Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So, it’s been almost three weeks, so it should be safe now. Right? RIGHT?!

What do you mean you haven’t seen it? Do you live in a cave? Do you hate Star Wars? Do you hate joy?

Okay, well, go away til you’ve seen it or if you hate joy, because there’s going to spoilers and I’m going to be talking about Star Wars A LOT.

No really. I’ll wait.

/taps foot.

Okay, still here? Then you’ve seen it or you don’t care. Or you hate joy and like punishing yourself.

First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was everything a good Star Wars film should be. Lots of adventure, light sabers, hand-to-hand combat, Wookies, starships, etc., etc. It was a lot of fun.

Was it perfect? No, of course not. I had issues with it, and I’ll get to that in a second, but let’s talk about all the amazing things it did have.

Practical effects. People in costumes and puppets and makeup. Just like the original. Yes, yes, there was CGI, but it wasn’t a computer-generated circle jerk like the prequels. Let’s look at one of the supporting roles.

Unkar Plott.

He was Simon Pegg in a costume made by Jim Henson Creature Shop whose facial expressions were done with CGI. That is the absolute perfect blend of practical and special effects. We’re not talking a guy in a mo-cap suit playing a role then glossed over completely with CGI. (I’m looking at you, Jar-Jar). It’s a nice half and half blend.

Now, that’s not to say there wasn’t a fair amount of completely CGI characters. Supreme Leader Snoke and Maz Kanata were both computer-generated using an actor in mo-cap. But they were done supremely well without being racist, over-the-top, or campy. And let’s be honest, Andy Serkis (Snoke) is pretty much the god of mo-cap. So it wasn’t some unknown hamming it up. It was a professional.

Can we talk about the pirate Maz Kanata (played by Lupita Nyong’o) for a second? She’s a short, little, wide-eyed gal who’s about a thousand years old. She’s the new Yoda. She’s not ridiculous or odd (well, maybe a little). She doesn’t talk backwards. But she’s wise and considerate and a fountain of knowledge. I still want to know how she got a hold of Luke’s old lightsaber. It’s time to start digging through the comic books. Simply put, she’s cool. I hope they bring her back in future films. She’s far too much fun to be a throw-away character.

Okay, so let’s move on to some of the other characters.

Rey (Played by Daisy Ridley). Some smartass has said she’s a Mary Sue. From Wikipedia, A Mary Sue or Gary Stu or Marty Stu is an idealized fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment. I suppose you could say that. She’s fluent in just about everything, understands droids, Wookies, etc. She’s an exceptional fighter and great at electronics and flying. And she fights against Kylo Ren with a lightsaber, a weapon she’s never used, and wins. She’s also basically BFF with the Force. And everybody loves her.

But take a step back. She’s lived, and survived, alone on Jakku since she was 5. As a scavenger. She’s had to figure out what’s worth something and what’s worth nothing. She’s probably hung around with old Unkar and learned how to fix and tear down as well as heard every kind of language. Kids are sponges for language. She’s kind and compassionate despite her rough beginnings. And she’s strong with the Force, which we know allowed Anakin Skywalker to be an incredible pilot and tech savvy kid as well as Luke Skywalker. Of course people are gonna like her. She’s a nice person. A bit scared and wary, but likeable.

And don’t forget, Mary Sues are author insertion. The majority of the script was written by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi. I very seriously doubt he wants to be buddy-buddy with Han Solo and Chewbacca. Especially considering he wanted to kill Solo in Jedi.

No, Rey holds a much bigger role. She’s not author insertion. She’s not a Mary Sue. She is someone the audience can empathize with and connect to and drift further into the story. She is a vessel. A companion. She is the Rose Tyler to Han Solo’s 9th Doctor.

And Finn is Mickey the Idiot.

I love Finn (Played by John Boyega). He is so completely human. He’s vulnerable, slightly misogynistic, and daring. He falls for Rey instantly and wants nothing more than to protect her even though she needs it not one bit. He’s a strong character. They left us with a bit of a cliff hanger with his character. He’s in a coma after taking a near fatal blow from Kylo Ren. But he’s alive. I can’t wait to see how he grows.

If Rey is Rose and Finn is Mickey, then that means Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaacs) is Captain Jack Harkness. And I’m okay with that. He’s funny and suave, a fantastic pilot, and a fun character. Through him, we get to see just how dark and terrifying Ren is. We need someone who’s completely at the mercy of Ren’s powers. We watch Poe suffer so we can cheer when he escapes and makes a new friend. Poe and Finn are the bromance of the century.

Let’s go to Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) next. A powerful Force user. I’m not going to call him a Sith, because no one has called him or his master, Supreme Leader Snoke, a Sith. You can be a dark Force user and not be a Sith. At least from my understanding of the Star Wars Universe. With the new canon, that may be different and I will correct myself it that is the case. For lack of a better word, Ren is a dark Jedi, trained by Luke Skywalker. He was seduced to the dark side. How and why are still a mystery, but as with all strong Force users, the temptation is always there.

Now, a few people have called him “emo” and whiney. There’s even an Emo Kylo Ren Twitter page. It’s hilarious. I won’t deny that. And he does whine. But I think it’s totally validated.

Look at his situation. His mother is Princess Leia Organa. His father is the smuggler Han Solo. His uncle is Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi in the galaxy. His grandfather was Darth Vader, the evilest mother fucker that ever force choked a guy for looking at him sideways. He’s got this happy family. Mom and dad, weird Uncle Luke. He’s strong with the Force. Maybe he’s prone to fits of rage because he’s so strong with the Force. He can’t control it. He sees visions. Hears things. He struggles.

And so his mom tells him about his grand dad. How he was a powerful Jedi who was seduced by the dark side and did terrible things because he couldn’t control himself either, but eventually redeemed himself. Uncle Luke supports this story.

But everybody you talk to says Darth Vader was a murderer and a monster and nothing he ever could have done would have redeemed him. And then you have this guy Snoke who starts whispering in your ear, telling you all the GOOD things Vader did. He brought order to the galaxy. He destroyed the Jedi, a corrupt group of monks that lorded over everyone and stole babies from their parents. Vader didn’t redeem himself, he failed. You have to finish what he started. Luke and your parents are murderers and villains. They killed millions in their fight to destroy the empire.

Dude is conflicted. Falls to the sway of Snoke’s words. Maybe Snoke promised he can help him learn control. Through anger, he can become more powerful than Vader.

And he is powerful. The guy stops a blaster bolt. In mid air. He can pull thoughts from people’s heads. He takes a shot from Chewie’s bolt caster, a weapon that literally sends storm troopers flying like ragdolls, and doesn’t fucking flinch. He takes a knee for a second and then marches out into the woods to whoop some ass. If Rey had that much trouble beating his scrawny ass when he’s injured, think about how hard it’s going to be when he’s in full on dark side rage mode? That’s some scary shit.

So, um, wow, spent a lot of time talking about Kylo, but the guy is a serious badass. And he’s just starting. Episode VIII will be awesome if it keeps going the way it’s going.

I have a few complaints about The Force Awakens.

Captain Phasma. We get all this hype in the interviews and trailers. But she does NOTHING. Not a damn thing. Just walks around, says a couple of lines, and lowers a shield. And this guy!

star-wars-force-awakens-finn-tr-8r-stormtrooper

I’m not alone in thinking this should have been Phasma. Why is that guy even in the movie? Should have been her.

Cheesy dialog. It’s nowhere near as bad as the prequels. Nowhere. But man, there are some lines I winced at. They just hurt.

The droids. BB-8 is cute, and I loved him in the film. But the addition of C-3P0 and R2-D2 felt forced. The scene at the end where the droids are all happy and talking and ugh, just ugh. It was metal ewoks. I could have gagged.

Overall though, I really did enjoy the movie. A friend said it was like JJ Abrams walked up, waved his hand, and said, “The Prequels never happened.” I can’t argue with that. JJ saved the franchise. He made me a believer again. I’m already trying to figure out how I can buy all the books. I’ve seen it three times and I’ll probably watch it every day for a week when the Blu-Ray comes out.

Before I go, I’m going to put a couple of theories here.

One, Rey is Luke’s daughter. He left her on Jakku to protect her from Kylo Ren. OR his wife/companion took her and hid her away, letting him believe her dead. Why does this make sense? Other than the obvious that she’s got a lot of the skills he does and is an incredibly powerful Force user, it’s poetic. George Lucas has said that Star Wars is a poem. Anakin had no father. Luke thought his father was dead, learned he was alive, and lost him shortly thereafter. It would be poetic for Rey to find her father, learn from him, get to know him. It would be fitting. I don’t think she’s Han’s. That would be too much repeat from the original trilogy. Time will tell.

Finn broke his Imperial conditioning because he is Force sensitive. Not like Rey is, though I think she had some training as a young child. Finn is becoming aware of the Force. It’s why Ren took notice of him in the Force followers’ village.

That’s all I really have. Put your theories in the comments. What bugged you? What did you enjoy? Who’s your favorite character? What do you want to see in Episode VIII?

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About amandamccarter

I am an aspiring writer. I spend most of my time balancing my work, my personal life and my craft. It is my hope that my craft and my work will one day be the same thing and I can spend more time on my personal life. I live with my boyfriend, my insane fluff ball of a cat, and two snakes. In what little spare time I have, I play video games, read, knit, and help out with the local conventions.
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5 Responses to Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. seandgolden says:

    I agree with a lot of your comments here. I loved the movie too. I would say that there is some legitimacy to the “Mary Sue” accusation, at least until we get some plausible explanation for all the things that Rey is not just “good” at, but is better than people who spent their entire lives doing something, including knowing more about the Millennium Falcon than Han Solo. Han freaking Solo. But that’s a minor quibble with a great story.

    I get all the things you say about Kylo Ren, and they are legitimate, but I still felt the expression of his insecurities was way, way over the top, to the point that it bordered on infantilizing him. I just don’t think it was necessary to go that far.

    Captain Phasma didn’t do “nothing.” She rolled over like a puppy with her tail tucked between her legs and allowed her enemies to blow up a planet teeming with her siblings-in-arms. That’s pretty freaked up.

    I think the only dialogue that I actually winced at was that between Han and Leia.

    Some things I really enjoyed that you didn’t mention:

    I loved the homages to the original Star Wars. To me that showed the writers and Abrams totally “get” why fans like me despise the prequels. I do think there were too many of them, but better too many than none at all.

    I thought the interaction between Finn and Rey was very well done. Both the dialogue and the chemistry between the actors. I had never heard of Daisy Ridley before this movie and now I’m a huge fan. She did something that I rarely hear anyone mention, and it is something that some big, big names have failed to do in the past. She carried the weight of the unbridled expectations of generations of rabid Star Wars fans and never once let them down. Comparing her performance to, for example, Hayden Christianson, demonstrates how hard it can be to create an interesting and believable character in a role that has all that weight on it. She deserves all the praise she’s getting and more.

    I LOOOVED “14!” The writers and J.J. Abrams showed that they not only “got” the fanbase, but that they also knew where the fanbase was going over the edge into obsession with what, in the end, is still only a movie. Good on them. 😉

    Finally, I’m sorry that you see Finn’s actions as even “slighty misogynistic.” I wish we hadn’t reached the point that the slightest instinct to protect a woman is equated with “hating women” which is what the word actually means. But that seems to be where we are.

    • Perhaps misogynistic was the wrong word. Rey obviously doesn’t need protecting, yet he feels compelled to do so. It was done for comedic effect and to a great end. A character can be biased and not realize it. It’s the growth to understanding that the behavior is not okay that makes the character. Finn and Rey’s chemistry was absolutely wonderful. I like a lot of the things you mentioned, just didn’t have a lot of space to go into everything.

  2. Alex P. Berg says:

    I loved the movie as well. Saw it twice. Felt largely the same as you about most of the points, but I think I had a few more quibbles and questions:

    1) Who is Snoke? I mean, I get the mystery shrouding him is intentional and will surely be uncovered in future movies, but where did he come from? Is he a force user? He’s clearly old. Wouldn’t he have been around in the original trilogy? Which brings me to point two…

    2) If the empire collapsed, the new First Order should have a young leader, not an old one. A young, charismatic fascist. Heck, he’s already in the movie. General Hux. Why isn’t he in charge?

    3) The whole Death Star 2.0 bit. Not only is it unoriginal, but a faster than light plasma cannon that drains suns of their energy to destroy distant planetary systems? I know Star Wars is only ‘science’ fiction in the loosest sense, but I had a hard time believing it. And you’d think someone would’ve learned their lesson when the first death star was destroyed and put some more defenses around that damn oscillator.

    Other than that, I thought it was great. But I do hope they take the character arcs in a different path than the original trilogy. I’ll be very disappointed if Rey spends all of VIII running around a swamp with Luke in a backpack and then Ren turns back to the light side in part IX.

    • Have you read Aftermath? There’s a hint to who he is in there. I think. There’s always someone from the last regime willing to remake the empire after its fall. Also, sith artifacts have a nasty habit of possessing people.

      As for the starkiller base, I hope this is the last death star we see.

  3. Robin Reed says:

    One little thing I liked is that the targeting graphics on the Falcon still look like an eight bit video game. Abrams didn’t give in to the temptation to update them.

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