Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Thoughts on Star Wars The Force AwakensWhile I’m about a month or two behind everyone else, I finally got a chance to see the new Star Wars movie in a theater. The theater experience was very nice—the seats fully reclined and I contacted nothing sticky.

Since I was seeing the movie so late following its release and so early in the day, the other movie-goers were mostly senior citizens who probably watched the original Star Wars: A New Hope, when it came out in theaters before I was born. They’ve all had to wait a lot longer to see the next installment than I have, so I found it appealing that we shared this experience together.

The storyline of Star Wars follows the classic epic, starting in medias res. Like the Iliad and so many other works we all learned about in English class, starting a story in the middle of things is generally good writing advice.

When writing Dark Empire, finding the right moment to start the story was the easy part. Only at the recommendation of several beta readers and my editor did I add a prologue from what was originally a flashback. I still haven’t found the exciting moment at which to start Book 2—the perfect first sentence—though the first chapter has a lot of action in it.

This literary component has absolutely nothing to do with my fandom, which actually dates back to watching the movies in a junior high music class to learn about themes in music.

While I can hear all the themes when I watch the movies these days, at the time, seeing the films in their entirety for the first time, I was so engrossed by the plot that I nearly failed the class because I heard the music without recognizing its significance.

I have childhood memories of other scenes from the films, most vividly the one with Luke Skywalker sliding down the chutes at the end of Empire Strikes Back, but only in middle school did I watch them all the way through in order. Much later, the three prequel films came out, and I eagerly anticipated and enjoyed all of them. However, I’ve never read a single Star Wars novel, nor do I expect I ever will.

So what did I think of the film?

The nostalgia of seeing the faces of the three actors reprising their roles held a lot of honesty—the actors have aged, fairly or not, and at least two faced a lot of criticism for their appearance. By comparison, the new cast members seem so young.

There was a lot of mirroring in the story to A New Hope, and—without spoiling the ending—in the position within its trilogy that this one takes place as compared to A New Hope and The Phantom Menace.

Really I expected some more originality to the plot.

But all we have is another character for whom the Force is strong, and who, by virtue of being a woman, it does not appear anyone intended for her to be the main or most sympathetic character. I strongly suspect that the next film’s release was delayed because they had to replot the film a bit to bring Rey to the forefront of the story to appease audiences. In view of the absence of Rey-related memorabilia and the hubbub of upset children and parents, my suspicions only grow.

But Rey showed a disappointing lack of character growth through the film. She’s just a fangirl of the original players who turns out to be very Force-ful. She miraculously develops abilities without any training that allow her to do amazing things. I had expected her to be another twin, sibling to the somewhat forced villain of this film, especially considering her interactions with both Leia and Han Solo, but that connection has yet to be proven.

She mirrors Luke Skywalker quite strongly in that she dresses like him and comes from a dead-end job on a desert planet, but she actually wants to return home, while all he wanted to do was escape. Interestingly, the flashback to her family was the only one I recall seeing anywhere across the entire series.

Then there’s Finn. From the moment his helmet was marked with bloody stripes as he cradled a dying comrade in his arms, I knew he was no ordinary Storm Trooper. Yet he doesn’t quite feel like a hero the way Rey does. And given what we eventually learn about his actual occupation as a Storm Trooper, I was disappointed that they didn’t do a great deal more with him. Usually persons of his profession (and postal delivery personnel) turn out to be the perfect whodunits because they can seem invisible. And when you wear the exact same uniform and helmet as everyone else, you really gain invisibility.

Which leads me to how anyone could expect to wander an enemy spaceship without being detected if it were as densely populated as it sometimes appeared to be. And why does no one ever explain why spaceships have perfectly functioning gravity? This one even appeared to have its own atmosphere, though Rey’s desert-origin arm warmers must be some spectacular fabric if she wasn’t cold despite Han Solo wearing a heavy hooded coat.

Then there’s the hotshot pilot and a bunch of cheater narrative. How, given the circumstances of the crash and the lack of general resources, he got from Jakku to anywhere else in time to save the day was never explained. We were just supposed to accept this gaping plot hole and celebrate his return.

More cheater narrative occurred with the bar owner and the fortuitous availability of a famed light saber. How she got it, why she had it, why it was not terribly well-guarded but still available for the right character to find at just the right moment…none of this was explained or presented in any way that would be believable.

I also admit some frustration with the scene between the villain and the person trying to redeem him. I’m going to try really hard not to offer any spoilers here. One short conversation at the end of a movie—particularly not the first movie in a trilogy—is just not going to cause a change of heart. His pretending to go along with it had me scratching my head in doubt, so I was surprised but vindicated when that scene ended as it did.

Leia offered a surprising emotional connection throughout the story, but I was very surprised at Carrie Fisher’s receiving third billing in this film considering how much more screen time she had compared to the second biller. (See that, no spoilers.)

Even the fight scenes and graphics were reminiscent of the earlier films, and the Supreme Leader/ultimate bad guy bore a massive scar that made me think he had to be suffering the effects of a frontal lobotomy. I also wonder if he’s not really the Emperor who somehow survived.

All in all, I enjoyed it but found the plot and the special effects designed to be nostalgic rather than original.

What did you think about the latest Star Wars movie?

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