It has been thirty years since the events depicted in Return of the Jedi and everyone is looking for Luke Skywalker, some wishing him good and in need of his help, and others wanting him, the last of the Jedi, dead. With the death of Darth Vader, a new faction has arisen calling itself the First Order, a despotic fascist who are determined to wipe out any remnants of the Republic and rule the galaxy under the auspices of Supreme Leader Snoke and his aide, Kylo Ren.
The action opens on the planet Jakku with resistance pilot Poe Dameron meeting with a village elder to receive a memory device containing information that may help lead to the whereabouts of Luke, who has gone into seclusion at an unspecified location. Poe gives the information to his droid, BB-8, for safekeeping. Before Poe is able to lift off from Jakku, Kylo Ren and soldiers of the First Order arrive, disable his X-Wing and capture Poe while BB-8 manages to get away. Ren tortures and questions Poe and learns about BB-8. When Ren figures he has all of the information he needs, he orders the villagers killed. All of the troopers, save one, follow their orders, but FN-2187 doesn’t comply with Ren’s order. Later, onboard Ren’s Star Destroyer, FN-2187 frees Poe and together they steal a Tie Fighter and they manage to crash land on Rakku. FN-2187 (renamed ‘Finn” by Poe) awakens from being unconscious, and unable to locate Poe, presumes him dead and heads out on his own.
The scene shifts to a young woman named Rey, who is subsisting by scavenging scrapped ships and other equipment to sell for rations. BB-8 finds her and they begin to work together. When someone tries to steal BB-8 from her, a fight ensues and Finn arrives on the scene and starts to try to rescue her, but he soon sees that she is more than able to take care of herself. BB-8 recognizes the jacket that Finn is wearing as belonging to Poe and Rey chases him. Finn explains that he is a part of the resistance and wants to help her. Meanwhile, the First Order finds BB-8 and attacks. Rey and Finn find an old junker of a ship (the Mellinium Falcon) and they manage to escape. While in space a tractor beam locks onto them and pulls them into a smuggler’s ship, and that smuggler is non other than Han Solo accompanied by Chewbacca.
After escaping from some of Han’s unsatisfied customers, Han, Chewie, Rey, and Finn head to Takodana and meet with Han’s friend, Maz Kanata, who can help then get BB-8 and the information the droid is carrying to General Leia Organa, now the leader of the Resistance. Rey finds a vault that contains Luke’s lightsaber, but Rey refuses to take it, so Maz gives it to Finn for safe keeping.
On a planet that has been converted into a giant version of the Death Star that is capable of destroying entire solar systems, Snoke orders that that the Republic be finished once and for all and the weapon is fired after a stirring speech by General Hux, the leader of the First Order army. In a meeting with Ren, Snoke tells him that he is confused and needs to purge himself of any calling from the light side of the Force, and to that, Ren must kill his father, Han Solo.
The First Order then attacks Takodana still looking for the map BB-8 is carrying. Han, Chewie, and Finn are saved by a squadron of resistance fighters led by Poe, however Rey is captured and questioned by Ren. Somehow she manages to resist Ren when he attempts to probe her mind and then Rey discovers that she can use the force to escape by using the old Jedi mind trick to convince a guard to release her.
Han, Chewie and Finn arrive with BB-8 at the Resistance base on D’Qar and meet up with General Leia. It is soon discovered that the map BB-8 is carrying is incomplete and there is some speculation that perhaps R2-D2 may have the rest of the map in its memory, however, the little droid has been in low power mode ever since Luke disappeared.
As the Starkiller Base prepares to attack D’Qar, a plan is hatched to send Han, Chewie, and Finn to lower the shields on the First Order weapon so Poe and his squadron can destroy the weapon. The three do enter the base and set charges, but before escaping Han encounters Ren, calling him by his real first name, Ben, appeals to him to give up serving the Dark Side. Just when it looks like Han’s appeal appears to be working, Ren runs him through with his lightsaber. Enraged, Chewie shoots Ren in the leg and sets off the explosives. Poe’s fighters destroy the weapon setting off a chain reaction that will destroy the planet.
Ren pursues Finn and Rey to the surface of the planet where Finn uses the lightsaber to fight with Ren, but Finn is not up to the task of fighting someone who is in command of the force and is badly wounded. Rey then takes up the lightsaber and carries on the fight, but the battle ends with Rey and Finn on the opposite sides of a wide fissure that opens as the planet begins to break apart. Snoke orders Hux to find Ren and evacuate the planet while Chewie, piloting the Falcon and rescues Rey and Finn and returns them to D’Qar.
While celebrating their victory on D’Qar, R2-D2 reactivates and displays a star map with a missing piece, and then BB-8 when BB-8 adds the fragment it is carrying, the map is complete and Rey, Chewie, and R2-D2 travel to a distant planet. Rey finds Luke and offers him the lightsaber.
There is nothing new in the story, it is pretty much the same trope as the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope. A young person who is living on a desert planet finds themselves involved in a rebellion against a regime that is oppressive begins to learn about the force and how it can be used for good. A resistance movement that is being threatened destroys a giant weapon that has been built to wipe out democracy. The young person from the desert planet searches for something, but is not sure what they will find. A beloved character is killed by an evil villain and escapes to fight another day.
It is an age old formula that works, and it works very well in this film. It doesn’t matter if the skeleton of the story is the same as in the past, it was done so well that it did seem fresh and new. Yes it was somewhat predictable, but the way the story was told, with the mixing of old and new characters, made it great. I have seen Force Awakens twice, and both times the time went by very quickly because the action begins and never slows down until the very end. I really loved all of the nods and references to the first films, for instance, the holographic game on the Falcon was priceless, and when Han and Chewie entered the Falcon, a brief encounter with Rey talking about the Kessel Run in 14 parsecs, and han correcting her that it was only 12 was equally amusing. Then there was the point at which Han says he has a “bad feeling” about a situation made me laugh out loud. The writers and director certainly did their homework.
What a treat it was to see Han, Chewie, Leia, and the droids again. It was like having old friends I haven’t seen for a long time come around for a visit. They were also perfectly written and played. They were all themselves, a bit older maybe, but none the less, a welcome sight back on the big screen in the roles they immortalized so many years ago. The nostalgia seeing them did bring a tear to my eye as I remembered taking my little brother (who isn’t so little any more) to see New Hope all those years ago.
The new characters were great as far as I am concerned. Rey is indeed a very heroic figure. Growing up on a planet where she was forced to live strictly by her wits and scrounging out a living collecting just to trade for food makes her a tough appealing female lead. However she also has a caring side that is concerned with justice and making things right. I look forward to watching her character develop in future installments. While I am not positive, I am wondering if she isn’t the daughter of Luke. I have my doubts because of the times involved, unless Luke spent some time on Rakku before going into seclusion.
Finn is a very interesting character. He seems unsure of himself and what direction he wants to go in, except his conscious will no longer allow him to be a part of the First Order. He also provides some great moments of comic relief which are brilliantly scattered throughout the film. But he is also no wimp; he didn’t hesitate to take up the lightsaber and bravely fight Ren.
Poe is the best pilot the resistance have and is also quite the heroic figure. I like his swagger and he would appear to be a natural leader of troops. I am hoping for more character development in the future.
Kylo Ren is not what I expected. He is a character full of conflict until he kills Han, his father, which tips the scale for him as a full blown evil person who may well be beyond redemption. When I first saw the film, I was not sure that he was the right actor for the role, after he had taken his mask off that is. He has no outward scars, but after the second viewing, it is obvious that he is full of inward scars. Ren’s costume, while somewhat imposing, didn’t have the same impact that Vader’s did for me. One question I have is why is he wearing a mask? Other than the Storm Troopers, the only reason for a mask was that it was part of a life support system. I think that perhaps Ren’s mask might be a tribute to his grandfather, or perhaps it is a symbolic gesture to hide that fact that he is conflicted.
Snoke is also an underdeveloped character who would seem to be pure evil incarnate. Large and imposing, his look is rough and it makes me curious about his backstory.
The commander of the army, General Hux for me was the most hateful character in the whole film. He made his presence known in his speech to the massed troops which made me feel very uncomfortable. It reminded me of speeches given by Adolph Hitler with it’s hateful tone and seemingly complete disregard for human life. That part was brilliantly written and acted and gave me what I think was the intended effect.
It was great to see Max Von Sydow involved in this project even though his presence was all too brief.
ON THE FILM AS A WHOLE
First of all, I should like to say that there wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about this film. For me personally, it was as close to a perfect film as one can get. It had a full run of emotions and it was most assuredly a fun ride from the beginning to the end. Right from the start, I mean the very first opening seconds, I knew I was going to like what was coming because there was the Lucasfilm logo followed by the “A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” Although I missed the 20th Century Fox fanfare that has preceded every other Star Wars film, I was very relieved that they didn’t plaster the Disney castle or the Bad Robot on to the beginning. I thought that was very respectful to the franchise and I, for one, really appreciated that.
Force Awakens just feels like a Star Wars film. I think I feel that way because they actually built sets and filmed on locations and everything just looked more real than it would have if it had been all done with CG effects. Not that I don’t appreciate and understand why it is necessary to use CG to create other-worldly vistas. The Star Wars prequels would not have been possible without CG, but one can tell. They are very slick and glitzy, and many of the scenes have a cartoonish feel to them, but not in Force Awakens. As good as the artists that create on computers are, and they are very good, there is nothing that can replace filming on location to bring one into believing what is on the screen.
On the death of Han Solo, this was completely unexpected on my part and was emotionally jarring. I thought I was going to openly weep at this point in the film. It was difficult to see Han fall off that catwalk and realize that he will never again appear in another Star Wars film. The scene was well written and executed and I will miss him. One of the most important aspects of viewing a film for me is that I am able to become emotionally invested in what I am seeing and as far as Force Awakens, I was completely immersed in what was happening at all times.
In short, I was entertained and I love this movie!
Earlier I wrote that I thought this was very nearly the perfect film, but over the past few days I have read numerous articles that range from “it is a good film, but” all the way to “Force Awakens sucks” followed by lists of reasons why the writers of those pieces feel the way they do. Many of them are lists of plot holes that they have discovered and expound on, some quite harshly and in vulgar epithets.
While I will agree, there may be a few plot holes, I don’t go to see a movie with the intention of nit-picking it to death. I just want to be entertained and escape reality for a little while. One of the plot holes I saw that was in almost every article I read was on Poe Dameron’s apparent death and resurrection that went without explanation. Poe and Finn crashed in their stolen Tie Fighter and headed back to Rakku, where they subsequently crash landed. After a brief time being unconscious, Finn walks away from the crash after performing a brief search of the vehicle, And finding Poe’s jacket. Later, Poe arrives at Takodana leading a squadron of fighters, after being presumed dead. Apparently Poe was thrown clear of the crash and was just not within sight of the Tie.
Why is this a problem for so many? Perhaps the naysayers just want to show how clever they can be by nitpicking something to death. Perhaps they just have nothing better to do. Personally, I would rather choose to to and be entertained and have a little fun for a couple of hours. Oh well.
ET TU, GEORGE?
Even Star Wars creator, George Lucas apparently became on of the naysayers when being interviewed by Charlie Rose calling Disney ‘white slavers’ for their treatment of his franchise, which The Mouse paid some $4 billion! This was lashed all over the Internet, I cannot count how many times it showed up on my Facebook timeline, and many seemed to be saying “see, even our beloved George didn’t like it, so you shouldn’t either.” What hasn’t shown up on my timeline was the retraction and apology that Lucas made saying that his remark was inappropriate.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one hell of a movie. While it is clearly a remake of Episode IV: A New Hope, this doesn't detract from the entertainment value and the introduction of new characters, as well as how old characters begin to hand off the torch. The action begins in the opening seconds of the film and it doesn’t stop until the credits roll. THere are plenty of surprises, twists, and turns and I think this is a great film to reintroduce the younger generation to something we older folk have enjoyed for many years.
Well, there it is…
Qaplah! (Klingon for “May The Force Be With You”)