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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

January 15, 2016

I have had enough time. Enough time to conceptually analyse Star Wars: The Force Awakens without too much emotion and nostalgia. My thoughts undoubtedly will continue to change with time, but as for now I am ready to present my opinions on the new movie.

There was so much I loved about this film. The visuals, the characters, the nostalgia, the foreshadowing; all brought something to the table that kept me excited from the text crawl until the credits. My immediate feeling was that it got right all the things that the prequels got wrong. And I still think that. It created characters that were layered and lasting, and kept the action and emotion raw and relatable.

There were also several points that I had slight issues with. Some of them, however, I believe, or at least hope, will be addressed in Episode VIII, so I shall reserve my condemnation. Just a couple, though, will be hard to rectify without significant and forced justification. The latter list is shorter, and less interesting, so I shall start with that.

The most jarring aspects of TFA were firstly how lacklustre Captain Phasma turned out to be, being easily overpowered and manipulated without repercussion. I hope she becomes a bad-ass in the upcoming films, but her impotence so far cannot be undone. She was used solely as a prop for Finn’s redemption from being a Stormtrooper; and after his exploits escaping the First Order it wasn’t needed.

Secondly, the Deus Ex Machina reactivation of R2D2 was almost cringe worthy in its execution. The only way it could have worked for me was if Rey had somehow caused it so that it could have symbolised the Force awakening the droid. Maybe he recognised her Force sensitivity after his devotion to Luke. Cheesy as that sounds, it would be better than nothing.

Finally it was the destruction of the StarKiller Base. Having essentially a second Death Star was likely to draw the ire of the audience, but destroying it so simply and in the same way made it pointless. It would have been better to have disabled the base somehow, preferably with some form of tactical sacrifice. Keeping it as a threat, and demonstrating the danger of the First Order that these decision must be made, keeps them feeling more daunting coming into the next film, and therefore puts more importance on developing the skills of Rey to topple them.

So, the further issues I have with the film I am expecting to be huge plot points in the future. The criticism of this film has largely been regarding the fact that it emulates A New Hope so strongly. I agree with this feeling, but they had the task of fleshing out the Star Wars world for the new generation, the new characters for returning fans, and establishing motives across the board. The overall direction is therefore somewhat limited; the same is not true for Episode VIII which can shock audiences in a number of different ways, and the fact that that is the case speaks to the quality of the storytelling thus far.

Many fans were upset that we never got to see Han and Luke together again. As would I be, but I believe that Episode VIII will contain some backtracking. There was so much alluding to the time between Episodes VI and VII when you consider all the back stories that at least some of it has to be covered in the future episodes. In this way I think fans will also get screen time in which to mourn Han that I know many also felt was lacking.

Another thing I didn’t like was how strong Rey was with the Force so quickly. It devalued the exploits of the other Jedi but again, I feel like this will all be explained next year. She clearly has an intriguing past given her mentions of family, Kylo Ren’s seeming recognition at the mention of a girl, her flashback, and moment with Luke at the end. If she is Luke’s daughter there needs to be a reason he abandoned her, and brings into question the mother: why is she not around, is she Force sensitive, and what role did she play with Luke’s training of new Jedi and subsequent exile? If she is Kylo Ren’s sister then why was there not more recognition form Leia and Han in TFA? Did they refute parenthood after what happened to Ren? If she is a descendant of Obi Wan then what was the timeline there? I feel like there must be reference to Kenobi in the next film given his absence of mention here, and the probable homage in the name “Ben Solo”. It can’t be coincidence that he was named after the Jedi Master and not saying it directly creates an elephant in the room scenario.

My most outlandish theory, and probably least likely, is that the Prophecy was indeed misread as Yoda postulated in Episode III, and that Anakin was not the “chosen one”, but it was in fact Rey, and she is simply the offspring of the Force. Yoda backs this up once more in Empire by saying “there is another”. We assumed he meant Leia, but it could be turned into meaning Rey. This all raises the issue of Anakin’s parenthood, but That could be explained by exposing another mystery…

Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? I didn’t like his appearance at first as it felt almost like a scene from Prometheus in that huge chamber. But this can be compensated by giving him an amazing origin. The most likely theory for me is that he is Darth Plagueis. Whether it is musical cues, the use of the adjective “Wise”, the scarred humanoid appearance, or the elegance of linking the canon, I can see no other option. I don’t see him being Sidious, or even Vader, a good guy turned evil, or God forbid: Jar Jar Binks.

If that theory is correct then we know that Darth Plagueis has the ability to bring others, and possibly himself, back from the dead. Is it possible that he is responsible for the inexplicable birth of Anakin Skywalker as the puppeteer of the rise of the Dark Side? He was also opposed to the Rule of Two, in having only two Sith at any one time. Could there be another Sith Lord waiting in the wings that will play into Kylo Ren’s insecurities?

Episode VIII will likely be the most anticipated film in history, and that is credit to The Force Awakens. We will need to see Luke wield a Lightsaber, we will need to learn Rey and Ren’s origins, we will need to understand the role of Lor San Tekka who I believe must be the lynch pin that holds the answer to many questions, we will need to learn about Supreme Leader Snoke, and the Force as a whole. Did its awakening influence Fin and R2D2 in some way? I also want to see more of the complexities in the character motivations from TFA. I want internal strife within the Resistance and the First Order alike.

The Force Awakens got everything right that the prequels got wrong; the next film needs to get right what TFA did not. And having delivered the adequate nostalgia dose that was necessary, and introduced the new characters, I think there will be more time to spend on telling a simple, layered story that sets up the Trilogy’s finale.

 

 

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