Tuesday, 5 January 2016

After #TheForceAwakens

My swag from the cinema

Now that at least some of the world has seen the new Star Wars film, I feel it's probably safe for me to post a bit more about it. Warning: this post contains spoilers if you still haven't seen it!! I've now been to see The Force Awakens twice, first time in 3D and second in normal 2D, and I'm considering a third watch at the cinema if screen times and school runs permit. April is too far away for the DVD!

There's an eight year old me who still remembers the magic of seeing A New Hope for the first time. The first time she heard that 20th Century Fox intro, saw those credits scroll up the screen, saw a Star Destroyer fill the TV. She can still recite the entire dialogue by heart. Still has some of the original toys. And that eight year old still had hopes and aspirations of recapturing that magic at The Force Awakens while desperately praying that her illusions and heart wouldn't be shattered.

And they weren't. While I feel Disney played it incredibly safe in general and pandered majorly to the nostalgia of the fans, they hit all the marks. It was classic Star Wars, with the added bonus of some diversity and a strong central female lead. And while some fans (maybe most) are reeling from the Big Bad in the film and a handful of bigots cry out against the horror of a black Stormtrooper, and even female Troopers and X-wing pilots, I am one happy Star Wars fan. It was way better than the prequels. It had a great cast and characters. It had no big surprises or shocks for me as the story played out, and while the plot might be a bit dull due to the lack of originality, it stayed true to the SW originals. Disney clearly felt they weren't going to be able to achieve the huge big reveal of the 'Luke, I am your father' shocker of The Empire Strikes Back and played the whole thing surprisingly low key with Kylo Ren, and I don't blame them. But I do expect a whole lot more of the next two films now they've got the die-hard fans onside. Having simply done a bigger, badder, darker version of 4-6 mashed up together, now they need to take a leap of faith and deliver something newer and universe shaking.

So what were my highs and lows now I'm not keeping back on spoilers?


Opening credits. Despite missing that iconic 20th Century Fox opening, Disney didn't splash their castle insignia over the start and went straight into the classic title and scrolling credits, followed by a massive spaceship blotting out the planet.

Rey! I adore Rey! And I think the casting was great (okay, bit of bias with  Brit in the lead role, and female too). But I love that she's a survivor, she can take care of herself, she's a nerd, she's a pilot, AND a Jedi. I suspect that she's Luke's daughter (I figure if she was Han and Leia's then something more might have been said in the film since there was no secret about Ren. Or is that a double bluff?). Her self sufficiency lead to some great comedy moments: her protest that she didn't need Finn to hold her hand to run, his attempt to help defend her only to reach her as she beat to assailants into submission alone, the fact that he came to rescue her from Ren only to spot her managing an escape mostly by herself... awesome. And she's won over my Star Wars hating daughter. That's impressive.

Finn. I can't say I'm all that enamoured by him, since he struck me as a coward at the start. As in his first great scene with Poe (really want to learn more of his story!), Finn says it's the right thing to do. Poe reads him like a book and figures out he just needs a pilot, which Finn admits. Then Finn spends a large part of the film trying to run away. But he does come through at the end, and I'm keen to see if he's to become a Jedi too since he picked up the lightsaber first. I'm kind of hoping there won't be a romantic relationship between him and Rey. Men and women can be friends without it!!

Poe. We didn't get to see anywhere near enough of him, and I really hope we do in the next film.

General Hux. Okay, again, there's some bias here. He's a redhead! But it was great to see someone who stood on a par with Kylo Ren, and in fact some rivalry. When Ren gives up the hunt for the droid convinced he can get the info from Rey, Hux has no qualms about dobbing him in to Supreme Leader Snokes without coming across as a boot licker. And out of the two of them, Hux comes across as far more chilling, especially after his speech to the troops before the first firing of the Big Bad Weapon, where he ended almost foaming at the mouth in his fanaticism.

BB-8. Cute, but I still prefer R2.

The original cast. I loved, loved seeing them back. But Harrison Ford seemed to be struggling, and the fact that he only came back because of the script suggests he wasn't really up to doing this again. To me, his death totally made sense, and while I know it's upset a lot of fans, I'm afraid I was just too relieved it wasn't Luke to be too upset the first time around. On the second showing, braced for all the snippets that choked me up, his death had more impact. I take the fact that Ren has chosen to do what Luke didn't was the significance of this. My husband commented on Leia's apparent lack of reaction (maybe she was already prepared for it) and Chewie's exclusion (he's still mad that Chewie never got a medal) when Leia hugged Rey instead of Chewie is still bugging him. But that last is what makes me wonder if Rey is Leia's rather than Luke's... I'm not expecting all the original cast to make it to the end of the trilogy. >.<

The spaceships. Woo hoo! Seeing the X-wings zooming across a lake, TIE fighters crashing, the Falcon taking back to the skies - fantastic! Worth going to the 3D showing for those scenes and battles, but otherwise you don't lose much by going 2D.

Max von Sydow. Fantastic to see such an iconic actor making an appearance. I'm just sorry he wasn't in it for long.

The diversity. A strong female lead, a black Stormtrooper, female Stromtroopers and X-Wing pilots. Awesome! But we need more. The outcry over those things means we need much more, until such things aren't commented on as either shocking or unusual. Sigh.

The comedy moments and the nostalgia. Plenty of these, and I'm not going to list every one. But the first sight of each of the new and old characters, the ships, the snippets of original music, the opening credits, the snippy comebacks... great stuff. Especially the reference to 'the garbage' which turns out to be the iconic Falcon!


Kylo Ren. I'm sorry, at first I was chilled by his switches from incandescent rage to instant calm (even another comedy moment where two Stormtroopers turn aside after seeing molten metal flying from Ren's chamber). But the moment he took the mask off, he lost credibility for me. He's another Anakin Skywalker: a stroppy, tantrum-throwing child who finds the universe unfair and can't deal with it. I can't take him seriously, not even after Solo's death.

Captain Phasma. I don't think we've seen enough of her to really judge, but the fact that Solo and Finn caught her so easily and she obeyed their demands without much more than the typical villain's speech of 'you won't get away with this' kind of lessened my respect for her. More please!

Maz Katana. Ugh. Could we not have had a real actor instead of another CGI character?

Supreme Leader. I think Disney just swiped Thanos out of the Marvel Universe.

The soundtrack. After a friend's comment about the music, I listened more carefully. First time around I was only really aware of the snippets of original music being played, and they choked me up every time (heck, I choked up on the opening credits!). To be honest, the second time around I can't say the music overly impressed me. It took a far more background position, which is sad when it was such a big part of the originals.

The Ending. Seriously, I think it would have been far better to stick with the remash idea and have the Falcon setting off in search of Luke a la The Empire Strikes Back with Lando and Chewie heading off to rescue Solo. Those meaningful silent stares at the end of TFA went on a fraction too long and meant the film ended with a bit of a fizzle (even though I was relieved to see Luke).

I loved it, want to own it, and can't wait for the next one. I'm looking forward to seeing Rogue One next December!
FYI, if you didn't like it or hated it, please don't comment here. I'm sure you can find plenty of other places to hate on it but I don't want to hear any of it.

My Kylo Ren tee. I think I'm going to pass this to my 11yo if he wants it.


  1. I agree with much you said. Rey is definitely a plus. Kilo Ren should never have taken off his mask. Finn comes across as a bit of a coward ... or does he just have a lot to learn about committing himself to The Cause? He's the only new character who seems to have a lot to learn (a la young Luke), and perhaps as a result I found him intriguing. Rey, for example, has absolutely no discernible weaknesses, hence less room to grow in the sequels. I admit that I dread the next movie turning into a thinly veiled repeat of The Empire Strikes Back, with Rey learning from Luke. She's already mastered the force enough to defeat Kilo Ren. It would be a joke to cast her in the role of a beginner.

    But your most interesting comment was that TFA won over your daughter. I think (or at least hope!) that this bodes well for the future of SFRom. A noticeable segment of the genre seems to derive from Star Wars. If TFA can win over new adherents--with a female lead!--then some portion of them may turn to SFRom.

    We can dream, at least.

    1. Agree on the scope for character growth for Finn and lack of for Rey. I'm wondering more if Rey will be set a quest rather than go into training, like Luke's challenge to face his father.
      The odd thing is my daughter is a huge fan of Hunger Games and Divergent, both dystopias with string female leads. However, she's also a fan of Mazerunner and Percy Jackson, so it's evidently not all about the gender of the lead. But it was a moment of pride for her to finally be pulled into SW, and if it could hook her then it could definitely hook others.


I always love to hear your thoughts.