Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My salt levels were high for this one. I’ve always been a big Star Wars fan. I read the books, I read the comics whenever possible, any Star Wars game was something I’d pick up. I even enjoyed the Clone Wars series. But eventually, it all became too much. Like a sponge filled to capacity, the Star Wars started to seep out of the edges and I started to get cynical.

It didn’t help that this might have been the most marketed piece of media ever, but everyone around me who used to turn their nose up at Star Wars were excitedly talking about booking their day one tickets to see the movie on release. Something I wasn’t able to do. On top of that, the movie is part of a new Canon that has basically made over 100 novels, the games and the comics all part of the Legends continuity.

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

(I’m assuming everyone who goes further from here has seen the movie, you have been warned.)

Now, there’s enough split timeline stuff out in the world now, so that isn’t what bothers me. What does is that Disney put the boot down on anything not in their new cannon. So the characters I had been reading about for the past decade; Jania and Jacen Solo, The New Jedi Order, Lando still being a big deal, Boba Fett, Thrawn. There wouldn’t be any more books within this expanded universe anymore. Any plans the writers had in mind were forfeit as Disney replaced them with another expanded universe under their umbrella.

So yeah, I had reasons to be upset and less than enthusiastic about seeing the Force Awakens. But I still loved it when I saw it…

I’m not going to run down the plot of the movie like I would in a regular review, because by this point, pretty much everyone in the world has seen the movie, and if you’re reading this then you’ll have seen it, or don’t care enough care. But then I’d be confused as to why you’d be reading my thoughts. Either way, I’m just going to list what I did and didn’t like about the movie.

Liked: The Heroes

The trailers misdirected this one hard. I still hope he turns out to be force sensitive though. Otherwise he seems short of things to do.
The trailers misdirected this one hard. I still hope he turns out to be force sensitive though. Otherwise he seems short of things to do.

I knew from the very beginning that this was going to be a passing of the torch kind of movie. The inclusion of Ford, Fisher and Hamill in the cast was probably more strategic than essential, allowing fans a sense of familiarity before dumping them into their new status quo. The real test was always trying to win us over with the new characters. And I really think they did.

Rey, Fin and (to a lesser extent) Poe all filled the various gaps left by the older characters and set themselves up for the coming franchise in a big way. I liked how they all brought something to the table; Poe being the pilot and Rey being the mechanic and fighter.

Fin was less clear in that he seemed to bumble his way through the movie, and while he had the intelligence that allowed the resistance to destroy the Starkiller base. He only seemed to be doing it because he had the hots for Rey. They were all great jumping off points for the new series and I look forward to seeing where they go.

Disliked: Retreading old ground

bb8-rey-star-warsThe movie was always going to be more nostalgic than original. It was almost like Disney trying the test the waters, regain some of the faith of the people who now violently reject the prequels. While I was expecting the movie to lean on the original trilogy a fair bit, I didn’t know how far they were going to go with it.

The plot is almost a total rehash of A New Hope. In broad strokes, it’s the same movie just updated for a new century. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the movie in any way, I just kind of wish they’d have gone for a more original plot than they did. It seemed like the makers were so desperate for for the film to be a success that they leaned too much on nostalgia than originality.

I’m sure the next movie will be something all it’s own, but as a fan, I would have liked to have skipped the tutorial.

Liked: Kylo Ren

I’ve never been a fan of the “gimmick” lightsabers, but the cross guard saber is my new favourite. It just makes so much sense.
I’ve never been a fan of the “gimmick” lightsabers, but the cross guard saber is my new favourite. It just makes so much sense.

Kylo Ren might have been my favourite part of the movie. While many things seemed to nip the heels of A New Hope, Ren was a totally new and different villain then they’d shown in the movies before. In the build up to the movie, he seemed like a wannabe Darth Vader. Like the director took one of the most iconic villains in cinema and just do it again.

Thankfully, Abrams is much smarter than that. He did make a villain that was a “inferior” Darth Vader, but with intent. So Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son, he was training to be a Jedi with Luke, but for some unknown reason he fell under the sway of the dark side. Thing is, he isn’t an atypical dark sider. He isn’t calm or collected, he is wild and almost childish in his anger.

He wants to be like his grandfather and has a shrine with Anakin’s helmet and everything. Unlike most dark siders he doesn’t revel in it. He seems to feel a pull of the light and battles against that. There is a lot of directions for this character to go in future movies. He could become a more finished article dark sider, he could find redemption and become one of the heroes, or he could self destruct.

There is a lot of potential in the character, in no small part due to Adam Driver’s quivering performance.

Disliked: Snoke

There is a insane amount of fan speculation around this character (as there are with all of them to be fair). But Snoke has been linked to everyone from Yoda, to Palpatine to even Jar Jar Binks. (I made one of those up myself.)
There is a insane amount of fan speculation around this character (as there are with all of them to be fair). But Snoke has been linked to everyone from Yoda, to Palpatine to even Jar Jar Binks. (I made one of those up myself.)

I feel the opposite about Snoke as I do about Ren. While I feel there is potential for Ren, I feel the opposite with Snoke as so far he has been shown to be little for than a carbon copy of the Emperor. On top of that, the character was a bit of a CGI monstrosity. I don’t especially have a problem with computer generated characters, but this one felt so unremarkable in his appearance that I almost wished they’d saved him for another film.

Snoke seems like he is supposed to be a big menacing presence for the future, but he fell flat for me. He felt like another unessesery CG character in a movie that seemed to be moving away from that. I sincerely hope that there is more to this character to be revealed in future movies and he isn’t just what he seems to be after this one movie. My one hope is that he is actually that big, and wields a telephone pole sized lightsaber.

Liked: Han Solo/Harrison Ford

Han Solo continues to be the coolest mother fucker around.
Han Solo continues to be the coolest mother fucker around.

In this late part of his career, Harison Ford has stopped giving a shit. On top of that he is pretty open with his shit none giving. Even during his interviews for this movie he was pretty mercenary about how he spoke about the job.

But I still loved him in this movie. From the second he appeared on screen, he pretty much hijacked the movie from the younger two actors. He slipped into that lopsided grin and roguish charm with ease, and was the character that really legitimised the movie. On top of that his final moments in the movie (something I’m sure Ford requested in his contract so he wouldn’t have to do another one) were a great move for adding to Kylo Ren’s character even more.

Ford almost stole the movie, and it fitting how the character bowed out of the series.

Disliked: Rushed Hamill ending

Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker

I would have been a lot happier with the movie’s ending if had been a few minutes earlier. Maybe with Rey and Chewie leaving in the Falcon to find Luke ala Empire Strikes Back.

I felt like the final moments of Rey finding him were rushed and took away from the moment. Her out to find him would have been a good start to the next movie. I understand that people would have been pissy if Luke Skywalker hadn’t appeared in the movie at all, but for the sake of storytelling and pace I felt it would have been a better choice to have Luke be the dangling worm on the hook get people excited for the next movie.

Liked: BB-8

Going into this movie I thought BB-8 was just going to be a R2-D2 substitute, Which to be honest, he was in both plot and character. More so I thought he was going to be a cute and qwerky little robot to entertain the children and sell merchandise. While none of this is untrue, BB-8 did a lot for me in the the movie than I was expecting.

He was a charming little robot, made all the better by being a cool practical effect. He did spend a lot of time floating around in the background, but his interaction with Rey and Fin during the early parts of the movie were some of the funnier moments, the lighter thumbs up being the biggest laugh in my screening. And I’m amazed how much personality they got through a ball with a head.

Disliked: Playing with my expanded universe heartstrings

I liked Phasma, in fact I liked hearing female voices coming from a few of the Stormtroopers. I really hope she didn’t die on Starkiller base and do a total Boba Fett on us.
I liked Phasma, in fact I liked hearing female voices coming from a few of the Stormtroopers. I really hope she didn’t die on Starkiller base and do a total Boba Fett on us.

This is my personal issue more than anything. I had so many preconceptions based on my knowledge of the old expanded universe that I found myself disappointed when something happened that diverged from my known canon.

For example, Han and Leia’s son being called Ben niggled at me as I was almost hoping they’d called him Jacen. Because in my head, Ben was Luke’s son, which made more sense. I mean, why would Han and Leia call their son Ben is beyond me, Leia always knew him as Obi-Wan and Han knew him as some crazy old man for half of a day. I suppose calling him Anakin would have been a little on the nose considering the character’s arc in the movie.

All the cute little references took me out of it a little too. Fin with the training remote and the throw away sequence with the stop motion chess monsters all seemed like a bit too much of a wink and a nod too me.

Mixed on: Rey’s rushed development

I said I liked Rey’s character, I also said I wished the movie trod old ground less, but it bothered me how fast Rey’s development as a force user was. Given, this is coming from someone a bit too steeped in the lore, but she goes from being a lonely scavenger to using force trick and beating a trained dark sider in a lightsaber duel the first time she holds the weapon.

Dat red arm
Dat red arm

There are events in the movie to explain these things. She is shown at being adept at hand to hand combat using her staff earlier in the movie, and Ren was blasted in the stomach by a blaster bolt shot from a Bowcaster shown to have the strength of a anti-tank round. But compared to Luke taking until the third movie to feel like the finished article after receiving training from both Obi-wan and Yoda she seems to be almost there with zero guidance.

I’m not complain too hard, because the movie is reinventing the canon here. Ren stopped a blaster bolt in mid air, and to my knowledge no force user has ever been able to do that before. So I’m not complaining too hard, because we still don’t know all that much about Rey’s past yet.

I’m also thankful that it’s speeding up the training because, that means the next movie can maybe show Rey being much more powerful and adept thanks to the groundwork of this movie. It would be more interesting to have Rey be a Jedi throughout the next movie than to have her milling about like Luke did before her. While I feel this movie was there to get people invested again, the next movie has to be something original, or else what’s the point in all this.

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