Sunday, December 27, 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: The good, the bad, the crazy talk *SPOILERS*

After a couple of screenings, jotting down my thoughts and observations. Lists (not comprehensive) of things I love, nits to pick, mysteries, and some genealogy crazy talk follow. If you haven't seen the movie yet, turn back now, for HERE THERE BE *SPOILERS*

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1. Rey as self-saving "princess," beginning with Finn ready to bumble to her rescue on Jakku, followed by her chasing him down as Poe's jacket thief, followed by all the moments where Finn takes her hand and asks if she's okay when for the most part, Finn is probably more in need of help than Rey. Even, somewhat, to the moment on StarKiller when Rey's pretty much 90% saved herself and runs into Han and Chewie and Finn and Chewie reveals it was Finn's idea to rescue her.

2. Rey setting Finn up for that straight-on/straight-down shot from the Falcon on Jakku.

3. Finn's origin. Being a Trooper with a conscience who bucks his conditioning and turns all his training against the First Order that made him.

4. Finn and Poe's important roles. Since they're likely not candidates for Jedi training.

5. The Resistance's cavalier attitude toward destroying a new Imperial doomsday device.

6. Han and Leia's son being named Ben. On first screening, THAT's what really got me, more than Han's death (which I totally felt sinking-feeling-telegraphed by an earlier scene). On second screening, tho, it was Han's death that choked me up.

7. The new X-wing designs apparently based on one of McQuarrie's concepts (I remember the single circles on each side of the cockpit split by the wings). I've been loving the way REBELS has been bringing concept designs (and even Kenner products) to canon life and dig seeing it continued in film.

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1. Everyone's a little too ready to be lifelong friends. Bonds are forged at an accelerated rate. Some of that is the nature of the situations the characters are thrown into (foxhole friends, right?) but it still feels rushed.

2. Would've liked to have seen/heard some of the events of the original trilogy as myth/fairy tale (beyond the 14/12 parsec Kessel Run, which *is* lovely to hear =). Maybe Rey and Finn debating what they've heard in front of Han. Or Kylo Ren dispelling some mythic detail about his father (shooting first? =) or his friends during interrogation of Poe or Rey.

3. Deliberately misleading audience about Artoo not having the rest of the map to Luke. What was the point? Especially delivering the zero percent likelihood in STAR WARS's resident oddsgiver.

4. Missed opp: waking Artoo for apparently no reason at all to reveal the map to Luke. When it was happening on screen, I totally believed it was because Luke's lightsaber had been brought into proximity (and maybe that was actually the case, but only explained in Astromech lingo?).

5. Disappointed: to find out that Max von Sydow was NOT Kes Dameron, Poe's father. I thought that would've been a great puzzle piece to Rey's backstory, that she was intentionally stranded on Jakku for her protection, and a trusted friend of the Skywalkers and/or her fam was stationed closeby to keep watch and help/guide should that be necessary (a la Kenobi on Tatooine w Luke).

6. While spacetime seems to be very malleable in STAR WARS tradition (try calculating the time that passes in any of the original trilogy vs. the space that must be covered), it seems a bit above and beyond to have the destruction of the Hosnian system visible from the surface of Maz's world. I did not appreciate that. The entire visualization of the StarKiller weapon beam bugs me. The "speed" of it. Someone in the Resistance described it as a hyperspace weapon, so that's an out, but then it would've been nice to see the beam disappear into and reappear from hyperspace.

6.5 The StarKiller death beam: one stream splitting into multiple?

7. Missed opp: a reaction from a Force-y character—Rey, Leia, maybe Luke?—to the destruction of the Hosnian system. Also, an emotional tie to that system / world / people. In STAR WARS, Alderaan was Leia's home, and painted as innocent and peaceful in just a few words. The disturbance in the Force registered by Obi-Wan also helped create empathy for the planet's destruction.

8. Weapons tech. I have a theory that weapons and ammo have got more material than energy since ROTJ. We see ventral cannons which seem to fire missiles that track. The StarKiller death beam is some kind of plasma, or capsules/warheads. And maybe Ren is the strongest Sith we've seen on screen, or maybe no Sith has ever decided to flex this ability on screen, but this is the first time we've seen any Force-strong individual stop a blaster blast in mid-air. The change in ammo could explain how it's possible now but wasn't in the past. Also, this is the first time we've seen so much literal bloodshed in a battle involving blasters. True, this could be the PG-13 rating, but not reason it couldn't be both. In the past, blaster victims were scorched and knocked out. Now we're seeing them cut up and bleeding.

9. How easy and ready Finn is to jump into battle w/ a lightsaber in hand. I know this can be explained by his training, but I would've loved to have seen that backed up by seeing First Order troopers in the background of a scene on StarKiller base training with staves and swords. Too telegraphed? There was no comment from Han about his skill. That would've been appropriate, and allowed Finn to give him a smartalec and/or dark answer about his training ("comes a little too easy, but glad I can use it to protect instead of kill").

10. Rey's moment of Force clarity when locking sabers w Kylo. That was not the ideal time for an extended pause, The trigger word that leads to this moment—"the Force" when Kylo jabs at her apparently untrained abilities—doesn't really call back to anything in Rey's experience that we know about (maybe something from a book?). Clearly the scene is shot to have a specific effect on us, and we know what it is, but it doesn't add up all that well when I think about it. No one gave her the "energy field that connects all living things" lesson. Was there a callback to the lightsaber vision that I didn't catch? An echo of Yoda or Kenobi's voice?

Was that moment a moment of connection with Luke? Obi-Wan or Yoda?

In any case, I would have appreciated SEEING somehow that Kylo was giving her a moment of respite, perhaps to consider a threat or offer, something to explain how Ren wasn't obviously dismayed and afraid of Rey being able to take a time out during their battle to mentally check her Force twitter feed.

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1. Rey's vision, triggered by Luke's lightsaber. It starts out in that entrance hallway on Bespin, (showing us the last place/battle in which it was held by a Skywalker?). Then jumps ahead to Luke and Artoo witnessing Kylo Ren's murder of Luke's last student. There are bodies on the ground in the foreground, with Ren and six(?) others behind him standing over them. The entire scene seems to be tinted red, no telling if that's an accurate depiction of the environment or mood setting by the vision. You can hear bits of Yoda and Obi-Wan, what I first thought were memories of words spoken by them to Luke, but after talking to Mike, now consider as words addressed to Rey. Weird, tho. This *seems* to be psychometry, a vision or reading triggered by contact with an object, Luke's lightsaber.

If I assigned any logic to it, I'd say that Rey could only read what the saber itself had "experienced." Following that leads to some interesting ideas. Of course, Luke had the saber when Obi-Wan and Yoda trained him. He lost the saber, along w his hand, on Cloud City after his first visit to Dagobah. He must have recovered it (or recovered it from someone who had recovered it) from Cloud City's gutters, probably after ROTJ, had it with him while training new Jedi, had it with him when Ren went Dark, and then left it with Maz on her smuggler's oasis world.

2. When Ren Force-reads Rey, he takes the taunting road, throwing her lonely existence on Jakku in her face. How she can't sleep at night, and she imagines and island in the middle of a blue sea, her version of counting sheep. I forget the exact turn of Ren's monologue here, but he paints this imagined scene as being a vision of her home. It seems like Ren has plucked it from her memory because of that, to amp up the taunting. What he definitely does NOT think it is is the location of Luke Skywalker. But when the end of the movie reveals that that's exactly where Luke is, we know. Does that mean that Rey's home and Luke's location are the same place? Or does it mean that Rey somehow managed to hide Luke's location by couching it in her memory as imagined? Of course, I like to think that they're the same place. That Rey was there with Luke and her mother and happy for a time.

3. In Rey's AT-AT home, she's got few comforts, but one of them is a doll in a Rebel pilot's uniform, orange with white detail. Dad? Or perhaps some post-Yavin Rebellion marketing and fundraising? =)

4. That sidelong look that Han gives Rey when she says, "I didn't think there was this much green in all the galaxy." That moment is built to be a callback, something that reminds us of a similar exchange, an echo of it, but for the life of me, I can't remember an original that it should connect with. If Luke was more expressive (altho, "if there's a bright center of the universe" is pretty great prose) it might've been something that Han heard Luke say on approach to Yavin 4, right? Maybe it's a callback to something from the upcoming Han solo flick? Something that his fiancee says? That would be some remarkable planning.

Whoa. Could it be something that Ben once said in his youth? Which, would mean that until that moment, he would have been raised on a non-green world and then taken to one at some point.

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It certainly feels like we're meant to connect the dots from Rey to Luke. The lightsaber in Maz's cellar seems to call to her (with her own voice, crying out when her family leaves her on Jakku). She sees things in her vision—triggered by contact w/ Luke's lightsaber—that only Luke could have experienced. When Kylo Force-probes her mind he sees her picturing/imagining an island in a sea as a way to find peace in her lonely life on Jakku. It's not a very specific description, but when we arrive at the end of the film, we definitely feel a connection. Is this a subconscious Force-vision by Rey of Luke's whereabouts or her own future? Or a half-remembered memory of where she came from, her home before Jakku?

Anyhow, the old Jedi order, the thousand-year-old one that was brought down in part by its own arrogance, is no longer around. There's no reason that Luke shouldn't find a companion and start a family. Heck, maybe he's playing the field. New Jedi gotta come from somewhere! I always thought that Qui-Gon was doing that in his downtime. Boppin' around the galactic rim worlds, doing Force tricks in cantinas to pick up the (worthy) ladies, and not-so-immaculately conceiving some Force babies.

Next up, in my head at least, is that Rey is Leia and Han's daughter, whom Han doesn't know about. This is kind of tough to see in light of how Leia and Rey interact, or it might fit in perfectly, given that they are BOTH strong with the Force. The only screen time they share is commiserate over the loss of Han, after the destruction of StarKiller base. Whoa, what if they connected during that lull in the saber battle? I'd be pleased with that.

But let's get back to back story. So, Han and Leia have enrolled Ben in Skywalker Academy and he's probably gotten his Womp Rat badge by now. Some minor issue blows up into a ridiculous argument and Leia and Han end up driving each other away, Han once more taking off for the stars. A few weeks later, Leia learns that she's pregnant. Given their last blowout, Leia decides not to let Han know, lest it affect his judgment when it comes to their ever more volatile relationship. She exploits some royal channels and connections, goes on space sabbatical for a few months, perhaps to Naboo, has her child, and returns to the Republic (and Resistance) with an aide who happens to have a newborn baby girl in tow. Flash forward five or so years… Kylo, a fully-fledged Dewback at Skywalker Academy, goes Dark on Luke, killing most of his fellow students, sparing a select few, who presumably become the Knights of Ren, and scarper off to the First Order. Luke alerts Leia and Han, whose relationship has remained rocky, at best. If Leia hasn't told Luke about Rey, well, Luke probably sensed her, right? Together, they enact Skywalker Relocation Program Protocols and set Rey up to be left on a remote world (this time one Vader wasn't born on, Jakku) with a trusted guardian (von Sydow instead of Guinness) and the tools that she would need at just the right moments to lead her to her greater potential and destiny (the map, the garbage ship, her father, Luke's lightsaber, like PAYBACK, but with the Force instead of a time window or whatever it was).

But how about that Rebel pilot doll? I like that as a clue to her father. Who would that point to? Could be Luke. Hrm… Wedge? Maybe Wedge and Leia…? Wow. I like that. I'd been thinking Lando and Leia for Finn for the wonderful melodrama of it, but maybe Wedge and Leia for Rey.

Of course, she could be another Anakin, a pure immaculately conceived Force-baby. Hopefully not, tho.

Frack. I've got a lot more spinning around my so-called brain, but I'll leave you with a summup of my pre-screening Finn theory and then pack it up. For now.

Finn as the son of Leia and Lando. With their tumultuous relationship, no doubt there were several periods where Han and Leia declared themselves "on a space break." And who's the longtime friend of the family with the strong caped shoulder to lean on? Lando Calrissian! Of course, they'd keep it on the down-low. Leia's pregnancy would be hidden by a sabbatical, the child would be born and given to Lando to raise, with regular visits from Leia. I came up with this before the movie opened. Now, after learning of the abduction and training practices of the First Order, well, it becomes a bit more complicated. The Empire would be very motivated to punish Lando and Bespin for their betrayal of Vader by taking his child, but you'd expect some initiative on the Resistance side to rescue him. Unless there are layers of secrecy, or perhaps even a faked death, involved. Hrm…

Well, he could still be Lando's son by a partner we haven't seen or met yet, and made a target for First Order abduction by his father's identity.

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Got tix for another screening tomorrow. May have more, slightly different rambling after that.

Keep on keepin' on~

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