Some Scattered Thoughts on “The Force Awakens”

Last month, the latest episode on the Star Wars saga was released, and at this writing has earned just shy of a kabillion dollars (or at least better than the current Powerball jackpot).

I saw the film twice, and wanted to throw out some observations. I’ve tried to read and listen to as little commentary on it as possible until I could get this posted. And the real reason I’m writing is that i’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on the film, as well.

Obviously, the rest of the post is going to be CHOCK FULL OF SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen the film…well, it’s been almost a month, so if you get spoiled, that’s on YOU.

So, here are my (delayed) reactions:

  • Let’s get this out of the way: I really enjoyed the film. It’s not a perfect movie, and I do have some minor quibbles. And yes, it is heavily-derivative of the first movie. But doggone it, if you didn’t wanna jump out of your chair when the Millenium Falcon was flying upside down and sideways through a wrecked Star Destroyer, then…well, I think you walked into the wrong movie by mistake, because you surely weren’t looking for Star Wars. On the whole, I would rate the movie as an “A-.” Not perfect, but it delivered exactly what I was looking for.
  • Characters: I dug all the new characters introduced. The performances were engaging, and the actors were (for the most part) very likeable and fun to watch. I’m not sure if Adam Driver was the best choice for Kylo Ren, but I don’t think he had a whole lot to work with in this film (though hopefully, he’ll get more backstory and motivation later). And I enjoyed cheering for Poe Dameron (a.k.a. Han Solo 2.0), who is indeed the best pilot in the galaxy.
  • The Villain: Actually, let’s talk about Kylo Ren / Ben Solo for a second. A lot has been said about his being a letdown as a villain. Too emo. Too millenial. And I think that’s all true. (By the way, “Emo Kylo Ren” on Twitter is hilarious, though sometimes profane, so be advised.) But here’s the thing: I see that as being consistent with Anakin’s portrayal. Kylo has less training that Anakin, and is weaker in the Force. His destructive tantrums are consistent with a character that has a great deal of power and very little self-control. And let’s not forget Grandpa’s destructive and homicidal tendencies. All that to say: the character is a bit inconsistent during the film (especially after his most-impressive introduction in the film), but in the grand scheme, he’s following the family line.
  • Rey: I appreciated that the “Rey is a strong, capable woman” idea was conveyed by showing, rather than telling. The “let go of my hand” stuff on Jakku was gold. And even though Finn has a crush on her, she is not returning his affection. (At least not yet.) I’m totally okay with this. Let her be her own person.
  • I had really two quibbles with the film: First quibble–The monster chase through the Millenium Falcon DRAGGED. It was bloated and pointless. Worse, it makes Han seem too bumbling. I think, if you want to show that Han has gone back to smuggling and maybe is losing his edge, that can be done more quickly and more simply than a random action sequence that really accomplishes nothing in the movie except telling the First Order that Han and BB-8 are on the Millenium Falcon.
  • Quibble the Second: Rey kind of Insta-Jedi’d. Now, I KNOW, the counter-argument is that Luke did too, but I don’t think that’s true. Luke picked up on some Force abilities REALLY quickly, but he still had some training from TWO Jedi Masters. Rey wasn’t even sure the Jedi were more than legends–and yet she had enough awareness to resist Kylo’s mind-meld, pull a mind-whammy on James Bo–er, I mean, a “stormtrooper,” and wield a lightsaber like a champ. The best explanation I can think of is that somehow the knowledge downloaded into her brain when she touched the lightsaber at Maz’s place, but man, that would really diverge from the rest of the saga.
  • Things I really dug: 1) Finn and Poe’s chemistry; 2) Greg Grunberg is Temmin Wexley from “Star Wars: Aftermath”; 3) BB-8 is great; 4) the battle at Maz’s place was really well-done; 5) Chewy-rage; 6) this moment; 7) the Hux-as-Hitler imagery was a bit heavy-handed, but I still appreciated it.
  • The Big Death: Yes, it was telegraphed. But seriously, there were definitely a couple manly tears shed in my row. And then the roar of rage and grief from Chewy? Ugh. Killer.
  • The Final Duel: Another criticism I’ve heard is how Kylo, the guy who held a laser blast in mid-air by the power of his mind (and seriously, how great was that?), actually lost his duel with Rey. But here’s the thing: Kylo had just killed his dad (emotional turmoil) and had been gut-shot by a BIG NASTY GUN (thanks, Chewy!). At the beginning of the movie, he was in control of his emotions; he was calm, cool, and collected. By the end, he was completely unsteady emotionally, unsure of himself, torn between both sides of the Force, and facing an untrained but obviously Force-adept woman with honed survival instincts. With all that on the table, the fact that they battled to a draw is not THAT surprising.

=====

Okay, I’m going to stop there for now, though I will probably add more observations in the comments.

Your Turn: What do you think? Am I crazy? Did I miss anything cool? Sound off in the comments below! 

 

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3 thoughts on “Some Scattered Thoughts on “The Force Awakens”

  1. I really liked Adam Driver and the Kylo Ren character. I’ve been arguing with anti-vaxxers recently, so I’ve gotten really good at putting the burden of proof back where it should be. To the arguments about the lightsaber fight being unrealistic, what would a lightsaber fight where one person is not trying to kill the other look like, realistically? Because at the end of the fight, we see he’s clearly not trying to kill her. He’s trying to win her over. Would force-holding her accomplish that better? He’s trying to win her respect so she’ll listen to him. What was Kylo Ren supposed to do in that moment, exactly?

    I’m asking them that, not you. 😛

    When I heard this argument (on reddit, I believe), the injuries argument seemed weak in comparison, although I was making that argument at the beginning. But even then I felt it was weak. I think it’s because the scene worked for me and I was having problems verbalizing why.

    True, saying, “You try to make a better movie” is a terrible rebuttal, but this is talking about character motivations, not the movie as a whole, and that’s allowed.

    Kylo Ren having a baby face really worked for me thematically. Another show not tell. He looked too immature to be able to handle such a polar shift. I agree that his opening scene was more like “Kylo Ren when he’s 50 years old” but the guy has to be somewhat competent like that to have gotten where he is, and to have done what he did. I guess my complaint is that his tantrums were perhaps too visible, when they happened, and not that they happened in the first place.

    I agree with everything you said. Rey might have a reason that she Insta-Jedi’d, such as having had her memory of previous training suppressed, but until we see proof of that I think the complaints are fair.

  2. One of my favorite parts is probably what drove a lot of other people nuts–the reveal of Luke Skywalker. Denny Burk rightfully picked up on the significance of Han Solo’s line as featured in the trailer to Rey and Finn: “It’s true; all of it.” In the course of a single generation, what was accepted as history has passed into the realm of legend.
    I thought of some questions that work simultaneously within the world of the movies, within the minds of the filmmakers and fans, and within the larger prevailing culture. Could it be that we have lost something important that our ancestors had? Can what used to be have significance again? Can there be “magic” again?
    The search for–and recovery of–Luke Skywalker seems to answer these questions in the affirmative.

    • This is a great point. It’s easy to miss that, within the world of the movie, the heroes and villains whom we the audience hold so dear are all but forgotten. “The world has moved on,” as Stephen King’s “Gunslinger” would say. And the mundane, ugly, frustrating, dark world that Rey and Finn have been living in once again becomes part of a grander story.

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