i just want to emphasize as strongly as possible that you should not be on this page if you’re trying to avoid major, major plot spoilers for star wars episode 7. seriously. fuck outta here.
i completely, unabashedly, unashamedly, and other un-synonyms as well, loved this movie. loved it. over the moon with it. it’s not the best movie i’ve seen in 2015 but it’s definitely my favorite. i saw it at a 7:00 thursday screening and had a blast. i saw it again on christmas eve and had another blast. i may see it in theaters again–i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a movie in theaters three times.
the problem at the heart of the prequels–aside from the wooden acting, wasted talent, hokey CGI, creepy romance, and vaguely racist jars of jars, of course–is that they make no sense as star wars movies. we could accept a bad movie if it’s still star wars, and that’s why we watch the rather awful episode III and accept it as “the decent one” of the prequels. no star wars movie should include “tariff disputes” in the plot summary. no star wars movie should include “and then nothing happens for at least half an hour” in your list of gripes with it. that’s not why we’re here. we want characters (emphasis) doing crazy shit (emphasis) in space (emphasis).
Disney, Lucasfilm, and JJ Abrams are sorry about all that. and so instead they made a blisteringly paced love letter to A New Hope.
yes, internet gripers, i hear you, it’s like a movie you’ve already seen, it’s not an original plot, it’s not got original themes, i get it. this is all intentionally done. it’s a statement. “we get it, audience, we know what you want out of these movies, and we loved IV just as much as you did, so let’s pay homage while also modernizing what we do and bringing the films into a new generation of story.” if you recognize that and are still disappointed, that’s fine, you and i aren’t watching the movie for the same reasons.
anyway i’m going to talk real briefly about things i liked, things i didn’t, and some stuff i only caught the second time through that i found interesting.
i liked literally every character.
- rey is a freaking badass just as strong as anyone named skywalker. her path is also clouded right now. she’s not clearly destined to be anything. she wants to help the resistance and all that, but she’s got some pretty dark-side traits. she can be aggressive, proud, so forth. her character has some growth to go, and which way it will be is by no means clear yet.
- fin is cool. it’s not often audiences really root for a cowardly character, which is what he is for sure at first. (eddie izzard has a good bit on scooby-doo that talks about this.) maybe it’s because he was abandoning the nazi-ish ex-empire first order that we’re on board with Mr. Run-Away.
- poe dameron is the goddamn best and the shot of fin watching from the ground as he tears apart tie fighters is great.
- kylo ren is an interesting villain, not only because he’s han and leia’s kid, but because he has force abilities we’ve never seen in the movies before. we’ve all used Stasis in knights of the old republic, but we certainly never stopped any blaster fire with it, and nobody has done it in the films til he did. now, he’s sort of a shit sith, if we’re being honest. he gets bested twice by an opponent who didn’t even know she was force sensitive until like, that day. but that makes sense if you think about it. he’s never really had any competition in the force. a bunch of jedi-in-training at luke’s academy is the strongest he’s ever been around. sith grow in power through conflict, and his conflicts have been stomps ever since he followed the first order.
- BB-8 gives thumbs-up using fire. what a great visual gag that was. he’s obviously R2D2 but he’s clearly better in every way: lower pitched noises, IS A BALL, he’s great.
i liked that han died. someone needed to as a metaphorical break from the original movies, and his role was diminished enough that it made sense. it was an easy way out for the movie to redeem kylo ren because movies do that, and when they don’t, i’m always on board. (the original ending of dodgeball for example had the good guys lose, and it’s a way funnier ending. the filmed the bullshit at the end later because it tested poorly.) it was kylo ren because it had to be, and i also have a ridiculous non-serious way to read this movie that i’ll write as a follow up later, just know this can be a much larger symbol.
i love/hated the pacing. THINGS HAPPENED. but they also never stopped happening. you barely get to catch your breath in this movie. that’s cool i guess, it’s a hell of a lot better than say episode II: attack of the groans, but compare it to the pacing of an action movie like say winter soldier for example, or even a new hope if you want. there’s always tension, there’s always something building up and going on, but you get to stop and breathe every now and again. force awakens has no piss breaks. but that’s also to its credit: this thing is gripping.
i really liked the opening scene. we meet kylo ren the same way we met darth vader, probably a conscious decision of course: he does something crappy by using his troops to do it, then we get merely a glimpse of how powerful he is. we meet fin, though we don’t know it yet, and because the stormtroopers have matching outfits, we need a way to mark him. the choice to have a dying comrade leave blood on his mask not only marks him so we can find him, it symbolizes the battle itself leaving its mark on him. he then never fires his weapon and bails on the first order entirely.
i wanted to kick C3PO’s shiny metal ass when he popped up. this character serves almost no purpose through now six entire movies. he fills the “whine and tell the audience the stakes like they’re too stupid to figure it out” role. oh and now he has a stupid red arm so collectors have a new piece of memorabilia they have to buy. han and leia returning makes sense. it gets our new characters to the resistance base, by sticking them on the falcon, which han then finds immediately because he’s han fricking solo. luke as the mystical yoda figure is a great choice. luke stored his maps in r2d2, i’ll buy that. kill c3po.
i loved the tone of this one, they got it just right i think. i had a blast. except c3po.
starkiller base makes no sense. they’re made out to be sort of a big squadron, led by snoak (sp?) through kylo ren. they’re the leftovers of the empire, which was dealt a seriously crippling blow in VI. so…. how does starkiller base exist? the first order’s reach and strength is never really made that clear. the death stars were the combined resources of an empire that’s taken the government of the republic. you can get the funds and the materials for that. converting a whole planet to a mega-death-star (we’ll ignore the magic bullshit of how it works) would take even more of both. isn’t the first order the remains of a crippled, failed state? how does starkiller base exist?
r2d2 makes no sense. when luke exiled himself, r2d2 went into mopey depression mode. the movie heavily implies that he wouldn’t be himself until luke comes back. but instead he actually powers back up kind of arbitrarily, so the heroes can go find luke skywalker and set up the next movie. people have said he woke up because the map complete but they’re wrong, because bb-8 tries to rouse him before the assault on starkiller base and fails. why was R2 in low power mode and why isn’t he now? plot said we can’t have the whole map yet, but now the plot said we’re ready for it. bleh.
thing the movie hid: there’s plenty of mystery around rey. we never hear her last name, who sold her to the salvagers on jakku, what are the visions she has from luke’s lightsabre, so on. but something it hides extra-well is that she knew where luke was the whole time, and has for a long time. when he interrogates rey on starkiller base, kylo ren sees her struggling to sleep, finally dreaming of an ocean, and an island in it. you’ll remember that’s exactly where they find luke at the end. i don’t think she consciously knows that she knows this. remember on the falcon she says she had thought luke skywalker was a myth. unless she’s lying–and judging by how young she was dropped at jakku, her being stunned at “that much green” existing in one place on the forested planet, and her idyllic idolizing of all things Rebellion, that doesn’t seem likely–she doesn’t know the importance of that place anymore, if she ever did. i’m very very much looking forward to finding out how she knew about that place.
anyway just to wrap here, episode VII got all the big things right. exciting things happened, there was limited fan service for its own sake, there was plenty of homage to IV both in the micro and the macro to apologize for I-III, and above all it was WAY fun to watch (and to re-watch, and that’s coming from someone who hates to re-watch movies). it left me with pretty high hopes for VIII. gg go next.