The Force Awakens Revisited

A few weeks back, I wrote a non-spoilery review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. And I think I did a pretty good job of keeping my spoiler-filled thoughts to myself.

But the gloves are coming off now, baby! Everyone has had about two weeks to go see it. Those who care about things like spoilers will have seen it already. They may have even seen it a few times. Personally, I saw it for a third time yesterday afternoon with my older son. But just in case anyone is unclear about what’s going to happen here:

spoiler warning

Welcome to 2016, Spoilersaurus.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s talk about some random, spoiler-y thoughts that I have about The Force Awakens.

For the record, this movie has grown on me a little since I first saw it opening night. I mean, I had fun the first time I saw it. Maybe I was just being a Star Wars curmudgeon, but parts of it just didn’t sit right with me. Since then, some of my gripes have been sort of resolved, but I still have some nitpicky thoughts, some good, some bad:

The Force doesn’t just awaken, it echoes

To put it bluntly, if you’ve seen the original Star Wars, you’ve seen this movie too. A droid carrying important information that the plucky rebels desperately need? Said droid getting lost on a desert planet thanks to an opening raid by stormtroopers? An even pluckier orphan type who longs for greater adventure on said desert planet as well, brought together by some sort of smallish junk dealer? A big planet-killing weapon? A mentor-figure who dies, thus inspiring the plucky orphan type? A bunch of X-Wings flying down yet another trench to blow up the planet-killing weapon?

I don’t think this would have bugged me so much if J. J. Abrams didn’t have a habit of retreading movies that should be rebooted. Think of the whole Star Trek Into Darkness debacle, where he took an arguably better movie and tried to rip the best parts out of it. And now he did it again with a different franchise. If you’re going to tell new stories in a franchise, then you should maybe tell new stories? Don’t rehash what’s already been done. Come up with some new stuff.

Now allow me to contradict myself.

The EU may be gone, but it echoes still

I half-way lamented the demise of the Star Wars Extended Universe back when Disney wiped the slate clean, but it was interesting how many times I caught echoes of the old EU in this movie. The biggest is the fact that Kylo Ren turned out to be Han and Leia’s son. I immediately thought of Jacen Solo, and how he wound up becoming the latest Darth in the family. And of course, that evoked memories of Jaina as well, especially when the two clashed at the end of the movie. I know some people think that Rey is another Solo, but I have my doubts. Why wouldn’t Han or Leia say something to her at some point?

Luke’s lightsaber turning up? Shades of the old Thrawn trilogy!

And then there’s Starkiller Base itself. When they revealed that it powers itself by draining a star, I immediately thought of the Star Forge from Knights of the Old Republic. But it did raise a question for me: if Starkiller Base needs to drain a sun dry every time it fires, do they need to move the entire planet to a new solar system? How do they do that?

The Force swerved me

I have to give mad props to J. J. Abrams for keeping the story so tightly under wraps. I really didn’t know what to expect when I went into the movie the first time. What made things even better was the fact that the advance promotional material completely threw me off track. I fully expected Finn to turn out to be the Jedi. He was the only one depicted as holding Luke’s lightsaber, after all. And in the first trailers, the whole “awakening” thing was tied to Finn popping up from the desert sand. When I realized that Rey was actually the fledgling Jedi, I wanted to applaud loudly. Well done.

Sort of.

Why did Luke need to train with Yoda at all?

This is one that really, really bothers me. Look, I get that Rey has tremendous Force potential. And yes, she clearly knows how to fight with a quarterstaff when she takes out the junk dealer’s goons. But she seems to figure out way too many Jedi things way too quickly and way too easily.

The most annoying for me was the whole “You will loosen these restraints and then leave the room with the door open” business. How did she know how to do a Jedi mind trick? Had she heard stories about what the Jedi could do and decided to try it? How did she become such a phenomenal fighter that she could take out the dude who killed all of Luke’s students? Yes, I know, Kylo Ren took a bowcaster bolt to the side, so you could argue that he was weakened, but still.

Now I’ve seen some people theorizing that Rey must have had some Jedi training that she forgot. I’d be okay with that, if they would have explicated that somehow. I would have been even more satisfied if, during his interrogation of Rey, Kylo Ren said something like, “What’s this mental block doing here? Let’s see what’s behind it, shall we?” And then all of a sudden, Rey is able to tap into the Force again and remember how to do the stuff she was learning before whoever it was dumped her on Jakku.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Daisy Ridley’s performance and I can’t wait to see what kind of a Jedi Rey becomes. But it was too much too fast in this nerd’s not-so-humble opinion.

The shrinking of Kylo Ren

Kylo Ren started out so awesome, you guys! When he caught Poe Dameron’s laser blast and froze it in the air like that? I gasped. I really did. I was ready for this guy to turn out to be second only to Darth Vader.

And then he seemed to shrink before my very eyes. I think it started the moment he unmasked. For some reason, he seemed to get weaker and weaker as the movie progressed, almost to the point where the final fight between Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren seemed almost anticlimactic.

Now JR Foresteros over at Norville Rogers has suggested that it’s possible that this new trilogy will be all about the redemption of Ben Solo. And I’d be good with that. But for this redemption story to be truly powerful, Kylo has to really plumb the depths in the next movie. I don’t know what kind of training Supreme Leader Snoke (horrible name!) has in store for him, but I hope that when we see Kylo Ren next time, he’s a force to be reckoned with (pun totally intended). And bring back these mysterious Knights of Ren people too!

The political puzzle

I think I have a better handle on it now, but I thought it was really weird the way the Republic, the Resistance, and the First Order fit together. The first time I saw this, I missed the mention of the Republic in the opening crawl, so I was really confused when General Hux started ranting about the New Republic and how it had to be destroyed. My immediate reaction was, “Why?” There’s no mention of the Republic before his big speech, and so I didn’t know why it was an issue.

I think I get it now: the New Republic and First Order are two separate governments that enjoyed an uneasy peace, especially since Leia’s Resistance was striking at the First Order. But that could have been a little clearer.

Convenient solutions

There were a few times where things were just a little too convenient for me. The big one is R2D2 waking up at the end of the movie for no apparent reason. I’ve heard it suggested that it’s because BB8 said something to him about the map, but are you telling me that nobody asked R2 if he had the map until then? It’s almost a deus ex machina that R2 woke up so suddenly when the time came for Rey to find Luke.

Oh, and how did Kylo Ren get the Maz’s castle so quickly? He was on the bridge of his Star Destroyer when the Starkiller base destroyed the Republic and then, suddenly, he’s right there with the raid on Maz’s bar. Seemed to happen too quickly.

I think that’s about it, really. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the movie. I’m ready and waiting for the next one to come out. And it’s even inspired me a little. More on that in a future post. But I figured I had to get some of this stuff off my chest. It was bugging me too much.

Author @JohnWOtte shares some thoughts on the new Star Wars movie. Spoilers ahoy! Click To Tweet

One Comment:

  1. I thought the R2D2 thing was odd as well, until I remembered the brief vision scene of Luke (?) touching R2D2 on his dome, possibly giving instructions.

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