Gripes, Likes & Theories: The Force Awakens
My last post was sentimental, so here’s the nitty gritty. SPOILERS FOLLOW. Proceed at your own risk. And for the love of Luke, go see the movie already!
First things first: I am historically an Imperial Apologist and Sith Sympathizer, but I’ll be danged if Rey, Finn and BB-8 (and to a lesser extent Poe) aren’t wooing me over to the good side. Like Kylo Ren, I’m being torn apart, tempted by the light.
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are so darn charming! And BB-8—contrary to my initial thoughts from way back in November 2014 when the very first teaser trailer released—is utterly adorable. I hate that I love them so much.
Oh, and I 100% support the idea of Rey being Luke’s daughter. At this point, I will be terribly disappointed if she isn’t. Luke’s lightsaber (from his father before him) calls to her. She’s a fine pilot with mechanical aptitude. She beckons the saber to her during the snowy duel at Starkiller Base, to the strains of the Luke/Jedi theme music, which made me openly weep. R2-D2 clearly reactivates when she comes on the Resistance base [yes, I know JJ said it was because BB-8 woke him up, but he also said that Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely was not Khan so I don’t believe anything he says that could potentially reveal a spoiler]. And, most importantly, Luke himself gets a little bleary-eyed when he sees her at the end*. Though I do have a love/hate with that ending. I wish the movie was more self-contained rather than a near-literal cliffhanger ending. I do, however, love that we didn’t actually see Luke until the end. So many feels!
*I hypothesize he thought her dead along with his wife and the rest of his Jedi academy. My dearest thinks that Kylo Ren (Rey’s cousin) spared her life and dropped her off on Jakku. I’ll add to his theory and suggest there was probably some sort of Force memory-wipe involved such that she doesn’t remember him.
As for Kylo Ren, I was pleasantly surprised with him. The physical manifestations of his instability with regards to the janky lightsaber and temper tantrums…brilliant! I also love that he’s struggling to fully embrace the Dark Side; it makes him so much more dimensional than your everyday villain. Do wish he would’ve kept his helmet on longer—a big reveal on the bridge with Han would’ve been a nice touch. And holy tauntauns, I want his hair!
Speaking of the son of Solo, I’m curious what you good people think about a particular line when he’s interrogating Rey: “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.” Adam Driver delivers it in a very nuanced, compelling way and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. In fact, I think that entire scene works very well, save for the quasi-rapey “I can take whatever I want” bit.
Apart from Kylo Ren, I was rather disappointed with the First Order. I had HUGE love for Captain Phasma going into this, and I left feeling deflated. I don’t buy that the character would’ve just complied with Finn/Han/Chewie’s demands without putting up a fight [this is the part of the show where people write in the comments about how she had an angry Wookiee with a crossbow staring her down].
They sibling-rivalry dynamic between Hux and Kylo Ren leaves me wanting more information about the structure of the First Order. Did they both join ranks about the same time? It seems, of course, that Supreme Leader Snoke is in the position once occupied by Emperor Palpatine but we know nothing else about him. I side with those who think Supreme Leader Snoke is really Darth Plagueis. In fact, I’ll be rather disappointed if we don’t learn that he cheated death at the hands of Palpatine then pulled all of the subsequent puppet strings.
With regards to storytelling, it didn’t hit all of the beats I expected or hoped. The fact that it parallels Episode IV doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that it feels like the lazy version of it. Whereas plans were carefully stolen—huzzah, Rogue One!—and analyzed to identify the first Death Star’s weakness, Starkiller Base was surveyed for just a couple of minutes and then off they went. It all felt overly contrived. Moreover, the destruction of the Republic planets had no emotional weight, as we knew nothing of them. At least we felt Leia’s emotion when Alderaan bit the dust.
I was also a little bummed that the John Williams score didn’t hold more stirring treasures than it did. Rey’s theme stands apart, as does Kylo Ren’s, but it’s otherwise pretty forgettable. And while I initially hated the song from Maz Kanata’s watering hole (composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda), I was bummed when it didn’t show up on the soundtrack. It has grown on me in ways I would rather pretend didn’t exist.
Maz Kanata herself wins a spot on my “likes” list for the film. During the course of production, we were told only that the lovely Lupita Nyong’o was performing a motion-capture creature; I sensed a disturbance in the force. When rumored concept art surfaced, I was sure it was bad news. When the movie released, it was as if the skies opened and we were granted a gift. Maz is wonderful! She’s one of the better CG characters I can recall seeing, matching up to the likes of Groot or Rocket Raccoon. To top it off, her personality is affable and her wisdom hearkens back to the Yoda of yesteryear rather than the obnoxious prequel Yoda.
Something wholly unrelated that bothered me ever so slightly is Finn’s status within the Stormtrooper ranks. At the beginning of the film, we’re lead to believe the troops on Jakku are an elite squad. Later, however, Finn says that he worked in sanitation and defected on his first mission. Doesn’t add up.
The opening scene between Poe and Max Von Sydow felt like a missed opportunity, too. Title crawl reference an old ally, so I assumed it would be someone we recognized (if only by name). Alas, just a random old guy. Of all places, that felt like a good time to throw in some fan service.
Another missed opportunity…in fact, one that I believe should have been wholly scrapped, was the Han scene with the Guavian Death Squad, Kanjiklub and rathtars. It was so obvious it had been considerably chopped down for time that it should’ve just gone away altogether. It was the one scene where I felt Harrison Ford didn’t deliver, and I can’t say I blame him since it was so silly. The only redeeming moment was Rey closing the bay doors on the monster that held Finn and then her response of “that was lucky” when he told her about the apparent miracle. Okay, the moment where Chewie agreed that Han had let them down on more than one occasion was pretty fun, too.
Chewie was a far better addition to this film than any prior. In fact, this was probably the first time I felt any real affinity for him [ducks to avoid flying bottles and tomatoes]. The “You must be very brave” scene with the Resistance-base medic checking his arm cracked me up. The dejarik/chess game felt a bit forced (ha!), though I did dig Chewie’s reaction to it. I also enjoyed seeing the crossbow get some love. And the way he hugged Leia…awwwww.
Dear, dear Leia. Carrie Fisher is a galactic gem, and I was glad to see her back in the sass. Her role in the film, though, felt like it was written a bit flat. And that “fashionable gas-station attendant” outfit, oy! I wouldn’t trade her for all of the Meryl Streeps in the world, though.
So I guess that kind of sums up my thought process…though there are roughly a billion other opinions and related musings that I haven’t managed to dig out of my brain yet. What say you? Comment below & let’s discuss!