There will be a LOT of spoilers including one or two theories here.
First, to reiterate what I said before in the spoiler-free pre-review post, I didn’t walk in expecting my Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas already made that in the 70s and 80s. It influenced me, it shaped me and it still binds the galaxy together. We’re here to talk about the start of trilogy for the new generation, for the new times. I don’t need someone to remake my Star Wars. Heck, even the same person that made the original A New Hope directed the start of a new prequel trilogy with a complete different feel to it. Even George Lucas has changed direction.
I’ve always found Hope, Empire and Jedi as a set of more elegant movies, but they were made for a different time. They were made for “a generation that grew up without fairy tales.”
Perhaps that is the reason why The Force Awakens tackles a very similar material, with a different execution. There’s a lot – some will say too many – of plot points that seem a little too familiar. A fugitive droid with critical information. A superweapon capable of destroying planets. A desperate plan to attack said superweapon before it destroys the rebel base. As everything was laid out for the audience to absorb, I couldn’t help having a bad feeling about this. But as it turns out, the execution was good – not flawless, but as decent this movie is… And this is the bit where me watching the next two comes in… It ends up more flawed because of the outcome.
You couldn’t make a movie without passing the torch. You needed the stars from the original cast involved. How much should they be involved and how much homage to pay the originals was a question that only J. J. Abrams could answer. If you think that he erred way too much on playing it safe, I have to bring up Solo. It was heartbreaking to see his final scene. It drew parallels to Sir Alec Guinness’ experience playing Ben Kenobi. I feel Harrison Ford might have asked for it. However, as much as we get to see old faces, the new faces is where the movie shines with its own light. Or tries to.
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is the Resistance’s shining X-Wing pilot. He seems to have the experience of Wedge Antilles mixed in with the cockyness of Han Solo. He gets captured by Kylo Ren and his first words are: “Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?”. I feel like his story should begin earlier. I also would’ve liked a simpler plot for BB-8. Instead of the scavenger map to Luke Skywalker, BB-8 could just have been looking for help so somebody would rescue his master. The First Order could have just looked for the droid so that the Resistance didn’t learn of Kylo Ren being there. Poe is still the epitome of cool and BB-8 was a delightfully cheerful droid.
There’s a brand new story idea to introduce Finn (John Boyega). I do love the idea of a Stormtrooper going rogue, but why not go deeper? I would keep Finn inside the First Order a lot longer. You could start the movie a lot earlier while he was still very content with his role, slowly show him having doubts until he finally decides to defect. I think that could’ve given us a lot more of an original, previously unused point-of-view character development that would’ve made for a richer film. It’s a bit of an opportunity wasted to be honest. I get we want him to be a hero from the start, but it would’ve make him a stronger character. Finn also has some of the most jarring lines of dialog. He is an interesting character, but he could’ve been so much more.
On the other hand, I have no qualms or complaints about Rey (Daisy Ridley). She’s a strong female character with human flaws. Contrary to what others have criticized, she’s not flawless. Watch her trying to get the Millenium Falcon off the ground. After having a vision from touching a lightsaber, she doesn’t feel ready and wants to run away. Granted, it’s a bit of a tall order to take on Kylo Ren, who’s apparently had some training, and win. That being said, it’s not like she fired two proton torpedoes without a navigation computer and hit an exhaust port of an imperial battle station. Let’s call it Padawan’s luck.
So that brings us to Kylo Ren. It’s quite a good character. He can be cold and calculating but his temper does get the better of him. Not quite Vader material yet. Have you noticed something about him on that poster? How his pose and Rey’s pose mirror each other? This might not be a spoiler unless it’s true by the sequel or the last movie but… Are they related? Rey is missing her last name. Kylo Ren was already revealed as Ben Solo. Are Kylo and Rey long lost twins? Would sound cruel for Han or Leia to never say anything. Then again, that’s almost a trend in this galaxy.
Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Him and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) boarding the Falcon was a dream scene. You can’t help but be moved. At the same time, I can’t quite picture him not finding his beloved freighter for an extended period of time. That whole scene where he has swindled two factions and the ball monster become loose felt a bit on the cheap side, but it’s still Han. And he still has a bad feeling about things. His chemistry with Leia is still latent. His swan song left the entire audience breathless. Joonas Suotamo played Chewie in the action scenes.
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Yes, none of this royalty thing. I am not sure why we switched names from the Rebellion to the Resistance. I hope it’s something we can resolve in the next film. She’s running the show. I do feel she should’ve gotten to pick a lightsaber and become a Jedi herself. Perhaps we can keep that in? And make up a better ship for her to travel. Even the old Corellian Corvette Blockade Runner would’ve been more elegant.
As for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), we only get to see him briefly. I still don’t buy the whole map-to-find-me hologram that was so important to find. Plus, R2-D2 being on sleep mode the entire movie to conveniently turn itself on triggered by… By nothing. R2-D2 suddenly boots up to reveal the other part of the map at the end of the movie because reasons. Unless you’re going to retcon this plot point by saying Luke did it telepathically, the droid magically decides it’s time for the reveal.
Lightly recommended with a lot of reservations. Oh yes, we’re nitpicking because we love. The Force Awakens is not going to be my childhood fairy tale the way that the original trilogy was. I think I’ve explained that already. However, it could become that for the next generation of fans. And it is a good movie to go watch in the theater, even with IMAX and 3D if you’re so keen. Personally, I already envisioned my own version of the final trilogy a long, long time ago.
- Maz Kanata, the Yoda-like glass-wearing underground crime boss was voiced by Lupita Nyong’o. Voiced. I would have loved to actually see the actress in this role. According to her Buzzfeed News interview, Miss Nyong’o wanted a role where her appearance was not a factor. I think it would’ve been more of an impact to see her act with her own appearance rather than a CGI character.
- John Boyega, the actor that plays Finn, has some really awkward lines. “Do you have a boyfriend? A cute boyfriend?” he asks Rey while she’s fixing the Falcon. This teenage level of interaction can be attributed to his restrained life in the Stormtrooper corps, but it’s still jarring to hear.
- The First Order. Really, I expect them to switch to full Imperial mode by the next film. Incidentally, the Empire declared A New Order back during A New Hope. It’s in the scrawling text at the beginning if you want to check. The Resistance can just be the Rebel Alliance. It’s just my opinion, but we don’t need to reinvent everything.
- Supreme Leader Snoke is not a Sith. Actually, the Sith are absent. Kylo Ren supposedly received training by the Knights of Ren. I understand we’re trying to do our own thing, but the enemies of the Jedi are the Sith in my book. I don’t think that should change, but that could be just my old school Jedi mind playing tricks on me. Also, not really crazy about Snoke. Then again, too early to say. Perhaps a connection to the Sith will be revealed by the next movie.
- The ships are the same. Yes, I loved seeing the Millenium Falcon, the X-Wing and the TIE Fighters. However, no Interceptor version? No TIE Bomber? Kylo Ren’s command shuttle doesn’t really hold a candle to the Lambda-class Imperial Shuttle from Return of the Jedi. The Resurgent-class Star Destroyer Finalizer that belongs to the First Order has even lost the prominent iconic bridge on top (it’s been flattened down). My apologies, I played the X-Wing Fighter and TIE Fighter PC games one too many times back in the day. EVERYONE has designed cooler ships for Star Wars. Literally google and you’ll find better designs. General Organa’s shuttle literally looked like a flying couch.
- I loved BB-8. It has a cute personality all of its own. That being said, I missed R2-D2 and C-3PO being involved.
- Let’s try for something that doesn’t look like Death-Star-esque as the main threat for the next film.
- Kylo Ren stops a blast of energy in mid-air. I know what you’re going to say. The Force = magic, right? Sorry, it just didn’t fit in my idea of what you can do as a Force user. And yes, I do remember Luke guided photon torpedoes into an exhaust port once, but photon torpedoes are actually physical proyectiles with guiding systems, not blasts of energy.
- I’ll always have a soft spot for the Expanded Universe novels, although now they’re decidedly not canon.
- It’s not going to take the spot of the movie of my generation, that’s already taken. It was never meant to. It was meant to be a passing of the baton, a nostalgic look to the past while looking into the future. Of course that balance was precarious. But overall, it was made to look forward to the next movies rather than reminisce about the past. I wished we’d gotten more details on everyone. Rey’s past is going to be further revealed. I think there was room for more development on Finn and Poe. We’ll get that, but there were aspects of their past that might have been interesting to explore.
That will do for now.