Skulls in the Stars

Spoiler-filled Star Wars thoughts and open discussion thread

Advertisements

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.

=

=

=

=

=

=

=

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

=

=

=

=

=

=

=

=

THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.

=

=

=

=

=

=

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!

**********************************

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.

Advertisements

Advertisements