Spoiler-filled Star Wars thoughts and open discussion thread

So — I saw it last night.  It was amazing.  In fact, I saw it just in time, as this tweet of mine indicates:

And the kid wasn’t even leaving the theater — he was coming with his mom into the theater to see another movie!

Fear of spoilers has been rampant amongst Star Wars fans, only topped by a fervent desire to talk about the movie.  With that in mind, I thought I’d write a blog post to share some of my SUPER SPOILER-Y thoughts about the movie, and also use this as a thread where folks can share their own thoughts, if they want.

WARNING: Below the break I share my incredibly spoiler-filled thoughts about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”  Do not read further until you have seen the movie.

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Seriously, I’m going to talk about major movie spoilers, so turn back now if you’re not prepared.

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THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.

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Okay, here we go:

“The Force Awakens” is a really, really wonderful film, and really captures the spirit of the original movies as well as expanding upon them.

This has actually been a source of complaints for some folks, and I already caught wind of it on twitter before seeing the film: that TFA follows the plot of the original “A New Hope” closely, a little too closely, perhaps, and feels more like an uncreative remake than a sequel.

The similarities really do jump out at you: the movie opens with the Resistance (Rebels) trying to spirit away secret information from The First Order (the Empire) by putting it into the hands of a plucky droid BB-8 (R2-D2).  A seeming “nobody” named Rey (Luke) happens upon the droid and agrees to take it to the Resistance, learning along the way that she has a connection to the Force.  Her efforts, teaming up with a handsome rogue Finn (Han), lead to the destruction of the First Order’s greatest weapon, the Starkiller Base (Death Star).

However, the creators of the new movie — including Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” — clearly knew what they were doing.  Since it has been thirty years since the last Star Wars movie,¹ they wanted to provide something that felt at once comfortable and familiar and also new and exciting.  What you find, on close inspection, is that the new story subtly subverts the expectations of the original movie, taking it in interesting directions.  And they were well aware of the parallels they were setting up, even making jokes about it, like when Han talks about how “there’s always a way to blow these things up,” referring to the Starkiller Base.

Rey is a great example.  Though I’m sure lots of folks knew she would be the Force awakened individual from the get-go, the filmmakers really wanted us to think about Finn as the main hero, giving him the lightsaber to swing around early on and even putting him in posters with the lightsaber!  (Rey is always featured with her staff in promotional materials.)  Rey partly fills the “Princess Leia” role in the new movie, as she is captured and seemingly needs to be rescued, but she in fact rescues herself — twice!  Once by escaping from her prison in the Starkiller Base, once earlier when she beats up attacking goons and makes Finn’s help unnecessary. So Rey is a mix of Luke and Leia in the new movie.  And the final battle, in which she picks up the lightsaber after Finn falls, is electric.

Finn, the stormtrooper who has moral qualms, ends up as a mix of Han and Luke, part rogue and part hero.  And we’re still not sure if he’s force sensitive or not, though the fact that Maz was very insistent he use the lightsaber makes me wonder.

John Boyega (Finn) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) are amazing actors, and I felt immediately connected with them in the movie.  Another real gem is Oscar Isaac, who plays the hotshot Resistance pilot Poe.  Courageous and witty, he fills Luke Skywalker’s role as the hero who can take down the Starkiller Base, as well as a father figure of sorts for Finn.  Poe also works well as the Wedge Antilles of the new trilogy, an “ordinary guy” of sorts who survives by sheer talent.  He has a relatively small role, but this isn’t surprising because he was originally supposed to die!  Isaac does such an amazing job with his role that I’m not surprised that he was kept around.

Perhaps the most interesting new character is the villainous Kylo Ren, played excellently by Adam Driver.  It is a genuine surprise to have him remove his mask halfway through the movie, and working mask-free gives him an opportunity to really show emotion.  And those emotions really define the character and distinguish him from Darth Vader.  If Vader was “seduced” by the Dark Side of the Force, Ren is desperately standing outside the Dark Side’s house with a boom box held over his head.  Ren seems to be a mirror image of Vader: someone who wants to be embraced by the darkness like Vader but doesn’t quite have the will to do so.  You can see this in his fear when faced with Rey as well as his apparently genuine sadness when he kills Han².  Will Ren come back to the light, in the end, like Vader?  Is he even aware that Vader repented in the end?  Did Luke tell him?  Did he believe him?

So family issues play a big role in the movie, though they appear in the first film of this trilogy, rather than the second.  To me, TFA feels like an accelerated version of the original trilogy, in that we end TFA in a similar place as we are somewhere in the middle of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  The heroes are separated, the Force-sensitive character has gone for training with a master, the truly big baddy (Master Sloak) has been revealed in hologram form, and family issues have come to the forefront.  To me, this means that the writers have left open a lot more space in the next two movies to explore new ground.  And I find that exciting.

I found Han’s death a little sad, simply because it is a poignant reminder that the happy end of “Return of the Jedi” didn’t lead to long-lasting happiness for all the characters that we love.  Here, however, the long delay between the original trilogy and the new movie works in our favor, in that we can imagine that there was, at least, 20 years of relative peace and contentment before the new strife began.  And such a stretch is more than many of us can hope for in the real world.

There are other nice little touches in the new movie that paid homage to the earlier films.  “Star Wars” has always been a series that respects distinguished elder actors: we had Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness in “A New Hope,” and Christopher Lee in the prequel trilogy³, for instance.  In TFA, we have the awesome Max Von Sydow in a small but prominent role.

I should give a shout-out to the original cast members as well, who seem to have easily returned to their roles.  I’m really excited to see Mark Hamill in the next movie, as he completely nailed the look of a weary, sad and lost Jedi in his very short appearance.

I could go on, but I’ll stop with my ramblings here.  What thoughts do you have about “The Force Awakens”? Feel free to discuss in the comments!

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¹”Prequel trilogy,” you say?  I have no idea what you’re talking about.

² I really hope you have seen the movie while reading this.

³ No, I didn’t admit that the prequel trilogy exists, YOU admitted that the prequel trilogy exists.  Shut up.

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54 Responses to Spoiler-filled Star Wars thoughts and open discussion thread

  1. Good thoughts. Really enjoyed the movie – I was laughing a lot (because of funny dialogue) and I didn’t expect that. I’m wondering if the parallels to the original trilogy will stay as strong in the next movie. I’m nervous because Obi Wan emerged from his exile basically to just get promptly sliced by Vader – is that the role of Luke Skywalker in these movies? I was hoping to see him bust some of those jedi skill he was still getting the hang of in ROTJ.

    • I agree! Yes, the dialogue was wonderful, and MUCH more snappy than the original trilogy, IMHO!

    • I think Han Solo was sort of the “episode 4 Obi-Wan” of this movie. He acted as a mentor to two young people out on their own and was struck down, so now they will have to go without his guidance in the future.

      • Yeah, I agree, Han, in an interesting inversion, is the sage master here – teaching kids in over their heads how to make it in this perilous galaxy.

        Based on Han & Leia’s reunion and all it implies about how Ben’s turn effectively ripped apart the family, we now have juicy reunions between Luke and Leia, Luke and Ben, and Leia and Ben to look forward to.

        Some thoughts about that implied history:
        My take is that Han never liked the idea of sending his kid off to Jedi school, even if it was with Luke, and this source of tension between he and Leia exploded when Ben turned. His reaction when asked if he knew Luke was full of bitterness. It’s pretty sad to think of them going this way, but I thought it was a meaningful and brave choice.

        I also love the alternate timeline in which Rey and possibly Finn join up and Han forms his own Firefly crew on the Falcon.

  2. mikemonaco says:

    Though a part of me was hoping that Jar Jar was the cloaked figure at the end, I thought this was a good movie at the end (a little bemused by the reuse of so much of the original’s plot) but in the few days since seeing I’ve actually found myself thinking about the characters and that made me realize just how great the movie was. Han’s arc was perfect and the whole thing never felt boring, awkward, or embarrassing. I put it right up there with Hope and Empire.

    • Agreed! I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Partly this may be because I have Star Wars so ingrained in my childhood, but I really think they got it right.

      • ElOceanografo says:

        Yeah! Thinking about it today, I think Han and Leia’s arc was maybe the most moving plot line in any of the movies so far. It was really hard to see him go…he was always my favorite character. I’m glad that Finn and Dameron seem set to inherit some of his character traits going forward.

      • Han & Leia’s arc felt especially moving to me as someone who grew up with them as a kid. It was the really *adult* part of the story, with melancholy & regret built into it.

  3. blackmudpuppy says:

    One of the things I really loved was the more nuanced view this movie took of good and evil. Where previously that line had always been pretty clearly defined in SW, in Force Awakens it seems to be a theme that “dealing in absolutes” is not always the way. We have Solo (a rogue sure, but a beloved one and unambiguously good) being father to a monster, and we have Finn, a Storm Trooper defector, something we’ve never seen before. A face to one of these people, and it actually made me think of storm troopers as something other than blaster fodder, which was new.

  4. Mark Hanna says:

    I saw it last night, and loved it. One thing that really stuck with me was the parallels between the scene with Han and Kylo Ren and the scene in A New Hope in which Obi Wan encounters Darth Vader.

    It has a lot of the same elements – we’re seeing two characters together for the first time, knowing they have a history together. The heroes look on helpless as they watch their mentor killed by the main villain.

    Except this time they were able to confront the villain afterwards, instead of being forced to run away.

    I don’t think the similarities with A New Hope weakened the movie at all. It felt very deliberate to me.

    Also, most of the people I watched it with last night agreed with me on this, but one didn’t think so. Am I right that I heard Han call out Kylo Ren’s name as “Ben” before approaching him? It felt like they were leading up to revealing his name before he took on “Kylo Ren”, with Han and Leia referring to him as “our son” instead of by name. Using the name Obi Wan was hiding under at the beginning of A New Hope again seemed quite deliberate. Did you hear that as well?

  5. ElOceanografo says:

    Also, when Poe flies in over the lake with the x-wing cavalry. Like, ermahgerd. Srsly, you guys. Ermahgerd.

    • Yeah, that was a beautiful scene! Especially when, at first glance, all you see is the spray of their flight in the distance. But, having seen the trailers, we all KNEW what was coming.

      • Mark Hanna says:

        I’d managed to avoid all the trailers, so wasn’t expecting any of it. What part of it was spoiled in the trailers?

        But yes, that scene was awesome 😀

      • I wouldn’t say it was spoiled — the trailer showed X-wings flying low over the lake, so you knew it was coming in the movie. Actually kind of made it better, in that I was really excited as soon as I saw the First Order folks looking over the lake.

      • Mark Hanna says:

        Ah, I thought it might have been something about Poe having survived. That’s not so bad

  6. Seeing a lot of people on Twitter upset that Finn wasn’t the Jedi badass that trailers and posters suggested, and instead was the Stormtrooper janitor.

    On the one hand, I like that he’s a regular guy. On the other, as a friend pointed out to me, Finn may be the source of the “awakening” Snoke and Ren talk about. He defies his conditioning, which has never happened before. Kylo Ren seems able to activate latent Force abilities in Rey: maybe being near him while he held a blaster bolt in mid-air activate/awoke Finn’s abilities? Finn and he stare at each other in an unusual way at the start of the movie.

    Rey obviously had some Jedi training she’s repressed before being abandoned, so she taps into it and defeats Ren. But Finn may be awakening into the Force without any prior Jedi training. Can’t wait to find out next movie.

    • It hadn’t occurred to me that Rey may have already been trained. I wasn’t sure where the plot could go after the first battle in which Rey was clearly stronger and more skilled than Ren.

      Interesting take on Finn being the source of the awakening. Snoke/Ren did “feel” it before Rey did much force related. And, perhaps Ren knows more than we do about Finn’s family, which would explain how/why Ren knew immediately which stormtrooper had defected (previously I just thought it was from that moment they shared on Jakku).

    • Ooh, I like this theory. That puts a different twist on the awakening without weakening Rey’s character. The idea that Finn might have been force sensitive but completely ignored because of his lower place in the First Order is an intriguing one.

      • @seelix @AlongsideWild In the force-flashbacks in Maz’s basement, Rey sees bodies on the ground in rain and the Knights of Ren standing there, while (presumably) Luke crouches next to Artoo. I assumed this was her being present when Ren killed the other students. Then, the girl being left in the desert and watching the ship take off was someone sequestering her into anonymity on Jakku.

        When Kylo Ren had her strapped to the chair, and later during the battle in the woods, I think his use of the force on her was awakening her latent training.

        I’ve read it described that Luke was like a bomb or missile aimed at Vader and the Emperor, and the fuse lit by Obi-Wan and Yoda. Maybe this is similar.

      • Yes, I’m really eager to see if Finn has Force sensitivity, as well! Curiously, he doesn’t have a whole lot of other skills on display in TFA, as Rey has the mechanical talent, piloting talent, Force talent. I suspect he’s got a lot of growing to do.

    • blackmudpuppy says:

      I think his everyman attributes are NEEDED, and parallel what Solo brought to original trilogy and a big part of what were lacking from the prequels. Without anyone for the audience to relate to, Star Wars feels like C-SPAN in space.

      • It’s an interesting thought that Kylo “triggered” something in Rey and possibly Finn – according to canon sources (I think the novelization), Snoke’s interest in Kylo is at least partially how he holds both light and dark in himself. So that idea may have legs.

        It would certainly be interesting to see how this trilogy would treat two force-sensitives in its hero crew. Although I am in favor of normals being able to use lightsabers. And based on what seems to be the First Order’s focus on independent thinking or at least ability to improvise in battle among its stormtroopers (see: Kylo’s musing to Hux that maybe clones would be preferable*), Finn being competent with a saber isn’t crazy.

        *clones were of course very capable and independent as seen in the animated series, but the stormies we saw in the OT… seems that Order 66 wasn’t great for their competence in battle.

      • I think Finn as an former Stormtrooper needs to be continually addressed – but I’m more than okay with him being a Jedi. Beef up hotshot pilot Poe’s role or introduce a new everyman (like they did with Lando) and I think we’ll be okay.

    • I don’t think we need to invoke some prior training for Rey. She learned how to start using the force when Kylo Ren tried to get into her head, but she turned it around and got into HIS head instead. Learned a lot about using the Force then, she did.

  7. I love the echoing themes with Phantom Menace and A New Hope.
    1. Droid Control Ship -> Death Star -> Starkiller Base. In the first movie in each trilogy, they have to stop a powerful ball of death while flying starfighters.
    2. Qui-Gon’s death -> Obi-Wan’s death -> Han Solo’s death. In each movie, protégés have to succeed on their own after losing a mentor.

    I’m sure there are more!

  8. blackmudpuppy says:

    I have a really strong feeling that Rey may be the child of someone high up the chain in the Empire/First Order. She has a British accent (which is typical of Imperials), and it would mirror the inversion of Kylo Ren’s back story really well.

    • Oooh, and who is the only one in the Empire with power to rival the Skywalkers (including Ren?)…The EMPEROR!

      • blackmudpuppy says:

        This was my thought as well. Canon says Palpatine’s death and Rey’s birth don’t overlap, but if Palpatine had a child, it would make sense they were given some backwater world to lord over, and Rey could be his grandchild.

      • A friend of mine pointed out that Rey is the only person other than Sidious who attacks with the lightsaber in a jabbing, tip-of-the-sabre fencing stab. Everyone else swings baseball bats in comparison. I could totally see her being Palpatine’s granddaughter. And we never did learn her last name.

      • blackmudpuppy says:

        Not to mention the hallway in her vision looks suspiciously like a hallway on an imperial destroyer.

      • Not crazy about the idea, but maybe. That flashback went by so fast, I wish I could watch it more with the ability to slow it down.

        I’m agnostic on Rey as a Skywalker, too. I like the idea that if she’s not, that one family doesn’t have a stranglehold on Powerful Force Users now.

        I’m going to share an abridged version of something I posted on Tumblr here, concerning Rey’s Force Prodigy status, which has people calling her a Mary Sue.

        Comparing her to how Anakin and Luke’s Force sensitivity was portrayed, you can see that in these movies, that ability is strongly connected to character. Anakin was led by his selfish desires and inability to look beyond himself. Luke was initially led by his desire to help his friends but really came into his own when he set out on a quest to redeem Anakin.

        Rey is isolated and lonely on Jakku. When she first “feels the call” in Maz’s castle, and finds the lightsaber, her natural connection to the force floods her with images of the history of the Skywalkers (though like I said, I want to see that bit again).

        She’s initially frightened and overwhelmed by this, understandably. But because of her years of loneliness – which haven’t dampened her hope or optimism* – she is ready for the Force, she’s instantly enamored of it and she “gets it” because it is what she’s been waiting for and it’s what will save her. This is *absolutely* as rooted in character as Luke and Anakin’s powers were. It’s the right way to go with it, and one of the smartest choices Abrams, Kasdan, and Arndt made.

        And she had to smack Kylo down because his driving motivation is *destroying* connections. This is the seed of a great conflict for the new trilogy.

        *When she wore that Alliance pilot’s helmet and king of geeked out about it, it was a surprising, affecting, and completely disarming moment. I kind of fell for her right there.

      • @anatotitan: i think her loneliness is a major character trait. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Of course, now she’s teamed up with the ultra-loyal character, Chewbacca.

    • Tim says:

      I like this idea. From a fencing point of view, Rey and Palpatine have a unique style. That would check out.

      It would also make sense from a narrative point of view, since the emperor’s (grand)-daughter becoming a Jedi would mirror Kylo Ren’s voyage to the dark side, AND prove the Luke defeated Palpatine entirely.

      • I really like the idea that Rey is somehow related to Palpatine. I actually hope they don’t connect her to the Skywalker family, because I personally feel that they’ve been “played out” over the course of six movies. It would be interesting to see another family come to the fore.

        It would also be an interesting take on redemption. Though Vader redeemed himself in the end of RotJ, Palpatine was evil through and through. Would be cool to see Rey struggle with her family’s history and try and redeem the family name.

  9. theburntcity says:

    My biggest beefs are that fight scene between Kylo and Rey and Kylo states how can teach her about the force….that pause was way too long. The other one is how they showed Luke at the end…made him look like Gandalf the Grey.

  10. I think Rey is Han and Leia’s daughter, but Han doesn’t (or didn’t… *sniffs*) know about her because Leia had her during one of Han’s long absences, and decided to send her away to Jakku to protect her from (or from the fate of) a darkening Ben/Kylo Ren. Here’s why I think so:

    1. Force sensitivity is inherited. At least one of Rey’s parents needs to have it. The reigning theory is that Luke is her father, but a) that’s what everyone expects, which strikes me as a set-up for some kind of twist, b) Luke was off training would-be Jedi in what was probably a very monastic sort of life, and c) yes, Luke’s light-saber called to Rey, but maybe that’s because he’s her uncle, not because he’s her father.
    2. Han and Rey had a strong bond… a very father-daughter sort of bond. Also, Rey is such a natural at piloting the Millenium Falcon. Also, Rey is a scavenger, much like Han the smuggler.
    3. Leia and Rey shared a very long look at the end – perhaps a look for recognition? – and then a very mother-daughter sort of hug.
    4. This would make Rey Kylo Ren’s sister, which might have helped her see into his head.
    5. Wouldn’t Kylo Ren = Rey’s brother be the most awesome reveal for Episode VIII? Kind of like the Darth Vader = Luke’s father reveal in Episode V? We can already see that the plot of Episode VII closely parallels that of Episode IV (and parts of V), so wouldn’t such a reveal totally fit right in with the whole soft-reboot thing?

  11. Grant McKinney says:

    I think you’re probably right. Although dropping your kid off on Jakku to fend for herself seems pretty criminal. But, we’ll see. Maybe Max Von Sydow was watching over her. ??

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