Wednesday, December 30, 2015

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: The good, the bad, the crazy talk 2 *SPOILERS*

Getting down some more thoughts, observations, and crazy talk after my fourth screening of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Below are more things I love, things I not-so-much, some interestingness, and some mystery from my brain on Episode VII.

Click here for my earlier SW:TFA: Good, Bad, & Crazy.

If you have not seen the movie yet, turn back now, for HERE THERE BE *SPOILERS*

1. A scene from early in the film… Rey is cleaning her day's haul and looks across the workbench at the older scavenger woman across from her. It's a vision of her future that doesn't require a strong connection to the Force.

2. In Rey's vision… I like that the ship that's leaving her on Jakku appears to be flying into a Kylo Ren visor-shaped red sun. Is there a message in it, or is it a clever bit of imagery? Certainly could take on several readings… that Kylo is the reason for her exile on Jakku, that those on the departing ship might be connected to Kylo, or perhaps are fated to confront or return to him.

3. An aspect of the film as a whole about which I'm slightly torn…Do I *love* that THE FORCE AWAKENS borrows so much from the previous films? No, but I get it. I appreciate it. This time around they even let the characters in on it, as shown in the Resistance's shortest mission briefing ever, right? "Ooooo~ An even bigger Death Star! What do we hit to blow this one up?"

New challenges, threats, and relationships would be very welcome, but I see several storytelling, consistency, and fan-satisfying reasons for presenting us with echoes of events and situations with which we're already familiar. I mean, c'mon! What's more STAR WARS than recycling STAR WARS, right?

As both a STAR WARS and a TRON fanbeing, let me put it into an SAT analogy (they still do those?)…
The new movies are both sequels and reboots. Each is a new chapter in its respective story-world that in plot and action allows for an updated/suped-up introduction to elements of the original for a new—literally—generation.


I fully expect that I won't need to be so forgiving or apologist when it comes to the next two films, tho.

Hear me, Disney?

1. The opening shot of the film. The opening sequence of STAR WARS heralded a new era in film and filmmaking in an epic fashion. Descent from space to the skies of an alien planet. First, a blockade runner enters are view, fired upon by some unseen menace, until… Holy F%*&?! A ship that seems to be the size of a city, what we later come to know as a Star Destroyer, something that Takes Time to move from offscreen to fully onscreen, and deafens us with blaster fire and its pulsing, rattlesnake engines. To be fair, in my mind, I can't think of anyone/any film who's topped that entrance, and no doubt forgotten dozens if not hundreds of openings that tried and failed. Each of the other STAR WARS films had a similar opening (although none as powerful), and I fully expected something of the same flavor here, with a little twist of the new.

To be fair, I believe that's what we got. Unfortunately, I think the twist/s subtracted rather than added; the twists being a change in combo of POV and ship's approach that presented us a First Order Star Destroyer's silhouette. Not the drama I hoped for. It succeeds more on paper than on screen: the disc of a bright planet or moon (not Jakku) sliced into by the black wedge of the shadow of the destroyer (with a crucifix at its point?), with a number of smaller shadows detaching themselves to descend to Jakku.

I don’t love the new Star Destroyer, either. But then, we don’t get any good beauty shots of it.

2. The galacto-political state of the galaxy far, far away in THE FORCE AWAKENS is really vague. There's a (New?) Republic, which seems to be a legitimate government for the galaxy, right? There's a First Order, which might be some kind of out-of-control military industrial complex, hijacked by Supreme Leader Snoke. But why would the Republic need to support a Resistance on the sly? Contras? How big is the First Order? Was all of the First Order on StarKiller when Hux held his "Last Day of the Republic" rally? Aside from their system-killing StarKiller base, are Supreme Leader and the First Order the underdogs here? What the flark is the status quo of the galaxy at the start and the end of this movie?

3. I have to say, except for the first appearance of what I think of as Rey's theme when she's sledding down the dune sands from the Star Destroyer on Jakku, I did not leave the theater with any memorable new music. The familiar notes were properly heartstring tugging, but I'm not humming anything new. Full disclosure, the only new (non-original trilogy) music I remember from the prequels is "Duel of the Fates" (which is powerful stuff).

I'm hoping that music from THE FORCE AWAKENS will grow on me, tho. =)

4. Why didn't we see more non-human species that we've already seen in the backgrounds of scenes? Aside from the a rep of the species of plush elephant that that one guy in Max Rebo's band was, all of the sketchy characters in Maz's place were new and different compared to the menageries of previous STAR WARS films.

5. I'd like to know what elements of the film tripped the PG-13 detector. I wish that it was PG, so that more parents could share the experience w/ their youthier kids. Not that there weren't a lot of younglings in the audiences I've been a part of. Was there one vital scene or visual that necessitated it, and then, once the film was on that side of PG, what other elements were added/kept to make the most of going over the line?

Was it red blood appearing on screen? Cuz, honestly, I would be quite happy with a less bloody or non-bloody galaxy. Han's death by lightsaber? Was the Rathtar party on Han's freighter enough to warrant PG-13? The scenes of Force interrogation?

There was a little guy, maybe five years old, in my first screening, who started crying when Kylo Ren killed Han. He seemed to collect himself enough to follow the rest of the film, but when it ended, he was still sobbing, or sobbing again. Poor kid. Not that swords thru the chest are something kids should be watching, but I doubt that the saber violence itself is what affected that boy. It was the loss of Han Solo.

I think the MPAA subtitle is something like "Sci-fi action" (alas, no "teen partying" in the film). I wonder if any of the original trilogy would get PG-13 today.


1. We don't hear it explicitly as a policy or mission, but it appears to me that the First Order may be a humans-first movement. That would make them not just Dark, but a hate group, the "beasts!" Officers are all human (hello there, officers Ferb and Killjoy!). Troopers all seem to be humanoid if not human.

Could the Empire have been built on the same prejudice? Again, officers and troopers seemed to be human, but given the origin story of the Empire—Palpatine taking over the existing Republic, which included hundreds of worlds and species—that seems unlikely. So, maybe this is a new, First Order, directive.

I didn't give it any serious thought until Hux's Adolftastic pep rally performance. Could be very interesting—and complicated—to follow thru on that idea in the SW universe. I'd be pleased to see the introduction of such a real evil into the galaxy.

Supreme Leader Snoke… Leader of the Human Supremacists?

Hrm… Something that even the Dark side might object to. Wow. THAT would be awesome. =)

2. Snoke presents himself as an oversized hologram. I'm hoping that we'll get a man-behind-the-curtain reveal in the next film. Maybe Snoke is Yoda-sized, heh. Maybe he's a cute fuzzy jiggly-puff looking creature. Maybe he's an evil A.I.

Snoke's words could imply that he's had facetime with Kylo Ren at some point, but it's possible that all interactions have been via Force or holoSkype until now. When StarKiller base is imploding, Snope directs Hux to collect and bring Ren to him, to "complete his training," or something along those lines. Ominous lines. The first thing I thought of was that Snoke would use the Force to take Kylo Ren's body for his own, transfer his consciousness from his scarred old form to Ren's scarred young form. That's not something we've seen in the films before, but it certainly seems within the realm of Force-possibility, no?

Looking back at training-completing in the context of the original STAR WARS movies, in ROTJ, Yoda tells Luke that the last thing he must do to complete his training is face his father. But Ren's just done that, right? Hrm… Perhaps the last-last thing Ren must do is face his mother? His… sister? The evening gown competition?

3. In Rey's vision, wee Rey's hand is definitely being held by Unkar Plutt when she is left on Jakku. What is this arrangement? Has she been sold into slavery? That doesn't really jive with what we see of her scavenging young adult life, tho. Perhaps she earned free agency in the years since her family left her?

Hrm… So, Rey's family works a deal to set up Unkar as a foster parent, to make sure she doesn't die or get abducted or whatever until can earn what passes for a living on Jakku and survive on her own. They also work things out so that a certain "garbage" ship ends up in Unkar's possession, on the condition that it's kept maintained and fueled, but always under cover and close by. Perhaps the chain of custody is actually choreographed, or manufactured and fed to Unkar (and Rey) as the truth.

Thusly is Rey set up to live a hard and quiet life on a planet far from the bright center of the universe, until destiny comes calling, at which time Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) could introduce himself and hire young Rey to pilot them both to Maz's world in the garbage ship he just bought from Unkar.

Unfortunately, Tekka met Kylo Ren's saber, but hey, the Force works in mysterious ways, and Rey still ended up on the Falcon and delivered to Maz's world and Luke's lightsaber.

4. Who are the Knights of Ren? For now, I’m betting it’s the six shadowy figures who stand beside and behind Kylo Ren in Rey’s vision. Were they fellow students?

5. Can we agree that Daisy Ridley bears more than a passing resemblance to Keira Knightley? Knightley played Sabé in Episode 1, one of Amidala’s decoys. I honestly can’t remember for certain, but I’m pretty sure she survived the events of that movie and lived on to continue serving Amidala for some time. Could she possibly have been a good enough decoy to fool a hormonal Anakin one dark night on Naboo? Perhaps she left Amidala’s service to raise her child. And this child grew up and started a family of his or her own, and learning that one of Sabé’s grandchildren, Rey, was strong with the Force, contacted the Skywalker Academy. But before Rey would begin her training, Kylo Ren decimated Luke’s school, and Luke activated the Jedi Child Relocation Program protocols, and set Rey up to live her scavenger life on Jakku until the Force called her to her destiny.

Or… Did Master Qui-Gon or his Padawan Obi-Wan steal some romantic and intimate moments with Sabé while on protection detail? Making Rey one of their grandchildren.

I’ve always thought that a great way to scandalously fix the prequels would be to have Luke and Leia be the children of Amidala and Obi-Wan. I always felt there was more chemistry between the two of them than Ami and Ani, and it would add some dark motivation to Obi-Wan. Yeah, it would totally change everything and I might be a sucker for a good space soap opera. =)


Mike tells me that Abrams brought Ewan MacGregor and Frank Oz to read some lines for Kenobi and Yoda in Rey's vision. He also explained however, that Abrams isolated "Rey" from Guinness's original dialogue, from the word "afraid." I originally thought that Ben and Yoda's voices were samples/memories from words they spoke to Luke in the original trilogy. Apparently Kenobi's original line from STAR WARS about Luke taking his "first steps into a much larger world" is not exactly what's heard in the vision. All that I could clearly hear was "first step." And sadly, I can't remember Yoda's words in the vision at all, except that they recalled for me a little deja vu from EMPIRE.

What does this mean for the nature of Rey's lightsaber-induced vision? I do NOT think that it's active communication with Rey. However, that Obi-Wan seems to address her points to Obi-Wan's Force ghost interacting with Rey in the future. Perhaps a Force ghostly Yoda as well.

I think that complicates things, tho. I like the notion that the saber is passing along experiences that it was "present" for. Of course, if we remember what Yoda told Luke in Empire about visions, if the mind is not focused, the Force may deliver events from the past, present, or a future that might be, and the vision DOES include a moment only SHE experienced, her abandonment on Jakku.

Unless, of course, Luke and his lightsaber were on the ship that left her there. =)

So, MAYbe the vision is scattershot and chaotic, and she sees some of Luke's history, some of her own past, and Kylo Ren in her future—BUT—I'd rather the vision is based on psychometry of the lightsaber, and is presenting moments associated with the lightsaber (which, if we allow for future-viewing, would include an encounter w Ren).
I'm pretty sure I could go on and on, but enough rambling for now.

Keep on keepin' on~

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