theforceawakens

 

Most of the fans who would read this site have probably seen the movie by now so here we go with a discussion (including spoilers) on The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please click away now (but please come back once you’ve seen the movie!)

The Good:

I did not expect to like all of the new characters as much as I did. Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, BB-8, Poe…I liked them all a lot more than I thought, and I really did think I’d like them from the very beginning. I thought Poe was going to be more of a smarmy cynic a la Han Solo (and thus inherit that mantle) but he’s really not that guy. Just as charming I suppose, but in a different way. Rey is incredible, Finn brings an energy and humor that we haven’t seen in Star Wars before and Kylo Ren is imbalanced and conflicted in a way that sets up very well for Episodes 8 and 9. BB-8 is as endearing as R2 was and he doesn’t come off as a gimmick at all. We also get to see Chewie unleashed in a way that we haven’t before. It was great to see him taking on more action than at any point in the past.

The visuals on Jakku may be the best thing about the movie from a cinemetography standpoint. Of course we got all of those shots in the trailers so they were not a surpruse, but seeing them on the big screen was amazing. Almost worth the price of admission alone. Can’t wait to see that on IMAX.

I’m not as disappointed as others are that the narrative so heavily steals from A New Hope. I saw The Phantom Menace the same way, with a kid living in squalor rising above his circumstances to destroy and enemy stronghold while losing a mentor in the process. I just see it as continuing the mirroring that Lucas started. I suppose it would have been nice to see something more original but as long as we’re talking about the Skywalker family saga I think we can expect things to repeat themselves to a certain degree.

Han Solo is back…albeit briefly. Not the noble rebel General, but the smuggler we first fell for. The wisecracking cynic is back, except he’s obviously not so skeptical about hokey religions and ancient weapons any more. This is Harrison Ford’s movie and he went all-in for his last ride as the Corellian cool dude.

Millennium Falcon: it was GREAT seeing our favorite hunk of junk unshackled from the limitations of stop-motion animation. Seeing it in action again was very gratifying and the way it was introduced was one of the movie’s welcome surprises.

The Bad:

Why the HELL was nobody there to console poor Chewbacca in the aftermath of losing Han Solo, his best friend for decades? We felt Chewie’s anguish when Han died and we all deserved the hug that Chewie didn’t get. Epic fail, Leia. Epic fail. He was shafted at the end of A New Hope, and he was shafted again here. That really bothered me and I find it borderline unacceptable that Chewie was left to mourn on his own in the corner while everyone else celebrated.

The sky/space battles were spectacles to be sure but lacking in any real tension or drama. I don’t know if that’s a by-product of the era of CGI where it’s too tempting to dazzle with visuals rather than focus on the people but I didn’t feel anything during the dogfights.

Starkiller Base. When I first heard that they were once again doing this gigantic world-destroying battle station, I was underwhelmed, regardless of how much bigger and more destructive it was. The stakes are still the same: a lot of people die. It doesn’t matter to viewers if a million or billion people die. Both are staggering numbers. Again, the mirror effect in action but if the justification is that the First Order is just that much more ambitious, then I think that’s weak. Predictably, we see the Starkiller base do what it was designed to do, but once again it was knocked out by stunt fighters seconds before it’s ready to destroy the good guys’ HQ. Let’s not go back there again, please.

I thought there would be more depth to Maz Kanata. Based on her voice-over work in the TV ads, I thought we’d find out more about her or feel more of her power. Maybe we still will but aside from Rey, she was the one I was most interested in. Cool character, but I was hoping for more

Random Comments:

I enjoyed the score quite a lot. Yeah there’s a lot of music that we can probably label as generic but I think that’s because we’re not used to it yet. Most of us old fans respond to the familiar stuff like Han and Leia’s theme, and the Force theme. We just haven’t had time to marinate in the new stuff yet. Remember, we didn’t get the Imperial March, Yoda’s theme and other memorable themes until ESB or later. I think it’s a tough act to try and match the Oscar-winning soundtrack to A New Hope. Still, Rey’s theme is great, and the Jedi Steps is very moving.

I was going to put this under “bad” but considering we knew it was going to be this way, I put it here instead. We knew that we’d see little of Captain Phasma but I didn’t think we’d get THAT little. She was almost an afterthought.

We all had to know it was coming, but it hurt nonetheless to see Han Solo die at the hands of his son. We all felt Chewie’s pain in that moment. If you didn’t see his death coming, then you don’t know J.J. Abrams that well, or the fact that Ford likely didn’t want to do more than one more movie. Couple that with the relatively unchallenged stroll they took through Starkiller Base and you had to know things weren’t going to go well.

Not sure how I feel about Finn lasting more than 3 seconds against Kylo Ren. Sure he’s a highly trained (possibly elite?) Stormtrooper but what does that say about Ren? And then for Ren to bow out against Rey? I get that he was injured from Chewie’s bowcaster but he’s not much of a warrior. Maybe that’s by design. Clearly his training is incomplete and he’s had nobody to practice with or against for years so maybe the “level” playing field is justified, but it felt weird.

A hearty “ha ha!” to all of the “Snoke is Plagueis” theorists. Sucks to be you.

And a big fat belly laugh to the “Where is Luke Skywalker?” crowd. A lot of you guys made a big deal about Skywalker’s lack of marketing exposure. You were told that his exposure indicates his role and most of you responded with “if there’s no Luke, it’s not Star Wars”, or “I’m boycotting if there’s no Luke”. Oops.

Speaking of boycotters, the whiny expanded universe crowd that threatened to spoil and/or boycott the movie are clearly doing a bang-up job, what with The Force Awakens tracking to shatter every box office record. Nice job, fellas. Mission accomplished!

Questions:

The obvious: Who are Rey’s parents? They were clever enough to leave the door open to it still being Han and Leia (though they would have to have been induced by someone to forget about her), or Luke and an unknown woman. They certainly plant lots of seeds that point to Luke being the father, including the Skywalker family heirloom saber seemingly choosing her, and R2 coming to life when she appears as the base, when it 3P0 was clear that he wasn’t going to wake up until Master Skywalker returned.

Who her parents are will directly affect her relation to Kylo. Whether Luke or Han is her father, she’ll either be Ren’s sister or cousin. Both make for compelling stories but obviously a sibling rivalry would be more powerful.

Finn’s family? I’m not sure that’s relevant at this point but might still be an interesting point down the line.

Does Leia give up on redeeming Kylo Ren? Does she get personally involved where Han failed? Or does she see him as too dangerous and a lost cause? I don’t know of many parents who give up on their children but Leia, as always, has a ton on her plate and may be in over her head in trying to bring him back. Would fans forgive Ren for killing Han? They forgave Vader, but killing the long time coolest guy in the galaxy might be too much to overcome.

How did Ben Solo become Kylo Ren if he was under Luke’s training? How did Snoke infiltrate Luke’s academy?

I wonder if Rey is too powerful, too fast? To be clear, I adore the character. She’s impossible to not root for and fall in love with, but to go from where she started, to besting Ren in a lightsaber duel with relative ease in such a short time? I’m struggling with that, as much as it was great to watch on-screen. Thing about it: Luke could barely call his lightsaber to him after 3 years of training. She did it under duress in what amounts to days, with no training whatsoever. We can wallpaper over that and just say it’s the will of the force, but that’s a big question mark for me. I wonder if they went a little overboard in trying to ensure that the first female protagonist is untouchable and doesn’t need any help. All things considered, she might be on pace to become the most powerful of all Star Wars heroes, and that’s saying something.

While we’re talking about Rey, did she dabble in the dark side at all in her fight with Ren? It seemed like she was thriving off of her fury and we know where that can lead.

Conclusion:

The Force Awakens does a great job of giving us a dose of nostalgia while serving as a gateway for a new generation of fans. While ultimately (and predictably) leaving us with more questions than answers, the movie is massively entertaining. The Force Awakens does have a few points that don’t sit so well with me; but they’re either minor, or will be further fleshed out in future episodes. I find that leaning on A New Hope is simply a case of Star Wars being Star Wars, so I can’t take issue with that too much. Having the same structure as A New Hope did leave for some predictable moments, however, so we were sort of robbed of something entirely new.

The groundwork is definitely laid for a great new trilogy stuffed with compelling new characters. Not that it means anything because I’m not a critic, but I give it 4 out of 5 stars, and I rank the 7 movies:

1. TESB
2. ANH
3. ROTS
4. TFA
5. ROTJ
6. TPM
7. AOTC

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