OH BOY. Like the rest of you (and really, I mean the rest of you out there. This beast made 247 MILLION over five days in North America alone...) I went and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This movie had big shoes to fill, and a lot to make up for. If it did good, J.J. Abrams would be the man. If not, Jar Jar Abrams would never get to touch a science fiction property again. Lets talk this out.
Simpsons did it. Again. In 2009. What other movie opened this weekend? Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip. Disney, we accept your apology.
I don’t think I really have to warn you. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll know that this post is full of spoilers. FULL OF THEM. Like, literally the next sentence after this one will COMPLETELY ruin the surprise if you haven’t seen it yet. In fact, what are you even doing here, one person who hasn’t seen the movie yet? You should be out, seeing this movie. GO!
Chewie, we’re home. The original Star Wars came out in 1977. Return of the Jedi came out in 1983. Lucas got his grubby hands on the originals and remastered, changed, and re-released the trilogy in 1997. Then, the darkness took over. The Prequels came out, and we felt a disturbance in the force. As if a million voices cried out “WHAT IS THIS MESS” and then were silenced all at once by the sound of crushing disappointment (full disclosure - I like the Prequels). Revenge of the Sith was released on May 18, 2005. We had to wait over 15 years to return to the Star Wars universe, and it took 32 years to get a proper Star Wars movie. We’re home.
That’s my biggest impression from The Force Awakens. It feels like a Star Wars movie. it didn’t try to wax poetic about the underlying Galactic Tax Code which lead to the increase in spice prices across the outer rim which allowed a Sith Lord get emergency powers or whatever. It just got to it.
A New Hope was the first Star Wars movie, but jumped in like we had been paying attention all along. It is a period of civil war. The opening crawl gave us a brief run down of the recent past, and told us exactly (maybe a little less than) what we needed to know. Rebellion. Galactic Empire. The first images were of an ominous Star Destroyer chasing a smaller, outgunned transport. We were off and running.
The Force Awakens follows the same forumla, and whatever you may think about it “copying” the original trailer, it worked. Luke Skywalker has vanished. First Order. Last Jedi. Resistance. Just enough to get us up to speed since Return of the Jedi, and we’re off. The first images were an ominous (new!) Star Destroyer launching ships towards an unsuspecting planet. We don’t need detailed analyses about how the Emperor’s death affected the Galactic market, or what Luke had for breakfast the next day on the Forrest Moon of Endor (hint: so much Rebellion tang). We just needed a little push, and with that, we were back in the universe we all love.
1. Poe Dameron. Born from that celebratory breakfast that I’m sure a lot of people partook in, he’s the Resistance’s best pilot. He’s a true believer, and has fun flying. WHO WOULDN’T? I love his connection with BB-8 - they genuinely care about each other. It goes to show how much they’ve been through in the past some-odd years. Just like the R2 and R4 and R6 units we saw the Original Trilogy pilots with, I wonder if they were assigned as partners and a relationship formed, or if it happened the other way around. The way BB-8 rolled towards Poe after his squadron saved Finn and Han and Chewie was amazing. Nothing had to be said. Just watching BB roll with his head down, with motherfucking PURPOSE, was enough. You knew exactly what BB meant.
These two better make it to the end of Episode IX or I will riot.
2. When Poe took the shot at Kylo Ren, and Ren stopped the fucking blaster shot mid-air WHILE freezing Poe in his tracks. Hot damn that was intense. I think my face matched Poe’s as he was dragged past the bolt. I was as amazed as him. That effect - Ren stopping the shot - was one of the best scenes in a movie in recent history. It IMMEDIATELY established his powers. When did Vader ever stop a blaster shot? NEVER. That lazy Sith just brushed them aside with his lightsaber or let them bounce off of him. Not Ren. He’ll kick your ass and make a show of it, because he can.
3. In the Original Trilogy, Storm Troopers are described as some of the best shots in the galaxy (notwithstanding their inability to hit anyone with plot armor - say what you will about Vader’s orders to let them go or whatever), and are generally very disciplined (Conditioned). They make mistakes (that one glorious trooper who bonked his noggin on the doorway, for instance), but generally, were pretty bland. It wasn’t until the Prequels planted the seed, and the animated series’ expanded on the idea, that Storm Troopers got personality. That’s a main theme with Finn, but I’m talking about the background fodder. When Poe was being led away by Ren, and after Ren gave the order to kill everyone in the village, he released the blaster shot from its force hold, and it hit the fountain at the center of the village. The closest Trooper straight JUMPED and the one behind him raised his gun and checked to see where it came from. That was hilarious.
Then, when Ren had one of his BF’s in the interrogation chamber after Rey got free, two Storm Troopers were walking by. STOPPED, and back tracked. This was not the corridor they were looking for. Personality! And then, the best, was when Rey tried to mind-trick James Bond into letting her free. “You will release these restraints and leave the door open.” “I will tighten these restraints...” And when Rey finally gets it right, and remembers “Oh, and drop your blaster!” and he says “I’ll just drop my blaster right here” and doesn’t even look. I lost it. Storm Troopers with personality are the best Storm Troopers.
Also: They hit what they shot at!
4. Lets talk about Kylo Ren. He worships Vader because that’s Granpapa, and for some reason or another (I’m sure we’ll learn more in Episode VIII) wants to be fully engaged in the dark side. Well, we actually did get some reasoning for his change: He has pain of some kind, and thinks the dark side will get rid of it for him.
We all know that fear, anger, and hatred are a path to the dark side. Anakin’s heart was full of hate, which let him get corrupted fully by the dark side. He went full Vader. Ren is trying to go full Vader, but failing so far. Ren doesn’t hate. He’s scared and angry, but doesn’t hate. Yet. I think that’s the biggest difference between him and Vader, and his one redeeming quality. For whatever reason, Ren is mad at something and scared of not living up to his potential. He’s half Skywalker and half Solo. He’s super force sensitive and cocky. Han told Leia that he had “too much Vader in him,” but I think Han was wrong. He had too much Solo.
Ren remarked that he was “tempted” by the light - and was doing everything he could to resist it. Yoda and Obi Wan told us that it was easier to be seduced by the power of the dark side, but Ren is forcing it - much like Rey was forcing it when she tried to mind-trick Bond. Sure, it’s easy to be tempted by the dark side. Ren is clearly tempted. But he’s trying to hard to get in. He’s pushing against the door of the Midvale School for the Gifted that is the dark side. He thought killing his dad would help him fully embrace the dark side. He’s missing the point. The dark side embraces you. Ren has too much Skywalker in him to hate enough to go full Vader.
Look at his fight with Rey after Chewie shot him in the gut. He kept hitting himself. He was punishing himself for being sloppy, and trying to use the pain to not only keep him sharp, but to get him mad. He was mad at himself, and trying to use that against Rey. It just made him sloppy. Ren was forcing it (pun absolutely intended).
But man is he powerful. Not just with the whole STOPPING A LASER BLAST IN MID AIR AND MAINTAINING ITS FORM. He did the best force choke of the series so far - dragging that poor First Order officer to him after delivering bad news. Vader was lazy: He just choked out dudes from across the room. Ren will bring you to him and do it himself. Dude. And the way he used the force to extract information from Poe. Hot damn. If Snoke is able to get Ren to get past his anger and devlope some honest to god hate, look out.
5. Finn. Holy shit Finn was awesome. He was just stumbling through the story with the rest of us, just trying to get out of the way. He was the source of our comic relief, and god damn did he deliver. The absolute best scene of the movie was him convincing BB-8 to tell Rey the location of the rebel base, and their subsequent thumbs up. I died. Literally. I’m writing this from heaven, which has extraordinary wifi. Be good, people.
But seriously, not only was he funny (“I’m with the resistance. This is what we look like. Some of us look different,” “What, why do you keep doing this with your chin?”) but he helped shift away from the standard damsel in distress trope. Rey was the shit. She didn’t need any help, but there was Finn, trying anyway. When Finn first laid eyes on Rey, and saw her ambushed by Scotty’s thugs, he thought she needed help. NOPE. He didn’t make it fifteen feet before he had to reassess. Then, when the TIE fighters attacked, he got knocked out, and when Rey woke him up, he asked her if she was alright. Rey’s look - are you fucking kidding me? - was priceless. THEN, he went to the Starkiller base specifically to save Rey. SHE WAS ALREADY FREE BECAUSE SHE ROCKS. Finn ended the show out cold. He was the damsel, and it was glorious.
Shit’s gonna suck for Finn in Episode VIII. Captain Phasma had like five lines the entire movie, and is supposed to be the new trilogy’s Boba Fett. I have a feeling Episode VIII will have Finn as an established Resistance asset and hero for his work stopping the Starkiller base, and Phasma will be hot on his trail. A New Hope was the rebellion sticking it to the Empire, and Empire Strikes Back was the Empire knocking them down peg. I have a feeling the new trilogy will follow the same pattern. Ren is going to get closer to going full Vader, and Phasma is going to wreck Finn’s shit. NOBODY PUTS PHASMA IN A TRASH COMPACTOR.
6. BB-8. My goodness BB was the sleeper star of the show. R2-D2 gave a lot of personality to the Original Trilogy, what with his banter with C3P0. The constant BB/Finn banter was magnificent. From the thumbs up to his angry shocking of Finn for stealing Poe’s jacket to him carefully taking each step in Maz Kanata’s basement, to him looking nervously back and forth between Rey and Finn trying to decide whether to lie or not, I was sold. BB’s the best. No wonder Poe loves BB so much.
7. Rey. Rey freaking Skywalker. Well, I’m not quite sure she’s a Skywalker, but I’m also not sure she isn’t. I mean, it was heavily implied that she is related to the Skywalker line - Anakin and Luke’s lightsaber called out to her. Maz Kanata’s explanation of how the lightsaber, which was Luke’s and his father’s before him, and was now hers. Luke’s reaction to seeing Rey at the end of the movie. All point to her being his daughter. But, wouldn’t Han, Chewie, and Leia know that? Maz was the only one who made any real reference to her lineage. You’d think Auntie Leia would have acted a little different if she knew Rey was her niece. Well, they did hug at the end.
In the flashback, Rey was a small child when Ren went dark (was that Ren, or was it Snoke taking Ren?) I’d say it’s not like Luke to leave her daughter with a shitty scavenger, but who are we kidding. It’s totally like Luke to leave her with a shitty scavenger. That’s like a Skywalker rite of passage (Leia is the exception that proves the rule). Here, GO LIVE IN THIS SHITHOLE.
I have a theory: The Jedi temple was built on an old Sith site, and through the millennia, the dark side corrupted the light side of the force. Every time Jedi tried to train more Jedi, bad stuff happened. It’s almost like the dark side was sabotaging any attempt to create more Jedi. What resulted was a bureaucratic mess that lead to the demise of all but a few Jedi. When Obi Wan tried to train Anakin, he went straight to the dark side. Like, he made a B-line to it. Obi Wan never really trained Luke besides showing him to open himself up to the force and getting murdered in front of him, and Luke left to face Vader before Yoda was done training him. Hell, During his training, he saw himself as Vader.
Ren was being trained by Luke, and went dark. Star Wars Rebels takes place before A New Hope, and even though Kanan and Ezra are Jedi, Obi Wan was Leia’s last hope. I have a bad feeling about Kanan and Ezra.
Rey, on the other hand, was not trained. She learned about the force from Maz Kanata and Han Solo, two NOT Jedi. She only became force awesome once she let herself go. Once she stopped trying to force it (puns!), she realized her potential. Until she calmed herself, she was going nowhere with Mr. Bond. She was getting wrecked by Ren, until she calmed herself, and let the light take over. Maybe that’s the key to the light side of the force: Stop resisting, and let it find you.
Rey was the shit. She’s not only our new Luke of the new trilogy, but also our new Solo. Chewie has a new co-pilot, and I can’t wait to see their adventures.
8. This movie has left me torn. I can’t decide whether the better scene was Rey and Finn using the Millennium Falcon to get away from the TIE fighters or Poe clearing the sky in one tracking shot behind Finn. Both were glorious. Rey positioning the Falcon so Finn could take the shot because his blaster was jammed was AMAZING. Poe taking out TIEs and Storm Troopers alike around Finn was SPLEDNID. Oh man. I’ll have to watch it a few more times before I make up my mind.
9. One thing I noticed was the lasers from X-Wings to TIE Fighters to Blasters, all had more weight to them. It wasn’t so much PEW PEW as it was THUC THUC THUC. The shots had weight to them. I don’t know if it was the advances in CGI over the years or what, but it felt like the shots being taken could happen in the real world. The effect was one of my favorite parts of the movie.
10. Like I said before, The Force Awakens dropped us right in the middle of the fight with just (or maybe a little less than) enough information to get the ball rolling. We know the First Order is the new Empire, but what is it all about? Ren wants to finish what Vader started, but does Admiral Hux? Why does the First Order want to rule the galaxy? Snoke seems to be the man behind the throne, much like the Emperor was, but who is he? Why is Skywalker such a threat? Literally none of these questions were answered, and that’s awesome.
Help us Episode VIII, you’re our only hope!