Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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It’s nice to see a Star Wars movie that you can like because it’s genuinely a good film, and not because you feel like you have to like it because it’s Star Wars (like with most of the Prequel Trilogy).
I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan my entire life. When TPM (The Phantom Menace) came out in 1999 it was such a huge letdown; full of bizarre creative choices/editing and some of the worst dialogue/acting I’ve ever seen. In high school I was known as the guy who liked Star Wars (because I drew it all the time), so when TPM came out everyone I knew—and many that I didn’t—yelled at me “Star Wars sucked!” every day until the school year was over, which was a terrible experience.
But The Force Awakens changes all that and gave me the experience I should have had 16 years ago. When my wife and I saw TFA the audience clapped and cheered the entire time; and when it was over they were all smiles and falling over themselves talking about how good it was, even to total strangers. It was great. TFA currently holds a 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m so thrilled that this is a great Star Wars flick and that others enjoyed it as much as I did.
I loved that the OT (Original Trilogy) is modern myth for the TFA characters, just like it is for us real people.
The film itself felt buoyant, instead of plodding like the Prequel Trilogy did (hereafter called the PT). Expect no second-rate, shitty dialogue from George Lucas here. Lawrence Kasdan is back!
I enjoyed the reversals in the film. Like when you see a captain go before the new big bad, Kylo Ren, to give him bad news, you expect Kylo to Force choke the guy a la Vader. But he turns on his lightsaber and goes apeshit instead, destroying a wall/console. Also, you would have expected Luke to be the Obi-wan-type character in this film, passing the baton to the next generation. But instead it was Han. I loved that. (I expect Luke to play a similar role to Yoda in Episode IX. I fully expect him to die during that film.)
Some people think that Starkiller Base is too similar to the Death Star. I thought that initially before I saw it but had no problem with it during the film itself. The characters in the film even point out that it’s similar to the Death Star, with Han saying, “So it’s bigger. How do we take it down?” Good stuff.
All that said, I’m not sure about the whole using the Force to stop a plasma/laser bolt in mid-air...
I’m a huge Joseph Campbell fan (as is George Lucas), so I was happy to see that TFA hits many of the Monomyth beats: the Call to Adventure, the Refusal of the Call, Crossing the Threshold, Belly of the Whale (almost literal in TFA when the Millennium Falcon is swallowed by another ship), the Road of Trials, obtaining the Boon, etc. There’s even the Descent into the Underworld when Rey heard cries (that reminded me of Temple of Doom, my favorite Indy flick). She then descended into the bowels of Maz Kanata’s castle. However, I like a more Jungian interpretation nowadays: For Jung the lower stories of a building represent the unconscious. So one could say that Rey met with her unconscious to begin the process of individuation. There she found a literal Mystery Box (thanks, JJ).
On the new characters:
Rey is a great character; resourceful and strong (without having to be in your face about it like Leia). I enjoyed getting to know her and look forward to future episodes.
I liked Finn a lot. He’s the new every-man for this trilogy. I also liked his nickname that Han gave him: Big Deal. I look forward to his return in Episode VIII in two years.
I was shocked at how much the audience loved BB-8. I mean, they loved him. Every time he came on-screen the kids cheered. A crazy-cool mechanism keeps his head aloft while his body rolls around. I still don’t really get how it’s done. Magnetics, I guess.
I was surprised by how little screen time Poe Dameron has, but it was sort of hinted at because he was barely in the second teaser trailer and the full trailer. Poe’s a cool character, the new Han Solo.
I really liked Kylo Ren as the big bad. He sounded sort of like Bane in TDKR. Adam Driver would’ve made a better Anakin than Hayden Christensen. Oh well. I did not know at all going in that Kylo Ren’s real name would be Ben. Everyone figured that his last name wasn’t a name but a title (when Kasdan/Abrams slipped on the Knights of Ren).
So Kylo is Han & Leia’s son. Cool. Good. That was like one of five possibilities floating out there. But then I now do not want Rey to be related to the Skywalker bloodline. One grandchild of Darth Vader is enough. I don’t want Rey to secretly be Kylo’s sister (which would be way too similar to Luke&Leia), nor do I want her to be Kylo’s cousin. Can’t she just be a Force-sensitive person without being related to the Skywalker bloodline? Please. I also don’t want Finn to turn out to be Lando’s son, nephew, cousin, etc. That would be equally stupid in my opinion. I don’t want the ST (Sequel Trilogy) to turn into a “who is whose child?” thing. And I don’t want the ST to turn into a repeat of the Expanded Universe, where Han and Leia’s twins Jacen and Jaina Solo battle it out after Jacen turned to the Dark Side. Ugh. Let’s move on, shall we? I’m ok if the new films appropriate some ideas from the EU, but they need to recontextualize them before they integrate them.
Did the First Order blow up Coruscant in the film? It sure as hell looked like Coruscant. [I later realized that this was the Hosnian system, the new seat of the Republic. I wonder what happened to Coruscant. Is it the seat of the First Order’s government? Is it where Snoke lives?] Speaking of Supreme Leader Snoke—which is a name I dislike because it reminds me of the Snorks TV show from the 1980s—looks like Andy Serkis. You can see him in the motion capture. I do not understand why he had to be mo-capped though. His character is supposed to be a huge alien, but 1) he looks like an old, scarred human man, and 2) he is only projected to look like he’s 30-feet-tall sitting down. I’ll bet when we meet him in the flesh in a later episode, he’ll be human-sized or smaller (but hopefully not as small as Yoda).
Maz Kanata was a cool character, but strangely designed. She looks goofy. She looked better when she took off her goggles.
I liked the Rathars. They looked like Nyarlathoteps from H.P. Lovecraft. Awesome.
I never saw Constable Zuvio on Jakku (they made a toy of him). Maybe I’ll have to see it again to notice it. I noticed a sillohuete that looked like him in Rey’s flashback (I hear that it’s also a flash-forward as well...).
THE BIG THREE:
Han’s humor in the film is greatly appreciated (and humor of this sort was sorely missing from the PT).
When Han met Leia it reminded me of Indiana Jones meeting Marion in Indy 4, only sweeter. I loved C-3PO’s interruption of their meeting. Classic 3PO.
It was great to see Leia again, although listening to her old voice was difficult. It sounded like she had smoked too many deathsticks. (Sorry, a little PT humor for you)
On Han’s death: I guessed it from the moment I heard that Ford had signed on to be in the film. Then it was on the web as a rumor/spoiler for at least the past year and a half. (One theory at the time was that Kylo—then known only as “the Inquisitor”—was secretly Luke deranged by the Dark Side and that it was Luke himself who did the deed.) I was hoping Han would die on-screen and knew that it probably would, but up until the moment it happened I thought Abrams/Kasdan were going to wimp out.
On Luke’s absence: I was hoping that the Luke-as-MacGuffin was a false rumor. However, it was not only true but I thought worked far better than I expected it to. The end when Rey finds Luke there is slightly dark music. I wonder why. The meeting was so cool and Medieval, like out of a fantasy novel.
SOME COOL ARTICLES ABOUT EASTER EGGS, ETC.
This site will give you a new perspective on the Prequels: http://www.starwarsringtheory.com/
ON RUMORS AND SPOILERS:
Many of my friends were still surprised that I read any spoiler for TFA that I could lay my eyes on. But I would explain to them that I’m more of a fan of filmmaking in general than any film in particular. And even if I knew what happened in the film, I would still enjoy seeing it if it was done well. I know all that happens in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and yet that doesn’t stop me from enjoying them more than most other films.
Plus, most of the spoilers turned out to be completely wrong. Some things that people swore up-and-down were true (like the exact scenes in sequential order of the trailers) that later turned out to be false yet those very same people everyone to believe the mega spoiler ending that they found out (which did turn out to be true), or their ideas on what the MacGuffin of the film was.
I had read so many rumors going in that the surprise for me was not what unfolded, but which rumors turned out to be true after all. No spoilers ever revealed any character’s name (Rey, Finn, Poe, Maz, Kylo, Snoke, etc.) or things like the fact that there would be a stormtrooper with a weapon that could deflect a lightsaber (like General Grievous’ guards). Those were all revealed through official channels like trailers, Entertainment Weekly, or TIME magazine. I remember that about one year before TPM came out, my brother read online that there was a guy with tattoos on his face who was a Sith named Darth Maul and that he would die at the end of the film by getting cut in half. That’s some pretty major things to know a year out. Abrams did pretty well keeping certain secrets secret.
Here are some of the spoilers that I remember best from the past two years:
· It was said that the film would begin not with a ship in space (as all Star Wars films begin), but with a shadow that looked like a ship. It would turn out to be Luke’s lightsaber spinning through the air. It would land in a grassy plain and be snatched up by an orange alien named Nak (I think). He’d run away with it, giving it to Von Sydow’s character which would set the film in motion.
· Before the film came out everyone swore that Von Sydow would play a character from the PT. Some even claimed that he was playing an elderly Boba Fett. But then his character’s name was revealed to be Lor San Tekka and everyone scratched their heads and moved on...
· I really liked that Kylo Ren was not an evil Luke in disguise. I never liked that rumor. Also SL Snoke as an evil Sith Jar Jar Binks? Man, some theories are out there...
· There was a theory going around that it was going to be Chewie who died at the end of TFA (not Han). That’s milquetoast though, like in the Expanded Universe. Blech! I’m glad that they did what they did. Having it be Han was way more poignant and meaningful; more Game of Thrones or Half-Blood Prince, if you will; or rather, more Obi-wan in ANH.
· There was a rumor that Leia would have a council with 5-6 Hutts, all fully animatronic like in ROTJ. I was sad to see that this didn’t make it into the film.
· It was sworn up-and-down early on that the Inquisitor (Kylo Ren) was a descendent of Count Dooku. I think that that would have been an interesting tie back to the PT.
· It was said that Snoke—then known only as Uber—was the same species as Yoda. I’m so glad that one was false.
· It was said that the Resistance also had a superweapon called the Sledgehammer that they used to destroy a few of the First Order’s capital starships, bringing up ethical issues of warfare. And General Hux was supposed to use some kind of EMP-type weapon that would blow up not only all of the X-wings, but all of Hux’s TIE fighters, too. It was to show how ruthless he was. Obviously, that didn’t happen in the film.
· The final shot was rumored to be the Inquisitor (either an evil Luke or Kylo) sitting in solace on a Star Destroyer, holding Vader’s burnt helmet in an “alas, poor Yoric moment”. The Inquisitor would have a half-robotic/metallic face from his injuries near the end of the film.