Alright, I’ve waited long enough. I wanted to share out my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (henceforth known as TFA), as I just completed a second viewing. Before I go to the spoilery review, I’ll give a non-spoilery synopsis: it was really good. I liked it a lot. The Star Wars fan in me, and 12-year-old kid that was in love with the original trilogy, was pleased. They created a film that satisfied fans with light humor that didn’t require fart jokes, darkness that wasn’t over the top or scary, and a solid mix of new characters that reflected traits of the old ones but didn’t have obvious lines drawn.
Let me explain; there was no obvious “new Han Solo” or “new Princess Leia.” The three new main characters, Poe Dameron, Finn, and Rey, all have aspects that could be reflective of each of the original cast members. The film sets the stage for the next two movies well and leaves you smiling and wanting to know how long you have to wait for Episode VIII. Okay, now for the spoilery version.
You should stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled.
Seriously, don’t go any further.
Okay, that’s all you get. I went in with relatively low expectations, thinking that as much as I thought JJ Abrams would do a good job with this, there’s no way he could satisfy every nerd bone in my body with a movie that pandered to the adults with a love for the original trilogy while simultaneously setting up the future of the franchise and, in the meantime, giving us a good movie. I was wrong.
The movie opens like the rest, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The scrolling open informs us that the empire the First Order has evolved under the leadership of Kylo Ren, a mysterious bad-guy that we have little knowledge of yet. The Republic, as seen in the prequels, has been restored after the death of Emperor Palpatine and is helping the Rebellion the Resistance in their fight to track down and destroy the First Order.
As the movie plays out, it somewhat seems as though the Resistance is the one with the upper hand, with a new Republic established and the First Order containing not much else besides a single Star Destroyer. At the very least, the First Order (and especially Ren) seem desperate to find and kill Luke Skywalker, who has mysteriously disappeared. The Resistance is after the same thing, only to bring him home to help kill the bad guys.
The movie unfolds in this manner, introducing us to Dameron, Ren, Finn, BB8, and then Rey. We don’t know a ton about Dameron yet, only that he’s a good pilot and a solid dude. BB8 is his adorable droid, a rollie-ball that beep-boops his way into your heart. He contains a piece of a map that could lead whoever contains the rest right to Luke, so much of the film focuses on the importance of getting the droid to the Rebels Resistance. Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope! This sounds kinda familiar, right?
That’s because it is. Much of the film follows the storyline of Episode IV, which is orchestrated well. It’s kind of nice that it mirrors the original and is done in a way that makes sense. It’s not the exact plot, like a formulaic Hangover 2 that became super predictable because everything was exactly how it was in the first one. There were aspects that were similar, but in many ways it broke away. In other ways, it more closely mirrored Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) and Return of the Jedi (Episode VI).
The prequels were pretty much ignored, and that’s a good thing. The mention of a clone army is the only direct reference I can remember that draws you back to the prequels. That is, except with the main attraction—Kylo Ren. The major spoiler of the movie is that Ren is the spawn of Han Solo and Leia Organa, a Jedi trained by Luke that—with his Skywalker blood—turned to the dark side. We learn a lot about him; he’s a pouty child, he’s immature, he thinks with his emotions, he’s prone to meltdowns, and the mask he’s seen wearing in the trailers is not necessary—he even removes it. Does that sound like a character we can remember?
Check out a side-by-side of that long forgotten Anakin Skywalker and “Kylo Ren,” AKA Ben Solo:
So, apparently being a whiny baby that has to get his way is just a thing about Skywalker men. Ren is working under something named Supreme Leader Snoke, which as far as we know is just a giant hologram at this point. Not much information is given about Snoke, whether it be who he is or where he came from.
Finn, however, is a Stormtrooper with a conscience. He escapes the First Order and meets up with Rey, who at this point has BB8 and the map to Luke. They escape in the Millennium Falcon and then later are captured by Han and Chewbacca, who make their triumphant return. After very little convincing—something that is surprising for Solo’s character—they agree to help get BB8 to the Resistance. This includes a stop to see an old friend of Han, a little tiny ancient alien lady with a crush on Chewie.
Here, Rey finds a box with Anakin Skywalker’s original blue lightsaber in it. The box calls out to her, and when she touches the weapon it creates a flashback in her mind, showing her the destruction of the Jedi by Ren and her future in meeting him. She runs away, terrified by the whole thing. Of course, in true JJ Abrams fashion, he purposely neglects to explain how the lightsaber was recovered. Most will remember that Luke lost it when his hand was cut off at Cloud City in Episode V. But I guess we’ll just have to be happy to use our imaginations.
Anyway, skipping forward we see Han meet back up with Leia, C3PO getting in the way like only he can, and we learn that R2D2 has gone into sleep mode since Luke disappeared. Rey is captured by Ren and he works her over, trying to use the force to read her mind and get the information on the final piece of the map to Luke. At this point, we learn that this untrained girl has power with the force strong enough to ward off Ren’s mind-power, even reading his thoughts (spoiler: he’s a scared baby).
Blah blah blah, Rey escapes, we learn that the First Order has created a massive new Death Star built inside of a planet—how can they possibly have this kind of money, after the first two were destroyed?—that they’ve used to destroy the new Republic. Han, Chewie, and Finn make an attempt to land on the thing to shut down the shields and blow it up, and also make an attempt at bringing Rey back with them. In the course of this, Han sees his son and confronts him in an attempt to bring him home, as well—Leia’s idea, of course.
Han had told Leia that their son was lost forever, but of course she still feels the good in him. So Han walks out onto a bridge over a seemingly bottomless pit without any weapons to talk to his evil, bastard son. Does he tell him he loves him? No. He tells him that Snoke is using him, and that they want him to come home. Ren manipulates his father closer, and just when the pit in your stomach can’t handle it anymore, he does what we all feared from the moment Han shouted his son’s name…the lightsaber turns on, with the red blade going straight through Han’s chest. Thus ends one of the greatest and most beloved characters in cinema history.
I have a lot of problems with this. First, I thought the idea of Ren killing Han was actually fine—but we got little backstory to make the confrontation emotional enough. We know Han because we’ve grown attached to him over the last 38 years and three and ¾ movies. We’ve only known that Ren is actually Ben Solo for about an hour or so, at this point, and we don’t know a whole lot about their falling out. Was Han a bad father? Did Ben feel abandoned? Zero flashbacks, zero discovery.
Han’s death mirrors Obi-Wan’s in Episode IV, as he acted as the guide for Luke and confronted Vader, the pupil that he failed. The difference, however, is that those who were new to Star Wars at the time had only known Obi-Wan for about an hour when he dies. There’s little emotional attachment. Han is beloved, and the way that he dies seems unfitting of his character. No blaze of glory, no “I love you, I know.” Just lightsaber through the chest, and he falls into a pit.
All of the issues with this can likely be directly tied to Harrison Ford, himself. He had wanted to be killed off back in 1983 in Episode VI, but George Lucas wouldn’t allow it. He wanted to distance himself from the Star Wars franchise as his star rose, sending him onto a path that included Indiana Jones and several other memorable films. Ford had stated in interviews in recent years—prior to Disney purchasing the franchise and restarting it—that the only way he’d sign on to do another movie is if Han Solo were to be killed off.
So while killing Han in the upcoming Episode VIII would’ve allowed more backstory and maybe given us a more satisfying end to his character, that probably was never an option. Ford likely wouldn’t have agreed to do two movies, meaning it had to be done in TFA. It’s really too bad, but it’s probably the only major down-side to the whole film. I guess we can’t complain too much?
The movie wraps up at this point, as Rey and Ren battle with lightsabers, she shows off her ability to use the force in a way that no Jedi in the franchise has ever done without having had any training whatsoever, and she beats down her nemesis as the planet begins to erupt. She gets away with an unconscious Finn and a heartbroken Chewie, and we assume that Ren survives and is taken away to Snoke. The planet-blower-upper explodes as everyone escapes and all is well—oh, except that Leia feels pretty bad about the fact that Han is dead because she told him to bring their son back.
At this point, I’m guessing most in the theater are kind of like “Hey, um, we were told Luke Skywalker was in this movie?” R2D2 springs to life, magically, and the final piece of the puzzle is put together. We move forward in time a bit—at least a few days—and Rey sets out in the Falcon with Chewie and R2 to go get Luke. They find him on an island at the original Jedi temple and as he looks upon her with his bushy Jedi bearded face, she reaches out her hand with his lightsaber. Cut to credits.
The ending perfectly sets up where the franchise is going, as we assume that Luke will reluctantly agree to return and train Rey in the ways of the force. Because he’s at this mysterious Jedi temple, I assume he can speak to the Force Ghosts there, which means we could get a return of Yoda or Obi-Wan (in the manner of Ewan McGregor, I’d guess) in Episode VIII. It also could mean the return of Anakin, because who better to advise Luke on dealing with a whiny, goth teenager that’s dealing with conflicted feelings and has been seduced by the dark side?
Don’t laugh and poopoo the idea, there are already rumors that Hayden Christensen has been approached about a role in the movie, with some sites claiming it’s been confirmed. Fans have complained about this guy for so long, can nothing convince the people running this franchise that bringing him back around is the quickest way to destroy a movie? How could they possibly have been convinced that bringing him back is a good idea?!
If he’s back as a Force Ghost that talks to Luke in what would likely be just a cameo, that’s probably not so bad. I like the idea, anyway, of Luke being able to speak to his father for guidance. Any fan of the original trilogy would likely agree with that sentiment, having seen the end of Episode VI and how Luke claims he wouldn’t leave his father. So long as Christensen isn’t allowed to ruin the movie with his trademarked wooden acting, it should be fine. If he’s coming back in a major role as Darth Vader, well, then may the Force be with us.
All in all, I loved the movie enough to be felt compelled to write over 2,000 words about it on a blog that no one will read. I’m excited that my favorite story has been revived for a second time—and that this time it doesn’t suck! These new characters are definitely worth following, wherever they may lead the Resistance and the Disney-run film franchise.