The Force Awakens: Reflections

I almost didn’t write this review. Everyone has seen Episode VII who cares to see it, seems like. Everyone has their own opinion of it, and will be putting it up on the internet. Why should I think anything that I write about it will be special?

But then I read and watched the reviews in question, saw the things they focused on, and the things I feel they missed. And I realized that the way I could contribute was by primarily making this a reflection piece. I’ll try to keep any major spoilers at the bottom, after a warning.

Before I get to specifics: The writing, directing, acting, cinematography, music, action, and humor were all fantastic, with very few exceptions. It’s a flawed but unbelievably fun movie that made me smile throughout. If you’re still debating for some reason, go see it!

Now that that’s out of the way, here are some of my more in-depth thoughts. I’ve tried to phrase things in such a way as to spoil as little as possible.

Finn is a play on all the jokes about Stormtroopers. He’s clumsy, panicking, at times a bit of a coward. He’s not the best shot, not the best fighter, not the best pilot. And all of this is played off for laughs throughout much of the movie. But one of the things I love about the character, and that makes all of this work, is that there is more to him than that. He’s driven by terror and by shame, but also by a conviction that he doesn’t want to be a part of the monstrous actions of his Order. He’d rather risk death and be branded a traitor than continue to assist in the First Order’s evils.

Rey is in some ways everything that Finn isn’t. Capable where he’s fumbling, strong where he’s weak, clever where he’s naive. But she’s also conflicted in a way that he isn’t, torn by motivations that lead her in different directions. And because, for the first half of the film, she’s lacking the singular drive that Finn possesses, they make spectacular foils for one another. Once Rey finds that drive, that singular purpose… Watch out.

Poe was originally too much of a carbon copy of Han—or even more, a copy of Indiana Jones—for me to fully enjoy during much of the opening scene. In addition, he doesn’t get the screen time I feel that he deserves as what I believe will become the final main good guy. But even so, there are moments in which this character is pushed to his limit, and we get to see what he’s made of. It was the first of these moments in which the character came into his own for me.

Kylo Ren is defined by conflict, in a theme central to the entire Star Wars series. He’s imposing, and yet insecure. Terrifying, and yet afraid. He shares some of these characteristics with another Sith we once knew, obviously. But where these characteristics made Anakin less in the prequels, I feel they make Ren more. More complex, more compelling, and yes, even after all of his evils, more sympathetic.

I love the slightly cheesy nature of much of the opening. It is very much in the spirit of the original trilogy.

I had much the same experience watching the movie as I do reading a good Fantasy novel. And if you know me, you know how great of a compliment that is. The opening act, introducing our new characters (immediately getting me to love all of them) before finding a way to bring them together and set them off on an Adventure™ was very reminiscent of the first novel in a Fantasy series.

Now is the time for the SPOILER warning. So… inhales

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Aaaaand the word “spoiler” seems to have lost all meaning. Oh well. Hopefully this makes it harder for people to accidentally spoil themselves.

MY FAVORITE MOMENTS:

Rey’s introduction, and realizing later that her intro was setting up her knowledge of a Star Destroyer so that her ability to escape is more plausible. The moment I realized (during my second watch) that such a beautiful intro sequence, essentially perfect in every way (INCLUDING HER THEME!!!), also served the purpose of validating something in the last act? My mind was blown.

The moment Anakin’s lightsaber goes to Rey instead of Kylo. Luke’s theme plays, and my eyes go all teary. Such a powerhouse of a moment. It’s worth the price of admission by itself.

Rey’s theme is quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces from John Williams.

Poe taking down the TIE fighters and Finn’s reaction, all in one beautiful shot.

When Kylo Ren takes off his mask for the first time, and you see the conflicted man underneath. And then when Kylo tries to Force extract the map from Rey, it could have failed miserably, but I feel it works very well.

Finn’s humor WORKING! The humor in general WORKING! Oh my goodness, I’ve missed you!

Also, Finn’s “You Don’t Know” speech.

MY LEAST FAVORITE MOMENTS:

The Republic is a complete non-entity in the story. We get a few references about how important they are, and then we’re NEVER SHOWN ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. There’s no evidence supporting that they’re important to the resistance. Even Leia doesn’t react as though anything important has happened. I don’t even remember her acknowledging it at all.

Episode VII is a rehash of IV-VI. There’s no getting around that. There are probably twenty plot points they grabbed from the original trilogy and repurposed for this one. This would be my first complaint, but two things keep it from bothering me so much. One, I believe the theory that there will be a huge twist that changes things in VIII. And two, I just had too much fun watching the movie to care.

The Rathtar scene feels…off to me. And this isn’t because of the CG, which I think sticks out just a bit, but doesn’t bother me. Instead, it was the fact that both of the factions Han had borrowed money from were composed of humans. And not just humans, but racial stereotypes (in a way). What if both of the gangs had various alien races in their ranks? Practical effects and all, at that? I think this would go a long way toward making the scene work more smoothly.

SPECULATIONS:

My biggest speculation is this: The Knights of Ren are the survivors of Luke’s apprentices. I feel that Rey’s vision supports this theory. And I think that this fact could lead to one of two awesome possibilities.

One, I’d love to see an Afro Samurai situation in either VIII or IX. You know, where Rey has to go after the traitorous Knights of Ren, hunting them down one by one (or maybe sometimes two-or-three on one).

Or two, I’d love it if Snoke sends the Knights to stop Luke from training Rey. That would explain what he was holding them back for in the first movie. Imagining Rey and Luke back-to-back defending against an all-out assault… This is more of a DBZ Ginyu Force situation.

Before I’m done, I have a question. I was semi-spoiled about Han’s death. For those of you who had no idea before you watched the movie, what was your reaction to Han’s death?

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