I’ve been wanting to write some thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens since I saw it back on opening night. However, I was so busy with the move and then my vacation that I never got a chance. J and I just saw the movie again in the theater, and I have a little bit of time to spare before my big New Year’s Eve plans. So I wanted to jot a few things down while I was thinking about them.
SPOILERS!!! (Really, at this point, do I have to spell it out for you?)
–The movie totally holds up upon second viewing. It’s fast-paced, entertaining, emotionally riveting, and the new characters make their mark, so much so that I find myself just as invested in the fates of Rey and Finn as the fates of Luke and Leia.
–I’ve heard a lot of criticism that The Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope, and there’s certainly a solid argument to be made about that. I don’t agree. To me, the storylines and characters were different enough that I didn’t find myself drawing parallels to A New Hope—most of the time. Plus, I figure a lot of the parallels can and will be attributed to Force-y stuff, everything comes full circle and all that. But the story of A New Hope is about fighting the Empire and blowing up the Death Star. The story of The Force Awakens is about finding Luke.
–That said, there is one place where I felt the movie suffers creatively because of over-reliance on the previous films: in the First Order’s Starkiller Base. Even the Resistance fighters act like the Starkiller Base is same shit, different day when they’re plotting their destruction of it. I can almost hear my editor’s voice in the background telling them to go back to the drawing board, to be more inventive, and to resist the impulse of automatically going with your first idea. Clearly, Bob Peterson did not work in the writers’ room for The Force Awakens.
–But—and this is a really big but here—the film also delivers an emotional punch more powerful than anything the original trilogy delivered: the death of Han Solo. I’ve heard Han’s death compared to the death of Obi-Wan in A New Hope, but there are some huge differences there. We had half a movie to get to know Obi-Wan before Vader cut him down; we’ve had almost 40 years with Han. He’s the most beloved character in a beloved franchise. His death at the hands of his and Leia’s son is devastating, as it should be. And yes, I saw it coming. I suspected it would come early in the movie, when Kylo Ren revealed Han was his father. I knew it would come when Han and Kylo Ren confronted each other on a catwalk over a gigantic, bottomless pit. I think that only made it worse, not better. Everyone saw it coming except for Han, the guy who’s always smarter and faster than everyone else in the room. He’s too blinded by the love for his son. And it kills him. And I spent the last quarter of the movie crying. Both times.
–Following that, the reaction shots of both Leia and Chewie after Han’s death are amazing. The contrast of Leia’s restrained, understated devastation with Chewie going ape-shit is great, and perfect for both of their characters. Both Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew just killed it in those scenes.
–After I saw the movie for the first time, I figured Rey was Luke’s daughter with an unknown woman, and after seeing it a second time I am even more confident with that theory. Rey looks very much like a young Natalie Portman did in The Phantom Menace, first of all. Her affinity for mechanics and her piloting gifts parallel both Anakin and Luke. Not to mention the fact that no one else we’ve seen in the series so far has had such a natural gift for the Force except the Skywalkers. Plus, Anakin and Luke’s light saber chooses Rey. And R2-D2 reactivates himself right after Rey arrives on the planet. And that little droid always does seem to know more about what’s going on than anyone else.
–My theory is that, after Kylo Ren’s betrayal, a young Rey was hidden on Jakku for her protection. I’m guessing there’s about a 10-year age difference between her and Kylo Ren, which would have made him a teenager at the time. Teenagers were always assholes, even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I’d estimate Kylo Ren to be in his early 30s now, and Rey to be in her early 20s.
–Finn. Ah, Finn. I loved Finn. I love that his story is unlike any other we’ve seen in the series so far. This is one place where the team got creative, and it worked: a Storm Trooper with a conscience. It’s great. I can’t wait to see his hero’s journey, and I can’t wait to see how he develops after he throws off the rest of his First Order conditioning and learns some other practical skills besides killing things.
–I also heard a rumor that Finn’s father would turn out to be none other than Lando Calrissian. If the powers that be are listening: PLEASE don’t do this. I would love to see Billy Dee Williams back, but one of the strengths of Finn’s story is that he is unconnected to anyone else. Plus, do you see how problematic it is to have only two prominent, living black characters in this universe, and have them both be related?
–Also on the genetics front: will they ever explain how the hell Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher’s genetic combined to create Adam Driver???
Overall, I loved the movie. Love, love, love. I can’t wait for the next one to come out in 2017.