WARNING! This post will include THE FORCE AWAKENS spoilers. I’ll warn you again before the spoilers begin, but if you haven’t seen the movie and have plans to, PLEASE skip this post until you do. Do not read the comments on this post, either!
In terms of entertainment, Star Wars has always been my one true love. To this day, I can only truly unwind with Star Wars stuff, whether we’re talking about the movies, the gobs of books, the fan-penned wikis or whatever the hell else. I’m into a lot of stuff, but Star Wars is the one thing that always creates my true escape.
The truth is, I didn’t even need The Force Awakens to be good. I wanted it to be, of course, but I didn’t need it to be. As I learned with the prequels, even a bad Star Wars movie will become the start-point for so many good Star Wars things. People love to shit on those old senate scenes; I’m guessing they never read the beautiful dissection of senate hall in the Star Wars Complete Locations book. People love to complain about Jar Jar; I do too, but without Jar Jar we wouldn’t have gotten the world’s weirdest Pez dispenser.
Really, I just needed The Force Awakens to exist. That was literally it. Anything beyond existing was a bonus. I knew I’d be covered, either way.
Now that I’ve seen it, it looks like I needlessly aimed too low. Holy shit did I LOVE this movie. Me and Jay saw it last night, and it only took a few minutes for me to breathe that slight sigh of relief, knowing that even through an objective lens, what I was seeing was out-and-out good.
What others think of Star Wars shouldn’t be important to me, and by and large, it isn’t. But if you were a fan during those times when it was largely scorned — when “Star Wars” was bordering close to a dirty word — you know the side effects. Hell, Star Wars is my #1 geeky passion, and how often have I written about it on Dino Drac? Barely ever. Why? Well, I guess I didn’t want to risk feeling bad about something that’s made me so happy. I literally won’t risk feeling bad about Star Wars.
When the movie ended, I was exhausted. Emotionally spent. I fought back tears at least five times, and I’m not just saying that because it fits this article’s narrative: I had to make a serious effort not to lose it. It was like experiencing a dream while fully conscious, where the miraculousness couldn’t be taken for granted. It sounds heavy-handed, but it’s true.
It wasn’t just that it was a new Star Wars movie, or even that it was a new Star Wars movie that was actually good. The thing that got me was how The Force Awakens connected so closely to the movies I grew up with — how it sincerely felt like the movie that’d come after Return of the Jedi — and how many impossibly distant stars had to align to make that happen.
Was The Force Awakens perfect? No. Neither were the originals. Neither was any other movie. Is everyone going to like it? No again. Heck, I’ve talked to a few mega-fans who are not at all contrarians, and The Force Awakens failed to rock their worlds. So this is not me putting a movie on a pedestal because I’m ready to defend every aspect of it until my dying breath. I’m putting it there because of what it means to me: A safe space that will always be there to turn to when I need to get lost.
Down below are twenty scatterbrained thoughts, opinions and observations about The Force Awakens. If you’ve seen the movie, let’s compare notes in the comments!
WARNING: From this point on, I’m going DEEP into SPOILER TERRITORY. If you kept reading after my first warning, I avoided spoiling anything in the intro. Now, all bets are off. DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED.
1. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley = A+. I can’t overstate how much they brought to the film, and how perfect they were for their characters. Boyega’s Finn — like Boyega, from all I’ve seen — is just so naturally likeable and enthusiastic. Ridley’s Rey — again, like Ridley, from all I’ve seen — is humble, straightforward and yet somehow mysterious. Think about this: Virtually nobody is complaining about these characters who are clearly intended to take the reins from longtime favorites. That doesn’t just “happen.”
2. I was NOT expecting so much Han Solo! WOW. I mean, viewed through a certain lens, it’s basically a Han Solo movie. I knew Harrison Ford would be in it, obviously, but I figured it’d be more like, “I’m here, I’ll tag along, I’ll wrap up.” I never expected that we’d get Han Solo without the quotation marks around his name, if that makes sense. (One thing I did expect? His death. With it being so widely speculated and more or less accepted as fact, I’d be lying if I said that it affected me too much. Even so, it was totally necessary, because without that death, the film might’ve lacked gravitas.)
3. On the familial connections, the “Kylo is Han and Leia’s son” thing was again too widely speculated for me to be surprised by it. Fortunately, the movie wasn’t constructed to make “surprise” a needed element. As for Rey, “Luke’s daughter” or “Kylo’s twin” are the leading predictions, but I’m not so sure. I can’t help but wonder if Rey is just going to stay a great unknown, driven more by fate than bloodline. (And I’m cool with that! She’s gonna be Luke’s redemption either way. I don’t need Rey to become Rey Skywalker or Rey Solo to know that she’s awesome.)
4. Yes, The Force Awakens could be summarized as a rehash of A New Hope. I mean, it ends with the good guys blowing up what’s essentially another Death Star, so I can’t deny that. At the same time, it worked for me, and it was so obviously deliberate that I think you’d be stretching to call it lazy. You don’t have to like it, but with all the minds and money behind this movie, accept that it was just a decision you don’t agree with, rather than a “lazy” one.
5. I loved the First Order. The aesthetics, the presentation, the ruthlessness, all of it. Here, the bad guys feel like they have real teeth. Like someone streamlined the Empire into something smaller but far less clumsy. (At least, that’s my impression. They ARE a much smaller force in these movies, right? If so, they’re naturally more dangerous, because they have to be. It’s not just about the number of ships and the number of troops.)
6. Starkiller Base — “the new Death Star” — worked for me. I suppose I could gripe that it was so easy to blow up, just like its predecessors, but hey, they even wink at that in the film. What sold Starkiller Base for me was that brief shot of the people on the Resistance planet, watching the fiery “bullet” head towards them and knowing that they were doomed. Thank God they invested in that shot, because just seeing a random planet explode would’ve meant so much less. When you can get me to feel for a wailing alien that I know zilch about, you’ve succeeded.
7. ALL IN ON SNOKE, GUYS, I’M ALL IN ON SNOKE. Seriously, the whole movie could’ve been total balls otherwise, so long as I had Snoke to obsess over. I love that we have no real idea what to make of him yet, to the point where I’m not even sure what SIZE he is. (Like, was that a life-sized projection, or will he end up being normal-sized, or even dwarfish?) In a movie full of callbacks, Snoke’s scenes reminded me of Vader’s meeting with the then-mysterious Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back — and that’s a gooooood thing.
8. Driver did an awesome job with Kylo Ren, and kudos to him to selling Kylo’s shaky confidence even when the lines didn’t particular call for it. Kylo Ren is a tragic character, but not simply because we know he used to be good and now he isn’t. It’s more like he’s simultaneously both. That’s so much cooler. He’s Zuko from Avatar in a Star Wars movie. (Safe prediction: He sacrifices himself to save Rey in Episode 9, thereby proving that he really was as good as Grandpa, after all.)
9. Darth Vader helmet, hell yeah! I know that they showed it in the previews and that literally everyone knew it’d be featured, and I don’t blame them for that, because it signaled a lot of misdirects that kept fans on their toes. At the same time, man, imagine experiencing that reveal if you didn’t know it was coming.
10. Leia’s first appearance punched me in the gut. There was such a weird sweetness to it. God I love Carrie Fisher. She and Ford rekindled their old chemistry flawlessly. Ford’s large role in the film surprised me, but Fisher’s outright shocked me. I thought for sure that she’d be around more for cameo purposes, but nope. Here’s to hoping that she’ll return in a big way for Episodes 8 & 9. Fisher’s presence legitimizes these movies in ways that I’m not even sure Hamill’s does. Speaking of which…
11. LUKE. SKYWALKER. My boyhood hero, for real. Seeing Luke again hit me harder than anything else in the movie, and I love how his absence wasn’t just a focal part of the movie, but of the marketing. In a sense, him being there in the final moments didn’t just pay off the theater experience, but so many months of anticipation. He was always the promotional wildcard, and the source of the zaniest theories. Look, you can say whatever you want about The Force Awakens, but if you didn’t find Luke’s reveal to be powerful stuff, we just can’t talk anymore.
12. It seems like they’re setting up Episode 8 as the “ESB” of the trilogy. I’m guessing that we’ll see Luke train Rey while Snoke trains Kylo Ren. Since that removes a number of featured players from the action, I’ll also assume that Finn takes center-stage in an unrelated and more “exciting” plot. But with Kylo preoccupied with Sith training, who will be the big villain? See my next note!
13. I’ll also predict that Captain Phasma survived the destruction of Starkiller Base, and will return with increased importance in Episode 8. It’ll be her and General Hux against Finn and Poe and whoever else. Phasma’s role in The Force Awakens seemed deliberately limited, and I can’t imagine that we went through all of this trouble to waste a tremendous actress and an already super-marketed character for such brief scenes. She’ll be back, and she’ll make us sorry we asked for more.
14. Gotta show some love for the opening crawl, especially after Dan, my friend and editor on StarWars.com, pointed out how awesome its opening line was. “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” BOOM. We’re not dealing with political intrigue and we’re not being vague. That’s as immediate and gripping as it gets. Loved it.
15. I was amazed by how “in-universe” this felt with the original trilogy. It’s not just a virtual reset that respects what came before. It really is the next chapter, where everything that happened happened, and where all of the major players are still involved. The old cast being present wasn’t fan service, because it’s STILL their story. The previews made it seem like there might be some “whimsy” about the past. Nope, the past directly resulted in everything seen during The Force Awakens. That’s so cool.
16. Oscar Isaac rocked. Gotta be honest, I went into that theater expecting Poe to just be “Wedge with an edge.” Even when we left, it took me a minute to get past those preconceptions. Poe’s character was super important: It showed us that in the new Star Wars movies, you don’t necessarily have to be one of the absolute mains to be worth more than a laugh here and an “ooh” there.
17. BB-8 was great. Even If the marketing scared you — and I’ll admit that there were points where I feared we’d be getting a robot Jar Jar with BB-8 — I’m betting that you left the film as a fan. C-3PO was terrific, too. They wisely limited his role, and let us fall back in love after his iffier appearances in Episodes 1-3. They just played it so wonderfully with the droid characters. R2 and BB-8 were too similar to coexist, so saving R2 for the hero’s role in the final minutes was just brill. (And the fact that R2 had his own agenda totally fit the character!)
18. Marked the hell out for Rey with the lightsaber. I know it was telegraphed. I don’t care. I’m also happy that most fans are on Rey’s bandwagon, because no matter how you slice it, that scene needed to “sell” for The Force Awakens to be a success. If we didn’t buy Rey, believe in Rey and root for Rey, The Force Awakens just becomes a buffet where we eat the parts we like and say, “Eh, so what if the prime rib sucks?”
19. My favorite thing about the Star Wars universe isn’t the story. It’s the setting. Hell, even with the prequels, I have so many books that dive into the various worlds and species and technologies, and they make me appreciate the films not just as entertainment, but as unending fuel for my own imagination. Same deal here. I can’t wait to buy all of the guides and encyclopedias, and treat every spot in The Force Awakens like I’m on an archaeological dig.
20. As much as I loved this movie, I think it set the stage for an even better sequel. I expect the next movie to be way darker and heavier, and wouldn’t be surprised if fans generally accept The Force Awakens as the weak link by the time we’re through. That’s not a knock on this movie: It just set up so many wonderful things!
21. I know I said I’d only be doing 20, but I loved Rey’s magic bread. I needed to get that off of my chest. I want some right now.
Word count: 2300+. I guess you’ve read enough about Star Wars for one night.