I promised a post on my thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII and here it is. I write this post purely on my reaction to the movie and without any research into canon story lines, character backgrounds, fan rants, or fan drooling. Some of what I say may cause blue-blooded Star Wars fans to burst into laughter and some may be complete nonsense and some may be spot on, but it is all my opinion, so I’m entitled to it, even if it is wrong (I’m not afraid of being wrong about a movie).
I’m going to break this down into distinct sections – I’ll divide it into characters, story, technical aspects and wild predictions.
Also, SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will inevitably mention critical plot points and/or details that will ruin the movie for those who have not yet seen it!!!! Do NOT read further if you have not seen the movie. Run to the dollar theater and watch it or rent it from Red Box or buy it on Amazon, just GO and watch before reading further!!!
[White space intentionally left here to keep from spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it.]
First, there are the characters. It was heartwarming to see old characters return, but for most, the thirty years between the events of Return of the Jedi and Episode VII have not been kind or pleasant and it inserted into the movie a tiny feeling of hopelessness. Some returns were far too brief or left out much intervening story line that I hope and expect are explained in future installments. Han, Chewie, Leia, and Luke were all in attendance, but all were in interesting and somewhat depressing times of their lives. Other returning characters seemed to be in better circumstances, but they flashed by so quickly, I had trouble keeping up.
New characters were appropriately mysterious. We once again, a la Episode I, have a mysterious Force-wielding character, although I found Rey’s almost intuitive, but definitely purposeful manipulation of the Force to be too easy – if the movie were to fall back to the Episode I crutch (apologies to George Lucas for that, but it did seem a little too easy to determine and explain the immense importance of Anakin Skywalker) of midi-chlorians, she would be blowing up the testing device. It was as if the very Force itself was teaching her how to manipulate it, as needed, as she flew through the events of the climax of the movie. From material manipulation to mind manipulation, to fairly adept skills with a light saber, Rey looked like a ten-plus year resident and superstar of the Jedi Temple, not a scavenger from a backwater planet.
I feel her mastery of her abilities will be explained down the road, but for now she looks like Yoda, Ben Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu and yes, even Senator Palpatine himself all rolled into one and jacked up on steroids. She defeated an opponent that should have simply crushed her with his empty hands based on his demonstrated skills. In reality he should have been able to stop her without the help of a light saber… but he didn’t. I’ll come back to this point in the section on wild predictions.
Impressive and faulty at the same time, Finn is the other notable new protagonist character. His biggest fault is indecision. He sees what is wrong with the First Order, but has a difficult time deciding to rebel and an even more difficult time deciding that he was not in it just for himself. He doesn’t seem particularly Force-aware, but sees something decidedly different in Rey. I was left with an unclear notion of his importance and of his dedication to the Resistance, but I like him, so I’m hoping he sees the light, a la Han Solo.
On the other side of the story is the mysterious Kylo Ren and his even more mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. Something must have gone seriously sideways for Kylo Ren to become who we see him as in the movie. It appears he was enticed and corrupted similar to how Anakin was, but in a far more direct and brain-washing manner, almost like he was programmed. We already see the chinks in his armor, though, so I am curious of his fate, both in the short term and for the conclusion of the trilogy.
Then there is the droid. BB-8 is much cuter than R2-D2 (sorry R2), and he holds an incredible secret, just like R2 did in Star Wars (I refuse to call it Episode IV). This secret is not for destruction, but for possible redemption. BB-8 is resourceful, respectful, and better at staying out of trouble than R2 (how many times was R2 repaired?), but I can’t pick a favorite until I see BB-8 in more action.
So much for characters – let’s talk about story. J. J. Abrams gives us a fairly dark background in Episode VII, where even with the Empire defeated and scrap Star Destroyers showing up everywhere, there is still a feeling of the superiority of evil. The First Order kills without fear of reprisal, as they are beholden to no one but the Supreme Leader. The parallels to Third Reich imagery are still palpable in this Star Wars installment, from the masses of troops in formation to their salute to their training methods to the very titles used for the leaders and positions of power. The similarities to the defeated Empire are also startling, from the armor worn by the troops to the spacecraft to the construction of a super weapon that makes the Death Star, even the second Death Star, look like a BB gun in comparison.
Then there is the Resistance, fighting against The First Order, led by Leia and others, with roughly the same weaponry we have always seen rebels/resistance fight with. Thirty years they have fought some enemy, whether it was the remnants of the Empire, who apparently did not go quietly after the battle of Endor, to their current nemesis, The First Order. They have done this without the leadership of Luke Skywalker, who has disappeared. Rey and Finn join up with the Resistance to some degree by the end of the movie, so it should be interesting how they progress in the next installment.
So much for story, I really need to leave some things about the movie unsaid. Let’s move on to the technical aspects. In this day of CGI, we can see droids like BB-8 roll around on screen and see freighters like the Millennium Falcon fly through trees and skip across sand dunes and be completely convinced of what we saw. We can see light sabers inflict damage on surroundings , be awed by the sheer size of a rusting Star Destroyer, and encounter amazing creatures and believe every second of it. J.J. Abrams and his crew evoked memories of scenes from movies past from barren deserts to icy landscapes to rich forest planets, all in the same movie. It was a visual feast for this long time Star Wars fan, especially all the Easter eggs from previous movies. A big thumbs up for the technical aspects!
OK, here’s the part I’ve been avoiding. I told you up front that I have not researched any canon material of the time between Return of the Jedi and Episode VII, nor have I read character backgrounds or any other “fill-in-the-gap” books or articles, so these wild predictions are all mine. First, I see Kylo Ren escaping the dark side, possibly amid his last breaths, but escaping all the same. Second, I see a dark road for Rey. Whether it was intentional or not (and J. J. Abrams doesn’t leave much to chance), I saw some clues during her confrontation with Kylo Ren that Rey might succumb, at least temporarily, to the dark side. She definitely used some anger to successfully oppose Kylo Ren. Has she been trained in some way to use the Force? She is wicked powerful, a la Anakin Skywalker, which also brings up her mysterious pedigree, so keeping her “in the light” may become a pivotal focus in this trilogy. Who are her parents? Does she have parents or did she miraculously appear as it was suggested that Anakin did? She is steeped in Force awareness and control, so in keeping with one of the underlying themes of the Star Wars universe, she could be a Skywalker, as they have long been crucial to the balance of the Force and the fate of the galaxy. We’ll have to wait and see…
That’s it. These were my most pressing thoughts on the new Star Wars movie. The last question I have concerns the name. I have continually referred to it as Episode VII, and not by its subtitle “The Force Awakens” mainly because I really have no idea what that means. Has the Force been dormant for decades? If so, why? Hopefully J. J. Abrams will let us know in December of 2017 when Episode VIII premiers.
Thanks for reading and let me know if I just completely missed something.