On “The Force Awakens”

My thoughts on the newest Star Wars movie (with spoilers up the wazoo).
December 29, 2015

STOP READING IMMEDIATELY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

You have been warned…

First of all, I liked it. I really liked it. From the opening sequence through to the end credits (except for one sequence), this movie makes you feel like you’re watching a Star Wars movie…a feeling I haven’t felt since episodes 4 and 5. I teared up halfway through the movie, not because anything sad happened, but because for the first time in more than 30 years I was watching a good Star Wars movie. The acting was great, and the bits of humor weren’t forced. I really hope we get to see more Finn/Poe piloting together because they had great rapport in the escape sequence in the Tie Fighter. I also hope we get to see more of Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums, and Storm Troopers reacting to them.

Now for that one weird scene…after the rebels blow up Starkiller Base, Rey, Chewie, and R2-D2 go to find Luke. Once they land on the planet he’s on, Rey starts to climb up a path that will take her to the top of a small mountainous island. From the start of that climb through to the end, the entire sequence is shot in a style that can best be described as reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies. It doesn’t feel “Star Warsy” at all. It would not surprise me one bit if it comes out that Peter Jackson directed that sequence. That whole sequence feels very tacked on and actually took me out of the movie. Luckily, the iris wipe and the music of the closing credits brought me back, even though it was over.

What would a Star Wars movie be without some plot holes? For example, why is there a need for rebels if the Galactic Empire is on the good side now? I guess you could say that the Galactic Empire is a large bureaucracy and, as such, moves very slowly to respond to change. However, you’d think if an entire planet had been converted into a weapon, even the worst bureaucracy would get the lead out. But solid plot is not what we expected from the Star Wars of old, and they shouldn’t force it in this day and age…it takes up too much time to explain every little detail and it’s not necessary. Additionally, don’t expect subtlety. The only thing missing from the First Order rally was a little mustache on General Hux.

At the same time, what would a Star Wars movie be without tapping into some emotions? To paraphrase Chekhov, if you mention facing your father in the first act, you have to face him, and kill him, in the third. Han’s death did not have a huge emotional impact when it happened, but I assume it will in Episode VIII when Luke learns of it. However, I quite literally got chills when Kylo Ren tried to force-pickup the lightsaber from the snow, but instead it zoomed past him and into the hands of Rey.

What makes The Force Awakens so effective is it’s return to basic story telling and eschewing ancillary details in support of other motives. There are no cute merchandisable characters like Ewoks and Jar-Jar, nor are there sequences that are made to sell video games like pod racing. All there is is a story that gets going quickly, moves deftly, and is a strong homage to the best that Star Wars offered before it. This is why I think it is the third best Star Wars movie, but it many ways, it might actually be the best.

I am thrilled that the force awoke.

Stray observations

  • I wonder if Harrison Ford didn't want to do the movie, but agreed to it only if Han Solo was killed so he didn't have to do any more?
  • Snoke seems to be projected as a rather large, looming, supreme leader. Is he really that large or is he more like the size of Yoda, and the curtain will be pulled back at some point in the future?
  • So it seems that Rey is hinted to be related to Luke, but her accent would make her more likely related to Obi-wan, and her fighting style is reminicent of Emperor Palpatine, right?