Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Post-Viewing Debrief

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens was one of those rare movies that sparked so many thoughts and feelings that I’ve been inspired to write a blog post purely for my own benefit, just to debrief.

Obviously, this post is going to go into full spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to be spoiled, please stop reading now. Go to the cinema immediately – you do NOT want to be spoiled. The film is amazing, and well worth your money to see on the big screen.

I was a little worried at how hard they’re pushing the Star Wars licensing in the lead up to the film’s release – Storm Trooper/Darth Vader shaving kits? Yoda grapes? BB-8 Oranges? Millennium Falcon chopping board? The cynical part of me thought that Disney was trying to get their money’s worth out of the property, even if the film was a steaming pile of garbage. But luckily, that is far from the case.

One of the things I loved so much about this film was that it celebrated all the great things that had come before it in the series, it respected the world and the lore, but it also sought to do brave new things.

This story is really the story of the next generation of Star Wars characters.

The old favourites are mostly all back, and they give an incredible performance every time they’re on screen. Han Solo and Chewbacca are two of the shining stars of the show. I witnessed someone fall in love with Han Solo for the first time. My wife has never really been a huge fan of the Star Wars films, but something about Han won her over this time around.

And I have to admit, I teared up on way too many occasions that honestly didn’t even seem to warrant it.

  • The way Han’s face changed when Finn & Rey mentioned Luke’s name.
  • Han and Leia’s reunion.
  • The final confrontation between Han and Kylo Ren.

It was less about the emotional impact of the moment and more about the emotional ramifications of these characters, who obviously love each other dearly and haven’t seen each other for many, many years.

A lot has changed over 30 years. A new evil has risen from the ruins of the Empire. They call themselves the First Order, and they seem to possess vast wealth and even greater ambition. The Rebellion has become the Resistance, and are the only thing standing between the First Order and the destruction of the New Republic.

firstorder

The snippets of information gleaned from how the First Order operates set it up to be an even more monstrous force than the Empire ever was. Where the Empire wanted to control the galaxy through fear, the First Order exists to destroy anyone or anything that stands in the way of their perfect galaxy. There is no negotiation. You bend to their will, or you cease to exist.

And plus, they don’t just use clones for their Stormtroopers – they fucking steal kids from their parents and put them through conditioning. They take away their names and reduce them to nothing but numbers. That is just fucking barbaric, and leagues worse than what the Empire did with the clones.

I loved that each of the new ‘next generation’ characters represented something iconic and important about the previous trilogy, while bringing a much needed diversity in representation which is noticeably absent in so many blockbuster films.

Let’s start with the darkest of the new generation.

kyloren

Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. I’m so happy that I managed to avoid spoilers for this film – I had NO IDEA who Kylo Ren was, and when I found out that he was indeed Han and Leia’s son, it was truly a gut-punch moment.

I thought that Kylo Ren’s story held a very interesting parallel to Anakin Skywalker’s story. He was seduced to the dark side during his training, and there was much of Anakin’s frustration and anger in him. Even aesthetically, there was a lot of similarities between Revenge of the Sith Anakin and Kylo Ren.

When he threw his tantrums he reminded me a little bit of Bad Cop from The LEGO Movie, and I couldn’t help but have a little chuckle.

I swear in that final heartbreaking confrontation, Han called him Ben. Ben, as in Ben Kenobi. If that’s the case, and Kylo Ren still made the decision to kill his father, then he truly has fallen and betrayed the memory of his namesake. Kylo Ren was an incredibly interesting character, and so interesting to watch. Adam Driver provided such intense physicality and pathos in the role that he truly did make a villain worthy of Darth Vader’s legacy.

I only made one prediction in the lead up to The Force Awakens, and that was that Han Solo would meet his end in the film. I just didn’t think it would be at the hands of his own son.

poe

Poe Dameron, the greatest pilot in the Resistance, was a child of the Rebellion. He’s a great pilot, and looks to be in his late-20s or early-30s, meaning he would have been alive, or born in the celebration of, the Fall of the Empire and the Rise of the New Republic. I don’t have much to say about Poe except that he seems like a rad dude, and has a kick-arse X-Wing.

finn

One of my favourite characters in the film was FN-2187, or Finn. John Boyega’s performance was a joy to watch. He was such an interesting, strange choice for one of the leads. A Stormtrooper as one of the heroes? What the hell? I love what Finn represents as a character – no matter the situation you find yourself in, you have a choice about whether or not you do the right thing. You just need the courage to make the right choice.

While he is not the physical child of anyone from the original trilogy, he was shaped by forces set in motion from the Fall of the Empire. He is a child of the Empire, even though he wasn’t even alive when it fell. He is living proof that there is light within darkness, and even in that which darkness controls, light shines through.

I also loved that through the trailers, Finn was played off as the ‘Jedi’ of the movie. In all the trailers, he held the lightsaber. He faced off against Kylo Ren. He was played up as the hero. But in actuality, the hero was Rey.

rey

Rey represented an interesting parallel. This is only a personal theory – but I’m pretty damn sure that Luke is her father. There were too many similarities between her story and Luke’s for it to be coincidence – abandoned on a desert planet away from her mother and father, when suddenly a droid shows up with a piece of information that needs to get to the Resistance? Luke’s lightsaber just so happens to trigger a flash back/flash forward, and she’s an instinctive adept at using the Force? Yeah.

But then again, those similarities might simply be a feint; a ploy at obscuring her true nature.

I’ve got a couple of theories, and I’m not sure which one I subscribe to most just yet.

  1. Rey is Luke’s daughter.
  2. Rey is Han & Leia’s daughter, and Kylo Ren knew she was his sister from the moment he captured her. This will culminate in a huge battle in movie 2 or 3 when Rey realises Ren killed her father.
  3. Rey is a physical embodiment of the Force, not a child of Luke or Leia. She is the Awakening that the subtitle of the movie refers to, similar to Anakin being an ‘immaculate child’ with no father. Though I doubt Disney would go down that route, as they seem to want to distance themselves from the prequels…

Like I said, I don’t know which of these predictions I put most stock in. I could be wrong on all counts. I honestly hope that Abrams pulls something else out of the hat that no one will see coming.

Rey was my favourite character in the movie. Daisy Ridley brought a very human element to her character, and the film as a whole. She grounded the whole story against the backdrop of Galactic war. I loved that she was capable, intelligent and could hold her own against everything the galaxy threw at her.

I fucking loved BB-8. That cute little bastard is going to be everyone’s favourite robot over the next few years.

On a non-character note, I’m a sucker for spaceship design. The Force Awakens had enough spaceship eye candy to keep me satisfied. The thing I loved about the prequels (yes I think the prequels actually did have some redeeming qualities) was that you could see the evolution of the ships throughout the story.

Just like the prequels, 30 years has wrought some changes in the design of the iconic ships we’ve come to know and love. The X-Wings now have a split engine wing, and the TIE Fighters appear even more rigid and powerful than ever before.

As far as the story goes, I firmly believe that The Force Awakens can hold its own with the original trilogy, and is possibly even a stronger film than one of the originals.

The execution of The Force Awakens hearkened back to Jurassic World from earlier this year, where nostalgia and the celebration of what came before is just as important as moving in a new direction. With Jurassic World you had another huge property that shared a lot of beats with the original film. The Force Awakens contains a lot of moments that are very familiar to the original trilogy, and carefully steers away from all of the less-than-popular elements (ie, the infamous Jar Jar Binks and the Ewoks).

In a masterful display of film-making prowess, Abrams manages to make all of these moments not only fit within the film, but exist as powerful means of weaponised nostalgia for people who’ve been with Star Wars for the last 30 years.

  • The holo-chess game on the Millenium Falcon
  • The desert wastes of Jakku, with Rey speeding along on her Speeder (which was essentially a hovercycle version of Luke’s Landspeeder)
  • Han and Chewie in the classic ‘Han and Chewie’ pose
  • Han fighting his way out of a bad deal between Bounty Hunters, involving crazy monsters
  • A different, yet familiar cantina, complete with cantina band
  • An awesome armoured badass who doesn’t actually do much (Boba Fett & Captain Phasma)

There were many more moments and similarities, but those were some that stood out to me.

hanchewie

When the credits rolled, I was left wanting more, and ready to cough up money for another ticket. What the hell is the deal with Snoke? I wanted to see Rey and Luke’s first interaction. I wanted to know what happened to Luke, and why he decided to secret himself away from the galaxy.

I had a feeling that Abrams and Disney would do a good job with Star Wars. I didn’t expect Disney to make an excellent film that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the original trilogy. It is certainly a contemporary in many aspects, but respects the core elements of the Star Wars franchise and celebrates everything that makes the series great.

Bring on Episode VIII!

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