Film Thoughts: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My theory: after Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, the discussed rebooting it instead of making a sequel. Realising the criticism restarting such a popular IP would get, they instead decided to kind of do both. The Force Awakens functions as both sequel and reboot, able to satisfy both established Star Wars fans while simultaneously appealing to a new audience. The Force Awakens is a new version of a New Hope for the current Young Adult audience. Rey is the new Luke, Poe is Han 2.0. We got a replacement Mos Eisley and another Death Star

I’m interested to discover who Rey is related to. I wish I’d been clever enough to come up with the idea of her being a Kenobi, but I read it online. Makes sense, all that sneaking around on the Death Star 3.0 was prime Alec Guinness

If Rey is a Kenobi and not a ‘walker, does that final scene where she meets Luke deserve all the dramatic weight it’s imbued with? And why does Leia — who’s never met Rey before, as far as we’re aware — make a beeline for her to give her a long hug?

My interest in lineage ended with Rey. I had no interest in Kylo’s family connections. We really had to have the villain have a genetic connection to the heroes? Again? Of course, taking TFA as the reboot, you can see why that’s the case. But that felt like TFA was too eager to ape plot details from the original trilogy.

Sometimes cynicism can work in your favour. As Han tackled Kylo, it seemed unrealistic that the villain would come around so easily. I assumed that JJ Abrams had dropped the ball, that Kylo would repent and I’d roll my eyes. Instead, I dropped my jaw. Because I was all set for an unconvincing reunion, Han’s death came as more of a shock. If I’d had full confidence in the filmmakers I would never have entertained the idea.

Han’s death — I can’t remember the last time I was so stunned by a film moment. Perhaps the reveal in Dead Man’s Shoes, or maybe even as far back as the ending of Seven.

Kylo showing his face was a reminder that new Star Wars is YA Star Wars, as this young-faced, long-haired, emo-type appeared from behind the mask. He became less intimidating at that point, but that actually made sense with the story. When the mask drops, the facade of power and control starts to slip — he can’t use The Force on Rey, she realises he’s scared of her, he makes the mistake of leaving her guarded by a single ‘trooper despite her showing Force potential.

Kylo also looks nothing like his parents. Presumably, he was cast on the basis of his talent, not how much he looks like Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher. I’ll ignore that and choose to believe there’s a twist there — he doesn’t look like them because..he’s the son of Salacious B Crumb.

TFA fits seamlessly into the established Star Wars universe with one exception: Snoke. As soon as he appeared I instantly thought of another trilogy – Lord of the Rings. Snoke’s like a massive Gollum. His sheer size is ridiculous and distracting. But then I thought, if I was commanding people via holographic projection, I’d make myself enormous too.

Speaking of issues of scale, was there any need for the First Order’s new base to be so much bigger than the Death Star? The other ones weren’t large enough? A weapon that can destroy a planet in seconds is sizeable enough for me. Hollywood does too much embiggening.

TFA handles tone well, walking a careful line betwixt drama and humour. Take Kylo lightsabering up the interrogation room, for example. Abrams could’ve cut that short and kept it dramatic. Instead, he lets it go a few more seconds to give it a hint of humour. But if it ran too long it would run into full-on humour, and give an unwanted comic aspect to a serious villain

I must have low standards to modern day sequels/reboots. I applaud TFA for not blatantly recycling dialogue from previous films as an all-too-knowing nod to the past.

Another moment of undeserved cynicism. As Poe flew towards Resistance HQ with Finn in tow, I thought ‘Why doesn’t he suspect Finn is gaming him? He’s taking an enemy straight to the good guys. How naive, this is bad writing’. Then Poe crashed and I remembered screenwriters, even those of Hollywood blockbusters, are smarter than I am

I maintain my cynicism that BB-8 was a Disney creation, created purely to sell a billion toys

In working in an established universe, how much can filmmakers consider the audience’s knowledge? One thing that perseveres from the original trilogy is how bad a shot Stormtroopers are. Would Abrams etc have them be bad marksmen as most fictional henchmen are, or knowingly have them be terrible shots as a reference to their previous poor performance (or knowingly make them crackshots and have someone comment on their improvement)? There were no points during battles where I thought about it either way, so I guess he took the middle ground.

So much in Star Wars is about training, the time it takes to become a Jedi or Jedi master. Yet Rey, with presumably no practice, almost defeats Kylo in a lightsaber duel. Unfortunately, many quibbles in SW films can be explained away with ‘because Force’. I would’ve preferred Kylo to be clearly dominant with swordplay, even if Rey used the Force in some other way to escape

Would it be reading too much into it to ponder the fact that ‘Rey’ is only one letter removed from ‘Ren’ (as in Kylo)? I don’t see that as accidental, but maybe it related to the old storytelling adage of heroes and villains being similar, opposite sides of the same coin. And, yes, I realise Kylo Ren isn’t his birth name (which is Hamish Crumb)

TFA used CGI properly. There was heft, a sense of realness and genuine interaction between people and effects. Not like the prequels. I haven’t read many reviews of TFA, but I assume most say the same. So why am I bothering?

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