Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

18 Dec

SPOILERS!

SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS

SPOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILERRRRRRRRRRRRRSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Spoilers everywhere, probably in the comments. I tried to avoid them in the tags though.

OH MY GOD I AM SO SERIOUS ABOUT THIS PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPOILERS

Welcome to the WALL OF TEXT! ūüėÄ

Below are some thoughts I needed to get down before they flittered away. I hope you enjoy them, and please share your thoughts in the comments!

Characters

  • Finn is a well-developed character with a compelling backstory and plenty of agency., As a former stormtrooper, he isn’t afraid of violence per se, but more needless destruction. He is horrified by senseless slaughter, and¬†is unafraid to run into a fight. He’s less Lando than Han, and he seems to be moving along that character arc. Which is cool, but I wonder what kinds of other conflict he could get into. I will say that although he brought some levity to the role, there were times I felt his lines were¬†perilously close to an ‘OH HELL NAH’ and was worried the writers were about to blow it. His lines were sometimes hit-or-miss as far as breaking authenticity, but he definitely was NOT a wisecracking sidekick. I was worried when Rey left him in stasis at the end (and imagining the neckbeards crying out ‘Friendzoned!’ but they are wrong). However, I am confident the filmmakers aren’t going to take the first really compelling Person of Color in the new trilogy and fridge him – a quick check of Wikipedia says that Boyega is still starring in the next installment. Hopefully it isn’t some ‘Rey swings past the convalescence home and drops off Finn’s favorite snack before leaving him behind’ bullshit. I am thinking he’s the ¬†Han Solo of this trilogy.
  • Rey is self-sufficient, VERY intelligent, and drives much of the plot with her technical expertise, piloting, and fighting abilities. She’s a COMPLETE badass but still has believable emotions – she isn’t some soulless killbot. I found her a compelling character, and can’t WAIT for the next installment to find out more of her backstory and what’s in store for her. When she settles into the Falcon‘s captain’s chair it felt so right and so natural. I am desperately trying to remember if Chewie was in the captain’s chair at the end or if it was her, and I can’t, so clearly I need to see the movie 8 more times.
  • Han – Oh, HAN SOLO! God,¬†Ford nailed it. The elderly swagger, the occasionally staggering into a run while growing ‘CHEWIE COME ON’ – I had all the feels. I think it was the right choice for Rey and Finn to find the Falcon, because otherwise why would they meet up with Solo? On his current trajectory of deadbeat dad, Solo¬†would have continued avoiding his responsibility – the only reason he picks them up is because they’re flying the Falcon. I love when he finds out what BB-8’s carrying, when he hears the name Luke Skywalker spoken aloud – you can actually see all the old memories come flooding back, of that time in Solo’s life when he was a hero, and he did something that wasn’t just impossible, it was right. He only believed in the Force (and by extension his own good qualities) when he was around Luke. It makes sense Luke’s presence would be what draws him back to being a good, selfless person.
  • Kylo Ren – Lord have mercy, Adam Driver¬†was AMAZING. I don’t know what I expected when the helmet came off but that angelic face wasn’t it. GREAT villain, great set up and character development, and that moment when Solo calls out ‘Ben!’ – SO good. I think the role reversal is great, too – the original trilogy was about the redemption of Darth Vader but also Luke choosing not to follow the dark path of his father. I love that Episode seven is setting up a multi-generational conflict – and I wonder how much Ren knows about his Grandfather? Would Luke have told Ren about Anakin’s last act, and how selfless and noble it was? Episodes 7-9 are going to be his redemptive arc, I’m pretty sure. I am probably just figuring out what everyone else has known since like 2005, but bear with me, I’m old.
  • Leia Organa – GOD that was inspired. Carrie Fisher carried every scene she was in like she was bringing water across the desert to her children, and it WORKED. She was weary, she was battle-hardened, and she knew exactly how high the price of failure would be because she’s seen it all before. The scene where Rey returns from Starkiller Base after Han’s death and Leia says nothing, just embraces her because they both lost somebody precious… so well done. For whatever reason this scene didn’t hit me as hard as I think it should have, but I’ll get to that.
  • Lupita N’yongo – I loved Maz Kanata. Space pirate, sage, Resistance contact… her eyes weirded me out and I thought the crawling on the table a bit much, but I thought she lent great gravity to the cantina scenes, and to the moment after Rey’s vision.

Problems

  • As I mentioned above, I think there were some emotional ¬†beats that fell flat. It could be that I was wired on caffeine, or the 4 hours I spent hanging outside the theater, but some emotional moments just didn’t hit me the way I thought they should have. The destruction of the ¬†Hosnian system felt glossed over. Likewise, Han’s death didn’t make me burst into hysterics the way I thought it should. Again, I might have been too wired to feel it. On the flip side, the first use of Starkiller’s death ray was INCREDIBLE – seeing it reflected in General Hux’s eyes was such a perfect touch. And SO MANY OTHERS were amazing – the first use of the Falcon, Rey’s vision, Finn choosing to help the Resistance, Finn yelling in Captain Phasma’s face… I could go on.
  • The lightsaber battle – Luke trained hard with his saber in order to use it. Kylo Ren trained with Luke at some point, but when he left Luke’s training isn’t clear, so I can see him being proficient. I found Finn’s use of the saber more believable since storm troopers seemed to be using some kind of similar weapon that could take the strikes and used the same technology. I did not believe that Rey could just pick it up and go to work as well as she did, even if she WAS badass with that stick thing. Ren was already pretty messed up by the time she got to him though, and she did land some serious strikes. Still, YEARS of training go into handling a weapon like that, even if the person is a natural. I’m pretty sure the first two¬†years are ‘how to NOT cut your own goddamn leg¬†off on the backswing.’ ¬†There’s a reason Luke and Vader don’t cross sabers until the end of Empire, and Luke STILL gets his ass handed to him, even after he’s trained in both lightsaber and the Force.
  • See also Finn’s lines, above. Be sure I am not criticizing his performance – the man was amazing and I loved him – but some of his lines felt odd. As I said, I will need at least 8 more viewings to really get my fingers into this.

So that are some thoughts! I might try to do an actual spoiler-free film review after the New Year, once the rest of Earth has seen the movie.

Hope you enjoyed this write-up! PLEASE share your thoughts in the comments!

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7 Responses to “Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

  1. Steven December 22, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    I still need to see it again. I like the budding friendship of Poe and Finn, and I was kind of disappointed at how little we get to know Poe on this round. I suspect we’ll get more of him in the next episode, though.

    • jennnanigans December 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      I need to see it agian too. Like 8 more times.
      Finn = AWESOME. Poe was also lots of fun and had some great lines.

      I REALLY liked the weird interaction between Rey and Ren toward the end – how he seemed to recognize her not just as another Force-user but from somewhere else. Such cool set-up!

      I ought to update this entry, since I’ve read a lot of fan theory explanations since I wrote it.

      I cannot WAIT for December 2017! ūüėÄ

      • Steven December 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

        I saw one theory that Rey was actually trained by Luke somehow, but that her memories were Force-supressed. I don’t know if I buy that, but you could see very early on that she was naturally Force-sensitive. It wouldn’t overly surprise me if she turns out to be Luke’s daughter or something.

        Also, Amelie has observed (and I agree) that BB8 is kind of like a big round orange-and-white puppy.

      • jennnanigans December 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

        Ha ha, yes! Total puppy! His little lighter-thumbs up was THE BEST!
        I saw that theory about Luke training Rey, too and her memories being washed or whatever. I liked it… I kind of like it more than her being Luke’s daughter, only because I like the idea of other characters outside the Skywalker lineage being Force prodigies. I know the movies are all about the Skywalker dynasty, but Ren could fill that role since he’s a Skywalker by blood.
        I read something that explained that during times when the Force is stronger than usual, it can teach Force-sensitives how to use it, which explains where Jedi and Sith came from in the first place and my face totally FELL OFF because that explained what was happening to Rey during her battle with Ren, and why she was able to take him on at all.

      • Steven December 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

        That’s really handy! A skill set that teaches you how to use it! It’s like those clocks that set themselves by satellite…

  2. patricksponaugle January 13, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

    I’m so glad I finished writing up my Star Wars breakdown, so I could come and enjoy your analysis.

    I think you’re right about Han’s death not getting me the way I thought it might, although on the second viewing, when Leia asks Han to bring their son home, it made Han’s death all the more meaningful and emotional for me.

    One of my blogging buddies pointed out that Han gave Chewie the detonator, because he assumed that he might see Kylo, and if so, he was going to try and talk to him. And if it went south, his capture/death wouldn’t stop Chewbacca from getting the mission done.

    (A great thing about the movie, there’s a lot of stuff to pull out of it, that isn’t fed to us.)

    And now after seeing the fan art where Chewbacca chooses not to kill his nephew Ben, even though Kylo just stabbed Han… excuse me, I have to go and cry for a moment.

    Speaking of “Ben” as a name, I assumed that Luke named the boy that, that Han and Leia had Luke christen the kid, and Luke wanted to honor Obi Wan. (I say that because Han really didn’t have that big of a connection with Kenobi, and I don’t know how attached Leia could have been, since as far as we know, she only knew of him as an ally of Bail Organa.)

    I would be delighted to talk with you more about Star Wars! YAAAAAAAAAAY! STAR WARS!!!!!!!!!!

    • jennnanigans January 14, 2016 at 8:50 am #

      STAAAAAAAAAR WAAAAARS YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!!

      And I’m almost all caught up on your posts – I would have linked to them today but then I read about Alan Rickman and just… THIS WEEK.

      On my second viewing, from the moment Han gave Chewie the detonator to when the kids (how I think of them) left the base, i was all sobby and sniffly, and Han’s death did hit me, the way it didn’t before. And I think when he gave Chewie that detonator… you’re right, he knew he wasn’t coming back. And that is significant because, above all else, Han Solo is a survivor. He survives, period. He doesn’t put his eggs in the Force basket because he trusts what he can see, and nothing else. But he’s been a scoundrel his whole, LONG life, and that’s saying something in that universe. Wasn’t his the original ‘I have a bad feeling about this?’ line? Either way, he knows when he’s walking into a bad situation that he might not come out of. I thought the detonator thing was him at his most realistic. And it is definitely a callback to when Han first met Luke and went out on a limb for people he didn’t know, for no reason other than a possible payday. The Skywalkers bring out the best in him, always.

      And Han not trusting the Force made me realize something else – it’s entirely possible that since he ISN’T Force sensitive in a family that is, he felt kind of pushed out. And I’m wondering if Ben’s name was even his decision – although he respected Ben for what he pulled off, my money is on Leia making that call. Maybe that’s the REAL reason why he wasn’t around much for Ren’s childhood and training? If your wife, her brother, her brother’s mentor, and now YOUR kid are all making shit move with their minds and you’ve been an unbeliever your whole life, how does that affect you?

      Yes! That fan art killed me! I love when something fans do brings a whole other facet to something!

... but what do YOU think?

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