Sunday, 3 January 2016

Twenty things that I took away from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Probably a bit late to the party (late enough that significant spoilers were coming up in my Facebook feed in a highly visible, everyone is already aware of this kind of way), here's a quick take of my thoughts on Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.


I imagine almost everything here has been said elsewhere. Oh well...
  1. It is very much a re-hash of A New Hope - just touching on some of the more obvious notes hit in both films, you've got a droid with vital information for the resistance against a tyrannical regime which is discovered by an orphan on a desert planet with latent skills in the Force. They escape on the Millennium Falcon with the droid. The regime destroys their home, pretty much killing everyone they know. The brutal regime is building a huge spherical superweapon, capable of destroying planets, which is later brought down by a small team of pilots exploiting a known vulnerability. The protagonist's mentor is killed by the primary antagonist (who is subservient to a shadowy figure, also expert in the dark side).  I'm sure people more attuned to the Star Wars universe could name plenty more.
  2. Beyond that there are a number of throwbacks to the original trilogy, such as the rescue by someone in a Storm Trooper's outfit, and the inclusion of characters like Admiral Ackbar. On the whole, these didn’t feel as forced as similar instances in the prequel trilogy (when Yoda met Chewie?). I expect this will have helped gain a lot of good will for the sequels, and will help with acceptance of the film once the hype has died away amongst the fanboy and fangirls.
  3. Part of me wonders how much the talk (before the films were released) around "where's Luke?" was organic, or how much of it was used as a marketing campaign (or tease?) by JJ Abrams.
  4. I liked the character of Rey – you could relate to her motivation and struggles, similar to that of Luke in the original trilogy. That she was able to master the force, and fly the Millennium Falcon with no training or experience (apparently…) did stretch the credibility somewhat. Negative points though for her general exclusion from the original batch of merchandising.
  5. The character of Kylo Ren seems to greatly take after his grand-father… he’s a whiny, jealous, unpredictable brat similar to Anikin Skywalker. Some of this is played well for lighter moments (such as the storm troopers backing away while he’s having a tantrum). Sure he may have killed a beloved character, but I don’t feel the overwhelming sense of menace about him yet. I suspect this is a deliberate choice on the part of the film makers though.
  6. The big spoiler that I had seen on Facebook was of Han’s death (and Chewie, at least, surviving). Even if I hadn’t seen that, the echoes back to A New Hope weren’t subtle about that eventuality.
  7. Finn’s motivations largely are unclear (aside from the lusting for Rey). But he does serve as an interesting example of how the First Order members are “recruited”. And raises the morality of killing a bunch of them on the Starkiller. These weren’t contractors who knew the risks involved after all.
  8. One of the things The Force Awakens did right was develop the friendship/rapport between Finn and Rey – this was much more akin to Luke, Leia and Han rather than Obi Wan and Anikin.
  9. So, Poe abandons his mission to recover the map (and his droid) because he wakes up and can’t find Finn, assuming that the Storm Trooper who rescued him will finish the job? I guess at least they knew it wasn’t in the hands of the First Order, but it very much was a case of waiting for them to come to him, rather than being proactive.
  10. One of the things that was missing was the background around the new enemy… who are the First Order, how did they arise; how was Kylo Ren tempted to the dark side? Similarly, how (and why) did Lor San Tekka know Luke’s location? Typical Abrams pilot really, where there’s some good concepts, but a lack of information about some of the crucial ingredients. More $$ for the upcoming sequels I guess.
  11. Compared to the prequels things don’t feel so staged/constrained – a lack of repetitive scenes of people sitting and talking, or walking a short distance and talking. Chalk this one up as a tick.
  12. Anyone criticising Carrie Fisher for not being twenty still really needs to get a grip on reality.
  13. Chewie just walking past Leia after returning to the resistance base… is he still bitter about not getting a medal? I’m guessing something was edited out there…
  14. With the speech being given around destroying the Republic and the chaos, part of me was wondering whether any of the First Order were having their own “are we the baddies?” moment. After all – they’d established that some of them break their programming and are capable of independent thought.

    However, they’re still not fully aware independent contractors who should be evaluating the risks.
  15. The ground breaking apart during the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren really screamed, “we need a way to have this end without them both being killed”.
  16. The map to Luke Skywalker’s last known location wasn't a bad Macguffin in and of itself; but that map segment fitting in so neatly with R2D2 felt too convenient. This will probably be explored later, with Luke or someone else having deleted that part of the map from R2D2’s memory, but for the moment, it felt more about giving an established character an important moment.
  17. Maybe I have low expectations, but I was actually somewhat surprised that Supreme Leader Snoke didn’t demand the execution of Hux or Kylo Ren for their failures. Maybe he knows the value of a good trusted lieutenant.
  18. I also kind of liked the rivalry going on there between Hux and Kylo Ren. Much potential there for the future sequels.
  19. The Critics Choice Awards should not have retrospectively added The Force Awakens to the best picture nominations. If it hadn’t been seen at the time of nominations, so be it. If they really wanted to include a Disney film in the list, it should have been Pixar’s Inside Out.
  20. As it currently stands, The Force Awakens is on 94% at Rottentomatoes - the same as A New Hope and Empire Strokes Back (and substantially more than the 80% positive rating for Return of the Jedi). On initial reaction this doesn't sit right. It's a well enough made film, but draws too heavily from Episode 4 (and to a degree 5). It likely won't age as badly as Episode 1, so there's that in it's favour. But it's more of an (entertaining enough) event film, rather than it is a ground-breaking film landmark.

1 comment:

  1. Well once again I just stand back in wonder at how your mind works. 13 did not escape me but 9, while in hindsight is so obvious, just did not occur to me. So happy you're doing a blog so I can get these insights.
    I don't like the idea of the Critic's Choice Awards bending rules to get a blockbuster in, it sets a bad precedent.
    I think it's a good thing Rian Johnson is most responsible for picking up the pieces in the next one rather than Executive Producer J.J. Abrahams.
    I have thought about 6 too myself.
    I'm sorry the plot got spoiled for you. You could hear a pin drop the first couple of times I saw that scene in the cinemas although rumours have been swirling for a while.
    I noticed Rey wasn't in the Millenium Falcon toy set for Christmas and knew that would cause a reaction. Toys are notorious for giving away spoilers for films my guess is they avoided putting Rey in the Falcon with a lightsabre where as Finn didn't have his own vehicle but Rey could be sold with the Paddlepop vehicle. The bigger question you have to ask yourself is where the fuck is Han Solo and why isn't he on the Falcon!!! How's that old white man privilege working out for you Han? I've heard that certain toys get produced in low numbers to increase demand which would explain why I could never find Yoda after he kicked ass in Attack of the Clones. That being said I don't understand why Solo and Rey were hard to find in separate packages. More importantly given what a wonderful moment it would've been for little girls to watch a genre family film and see a kick-ass female at the centre of the story it seems extremely stupid to not have a high supply of Rey figurines for parents to buy their kids during Christmas without having to get a Paddlepop vehicle. Not everybody can afford that and it seems like the toy company is being at once greedy and also secondly eager to not make it easy to take your money.
    Given the disaster of Black Widow not being included in the box set for the Avengers earlier this year it feels like Disney dropped the ball on avoiding another PR disaster. I'm sure toy production takes months and can't be changed quickly and is done by a separate company to Disney but yeah I think somebody has dropped the ball. Though to be clear you can find Rey figurines and soon there will be ones with a lightsabre now that the film won't be spoiled by it. I'm yet to see Han Solo anywhere.