Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoiler) review

Warning: This will contain spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Read the non-spoiler review of the movie here.

    Okay, everyone who has seen the movie should read this. Everyone who hasn't, well, you've been warned.

    So, what did I think of the movie?

    Well, I think it was extremely good and I admire a lot of the bold choices it made. Unfortunately, I think it wasn't quite as bold as it could have been. Much of the movie is a rehash of A New Hope with the entirety of the Death Star plot being grafted onto what was already a perfectly serviceable film about finding Luke Skywalker.
I love the bromance between these two.

    The premise of the movie is General Leia Organa Solo (Carrie Fisher) has sent out pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to seek out Luke Skywalker. Along the way, he's captured by new villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Rescued by a defecting Imperial Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega), the pair steal a TIE fighter and crash-land on the planet Jakku with droid B-88.

    Meeting mysterious scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), they need to dodge the dangerous First Order and deliver the map to Luke Skywalker's location back to the Resistance. There's a lot more going on such as the Empire's new superweapon and the return of several old favorites. Explosions happen. A lot of explosions. Lightsabers. Pew-pew!

    Then we discover Kylo Ren is Han Solo and Princess Leia's son.

    Kylo Ren betrayed the Jedi Order and helped Supreme Leader Snoke destroy it. This ends Han Solo and Princess Leia's marriage as well as drives Luke Skywalker into exile, looking for the First Jedi Temple. Then he kills Han Solo. Kylo Ren is defeated by Rey, who is revealed to be force-sensitive. The Resistance also destroys the Empire's new superweapon a.k.a Starkiller Base but not before it blows up the New Republic's capital. The movie ends with Rey meeting with Luke Skywalker and the two sharing a meaningful look.

    The Starkiller Base is a pretty cool concept I really enjoyed with the whole idea of, essentially, building a gigantic gun in the middle of a planet rather than attempting to do a whole space-station. I also like the fact they manage to one-up Grand Moff Tarkin by destroying the New Republic capital. Unfortunately, this last bit is completely underplayed and deserved a lot more attention. I thought Coruscant was destroyed before double-checking and the fact it wasn't is kind of a disappointment.

I still love you Princess Leia! Don't tell my wife!
    The death of Han Solo is something I was expecting going into the movie. Harrison Ford has made no secret of his disdain for the Han Solo character but the fact is he treats the role with every bit of dignity it deserves. Old Solo is more human than Old Indy, more warm, and more dignified in many ways despite the fact he's returned to being a smuggler for lack of anything better to do.

    I don't have a problem with Han Solo dying, really, because I think he died a hero's death. Han attempted to reach his son's humanity and did so knowing it probably wasn't going to work. It's a more noble and honorable death than dying blowing up the latest Death Star substitute. Both Chewbacca and Leia have suffered worse losses with the former being a slave while the latter lost her entire planet (not to mention her son) but I imagine both of them are tormented on the inside.

    The character of Kylo Ren a.k.a Ben Solo is one I've made mention of being one I consider to be thoroughly hateable but I suspect this is something which will divide fans a great deal. There's a sharp divide between the people who think Kylo Ren is going to be redeemed and those who think he's going to die unrepentant in a traitor's death. The fact he's very similar to the character of Darth Caedus (Jacen Solo), who was damned despite a redemptive death, is interesting despite the fact I believe Kasdan when he says it's just a coincidence.

    Personally, I always thought becoming Darth Caedus was the worst thing which ever happened to Jacen Solo and may have been the thing which killed my interest in the Expanded Universe but Kylo Ren is an interesting character. I think it's because he was designed to be a corrupted corrosive figure from the get go. I also like how he's such a complete contrast to Anakin Skywalker.

The Resistance is pretty cool. Albeit, not as cool as the First Order.
    Anakin grew up in slavery, suffered an isolated troubled childhood with the Jedi, was inflicted with a horrible loss an an adult, then sacrificed his soul to save his wife's life only to kill his wife instead (unless you buy that "lost their will to live" junk). Kylo Ren, by contrast, is a figure who had two adoring parents and a privileged upbringing which compels him to try to break out of their shadow by turning against everything they believe in. Anakin lost everything and believed he was beyond redemption. Kylo Ren has everything but chooses to be irredeemable.

    I'm 50-50 on whether or not they're setting up a story of redemption for the entitled little bastard but I'm personally hoping either he dies saving Rey or chooses the Dark Side voluntarily. I don't think I really could be comfortable with Kylo Ren getting away with all of his crimes, especially as he butchers an entire village of pacifists in the beginning. It's not even as if he is motivated by a desire to bring order to the galaxy, he just wants to be cool and evil like his grandpappy: a man who realized he was a pathetic loser on Palpatine's cybernetics table and was tormented every day of his life by self-loathing until his death.

    So what did I think of everything else?

    I think Rey is almost 90% certainly Luke Skywalker's daughter. Forget the physical resemblance, forget the fact she has Luke as well as Anakin's skill set, forget the fact we have Kylo Ren abnormally interested in her, and the fact she's force-sensitive enough to beat a wounded Dark Jedi. No, what really sells me is the fact Rey is a figure who completes the story beats of setting up the dual legacies of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.

    Kylo Ren is trying to fulfill the legacy of his grandfather while Rey is a potential heir to Luke's honorable path. I also think the fact Luke Skywalker lost his child in the massacre of the temple, only for her to return to him as an adult is an excellent source of drama for Episode VIII. The fact Anakin Skywalker and Luke's lightsaber calls to her all but seals the deal for me.

The First Order throws some kickass parades.
    Some people have speculated that Kylo Ren and Rey are siblings but I don't think this is the case. While this would set up a neat Jacen Solo and Jaina Solo dynamic, there's reasons to believe this isn't true. As much as Han Solo is prone to being a scoundrel, he would not react to finding his long lost daughter by inviting him to be part of his crew.

    No, he would HUG HER TO DEATH WITH A WOOKIEE HUG then take her to Leia for more Wookiee hugs. Also, the movie is setting us up for a big confrontation between Rey and Luke Skywalker as the beginning of Episode VIII. We would have had the big emotional beat between Not-Jaina and her parents much earlier. Now we can never have that kind of reaction between Han and Not-Jaina.

    As for the performances of John Boyega and Oscar Isaacs, I have to say both really brought their characters to life and I wouldn't at all be surprised if they along with Daisey Ridley were offered contracts akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to make movies for the foreseeable future. Heck, with the Star Wars Anthology movies, I'm still hoping Ewan McGreggor and Hayden Christensen are willing to do a live action Clone Wars movie.

    Ewan is a great actor and Hayden is a better one than his Anakin performance would have you believe (there's only so much you can do with, "I hate sand" people). I bought all their characters and, even more so, I wanted to spend time with them the way I did with the original power trio of Han, Luke, and Leia.

Star Wars: The Apology, predicted in 2009.
    I really am interested in the First Order and Supreme Leader Snoke, though. While Captain Phasma is more like Boba Fett than people really wanted (i.e. humiliating potential death), I've got to say everyone is awesome in the Empire's successor. I grok their reasons for hating the Republic and pity the fact they're heirs to an Empire which raised them to believe in the New Order despite the fact its founders were craven power-mongers who didn't give a crap about anything they were preaching.

    The First Order is akin to North Korea with better weapons and supply chains, a place where reality and ideology do not have to mix in the slightest. The fact they make use of child-soldiers and have a 30-year-old military commander shows just what a pathetic sham they've built around themselves.

    But who is Snoke? I've heard a lot of theories like he's Darth Plagueis or the Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars: Rebels. My personal theory is I'm hoping he's nothing more or less than an alien from the Unknown Regions who just so happens to be a practitioner of the Dark Side. It's a big universe and while I want Rey to be the daughter of Luke Skywalker, I think we can safely retire the Sith if we have folk like the Knights of Ren to replace them.

A picture of Rey because why not?
    One thing I hope they avoid is turning him into another Sidious as while he should resemble him, Palpatine has four movies building him up as the galaxy's ultimate monster and we really don't need to shoot that high to make Snoke a credible villain. Hell, he's already corrupted Ben Solo, killed the New Jedi Order, destroyed the New Republic's capital, and indirectly led to Han Solo's death--he's paid his dues.

    I would say I'm a little miffed that Han, Leia, and Luke have had such rough lives post-Endor but that's on Kylo Ren. They established thirty years of galactic peace and while things ended poorly between Han and Leia, they show they still loved one another. Indeed, Han Solo died trying to prove how much he loved both his wife as well as wayward son.

    The survivors of the original trilogy are heroes, though, and they'll roll with the punches in future movies. I also think their lives are mostly better off than they were in the Legends continuity. Doubly so if Kylo Ren can be brought back from the Dark Side after something so monstrous.

    In conclusion, I really recommend The Force Awakens and it's opened up a lot of interesting avenues for further works to expound on. I want to know the answers to my questions and that's always good for a franchise as robust as Star Wars.



  1. Nice review thought the hit 5 worlds with one shot was idiotic.
    Think Rey is Ezra's daughter, but keep an open mind of course I'll need to watch it again to double check my hunch she received training from the Kanan school of Cowboy Jedi admittedly she needs to fight with a saber in one hand and a blaster saber in the other for this to be truly confirmed!

    1. Interestingly, I believe Max Von Sydow's character could make a good Kanan. Not that he's necessarily Kanan but the ages are about right, so is the look, and so is the odd familiarity he treats Kylo Ren with (assuming he survives the Purge and joins up with Luke thereafter).

  2. Your review matches my own view of the film, overall pretty good film and great performances from the main three and from Harrison.

    Loved the new droid, the practical effects on it were very well done and it was the best part of the film for me.

    Always thought if one of the original three was to die, it was be Han, since Harrison has wanted the character to die as you mentioned since Jedi. Though I think they should have held it off til the next film so they could flesh out Ren more and what his stuff with Luke was like.

    Since the film drops you in the whole plot without explaining exactly why things are the way they are, nor does it flesh out much of what exactly happened in the time skip. My guess is that they want to mostly leave it to others to do that or to do spin off after spin off of novels, games etc. to cover it.

    Ren reminded me exactly as you said of Jacen Solo, though I do think overall his plot has more potential to it than the whole Jacen thing did.

    As for Rey, yes she does come off a little too talented in places, and the film does feel like at times she can do everything without much effort, but I'm sure they will handle her fine in the coming films.

    I hope she isn't Luke's daughter, it would be a lazy thing to do I feel, plus I really think we don't need anymore skywalker characters dominating star wars stories, there was too much of that in the old EU, same with character modelled after Vader, Han, Bobba, Sideous etc., Disney need to do better with their own EU stuff and allow Star Wars to evolve and not just pander to original fans.

    Which this film does a little too much at times I feel. Yes the prequel wasn't as good as it could be, but really some of these people need to just get over themselves. They aren't owed anything, Star Wars is for everyone not just a few obsessive fans.

    I hope Disney and future film writers take influence from the KOTOR and SWTOR periods more than from other periods of EU history, I felt Bioware and Obsidian got down Star Wars in a way that Lucas never did.

    Overall great film, but played too little safe.

    1. I disagree on Rey being Luke's daughter. Even though it's obvious, doesn't mean it wouldn't be a source of good drama. I mean, Luke spent his entire life longing for his father and now he's unfortunately found himself condemning his own child to that sort of absence--and worse, he didn't even leave her with an Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

    2. Oh there's a great deal of potential in it and it can be pulled of right in the right hands. I just feel more of it would be a disservice to Rey if most of the reasons she is vital to the plot is because she is a skywalker or a Solo.

      I feel her character overall would be better served if her background took a backseat to the decisions she chooses to make in the next two films. For me it's looking to see if Star Wars can avert never a self made woman trope that I feel is still too prevalent in many works of fiction.

      Too often in fiction I feel writers resort to making a special lineage to make their main characters tie into the plot. When they should focus more on the character's decisions and views of the world.

  3. I saw this film with my father, who introduced me to the series, and though I was miffed by some scenes I still felt that overall ot was a GREAT film. My father and I had a blast! My only problems are the slight pacing issues at the beginning. I was thrilled to see so many things from KOTOR that influenced the film from the galactic map to the rather Revan-esque helm of Kylo Ren. My favorite scenes had to be Han's confrontation with Kylo, the lighting is beatiful and acted well, and Kylo's confrontation with Finn his opposite.
    My problems with the movie have to do with how brief they were on the state of the universe. Are the First Order all of the Imperial Remnants? Who was that voice talking to kid Rey during the vision of her on Jakku? Who is Lord Snoke? Plaegius? Overall I think that this movie while great is flawed. Hopefully this will be fixed in the upcoming films. Favorite line? Kylo Ren's "Traitor!!!!!"

    1. Yeah, I think this is definitely a series which seems determined to avoid the Prequels' focus on politics even to its deterrent. After all, in ANH, we got mention of things like dissolving the Senate and maintaining control via regional governors. A few bits of that would have been good, IMHO.

    2. I got the feeling that Huxe was competent. In fact way more so than Ren. Every scene they were in together Huxe seemed to have this 'why am I saddled with this loser look'.

      Hopefully, no more super weapons in the next one.