The kids and I went to see the movie again on Monday, and I liked it a lot. If anything, I actually liked it better on second viewing. I realized that several of the things I thought were frustrating the first time out were explained—sometimes twice. I just missed them.
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens|
**Spoilers Ahead**For example, the First Order’s backstory shows up right in the opening story-crawl. “Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire …” This explains everything. It asks the movie’s fundamental story question.
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Where the Hell is Luke Skywalker?
It’s important because he is important. He’s not just the new trilogy’s Obi Wan Kenobi. He is the acknowledged Master of the Force. With Luke’s help, the New Republic is able to grow and maintain peace. Without him, the First Order has come out of nowhere and becomes the threat that we see in The Force Awakens. Both sides are looking for him because he is the key. Supreme Leader Snoke is afraid that if Luke returns, he’ll bring the Jedi back with him. That will put an end to the First Order once and for all. Meanwhile, the Rebels know that they can’t win unless they have Luke and the Jedi on their side.
This mirrors the structure of the Original Trilogy (OT). Before Luke’s arrival, the Rebel Alliance is a ragtag band of freedom fighters without the combat power to put a real dent in the Empire’s war machine. Luke’s arrival changes things. He is the hero. Luke rescues Princess Leia. Luke destroys the Death Star. Luke becomes the poster-boy. Even afterwards, it’s Luke who keeps the Empire preoccupied while the rebels get themselves rearmed and reorganized for the attack on the Second Death Star.
Luke is the key. The Force Awakens uses Luke as its MacGuffin because this is a story that has always been about the Jedi super-baby.
The other thing that bothered me about the movie was the last lightsaber fight, where Finn and Rey beat Kylo Ren despite the fact that neither has any training with a lightsaber. But:
1) The movie establishes early that Rey knows how to fight. We see her beat up two guys (and Finn!) with her staff at the market on Jakku. She takes that staff everywhere!
2) Kylo Ren is wounded badly before the fight. This is important. Abrams spends at least three scenes showing the raw power that Chewbacca’s bowcaster packs. We see stormtroopers thrown fifteen feet through the air after getting hit by the bowcaster. Why? Because he’s setting up the final fight.
Chewie hammers Kylo Ren after Han dies. Ren staggers but shakes it off. Still, we can see that he’s hurt when he’s fighting Finn. They call it out several times. He’s bleeding, and he has a limp. He’s in a lot of pain. This was clear on second viewing. Kylo took a kidney-shot that would have killed most people. He’s not moving as well as he ought to be, and this is why Finn doesn’t die instantly. Still, Finn is backing up during that whole fight scene, and he does get cut in half after about a minute of fighting.
|He holds it like a baseball bat. This is not the Kendo technique|
we see from trained Force users.
3) Rey doesn’t actually beat Kylo until the very end. It’s not like she’s standing her ground or anything. She is running, and he is chasing her, albeit at a limp because he’s wounded.
It’s also not clear that he’s actually trying to kill her. He chases her to the cliff and then talks to her when he could cut her head off. Only then does she manage to grab the Force just long enough to catch him off guard and cut him down.
The scene works. I liked it a lot more the second time.
Before Rey grabs the Force, she’s swinging the lightsaber wildly and running, and Kylo gets very close to cutting her up. After she grabs the Force, she uses the traditional kendo-inspired Jedi technique. The Force shows her how to move, and that’s why she wins. This is a well-established part of Star Wars canon.
I still don’t think it’s a perfect movie, but it is very, very cool, and that’s all I really wanted. Like you, I’ve now got my own little wish-list of things for the franchise going forward. Not all of these need to show up in movies, but I’m a tired of the current, near-exclusive focus on the OT.
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1. Luke turns to the Dark Side. We’ve never really seen consequences from Luke’s decision to abandon his training in The Empire Strikes Back. Instead, he resists the Dark Side, defeats his father, and together they defeat the Emperor. I still think that this decision needs consequences, however.
Yoda and Obi Wan were both terrified of Luke’s leaving. We need to see why.
2. Kylo Ren embraces the Rule of Two. Supreme Leader Snoke notes that Kylo is the “master” of the Knights of Ren. This is presumably because he is not strong enough to embrace the mantle of Darth Kylo and the true nature of the Sith. He needs allies. Fine, but this implies that he will get stronger, and I think that two super-powerful Sith lords are far scarier than a handful of jobbers with lightsabers.
I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see Rey hunted by a handful of the Knights, but I would also like to see Kylo annihilate his cronies when and if they fail to bring her down. That’s what Vader would do.
|"What do you mean you need my help?|
You assholes threw me out of the Jedi
I realize that Ashoka and company are probably not going to die on-camera in a kids’ cartoon. However, I would still like a reasonable explanation of where the Hell they all were during the Battles of Yavin, Hoth, and Endor. I get that maybe Kanan and Ezra don’t count as Jedi, and that compared to Luke, they’re not a lot of help against Imperial heavy-hitters. However, this doesn’t explain what Ashoka is doing when her old master’s kid starts running around, and no, “hiding on the other side of the galaxy” is not an answer.
If it was me, I would make her one of the principal characters in Rogue One, and I would have her sacrifice herself to give Leia time to get away with the stolen plans to the Death Star. However, I get the feeling that the Star Wars movie universe and TV universe aren’t going to intersect, so…
I’m betting that she’s captured at the end of Rebels, that she winds up on a prison planet for the duration of the OT, and that she comes back just in time for whatever TV show follows Rebels by way of showing the galaxy between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
4. Anakin Skywalker as a Force ghost. Concept art is already out there. If Hayden Christiansen doesn’t make an appearance in Episode VIII, I will be quite surprised.
|This has got to be a promotional shot.|
Kylo Ren says, “Show me again the power of the Dark Side, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.” This implies that he’s already seen Darth Vader’s ghost at least once.
5. More from Phasma. If you’re old enough, you may remember sending away a dozen or so Star Wars proofs-of-purchase to get the original Boba Fett action figure, which was available by mail order about a year before the debut of The Empire Strikes Back. Fett was billed as this badass character who would play a critical role in Empire, but then the movie came out, and he did almost nothing. He has exactly one line: “He’s no good to me if he’s dead,” and he shoots once at Luke (and misses). That’s it!
|"Next time, I want to kill someone."|
Phasma is the new movie’s Boba Fett. Badass character design; does almost nothing of substance. Ugh.
It takes until Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones to redeem Boba Fett’s character concept, and even then, he dies in his second battle. Let’s hope Phasma gets a little more to do in Episode VIII.
6. Finn in uncharted territory. I’ve seen many, many criticisms of The Force Awakens on the basis of its callbacks to the earlier movies. It’s wrong, though, to say that this movie offers nothing new. In fact, it has at least two new things. Kylo Ren is a new kind of villain, and Finn is a new kind of protagonist.
People say that Kylo is what Anakin should have been in the OT, but I disagree. That’s like saying that there is only one way to be an angry teenager. Anakin is angry in the way that the middle linebacker at your local high school is angry. Yes, he’s the product of a violently broken home, and yes, he likes to hit people. He’s still a two-sport athlete (pilot & lightsaber duelist), and he’ll kick your fucking ass if you look the wrong way at his girlfriend. This is completely different from the way that Kylo Ren is angry (petulant, resentful, and afraid of disappointing his legacy). Both kinds of anger are real, and they both play themselves out in society all the time. This does not mean that they’re the same.
Finn is in a similar situation. Rey embodies the OT characters. She is the Jedi from the desert (Luke), the kickass princess (Leia), and the scavenger pilot who hangs out with Chewie on the Millennium Falcon (Han). Finn is none of that, and he’s still our viewpoint character. That is kind of amazing, if you think about it.
I don’t want Finn to become a Jedi. I want him to find his own destiny.
7. More on the Knights of Ren. I’m sure we’ll see this. I’ll be amazed if they’re not chasing Rey or Finn through most of the next movie.
8. Some continuity between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. From a marketing standpoint, I don’t understand why Disney is running Star Wars: Rebels instead of a series that occurs post-Jedi. Similarly, why are we revisiting the Battle of Yavin in Rogue One?
Rogue One is a fine idea, but I would much prefer to see something that ends in a way that’s not a foregone conclusion.
|Coming soon from Disney/Marvel|
This must have been tempting.
Something happens, though, and it convinces Obi Wan not to abandon his duty. His wife leaves him in disgust, or maybe he sends her away for her own protection. Either way, they part, and he doesn’t realize that she’s pregnant.
I’ve heard that there is a plan for an Obi Wan Kenobi solo movie starring Ewan McGregor. I don’t know if such a movie will ever happen, but it might. I’d quite like to see it.
10. Darth Bane. I’m not a huge fan of the Expanded Universe, but I really liked the Darth Bane novels. This is the kind of thing that I would like to see developed further. It doesn’t have to be specifically related to the Sith backstory, of course, but Lucasfilm folks have recently said that everything is on the table, from a thousand years before to a thousand years after the Battle of Yavin.
Fine. Show me some of that.
The other Expanded Universe property that I liked quite a lot was Star Wars: Legacy from Dark Horse Comics. This took place about a hundred-fifty years after Yavin, and it chronicled Cade Skywalker, a distinctly troubled young man, as he tried to make his way following the destruction of the New Jedi Order by a reformed, re-energized Sith.
|Darth Bane shows up in Season 6 of The Clone Wars.|
I have no idea if that is still considered canon. It was
never released on TV, Disney dumped it onto Netflix.
And then there are the Knights of Ren. I have this theory that the Jedi and the Sith are not the only militaristic orders of Force users in galactic history. I can imagine a story about the Knights of Ren, who once tried to use both the Dark and the Light sides of the Force. This failed spectacularly but remains supremely tempting to the many young Jedi who cannot quite bring themselves to eschew the pleasures of the flesh.
Any of this would be fine, really. I’d just like to see a move away from the doubling down on the OT that Disney/Lucasfilm did in anticipation of The Force Awakens. There’s so much more story. I’d like to get a little further outside the box.
So? What have I left out?