There was a moment during Star Wars: The Last Jedi when I became convinced that the true villain of the franchise had been hiding in plain sight the whole time. That villain? The Military-Industrial Complex.
[Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.]
Let’s take a step back. In their quest to find a much-needed codebreaker, Finn and his new partner-in-crime, Rose, journey to a planet known as Canto Bight. The planet is essentially a Bernie Sanders nightmare scenario, where the top one percent of the top one percent play space craps, bet on space ponies and treat space orphans like trash.
After a daring escape, the duo is rescued by DJ, a hacker deftly played by Benicio del Toro. DJ reveals that he’s snagged an arms dealer’s pleasure starship, and is eager to assist in their quest. Adopting a haughty tone over the theft of said vehicle, DJ shows Finn and Rose to whom the arms dealer has been selling weapons. Yep, it’s our friends the First Order, ordering up TIE Fighters to beat the band.
But wait, it’s not just TIE Fighters, is it? No, it’s also X-Wings they’re selling. Yes, even the good guys are financially supporting the leeches of Canto Bight.
Alright, keep that in your mind for a second as we jump ahead a bit in the story.
There was a moment, after the shocking death of Snoke, when we all thought Kylo Ren was ready to turn to the light side of the Force. While he and Rey were ripping Snoke’s elite guards to shreds, all I could think was, “Uh, who is left to be the bad guy in the last movie?”
Hux, maybe, but we know Hux is all bark. Really, honestly, without Kylo and Snoke as Big Bads, who’s left?
Then I thought back to the scene with DJ, and a much larger enemy that has existed throughout every single one of the Star Wars films: war.
Let’s talk about Eisenhower
Back in 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower was ending his term as President of the United States. In his farewell address, he warned of what he thought was the greatest threat to the country and the world at large: The Military-Industrial Complex.
“Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment,” he said, as seen in the video above. “We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.”
The mere existence of a defense industry isn’t cause for alarm, but when the success of that industry in measured by the frequency of war, things start to get very messy.
Eisenhower continued by saying that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
To put it another way: The companies who rely on wars to stay afloat will do whatever they can to encourage governments to continue fighting.
Peace is bad for business.
Ditto for Star Wars
It seems that this was true even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Every installment of Star Wars has naturally involved a variety of wars to push the action forward. DJ the hacker was merely pointing out the obvious. We’ve seen plenty of heartache and loss caused by Star Destroyers, but the guy selling them probably isn’t crying himself to sleep. To him, every Resistance victory meant another purchase order from the First Order was on the way, and vice versa.
It almost makes you wonder if director Rian Johnson’s forthcoming Star Wars trilogy, unburdened by the comings and goings of the Skywalker clan, might eschew space wizards in favor of arms dealers as the true source of pain and strife in the galaxy.