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.

The Force Awakens Review b

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.

The Force Awakens Review c

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.

The Force Awakens Review d

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.

  • I have tickets for Sunday, but I saw your link and I was thinking to myself “I’m going to see this movie at least 20 times, right?”

    Now I regret reading past the spoilers. Good analysis of the movie though pare!

  • To be fair, there was a spoiler warning. ? Please share your thoughts on the movie after you’ve seen it on Sunday, Sir!

  • smartguy81

    I think I am a little less enthusiastic than you about this movie. I thought it was pretty predictable for the most part. Though I did think that Ren and Rey would be siblings.

    Finn – Great character. Perhaps my favorite new character. I was disappointed when he was shown to not be the force sensitive character. Rey may be ok, but her character isn’t as good. Maybe Finn will become a Sith since he has so many feelings.

    Rey – See above. I really didn’t find any of her story compelling. They showed her abandoned on Jakku or traded rather and I didn’t care why. Since she wasn’t a Solo kid I lost interest.

    Kylo Ren – This villain felt underwhelming. I’m hoping Snoke trains the shit out of him for Episode VIII. Maybe he will be disfigured and not look like a douche with poofy hair then. I did appreciate how this movie showed a force user in full control of all of their force powers. It was nice to see the director acknowledge that the fleshing out of how awesome Jedi/Sith are from the old EU is great and leaps ahead of any imagination Lucas had with them. I’d have preferred this villain to be more intimidating but following Vader is a tough act.

    Poe – Really good character that could probably carry his own stand alone film.

    Captain Phasma – ZzzzZzzzzz

    Wrap up thoughts:
    I think BB8 is not nearly as cool as R2. R2 can fight! I really liked seeing Chewbacca kick some ass. This movie could have been the most devastating thing in the world to me if he had died as well. This was a good movie, but I feel they did a bad job of explaining the Force or really what made Kylo Ren a seeming wizard. I’d have expected more fleshing out of this since the ideas were foreign or unknown to most. I’d have just preferred a deeper story in general. Maybe that is me expecting too much but this was a pretty predictable story aside from Abrams convincing me Finn was force sensitive only for that to be taken away!

    GG Coruscant.

    • I’m going pad this out so there aren’t any spoilers on the front page. Padded? How about now? Good.

      I agree with you on Captain Phasma, but I wrote her off weeks ago. When they were saying that she’s going to be the new Boba Fett in terms of coolness, that was just setting her up to fail. And she did.

      JJ totally mind tricked you. Ha!

      I don’t think Rey was traded. It looks like she was left there for safekeeping, similar to Luke. Her parentage is still up in the air. The movie hints that Luke is her father, but that could be too obvious. Some nerds believe that she’s a force baby that was created by Darth Plagueis’ will, but that seems too obscure for a mainstream audience. I have no problem with her being a Solo or Skywalker. It’s potentially interesting either way.

      Poe probably could carry his own film, but probably shouldn’t. I think he’s best as an occasional scene stealer.

      I’m convinced that you like Finn because they made him a garbageman.

      As for being predictable, I’m not sure what you were expecting. One of the reasons the movie worked so well was that Lawrence Kasdan was writing Star Wars again. It was obvious fairly early that a lot of The Force Awakens was going to mirror A New Hope. Lucas tried to be different with the prequels and the backlash was tremendous. Abrams safely went with familiar beats, but still had enough mystery to make things interesting. Obviously everyone wants to know what the hell Luke has been up to. Rey’s background was touched on (I wish I could watch her force flashback repeatedly). There are all kinds of crazy theories about Snoke. Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with The Force Awakens and will be seeing it at least twice more.

      • smartguy81

        Padding is fine. I’ll pad this some more. I didn’t like the nachos I ordered at Movie Tavern for this feature. Enough padding?

        My expectations weren’t of some amazing story since I keep them low due to how bad Lucas was with the prequels, but that didn’t make what I watched unpredictable. I had that mindset eventhough I knew he wasn’t involved! It’s a JJ Abrams film after all. I mean look at how the Star Trek movies played out…very predictable and at least one film borrowed quite a lot from a previous film. It’s what he does. Kind of like Blizzard in a way. He takes what is already out there and improves upon or modifies it. It’s up in the air if he actually improves it but w/e.

        And that’s the thing…all of these fan theories about Snoke…these movies choose the simplest methods of explaining stuff. The theories are great to read and discuss but none of the movies including this one have had any complex story components (midichlorians excluded).

        I do hope that the next movie has a bit elements that move the story forward and that we can move beyond the Skywalkers etc and create new characters. As I mentioned earlier I was hopeful that Finn would be a Jedi or maybe they can twist him into a Sith. I’d hate it if he were just kept for comic relief.

      • smartguy81

        Padding is fine. I’ll pad this some more. I didn’t like the nachos I ordered at Movie Tavern for this feature. Enough padding?

        My expectations weren’t of some amazing story since I keep them low due to how bad Lucas was with the prequels, but that didn’t make what I watched unpredictable. I had that mindset eventhough I knew he wasn’t involved! It’s a JJ Abrams film after all. I mean look at how the Star Trek movies played out…very predictable and at least one film borrowed quite a lot from a previous film. It’s what he does. Kind of like Blizzard in a way. He takes what is already out there and improves upon or modifies it. It’s up in the air if he actually improves it but w/e.

        And that’s the thing…all of these fan theories about Snoke…these movies choose the simplest methods of explaining stuff. The theories are great to read and discuss but none of the movies including this one have had any complex story components (midichlorians excluded).

        I do hope that the next movie has a bit elements that move the story forward and that we can move beyond the Skywalkers etc and create new characters. As I mentioned earlier I was hopeful that Finn would be a Jedi or maybe they can twist him into a Sith. I’d hate it if he were just kept for comic relief.

      • Here’s a question, out of curiosity, and after some additional spoiler-free padding. When is MSNBC going to protest that The Force Awakens made the black guy a garbageman?

        More seriously, why are you less interested in Rey if she’s not a Solo (still possible). Would you rather have her be Luke’s kid or a force miracle baby?

      • smartguy81

        I really like my new 1794 Tundra. It’s an amazing machine and so much fun to drive. I’m getting Popeyes today.

        That’s solely due to the fact that you didn’t even get a misdirecting hint in the movie. An unremarkable spaceship flying off wasn’t enough for me. Plus I was wrong (maybe) about her and Kylo being siblings.

        I have a theory at what/who she is but it relies on Snoke actually being Plagueis (sp?).

      • Let’s hear your theory! I mentioned something earlier about that particular sith. There were other hints aside from the one you mentioned. Maz gave at least two. Still, they’re all vague enough that it could be either way.

      • smartguy81

        Well to make sure there are no spoilers on this page I’ll type a needlessly long intro. That should be long enough.

        I think Rey is more than likely a Kenobi or something created by Plagueis. I kind of lean more towards the fact that she is a Kenobi. It makes more sense for the movies rather than discussing Plagueis using the force to create bodies so that he can possess them. BUT if they do that i want them to say that’s what Anakin was and that midichlorians were a lie that Quigon made up! This is adverse to a popular theory in that Luke has already trained her as a child and she is blocking all of those memories since she was abandoned. A lot of my friends subscribe to that one.

        Issue with the end: I know Ren was hurt but he should not have lost a fight to her. So she is either trained (ugh) or the force possession stuff is being used by Obi Wan or Anakin on her. I need to see this again. I interpreted the visions she had touching the lightsaber as future events that could happen, but maybe there were past events in it??

      • smartguy81

        Well to make sure there are no spoilers on this page I’ll type a needlessly long intro. That should be long enough.

        I think Rey is more than likely a Kenobi or something created by Plagueis. I kind of lean more towards the fact that she is a Kenobi. It makes more sense for the movies rather than discussing Plagueis using the force to create bodies so that he can possess them. BUT if they do that i want them to say that’s what Anakin was and that midichlorians were a lie that Quigon made up! This is adverse to a popular theory in that Luke has already trained her as a child and she is blocking all of those memories since she was abandoned. A lot of my friends subscribe to that one.

        Issue with the end: I know Ren was hurt but he should not have lost a fight to her. So she is either trained (ugh) or the force possession stuff is being used by Obi Wan or Anakin on her. I need to see this again. I interpreted the visions she had touching the lightsaber as future events that could happen, but maybe there were past events in it??

      • Going to OC Vape Meet today (strictly written for padding purposes). A bunch of people believe that she’s a Plagueis creation. Part of it is based on Snoak’s track sounding like the performance Palpatine/Ani watched in III. Part of it is based on Kylo saying that Snoak is wise and Palpatine calling him Plagueis the Wise. There’s a book that has Anakin as an indirect result of Plagueis midichlorian manipulations, but I don’t think it’s canon.

        The force vision definitely contained past scenes.

      • Going to OC Vape Meet today (strictly written for padding purposes). A bunch of people believe that she’s a Plagueis creation. Part of it is based on Snoak’s track sounding like the performance Palpatine/Ani watched in III. Part of it is based on Kylo saying that Snoak is wise and Palpatine calling him Plagueis the Wise. There’s a book that has Anakin as an indirect result of Plagueis midichlorian manipulations, but I don’t think it’s canon.

        The force vision definitely contained past scenes.

      • Tokz_21

        Ok. So padding padding padding padding padding……. More padding…… Pad here…… Oh and i missed a spot there. Oh and one more pad. So u know during the lightsaber battle at the end. Rey kinda looked like luke especially when they zoomed in with the skin complexion. I wish i could find a good picture to support it of luke but when luke is training in empire, thats the picture that gave me the idea that rey is luke’s daughter. Also Snoke cant be plagueis because sidious killed him. Luke was looking for the first jedi temple. So what if looking for that he found the sith temple and unlocked some sith spirit that learned to communicate like qui-gib, obi wan and yoda did.

      • I need to double check (by watching it again ?), but I’m fairly positive that Luke’s music is playing during the scene you’re talking about. That could be another hint.

        The people that think it’s Plagueis believe that he didn’t really die and was just biding his time. I still think that the character is too obscure and wouldn’t be impactful as a mainstream reveal. Your theory sounds like more fun. Ha!

        Btw, I loved Daniel Craig’s bit role.

      • Tokz_21

        U could hardly tell it’s him. Unless u read about it, which wouldve been a spoiler, and you really paid attention to his voice. Next thing youre going to ask how i enjoyed seeing simon pegg’s cameo ?

      • smartguy81

        I really like my new 1794 Tundra. It’s an amazing machine and so much fun to drive. I’m getting Popeyes today.

        That’s solely due to the fact that you didn’t even get a misdirecting hint in the movie. An unremarkable spaceship flying off wasn’t enough for me. Plus I was wrong (maybe) about her and Kylo being siblings.

        I have a theory at what/who she is but it relies on Snoke actually being Plagueis (sp?).

    • I’m going pad this out so there aren’t any spoilers on the front page. Padded? How about now? Good.

      I agree with you on Captain Phasma, but I wrote her off weeks ago. When they were saying that she’s going to be the new Boba Fett in terms of coolness, that was just setting her up to fail. And she did.

      JJ totally mind tricked you. Ha!

      I don’t think Rey was traded. It looks like she was left there for safekeeping, similar to Luke. Her parentage is still up in the air. The movie hints that Luke is her father, but that could be too obvious. Some nerds believe that she’s a force baby that was created by Darth Plagueis’ will, but that seems too obscure for a mainstream audience. I have no problem with her being a Solo or Skywalker. It’s potentially interesting either way.

      Poe probably could carry his own film, but probably shouldn’t. I think he’s best as an occasional scene stealer.

      I’m convinced that you like Finn because they made him a garbageman.

      As for being predictable, I’m not sure what you were expecting. One of the reasons the movie worked so well was that Lawrence Kasdan was writing Star Wars again. It was obvious fairly early that a lot of The Force Awakens was going to mirror A New Hope. Lucas tried to be different with the prequels and the backlash was tremendous. Abrams safely went with familiar beats, but still had enough mystery to make things interesting. Obviously everyone wants to know what the hell Luke has been up to. Rey’s background was touched on (I wish I could watch her force flashback repeatedly). There are all kinds of crazy theories about Snoke. Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with The Force Awakens and will be seeing it at least twice more.

  • Tokz_21

    After watching it earlier today and having some time to process this movie. The movie was good. I expected more with all the secrecy, (sp?) I respect disney for playing it safe and just telling JJ to make a movie and hit all the beats that made it great. Some problems with that thinking is that you bore people wanting something new, the story gets predictable and storytelling suffers. I feel this movie didnt really move the plot forward in the end especially the last 5-10 minutes of the movie.

  • GeorgeNgo

    Here is my spoiler filled review… 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a good movie, but flawed.

    Pros:
    * Rey and BB8 are great. I found Daisy Ridley to be really likable and look forward to seeing what they do with her character.
    * Finn and Po are both good characters, but Po needs more character development.
    * Cameos by the original cast members were appreciated.

    Cons
    * The writers did a poor job of developing a threatening villain. Especially compared to the original trilogy, we go from having Vader and the Emperor to poor man’s Snape and Voldemort, and they’re a bunch of pussies. Kylo ends the movie on his ass, crawling backwards, cowering before a force noob with no training, compared to his extensive jedi training. Meanwhile, the “Supreme Being” continually gets status reports that his crew is incompetent while he sits around and does nothing about it. He even lets the British guy give him suggested plans of what to do next. Do you think the Emperor would let this type of foolishness go on? Never.
    * This movie feels more like a remake of Star Wars than a new movie. Beat for beat, it’s just like Star Wars – send the captured plans to the foreign planet on the droid. Death Star 3.0 blows up some planets we don’t care about. Young protagonist learns to use the Force. Movie ends with the tactical command center meeting with the rebels as they realize the Death Star 3.0 has a vulnerability guarded by a trench run of guns. This is the third time we’re seeing this in the series.

    My fear with this last point is JJ may be really good at remaking our childhood, but not having anything new to add. If the second and third movies tell a new tale, I’ll be happy, but I’m afraid they’re going to be a beat for beat remake of ESB and RotJ. If this is the case, when they blow up the Death Star for the fourth time, it’s going to be laughable. My prediction for the next movie: it concludes with Kylo killing Luke.

    • You shouldn’t fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. More importantly, JJ isn’t directing or writing VIII. Rian Johnson is the man. I’m sure it’ll have a different feel than VII, but have no idea if that will be a good thing or a bad thing. I wasn’t big on Looper and haven’t watched his TV stuff.

      Snoke has a bunch of a possibilities. I’m willing to give the crew a chance to develop the character. From some of the hints about the character, perhaps he’s not ready to do anything but stay behind the scenes. He’s supposed to be really vulnerable, but perhaps that will change. Maybe he’ll take over a certain Solo’s body?

      Speaking of which, I think Kylo Ren’s ineptitude is intentional. I see Snoke using him and not wanting him to grow too powerful. Snoke said that his training wasn’t complete. Yeah, he’s a puff compared to Vader, but his bitch fits are funny. I’m guessing his plot will mimic Vader’s and he’ll eventually turn back. I hope that’s not the case. I’d prefer it if he were irredeemable.

      Your prediction is bold! That would be a fun twist. Good stuff Eggo!!!