Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It might be good. Or it’s actually awful. The questions and thoughts rolling around in my head after watching this film

Disclaimer: I am not a Star Wars super-fan, but the movies are a part of my childhood. And I suppose because the original films tap back to a time as a kid when I was excited to get caught up in the magic of movies, I went into this movie with armor on not expecting to feel those emotions again. That said, I had fun and actually liked the ride of watching this movie a lot. I liked the effort J.J. Abrams made with this love letter to the franchise. I honestly don’t know if I share that same love, as much as I wish. The Stars Wars Universe, if you step back and look at the whole thing is rather tragic and lame. And with that jaded opinion, the only ones worth watching in my opinion are The Empire Strikes Back and the very first film, A New Hope. For me, Return of the Jedi is a clear sign Lucas had lost his mind and this new film seems to vaguely recognize that. And the prequels ruin the entire story — and simply don’t exist for me.

If anything, The Force Awakens was good because it did something I haven’t done in years — I sunk into my seat and smiled and now afterward, I am thinking about what it all meant. That’s the sign of a successful blockbuster film, in my opinion.

And I love that in its story-telling it ended with a cliffhanger for the audience: This new episode could actually be completely awful or absolute genius—and we won’t know until we see the next film.

And from a Earthly sort of, back-to-reality perspective, let’s all agree, that it’s no longer Disneyland, but the Disney CFO’s office that is the Happiest Place on Earth™ as the marketing and hype for this movie and the sheer amount of money sunk into this to convince you it’s the best ever is astonishing — and it seems to be paying off.

Here’s what I think this movie is all about:

The Puppet Bad Guy.
With a grain of salt, I think bad guy, Kylo Ren is actually the most complicated and interesting part of the whole thing. But then again, I always find the villain the most interesting character. Heroes are generally a snooze. I truly loved Kylo’s tantrum when he destroys the computer console with his lightsaber. It’s pretty clear that Han and Leia are terrible parents. Their reunited dialog makes it even more obvious these are two who never should have had a kid, let alone get married. And when their kid turned out to suffer from being bi-polar with an obsession with his grandfather’s seemingly identical struggles, they both raised their hands and agreed let’s just do what we do best: this singular track of being a smuggler and fighting the bad guys (even when the bad guys were seemingly smashed down). The film left a lot unanswered about why Ben (Kenobi-much?) changed his name and became all emo and dark, but he’s clearly got some mental health issues that are going to cause problems. He actually seems well-trained, but not inherently strong with The Force (do we say midi-chlorians, anymore?) running through his bloodstream. This can go the same path as his grandfather’s fate or hopefully Ren takes the struggle in a new creative way.

The Other Puppet Bad Guy.
The choice for the First Order (Mein Kampf was clearly shot into space and these guys read it) to have two leaders at the big star-sucking planet is curious. Why did this happen? Is Ren that uncontrollable with his outbursts? It seems the First Order knows they have a hot-head on their hands, so the almost brother like rivalry between ginger General Hux and Ren seems incredibly unanswered too. Did they train together in some Dark Side Academy, because it sure seems like it. This all seems like a very bad idea.

The Real Big Bad Guy.
Who the heck is Supreme Leader (North Korea, much?) Snoke? Completely unanswered how he rose to power and from where? He seems old enough to have been around in the era of the Emperor Palpatine and ol’ Darth, but what was his part of the Sith? Is he involved in politics at all? What happened to the political system in this universe? Did anyone unify? Did the results of what was accomplished in Return of the Jedi end up being a really bad thing and create anarchy, because it sort of seems like it. All completely unanswered, as well as what the heck happened to his face. My guess is he was hit in the face by someone’s (Luke’s) lightsaber — hmmm, hence his true motivation for being so grouchy?

So, Stormtroopers Have Souls.
We don’t really know a lot about Stormtroopers. For whatever reason, they’re seemingly more effective than the massive army the CGI clones were for the Empire — and now we know, they’re harvested and trained from an early age, but that’s it. Captain Phasma seems involved with this program, but that’s left largely unanswered. (I know, I’d understand this better if I read the books and was really into the franchise. I am not.) It seems like this was clearly set-up and left for future films: I suspect there is a lot to be revealed about Phasma and her involvement with Fin (or FN-whatever-his-number-was). I don’t hate this idea at all, but we really don’t know very much about Fin. I suspect they do a lot of brainwashing, but I think its safe to say the Force is particularly strong with Fin. It seems like that he’s likely to move into a solid Jedi practice in the future, right? How did that happen?

Who is The Resistance?
We know everyone was happy (there were a lot of fireworks and smiles at one another) at the end of Return of the Jedi. It was implied that this galaxy’s form of democracy could return and there’s no reason to suggest that didn’t happen. But we now also know, Luke’s School of Wizarding and Jedi Making was a failure with millenial hot-head Kylo Ren wrecking everything for everyone. So much so, that Luke ran off to Ireland to mope (he’s always been like this and is what his teacher did too). That’s fun. I just wanna know more.

Okay, so we can assume that the general population probably thought 1) We don’t really need to rely on Jedi’s much anymore; 2) Luke may actually be a terrible teacher and so we need other options. Whatever happened, the Resistance (run by General Leia) is small. While there were clearly other groups on other planets (that get blown up), they still reference the ol’ Republic. And imply they have support, but they clearly don’t have political or visible support. Namely, no one came to their aide when they attempted (and it was a fluke they did it) blow up that Star Sucking Planet Thing. It really seems like The Resistance is a faction that the Republic may or may not publicly admit to supporting. In other words, they’re Jedi-honoring (religious) zealots doing the Republic’s dirty work. Without knowing what’s evolved in the galactic political scene, it sure seems like they’re kind of acting like (gasp!) terrorists — or at least not entirely adored or understood by the rest of the galaxy. Is this why the First Order rose back into power? (Could you write this story, like that musical Wicked, from the Empire’s perspective to gain sympathy and awareness of the good they actually were trying to do all along?)

This Universe is Getting Smaller With Each Bill-Murray-Groundhog-Day Episode.
It’s easy to say this film wasn’t good because it’s basically the same story as the very first film. That’s true and isn’t. My take-away is this universe’s Royal Family is dangerously obsessed with good and evil and until they learn some underlying point of the whole thing, this higher power is going to make these lessons repeat. To be a Jedi, is the practice of quieting down the bad ways through meditation and honoring old traditions. To honor bad ways is to honor the Dark Side—or practice the exact opposite faith as a Jedi and also be really obsessed with building planet weapons and being obsessed with naming things with the word “star”. The more we learn about the two sides to the Force, we learn both seemingly cause destruction. Dark Siders just seem to be cool with that, whereas a Jedi is often so guilty they go and hide for years. And in this world, or bloodline there seemingly is no in-between for good and evil — and it is ripping families apart (at the very least their arms). To live life with no balance between, of course makes you plunge a lightsaber into your father’s heart or abandon your kids in the desert or hide a brother and sister from each other. Its unclear if this is just this family or if it’s a problem for everyone in this universe once you swing one way or the other. Really the most balanced, somewhat fair citizens are the simplest ones. People like junk peddlers — at least they give you food if you do a good job.

It All Boils Down to Luke… or Does It?
And then there’s the whole motivation of the film: Luke. He was clearly the poster boy and hero prince of the Republic, but failed to provide for some reason. And it seems pretty obvious to me that this all came too quick with too much pressure. So, he fell back on his own history to provide for his future: Hide his own kin (not entirely answered, but presumed with Rey) in the desert and hang out alone like Yoda after failure (just with less snakes). Again, another terrible parent (I am beginning to understand why Disney thought this franchise fit so well under their watch). Whatever all this is building up to, it seems that not all hope is lost with Leia’s belief that Luke is apparently the only one who could possibly provide some glue to bring the Resistance back into the good graces of the Republic for funding and physical support. Luke also needs to seriously get on the ball and train some Jedi, does he not? And Luke probably needs to deal with that Snoke chap. But I suspect, he won’t make it past the next episode and Leia might not be entirely right in what she believes is her only hope. As the proper way to build a new chapter in this story is to give us history, but also move on to these new character’s issues and story.

This Movie is Terrible if They Don’t Resolve The Problem with Rey.
Rey is awesome in the sense she is superhero strong. That’s fun. But this whole reboot, in my opinion, will only remain respectable if they can answer one thing: How does she already know how to do this Jedi stuff that take so long for kids to learn? My first thought is that she is Luke’s daughter and for whatever reason the Force runs so strong in her, it’s pretty much using her body as vessel to deal with this mess of a family. I don’t know if that’s true. In fact, the more I think about it — the big reveal is probably that Rey and Kylo are brother and sister. Afterall, Luke is a fairly neutered, celibate monk-type character. In fact, what I really wonder is if Rey isn’t dealing with some amnesia-like issues. It would explain her “visions” when she grabbed that familiar lightsaber. In fact, I wonder if Rey and Kylo Ren didn’t train together as wee children, before some conflict happened and she got dumped off with no memory of anything in the desert? (Maybe her marks on the wall for each day she was there really weren’t as many as her age.) Regardless and again, these are terrible parents we’re talking about. That sure resolves some holes in this film’s storyline. Otherwise, if it truly is a case of her being born with this innate knowledge of Jedi mind-tricks and such… how incredibly silly. Surely, they won’t do that, will they?

What do you think is going on in this episode?
Although it probably doesn’t seem like it, I really liked the film. I liked the humor, its sweeping ability to get me caught up in the story and the nostalgic nods back to my own childhood. But also with the assumption that there is much more to the story. I am curious about what others thought too. Do you agree with any of my naive assumptions or can you speculate further on what this is leading toward?