Thoughts on The Force Awakens

When I first saw the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens I had one thought: oh god, another star wars movie. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original trilogy. The ones with a solid plot, minimal CGI and a beautiful tactile feel. With characters we cared about and could root for, who we understand and love, and more importantly where Han shot first. But then we were given the absolute shit show that was the prequels. And the god awful re-mastered version of the originals. It was like watching someone turn Mozart into the unwanted love child of 90s techno and j-pop. So when Disney bought the franchise and the new movie was announced I tried to repress the excitement I felt, and instead reminded myself of the travesties that were the prequels.

I fought hard, but as more and more trailers were released, the child who’d grown up with the originals began to take over. I was excited. I scored tickets for the premiere, and I was actually looking forward to seeing the movie. I began to geek out with friends about what different clips in the trailers could mean and where the plot would go. There was still the old fear that this could be a total crap show, but I was cautiously optimistic.

And then I saw the movie.

It was great. There is so much that is fantastic about the movie. The effects, the story, the characters, the jokes, the references. The genuine love and passion behind it. As so many people have said, “This is the movie that star wars fans wanted”.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie and have somehow avoided spoilers stop reading now. Stop reading, and go see the bloody movie. For the rest, I have many, many things to say about much of the movie, but don’t want to bore people with  a massive spiel. So here are some bullet points about my favourite things and my thoughts:

  1. Rey:
    • As much as her surface story mirrored Luke’s own origin story, her character was very much her own. Unlike Luke, she doesn’t have the same dark/light pull. Now, let me clarify that as I can already hear the yells of, “But look how she uses the force!” “She could be leaning to the dark side!”. The force is really strong in Rey, and she picks it up really quickly, which makes sense given what she’s had to do to survive her entire life. It’s not hard to imagine that she’s had to learn by watching the people around her, and as multiple people have pointed out, Rey’s ability with the force improves each time Kylo Ren uses it on her. Monkey see monkey do, as it were. But more than that it’s her remembering old stories and trusting her intuition. It’s also the light starting to come back to balance out the unchecked dark. When she has her final fight with Kylo Ren she over powers him, but not once to me did it look like she had lost control. Each blow was debilitating, yes, but not permanently. I never thought she was going to kill him, but she disabled him enough to be able to get away. What I’m saying is that for me, the entire fight was a defensive and still very much of the light. It was a case of saying that she would not be pushed around, that she was a force to be reckoned with but that she would not be ruled by her emotions. Her fight was about survival, not domination or revenge, despite having seen the nearest thing to a father figure killed by Kylo Ren. I could say more, but maybe at a different time.
  2. Kylo Ren:
    • Now here is the character I think resembles Luke the most, except inversed. He is what Anakin should’ve been in the prequels. I love that you constantly see the internal struggle he feels between light and dark. As the film progresses and this tension becomes more apparent, his use of the force becomes less and less reliable. It’s also interesting to note that when he throws his temper tantrums he only uses his lightsaber, and not the force. To me it seems like yet another instance of being weaker in the force simply because he can’t fully commit to a side. I know that he kills Han, but I think the beauty of that scene is that it’s set up to make his decision even less concrete. I think he’ll be even more torn now. The movie sets it up, even with the references to how like Vader he is. The point is, that in the end Vader chose the light. That throughout the entire scene leading up to Han’s death, I thought there was a small chance that he wouldn’t do it. At least not until the sun set. Kylo Ren is complicated and desperate to stay on the dark side despite a huge pull to the light, and I think this scattered allegiance is represented through the light of his lightsaber. It’s jagged and edgy, chaotic.
  3. Han’s Death:
    • It was a beautiful scene that relied on the strength of the actors, and the score. The things that needed to be said were said with looks and actions rather than words. It left it to interpretation. Essentially people could see what they wanted to see. For me things as simple as the change in Ren’s grip, the way Han touched his son’s face as he died, the shadows on their faces spoke more than dialogue ever could.
  4. The minimal use of CGI:
    • I loved that the world actually felt real, because most of it was real. It came across with the way people responded to the things around them, to the heat and to the surroundings. It meant that costumes and little things had to make sense. For example BB-8 being a spherical design made sense, because he instantly became an all terrain droid who was more mobile than R2 D2.
  5. Women characters actually being characters with a story of their own
    • If I need to explain this, that’s sad. But essentially, women weren’t just sidekicks or in the movie to up the vagina count. They had agency, a story and a purpose.
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