Star Wars – The Force Awakens Overdue Thoughts
It’s been about 5 weeks and almost $1.9 Billion in box office. I think that’s long enough for me to offer my own spoiler filled thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I think the way for me to review it is to offer up some general thoughts, then address some things individually.
I saw this movie during opening weekend, in a matinée 3D showing (all regular showings were sold out until 6pm that night). As a longtime Star Wars fan, I went in cautiously optimistic. the trailers showed J.J. Abrams was utilizing a lot of familiar elements: vehicles, sounds, the retreatments to familiar musical themes in the trailers were fantastic. Oddly enough, I don’t recall hearing much of those in the movie which was disappointing. But I was glad the Abrams didn’t try to rebuilt everything from the ground up, the way he did with Star Trek.
One of the biggest criticisms about the film is the similarity with A NEW HOPE. All of the Star Wars films follow a formula, and this one isn’t much different. Chris Stuckmann discusses this well on his YouTube channel. I get following the formula, but THE FORCE AWAKENS carbon copies too much, in my opinion. I mean, really? Hiding data on a droid and sending him on his way on a desert planet, so it doesn’t fall into the hands of the First Order. There’s a planet killing weapon to be destroyed and there’s a resistance force to stop racing against time to do it. It was a well-made film but I’ll just watch Episode IV, if I want that story.
The film moves fast, I think. Maybe too fast for the story they tried to tell. There’s maybe 20 minutes of runtime from when Po Dameron is captured by the First Order to when he meets Finn and escapes. And during that time, we get introduced to Rey, learning she lives a crap life, alone, scavenging through crashed ships on Jakku. Now I know audience expectation was as high as it could be for any movie, and J.J. Abrams had to fulfill a lot of implied promises, so it had to move quickly. But it felt rushed in its execution.
Let’s get to the fun part: Specifics 🙂
Finn – The First Order troopers were supposed to be brainwashed to serve from a very young age. But in his first action, it doesn’t stick and he questions what he’s doing? I suppose. Captain Phasma has him evaluated and the clear him. That doesn’t say much for the First Order itself (more on that later). I would think that kind of upbringing, would make him very socially maladjusted, but he seems to get along pretty well with the general population. Although, nearly every word that comes out of his mouth is banter rather than dialogue. I just couldn’t take him seriously, and even though he used Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, the most, I never thought he was going be any kind of jedi (at least not in this film). Even when the lightsaber fight with Kylo Ren started, I still never thought he would be the guy. FUN FACT: Finns trooper designation, FN-2187, is a nod back to Episode IV. 2187 was Princess Leia’s cell number on the Death Star.
Rey – I liked Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey. I had trouble buying her proficiency as a pilot flying the Millennium Falcon, for the first time, against three tie-fighters at low altitude. She also seemed to get along a little too well in the other planetary environments they visited throughout the film, after having been on Jakku since she was a young girl. Her quick learning of how to use the Force WITHOUT any training was ridiculous. To use a jedi mind trick without any instruction on an already brainwashed stormtrooper was incredibly implausible to me. Sure, it took a couple tried for her to make it work, but since the Jedi/Sith were basically forgotten during the 30 years prior, it seems unlikely she’d even know that was even an ability that was available. And winning a force tug-of-war for Luke’s lightsaber against Kylo Ren (who has had training and is in the bloodline of Darth Vader) borders on the un-fracking-tolerable. Granted, we don’t know her past so maybe this can be explained, but I don’t see it.
Han Solo – Han was pretty good, but the way they brought he and Chewbacca into the story was utterly ridiculous, IMO. And I mean “Anakin Skywalker built C-3PO” kind of ridiculous. Rey and Finn are adrift, in space, in a disabled Millennium Falcon and Han just so happens to be passing by Jakku doing some other freight run and finds them. They had been looking for the Falcon for years and POOF, there it is just in front of them. And we know Han wasn’t there to get the Falcon because he and Rey talk about its recent history and Han didn’t even know who had it on Jakku. Otherwise, Han served the story well. You can easily tell the 30 years since Return of the Jedi hadn’t gone well for all involved. As the movie progresses, there looks as though Han has some sort of recognition of Rey as though he may know her or know about her. His death was handled well. It was a good OMFG moment in the film, even though I had already heard about it. He’s one of my favorite characters and he will be missed.
Kylo-Ren (Ben Solo) – I’m kind of on the fence about this one. He’s a vulnerable villain character that is being pulled by both the dark and light sides of the force and his personal conflict is evident. But he’s also too young to be in the position he’s in with the First Order. Sure, Vader had a temper. Many an imperial officer was force choked to death for failing in their duties, but something doesn’t go Kylo’s way, he has a temper tantrum and destroys expensive equipment. Outside of that, I thought he was a good character, as a half-baked Sith lord. However, in my opinion, they revealed him to be Han and Leia’s son way too early. That could have been another big impact moment only to be topped by Han’s death.
General Leia – Carrie Fisher’s performance was so stiff and so bad, I cringed whenever she opened her mouth on screen. I didn’t take her seriously as the leader of the so-called Resistance. Leia would have served this movie in some other role.
Speaking of the Resistance – WTF?? I thought the New Republic government was still running things at this point and the First Order was trying to muscle their way in. So if General Leia, leading the resistance, is part of the Republic structure, then why her military force “The Resistance”? It would make more sense if the First Order had already had a serious foothold in the Republic and the Republic was hanging on by a thread. But that’s not the case. They’re just the current Army of the Republic, albeit a very small force compared to the First Order. Which leads me to…
The First Order – Said to have risen from the ashes of the Empire, I think it’s well-funded, and run by idiots. They seemed to have two agendas that butted heads: Find Luke Skywalker and snuff out the last of the Jedi, and if we think about it, destroy the Republic government. Yeah…we’ve never seen that before.
Supreme leader Snoke – A joke, as depicted. A figure with alleged mastery of the Force, giving orders as a giant ass hologram.
Starkiller base – Also a joke. Stupid plot element that wasn’t even mentioned until past the halfway point of the movie. A weapon built into a planet that could target and destroy multiple planets with one shot…but it had to suck the life out of a nearby star to charge up and fire. WTF?? There is not enough suspension of disbelief to make this even remotely acceptable. Everyone on the planet would die even before the weapon was charged. Oh, and the Order found the location of the Resistance base and they had to launch a hastily planned, daring attack to destroy it before the weapon charges and destroys them all! Deja Vu. FUN FACT: Luke’s original last name was Starkiller.
Captain Phasma – Wasted character.
R2-D2 – Everyone is depressed because the map the BB-8 has been running around with is only a part of a larger map and is useless. But wait! R2-D2, who has been in “low-power” mode for years, all of a sudden powers on and has the rest of the map! Even after C-3PO says he probably doesn’t!!! *FacePalm*
Maz Kanata – Meh. If they insisted on bringing Luke’s lightsaber, that was lost in Empire Strikers Back, into this movie, Mas was probably as good way as any. I would like to have how she got he saber to be explained, and I hope its worth it.
TR-8R – This is the name the internet has given to the trooper sees Finn and yells: “Traitor!” Finn has the lightsaber and Maz tells him to use it a weapon. It just so happens that TR-8R has to only weapon in that battle that’s lightsaber proof (ugh). That baton thingy, he had, that was like a really large police nightstick couldn’t be cut by the lightsaber. Whatever.
Kylo-Ren’s lightsaber – This was one of the first things that got the internet in a tizzy when the first teaser came out. The blade was more like fire, rather than what we’re used to seeing. Then there was the crossbar. Holy crap, the crossbar was the point of contention across the internet. Was it good? Was it bad? It was a very divisive element early on. I thought it was incredibly impractical. It’s not a traditional sword. With a lightsaber, it’s incredibly easy to cut your self with the one blade. Add in that crossbar and you’re lucky if you don’t cut your self. Kylo did actually use it in the fight with Finn, and that was good for actually giving it a use. From what I’ve read, the crystal, Kylo used, when he built the lightsaber, was cracked and the energy has to vent out of the sides. This also explains the unfocused nature of the blade. Sure, let’s go with that.
I’ve done a lot of nit-picking, but I did enjoy the film. It’s popcorn fun, and was a descent launch into the next trilogy. I’ll be buying it when the Blu-Ray out. It doesn’t have the same magic of Episode IV, but the prequel trilogy isn’t terribly difficult to top (Except for Episode III).
Till next time.