So I’ve seen The Force Awakens three times this weekend (Thursday, Friday, Sunday). I loved it. Here’s my full download (full spoilers).
The plot here was pretty simplistic which I think is ok. The original trilogy was also very simplistic (and repetitive) stories.
I also appreciated the perspective of the characters of this film. We also see Han Solo as this great smuggler, but, in reality, he’s not. We see the Rebellion as being organized with lots of resources, but The Resistance is pretty underground.
What I could have used a bit more of was the back story on The Republic and The First Order. How big is The Republic? How big is The First Order? How much space do they each control?
Rey is a revelation and Daisy Ridley did a fantastic job.
I have a lot to say about Rey – more than here. But we get so much heart from her. She’s powerful. She’s independent. She’s vulnerable.
Rey is the emotional core of this film. There are so many things – big and small – that Finn gives in this film that makes this film great. Him pleading with BB-8 to not blow the lie that he’s with the Resistance. It was non-stop.
At the same time, he’s both vulnerable (“I was ashamed of who I was”) and strong (he walked across a desert with no water). He’s snarky (“I’m in charge now Phasma”) and loyal (“come take it!”). I loved his character and I have a lot more to say about him in the coming weeks.
Adam Driver did a fantastic job in this film. We actually didn’t get much emotional arc from Darth Vader in the first film (only a tad w/ his interactions with Obiwan). But we get a lot of characterization of Kylo Ren. We get to see his facial expressions, his temper tantrums, and his internal monologue (scene talking to Vader’s mask). We know so much more about his character and his inner desire to be evil than we did with Vader or Anakin in Episodes II and III. We also get a better sense of his power as well (freezing a blaster for example).
There are a lot of context given around Ren’s downfall. We see his internal conflict. We see his temper tantrums. We see his conceit. But we also see his fragility.
I have more to say about him and will post more on this blog.
On-screen, Snoke was amazing, even if a bit too Lord of the Rings-y. His appearance is also consistent with that of a Muun – Darth Plagueis’ species. So there’s still some validity that Snoke is Plagueis.
It’s also not clear how powerful he is. He talks tough, but he that holigram seems a bit of a fabrication (much like the holigram of the Emperer in Empire). But we don’t know anything about him or if he’s someone who is actually powerful or is merely a farce.
Snoke is also a fascinating character and I want to see a lot of more of the back story on him.
Certainly not enough Luke in this. His facial expressions are a bit confusing and raise questions about what has happened to him. We only get a few tidbits on what happened to him and Kylo Ren. (We also don’t know what The Knights of Ren are or anything).
I need more.
I didn’t think there’s too much nostalgia in this. The nostalgia points were very relevant to the story. The gas masks on the Falcon had a distinct purpose. The probe that Luke and Obiwan were using in ANH… it was in the way (not sure why it wasn’t sold for scrap though). The gun turret was a critical part.
The only thing I didn’t like was that Han and Leia were kind of dragging down the film.
What was best was the interaction between Rey and Finn when Rey is trying to fix the ship. “The one I’m pointing to”. Very reminiscent of Han fixing the Falcon during Empire.
As much as there are clear call-backs, they’re not literal call-backs. They’re familiar, but they’re still new and sufficiently different.
One of the cornerstones of the Star Wars films – even the Prequels – is the music. For me, the emotional weight of these films is really carried by the score. It seems like this film is a rare one for Star Wars where the emotion is carried by the acting / on screen actions. The score falls flat in a lot of areas: The chase scene with the Falcon on Jakku, The Lightsaber fight between Kylo Ren and Rey, and the confrontation of Han Solo with Kylo Ren. These particularly could have been amped up by the score.
If they were going to do a George Lucas on this for the BlueRay release, I’d suggest re-scoring / re-editing the score.
The best part of the Original Trilogy (and lacking in The Prequels) is that the stories raise a lot of questions. TFA does that for me too. How did the Resistance and First Order emerge? Are The First Order and The Republic sharing the galaxy? What were the planets that were blown up and why were they important (we know why Alderaan was destroyed)? Why was Starkiller base created to begin with (we knew why the Death Star was built)? Who are the Knights of Ren – are they new or old? How did Kylo Ren go bad? Did any of Luke’s trainees live? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke and how is he a dark force user? Is he a Sith? Is he Darth Plagueis (this is my going theory as Snoke is consistent with the Legends description of him so far)?
I could go on and on. And I hope they go on and on as well.
Some Quick thoughts
I didn’t like that it seemed like everyone – especially smugglers – had their own personal link to the First Order and are ready to rat someone out at a moment’s notice. Usually those folks don’t want to direct attention to themselves if they’re doing underhanded things. This didn’t reconcile for me. I would have preferred a call back to the Garindan from A New Hope.
General Hux is pretty bad-ass. He’s rumored to be related to Tarkin. He can channel 3rd reich rhetoric very easily. He’s also clearly manipulative and holds equal weight with Supreme Leader Snoke.
I didn’t like that Rey could use the force in ways that seem like they need to be taught. It’s not that she’s doing them, but that she’s doing things that seem like someone would have to teach them to her. This could also be a clue to her past as well. It still seemed out of place though.
So… did Captain Phasma die or what? I didn’t like that she complied so easily to Finn/Han/Chewie’s threats of violence. The downside of compliance is the planet is destroyed and the alternative is getting shot by Chewie, then why comply? I guess the probability of the Resistance’s success is lower than the probability than dying from Chewie’s bowcaster. Really thought she was underutilized though.
So who was the guy at the beginning of the film and how did he get that piece of the map for Luke Skywalker. Was he on Jakku to look after Rey as a favor to her parents (Luke? Kenobi?) just as Ben Kenobi did for Luke? Did Luke tell him where he was on purpose?
One of the elements of the Empire Strikes Back Special Edition the addition of the shuttle going from Bespin onto the Executor. This film, ironically, needed a scene like that to see that Phasma, Hux, and Kylo Ren made it out.
Things I didn’t like:
The last shot – circling around the island – felt too much like Lord of the Rings. It really wasn’t star-warsy where there’s usually a group shot. I also just didn’t like how Luke was introduced. When we first see Yoda or Obiwan, they were much more personable. They were both
I didn’t really have any context on why I should feel one way or the other about the destruction of the Republic planets. How important was this event? What are the repercussions?
The editing left out a lot of things that would have been important to the story – how did Chewie get out after he blew the Oscillator? Phasma, Hux, Kylo Ren? How did Kylo get out to the forest so quickly? There’s just some continuity issues.
The score was kind of a disappointment. It was missing in much of the film (surprisingly) and wasn’t an emotional cue into the overall film (much of the old score elements were used throughout). Rey’s theme was good, but not all that memorable. The First Order didn’t have a theme that’s as memorable as the Imperial March. I would have been happy just to get a remix. It just felt like the music you would get with Star Trek or another epic film. It was just missing. Maybe I need to live with it a bit. I hope.