Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens Review a

There’s so much that I want to say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thankfully, this website lets me share my (silly) stream of consciousness with the world. Today’s “not a review” uses the tried and true RPadTV binary system for lots of random thoughts on the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Here’s the short version — I loved it and will happily pay money to see it again in theaters…several times.

Like most nerds, I love the original Star Wars trilogy. That said, I probably enjoyed the prequels more than most (don’t get me wrong, Jar Jar and Ani suck). I also greatly enjoyed director JJ Abrams’ two Star Trek movies. Going into The Force Awakens, I had high but reasonably tempered expectations. I’m happy to say that my expectations were exceeded. The Force Awakens is a phenomenally fun movie. Now kindly turn on your spoiler shields and lock your S-foils in attack position for some random thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Mark Out Moments (Good): The Force Awakens had four moments that overwhelmed my heart and had me holding back tears of joy.

  • The first time the Millennium Falcon is shown
  • Seeing the new X-wing fighters
  • The first time R2D2 is shown
  • Rey using the force to grab a lightsaber

 

These scenes dazzled me and had me believing in movie magic again. In the immortal words of Sergio from Get Him to the Greek, they left me feeling “like an eight-year old who just discovered his first boner.” While I’ve marked out at the movies before, I don’t recall ever feeling so high from a film. It almost makes you feel bad for younger people that didn’t grow up with the original Star Wars movies, since they won’t have those nostalgia-fueled mark-out moments.

A New Scoundrel (Good): Resistance pilot Poe Dameron stole the show early on. He’s one of the best pilots in the galaxy and has a roguish charm. When he’s captured by The First Order and brought face to face with baddie Kylo Ren, Poe quips in the face of danger. He’s supposed to be terrified, but playfully says, “Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?” It’s a nice eff you to Kylo Ren and peril in general. For the rest of the movie, Poe is pretty much the good guy male moviegoers want to be.

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Finn Grow on You (Good): Initially, Finn comes off as flat and uninteresting. Part of the problem is that he was paired with Poe in the earliest portion of the movie (Poe will always be “the cool one”). Over the course of The Force Awakens, Finn grows on you and then you realize that he’s a fantastic perspective character. Yes, he does heroic things, but he also has moments of freak-out cowardice, lies about his identity, and overstates his importance. He behaves in a wonderfully realistic way that’s layered, nuanced, and easy to relate to. While he starts off flat (perhaps intentionally), John Boyega’s multifaceted importance and comic timing were impressive.

Rey Kicks Ass (Good): When protagonist Rey first appeared I said, “Look, it’s less-attractive Keira Knightley.” (Partially because of her bone structure, but more for her accent) As The Force Awakens went on, she became more-talented Keira Knightley, which ultimately made her more-attractive Keira Knightley.

Rey is one of the coolest and most kick-ass female characters in sci-fi. She’s capable on several levels, equally adept at scavenging for valuable goods, jury rigging the Millennium Falcon, and fighting with a lightsaber. While there are more and more powerful female characters in mainstream movies all the time, Rey might be the most important, simply because Star Wars is huge. Daisy Ridley did a wonderful job bringing a new heroine to life. Her progression from desert scavenger to force heroine was enjoyable and mysterious. I kind of wish that I had a daughter that idolized her.

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No Jar Jars (Good): The Force Awakens didn’t have any annoying aliens that got way too much screen time, annoying kids that somehow grow up to be menacing villains, and wooden young adults that (also) grow up to be menacing villains. The Jar Jar factor was probably my biggest fear going into the movie. I’m grateful that The Force Awakens didn’t have any Jar Jars or Anis.

Too Much Imitation (Possibly Bad): The biggest potential issue with The Force Awakens is that it, perhaps, is too beholden to the original trilogy. It contains many similarities and hits many of the same beats as A New Hope. Here are some examples — droid with important info gets stuck on crappy desert planet, protagonist in bland clothing finds said droid, good guys look for help at an intergalactic dive bar, bad guys build enormous spherical weapon, good guys attempt to blow up said weapon by attacking minuscule design flaw, main baddy wears a mask that gives him a menacing voice, baddy’s boss is fond of video chat, one of the X-wing pilots is overweight, mentor character dies, etc.

Some fans will feel that these instances are flattering imitation and a respectful homage to the first Star Wars film. Others will feel that they’re unoriginal and prevent The Force Awakens from being truly fresh. Personally, I enjoyed all of these moments. History has a tendency to repeat itself, even in a galaxy far away. That said, I understand if some moviegoers feel that The Force Awakens has too many similarities to A New Hope. (I will also classify those people as heartless killjoys.)

Greg Grunberg is the New Jek Porkins: I love that Greg Grunberg is in this film. I need a bestie like JJ Abrams, so that I can get roles in all of his work. More importantly, I love that Grunberg’s Snap Wexley is an overweight X-wing pilot. I am positive that Wexley’s real last name is Porkins and that he changed it to escape the sizable shadow of his heroic father.

Spoilers (Good): Disney was pretty tight with advanced screenings and did an amazing job containing press leaks. With the way today’s Internet and social media work, it’s shocking that the company was able to control information as well as it did. I was genuinely surprised about Kylo Ren’s parentage. While it was telegraphed in the movie, I’m amazed that Han Solo’s death wasn’t plastered all over the Internet weeks before the release of The Force Awakens.

Kylo Ren Temper Tantrums (Good): There were two scenes where Kylo Ren threw fits and lightsaber-ed the crap out of everything around him. Compared to how cool and controlled previous Star Wars villains were, it was fun watching him lose his sh*t. I loved it when Kylo Ren was throwing a tantrum offscreen and two stormtroopers were shown turning around. I bet their conversation went something like this:

Stormtrooper 1: “Oh crap. Wannabe sith is having another one of his bitch fits.”
Stormtrooper 2: “Yeah, let’s head to the canteen while the IT department cleans up his mess.”
Stormtropper 1: “I hope they have the penne with peas again.” (Eddie Izzard reference ftw!)

Lightsaber Duels (Good): The fight between Rey and Kylo Ren might be my favorite lightsaber fight to date. The ones from the original trilogy were fairly basic. The ones from the prequels had moments of brilliant choreography, but were overdone and had too many instances of people swinging at lightsabers instead of bodies. (Watch me execute this dynamic CG flip and swing my lightsaber ever so fiercely at your lightsaber!) The lightsaber showdown in The Force Awakens was more interesting than the original duels and more realistic than the prequel fights.

Harrison Ford Has Fun (Good): I wasn’t expecting so much Han Solo in the movie, but am grateful for all of his scenes. Old Han Solo is damaged and brittle, but still the scoundrel that everyone loved from the original movies. I couldn’t help thinking about the last time Harrison Ford reprised an old role. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull felt laborious, as if playing the character was a burden for Ford. In The Force Awakens, he appears to be genuinely enjoying himself and having fun with the Han Solo character. While his sarcasm is toned down, he awesomely busts out a few old-school Solo-isms every now and then.

C-3PO’s Entrance (Good): This was just about perfect. Han and Leia are having an emotional moment when 3PO interrupts and kills it. Bwahahahahahahaha!!!

General Hux (Good): While he wasn’t quite the new Tarkin, Hux was a nice addition to The Force Awakens. He’s a manipulative and competitive sociopath. His dynamic with Kylo Ren was fun. Domhnall Gleeson did a great job at making this character such an unlikable dick. You can’t wait to see him eventually get blown up or sliced with a lightsaber. As a sci-fi/fantasy nerd, I love that an actor from the Harry Potter franchise is playing a part in the new Star Wars movies.

Bottom Line: Anyway, those are some assorted thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have many more floating around in my head, but I want to hear what you thought of the film. Please leave a comment below with your opinions and observations on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hope we have an awesomely nerdy discussion!

Addendum (Updated Dec-18 2:11PM)

Kylo Samberg (Bad?): Adam Driver is funny looking. With his big nose and poofy hair, he had me thinking about another funny-looking actor — Andy Samberg. Whenever Kylo Ren was onscreen, 11 percent of my brain thought about him unmasking to reveal Andy Samberg’s dopey face.

More Keira (Good): My buddy Paul brought up an interesting point about Daisy Ridley’s resemblance to Keira Knightley. Perhaps it was intentional. Knightley did play one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens/decoys/pieces of cannon fodder in The Phantom Menace. The resemblance between Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley even confused their respective mothers during the filming of the prequels. Having a young actress with similar looks would make sense if Rey turns out to be part of the Skywalker bloodline.