting too. But we won’t spoil too much. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
Concerning the allegations that people only say Rey is a Mary Sue out of sexism, did you notice that all three of the aforementioned characters are female? No one ever said that they are Mary Sues, poorly-developed, or uninteresting. In fact, many Star Wars fans have said that Kreia – the old force user who mentors the main character – is their favorite Star Wars character of all time. She certainly is mine. Contrasting the one-dimensional Rey with these three-dimensional, nuanced, and multifaceted female characters, and seeing how popular the latter three are with the community, shows beyond a doubt how desperate the move of calling people who don’t like Rey sexist is. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
So there you have it. It is possible to tell intelligent stories exploring complex psychological motivations of deep characters in the Star Wars universe. However, as the guys at Red Letter Media have said, big movies like Star Wars are essentially a business and that’s why you will never see a story with the complexity of KOTOR 2 on the big screen. Adam Driver is right that blockbuster movies like The Force Awakens are dumbed down and sacrifice story for spectacle.
We’re not faulting Driver for taking the role as Kylo Ren, though, because if a casting director turned up on our doorstep offering millions for us to participate in some dumbed-down spectacle, you’d better believe we’d sell ourselves on the spot. And many of these Hollywood celebrities also give tons of money to charity, so hey, that’s cool. However, no matter how much you twist and turn it, The Force Awakens is a stupid story. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
Now, since some of the audience on this channel comes here for information on psychology and Jungian typology, I want to say a few words on how awesome two of the female characters in KOTOR 2 are from a psychological standpoint.
The first is Kreia, the wise old force user who despises both Jedi and Sith. She is an INTJ personality type modelled on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I suppose Palpatine from the first two trilogies is supposed to be INTJ too. But if you compare the two, it is evident that one shows an INTJ at their most-developed philosophical apex while the other is a cartoony, one-dimensional character, complete with cheesy laugh. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
It’s so refreshing to see a well-rounded and philosophically nuanced INTJ. Besides Nietzsche, there aren’t actually many of them in Western culture. Many seem to relish committing one-sidedly to their own philosophical message, but Kreia and Nietzsche want you to think for yourself – they refuse to let their message be reduced to simple talking points or slogans. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
At the end of KOTOR 2 it is revealed that Kreia despises not just the Jedi and the Sith, but the force itself because it seems to have a will that controls the destinies of people. As a radical individualist, she hates the fact that people are not in control of their own fates; not free to choose their own values and make a personal testament out of their lives.
When Nietzsche says that to redeem the past is to transform every ‘it was’ into an ‘I willed it so’ and that that alone is worthy of being called individuality, these words could easily have been spoken by Kreia. Likewise, when Nietzsche says that most people’s values are borrowed from codes that have been handed down to them, which they have not been powerful enough to supersede, that too could have been said by Kreia.
And the way Kreia hates the force while simultaneously relying on it echoes the conflict between the INTJ’s topmost functions, namely the metaphysical expansivity of Ni and the immanence-oriented reductiveness of Te, which I have described and gone into more detail about in my essays Plato’s Discoursive Defense and Determining Function Axes, Part 6, which are available to members on our website.
Another interesting character is Atris, the Jedi librarian who believes that she alone is competent enough to be the warden of Sith artefacts and to do what must be done to save the Jedi order. Probably she is supposed to be an ISTJ with a compulsive personality style. She is preoccupied with matters of order and control. But unlike the individualistic Kreia, Atris conforms to the compulsive stereotype, that is to say, she is the busybody who believes that everybody should live as she does. She is intolerant of the values of others if they do not live up to the conduct she believes is right, and she does not believe anyone else can be trusted to “keep order” and “do what is right” to save the Jedi order. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
Another point is that compulsives often turned out as they did because they had one or more strict parents who instilled in them the impression that in order to be worthy of love, one must meet one’s responsibilities with exceptional diligence and strive to fulfil one’s obligations to the highest degree. This upbringing has typically given the compulsive deep-seated feelings of aggression, which, however, they dare not acknowledge to themselves, lest they lose their parent’s love completely. As a result, their aggression remains unacknowledged, even to themselves, as they go through life devotedly tending to duties and work. In Atris’ case, her unacknowledged aggression and anger is one reason that she falls to the dark side. Since she dares not acknowledge them, it is all the easier for them to overtake her. Another reason is that, as a compulsive who fears the collapse of the regimen she had built for herself, Atris is unable to heed one very vital element of the Jedi teaching. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
Atris didn’t just fall to the dark side, however – she fell without being able to see it herself. In truth, this could probably happen to a compulsive of any type, but it’s also a good illustration of the perils of introverted sensation types who get too cut off from their inferior Ne. Without the perspective of intuition to step outside of the regimen and routines one has built for oneself, the introverted sensation type imbues her personal experience with greater and greater subjective meaning until anything can mean practically anything within one’s personal frame of reference, or until one believes that becoming a Sith is the best way to be a Jedi. [CUT TO NEW AUDIO FILE]
All in all, KOTOR 2 is a great game with a great story and some fantastic characters. It’s not a perfect game, however, as the developers had to rush it due to demands from the publisher. Luckily for you, though, fans have developed a Restored Content Mod, which implements many of the elements the developers were originally forced to cut from the game. So be sure to get that if you want to play it.
Finally, there is one more thing I must mention about KOTOR 2 and that is the aesthetics of the game. Many video games try to do dark settings and atmospheres, but somehow they end up overdoing it. In their quest for grit, the grit becomes its own art choice – its own brand of beauty, as it were. In KOTOR 2, the designers also opted for a bleak setting, but it all feels much more realistic and immersive. It’s gritty, but at the same time there’s a sense that the inhabitants of this universe have tried to make a home for themselves amid the bleakness by spicing up their surroundings with whatever solace and comfort they have been able to acquire. The result is a dark and sinister setting that’s much more believable than the consciously dark settings so often peddled in these kinds of games. Finally, the music is also really well done, and truly succeeds in underscoring and giving you, the player, a feel of the bleakness, grandeur and vastness of the Star Wars universe.