Star Wars The Force Awakens - Thoughts after two viewings

Well I guess that it is safe to talk about spoilers now, seeing as the movie has been out for over 3 weeks, but if you want to avoid these then it is probably best to stop reading now. Just in case I go over something that you don't want to know!

I guess first things first, the storyline is very similar to A New Hope. If there is a bright point to the centre of the universe then our lead character is on the planet that it is furthest from. To make a change our hero is in fact a heroine which seemed to drive a number of keyboard warriors crazy, although I don't know if they were angrier about this or a black stormtrooper. On the topic of stormtroopers it seems that someone has finally taught them how to shoot, that is until it comes to shooting at the heroes.

Anyway back to our heroine, Daisy Ridley does a fine job as Rey and for all the craziness before the release of the movie (Spoiler) it doesn't appear that she is Rey Solo. If she is descended from any Star Wars family of note then I would suggest that it is likely to be that of Luke Skywalker. There are a few reasons for this, firstly each trilogy so far has focused on a Skywalker as the main character (Anakin in the trilogy that must not be named, Luke in the Original Trilogy) so it only makes sense that JJ Abrams would keep this going with the first of the new trilogy.

Secondly, Rey seems to have some sort of link with Luke's original, and Anakin's 234th? (honestly I lost count), lightsaber. In fact when our wannabe villain Kylo Ren tries to take the lightsaber it seems to favour Rey, that or she is more powerful in the force than he is which again would suggest that she is descended from the last Jedi.

Finally, there is the music. When you listen to the music in the background this usually suggests something of the storyline. Leia has her own theme, Luke has his own theme and Rey does as well. Early on the music surrounding Rey is that of her own theme, nothing unusual there. Where it gets interesting is on Starkiller base (seriously that was the best name you could come up with guys?) as there are some key scenes that sees Luke's theme come through. The first point that I can recall this coming up is when Rey takes up the lightsaber in combat. Battling Kylo Ren among the trees of Starkiller base Luke's theme flows through, similarly re-appearing when Rey lets the Force flow through her. It also reappears in the final scenes where Rey finds the galaxy's most popular space hermit, Luke Skywalker himself, as her theme seamlessly flows into his with a lingering focus on her before it switches to Luke.

Of course this could all just be the hopeful thoughts of a Star Wars fan but with all the information available to us at this moment in time it would seem to make sense that she is linked to Luke in some way that is yet to be revealed to us. In fact, there was a deleted scene that sought to explain Luke exiling himself to a forgotten speck in the galaxy because he realised that everyone of Skywalker lineage was susceptible to both the Light and Dark sides of the Force.

This is important as you may notice that when Rey lets the Force flow through her she seems to be powered, somewhat, by her anger towards Kylo Ren. Then, once the fight is finished, she quickly switches back to the caring, Light side as she runs to Finn. Such a powerful Force user walking the tightrope between Light and Dark certainly sounds like the figure Luke feared he himself could become and could lead him to leaving his "daughter" as far from all other force users in the galaxy for fear of what she could become.

The next big newcomer is John Boyega's FN-2187 (Finn). Conditioned since early childhood to become a stormtrooper, this new way of recruiting stormtroopers may explain why the First Order's men in white are somewhat more ruthlessly efficient than their Empire counterparts. But don't fear, our controversial (I honestly don't know what all the fuss is about) black stormtrooper quickly realises that the army he is serving is probably not something he wants to be involved in and makes a break for it, taking my favourite character of the film with him.

John Boyega was brilliant casting for this role, providing the much needed Original Trilogy comedic relief that was so lacking in the prequels (I feel queasy just mentioning them). While Jar Jar Binks was your over the top slapstick comedy, John brought a more human element to the role and I think this just oozes through from his natural personality. Much like the Original Trilogy we are viewing the story from the third person perspective of two characters who are there to relay the story. In The Force Awakens those characters are Finn and BB-8, in the Original Trilogy it is C-3PO and R2-D2. The prequels missed this trick for me as we were left following the main characters around, rather than having that additional perspective and it was these nostalgic touches that I feel will make The Force Awakens, and the two films to follow in this trilogy, more successful than the prequels. At least in the view of the fans.

Also, like the original trilogy, you have the understated comic relief that I previously mentioned. R2 and Goldenrod provided it before and in The Force Awakens you have Finn and BB-8, or Finn and Han or Finn and Poe. It is the sort of human comedy that works so well in the "used" Star Wars universe. You can imagine a young stormtrooper who has found a girl who "looked at him differently" and decides he has to show her, and everyone else, that he is Mr Big Deal. Though when faced with a tough situation he's more than willing to tell people that "hell no" he isn't up to this but he gives it his best shot and somehow comes out on top. Much like R2 and 3PO trying to switch off a trash compactor or blag their way past guards on the Death Star John's character muddles his way through and brings the human element to proceedings.

My favourite character though is Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. The best pilot in the resistance, he carries himself in a way that would remind Han Solo of a younger version of himself. He enters proceedings with a bang but is far too quickly forgotten into the realms of "background character" after the first act. Early on in proceedings (5 minutes in?) you know that this is a proper Star Wars film, and that is down to Poe.

"Do I talk first or you talk first? I talk first?" he taunts the villain of the piece who he has just seen cut down the old man he was sent to meet, the sort of cocky line you would expect from Han Solo but was so evidently missing, or forced, in the prequels. JJ Abrams and Oscar Isaac bring a level of humanity to the character that is so key to the feeling of Star Wars. It's not a used universe that you can feel part of if all of the characters are walking around like NPCs in a Star Wars RPG which is what the prequels felt like.

But after his daring escape with Finn in a TIE Fighter that crashes back on Jakku Poe disappears, and I was so disappointed. I guess that it was required, Finn and Rey need to build their relationship, but I would have loved more Poe on screen. My major hope for the next film is that we will see Poe make major strides as a character, possibly re-igniting his bromance with Finn as both remain at the Resistance base at the end of The Force Awakens.

If we switch over to The Dark Side now, the first thing to say is that Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke is barely seen in this movie, in fact he is not seen at all in person. Snoke takes a page out of The Empire Strikes Back Palpatine manual and has a larger than life hologram version of himself projected into Starkiller base to give orders to our two main villains, the "I'll throw a tantrum any minute now" Kylo Ren and the uptight General Hux who I don't think has had a day of fun in his life. In all honestly I was expecting Toto to turn up and pull back a curtain revealing some Yoda sized character controlling Snoke as he just seemed too Wizard of Oz, "Ren go fetch me that droid and then I will send you back to Kansas", "Hux, kill the Wicked Witch of Alderaan and I will give you a sense of humour".

And General Hux really does need a sense of humour. First off, I think his use of ventral cannons early on may be him compensating for something.

"Sir, they've taken out our turbolasers," oh no Hux thinks to himself, they've emasculated me, what can I do to take my manhood back.

"Fire the ventral cannons," well done Hux, no one here will think you're filled with self doubt after such a commanding line, he thinks to himself, as not a single strand of slicked back ginger hair falls out of place.

The truly great Imperial Officers of the Original Trilogy could be marked out for the understated nature of their performances. Tarkin is a favourite of mine although I don't think there is any actor out there now who could pull off sinister officer in quite the way that Peter Cushing did in A New Hope. Maybe Charles Dance.

Instead we are treated to a character whose life seems to be, to quote Monty Python, a near fanatical devotion to the Pope, sorry Supreme Leader Snoke. But Hux could easily be lifted from the Spanish Inquisition sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Even in his Nuremberg-esque speech I couldn't help but feel he was squeezing his balls extra tight just to get every last drop of intensity into that monologue coming across as more crazy than in control, and would you really have someone crazy in control of a weapon like that if you were this Supreme Leader?

Alongside Hux we have the angsty, no one understands me Kylo Ren. Major spoiler here, he is the son of Han and Leia. Early on he is intimidating, he keeps the mask on, he holds a blaster bolt steady in the air, freezes the shooter in position and casually continues his conversation. This guy looks like the real deal, oozing power and making sure everyone knows who is in charge. But he loses this after we find out about his parentage. Suddenly the movie wants you to feel sorry for him, he's conflicted stuck between the Light and Dark Side, they want you to feel that he has the chance of redemption right up until he drives the lightsaber through your heart.

Instead you get to see him revert back to those awful teenage years that we all go through. Rebelling against his parents, just leave him alone, but he wants to wear the black eyeliner! Then he starts to get all rapey while interrogating Rey, "you know I can take what I want", no we really didn't need to go there. Bad JJ, bad Adam Driver, did no one look back and think "yeah... maybe we can cut that bit out"??

Big, Major Spoiler upcoming! At first I was bothered by Han's death had the hands of his son. It's not how I wanted to see my favourite hero from the Original Trilogy go. I didn't want to see him go at all, but the more I thought about it he went out on a high. Throughout the original trilogy, well the first half of it, you are left thinking Han is only out for himself, but this brings closure to his storyline as he goes out trying to save his son and his... wife? I'm not sure that was ever confirmed, but it is nice to know that Han and Leia continued on for some part of the 30 years following Return of the Jedi.

It also means that the baton can clearly be passed on to the new generation, and I think Harrison Ford himself will be happy about that. This isn't the end of the Han Solo stories for all of the fans out there, we can still find out just what he has been up to for 30 years, we just know where he will ultimately end up.

One thing that did seem out of place with this film, and more in line with the prequels than the Original Trilogy, was the Rathtars. They felt like some sort of homage to the slapstick humour of Jar Jar Binks and left me cringing for the whole time that they were on screen. They served no purpose whatsoever and there must have been a better way to reintroduce Han, Chewie and the Falcon to The Force Awakens. Watching Han try and talk his way out of trouble was great but we didn't need a flailing octopus, Dungeons and Dragons type creature trying to kill everyone on the grimy old freighter.

All in all, The Force Awakens is the return to the Star Wars universe that I believe every Star Wars fan was hoping for. It wasn't perfect but it was such an improvement on the prequels that I think every fan can accept the imperfections. Additionally, it has successfully brought onboard a whole group of new fans who did not have the same connection with the Original Trilogy. There were enough adventure elements to draw in the young fans who have learned to love Star Wars through the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series and it is a film that they can grow up with as much as I grew up with the Original Trilogy.

There was also the excitement and action of the Marvel films to bring in new fans who may have never really been into Star Wars before, and really this is what Disney would have been hoping for. The Force Awakens was a homage to the films that the original fans love, but it had enough new elements to it that it will bring in the new fans that Disney will be after to make back that $4 billion, and then some, they paid George Lucas for the rights to Star Wars.

I really enjoyed the film, putting it up there with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, if not quite on the level of Empire Strikes Back. I hope you did too!


Post a Comment