Seven Thoughts on VII (Spoilers)

I totally click-baited you. There are far more than seven thoughts here as I walk through my blatherings on the box-office-record-smashing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, roughly in screen order.

(I haven’t seen any of the supplemental or behind-the-scenes material, so perhaps some of this has been answered outside the film… let me know in the comments. Also, I’m aware many others share these thoughts and have expressed them already. Still, by request, my musings are now collected.)

  • Lack of Fox fanfare – for both of my screenings, the jump from the last trailer to the Lucasfilm logo was abrupt, leaving inadequate time for chills and a beat of black screen to soak it in. For future films, I wouldn’t mind a Disney logo before Lucasfilm’s to take the fanfare’s preparatory role.
  • Opening Crawl – great first sentence. “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” It’s on. Nothing about taxes or commerce. That said, I was annoyed by “most daring pilot”… and later on when Finn made a direct-to-camera comment about Poe being an amazing pilot. Show me, don’t tell me. (And we did see it… which made this even more annoying.)
  • First LineMax von Sydow (which is enough of a Star Wars name that we don’t need this Lor San Tekka name that I had to look up) starts the film with “This will begin to make things right.” I couldn’t help but think this was actually being said to the audience about the restoration of their film franchise.
  • Intro to Captain Phasma – I was so excited about the prospect of seeing Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth‘s Gwendoline Christie (not Spider-Man’s Gwen Stacy) take on the role of a GFFA warrior, and her appearance on-screen in the opening scene set me up for a much bigger role. I wish I’d have known that scene was her pinnacle of action. For the rest of the movie, she’s just powerless middle management. This was sub-Boba Fett.
  • Force Paralysis – Stopping humans and laser bolts in their tracks is new. I like the new mythology, along with grabbing thoughts through the dark side. It’s curious that Kylo can do these things, but can barely hack his way through a lightsaber duel with first-timers. But I also like this movie’s philosophy of not explaining everything, so I’ll leave it alone.
  • “So who talks first?” – While the first line may have been a message to the audience, this line was the tone establisher. Force Awakens is going to have fun, so set your expectations accordingly. No one will be losing the will to live here.
  • Space Bread – Forget blue milk, I want that instant powder-to-bread mix. In my mind, it comes out piping hot (probably due to exothermic chemical reactions, but still). Of all the moments of her introduction, my favorite is Rey slipping on the Rebel Alliance helmet and head-bop looking around.
  • Casting – Everyone on the new cast is great… Daisy Ridley is the brightest light, but John BoyegaOscar Isaac, and Adam Driver made the new characters more of a highlight than the returning.
  • Clone Army – Kylo Ren’s suggestion that they switch to a clone army was the only real reference to the prequel trilogy that I noticed. (Though I hear there were pod racer flags at Maz Kanata‘s place.)
  • Kylo Ren Temper Tantrums – Who has it worse, the First Order IT team or the Imperial choked-body-removal team? Kylo was the character that surprised me most, with a non-carbon-copy bad guy. All of the Sith we’ve seen in the past always carried themselves as confident and sure. This guy is a basket case, and I like it.
  • Snoke-a-Doke – I enjoyed how towering Supreme Leader Snoke wasn’t immediately revealed as a hologram, letting the audience assume the size difference. This is an echo of how hologram Palpatine towered over Vader. It will be fun to speculate if Snoke is actually that size, or perhaps shorter than Yoda. I assume Luke will fight Snoke in Episode IX.
  • Godwin’s Law –  Hux’s speech and the stormtrooper arm salute was a little Nazi-on-the-nose for my liking.
  • Rey Lightsaber Visions – Obviously, to me, there are two parts to the vision. The first is likely a flashback to Kylo Ren’s betrayal of Luke Skywalker that Han describes briefly. It is on some presumably-not-Mustafar lava planet. Luke’s mechanical hand that he grips Artoo with seems more advanced than the one Luke has in the last scene of the movie — so maybe it’s a flash forward? The second half of the vision is little-girl Rey being left behind on Jakku. It is cut such that we cannot see who is holding her back, nor who the family leaving her are. If the two visions are connected, that might support the theory that Luke is her father and left her there to protect her. I’d rather we not sing that song again, but maybe. Also, I hear that Ewan McGregor recorded a line of dialog for this sequence, and that it’s mixed with Alec Guinness and Frank Oz lines from previous films.
  • Hello, 3PO – C-3PO injecting himself between Han and Leia’s reunion was genius and hilarious… for a few seconds. Until the droid referenced his own red arm. The movie did such a great job of treating the past 30 years of history as “matter of fact”, and then that. Really bugged me. And then he referenced it again, muttering that he needs his old arm back. (Fresh from that, it bristled me that 3PO knew BB-8’s name… until I realized they probably hang out at the resistance droid break room together. Everyone knowing everyone makes the universe small.)
  • Han and LeiaHarrison Ford had life in his eyes and his performance was parsecs ahead of Indiana Jones IV. I felt like it was Han Solo on screen, and quite liked that life hasn’t all gone his way over the last 30 years. However, at no point did I really feel like Carrie Fisher brought Princess Leia to the screen. (OK, maybe her Force-intuition sitting down when Han died.) Her chemistry just didn’t work for me.
  • Safety is our Absolute Lowest Priority – like the Empire before them, the First Order sees no reason for safety railings on cavernous architecture… even half-mile-long family reunion bridges.
  • Ben Solo – At Lucasfilm, I had the pleasure of being part of the story group mailing list and remember Sue Rostoni sending out a note looking for suggestions for a name for Luke’s son in an upcoming novel. I immediately replied “Ben” before a slew of other suggestions were thrown around. Ben was ultimately used for the name and, despite the obviousness of it, I take credit for this no-longer-canon naming in my brain. (If anyone from the story group reads this, and remembers it differently, please don’t correct me.) I was so delighted that this name lived on.
  • Han’s Death – It is well known that Harrison Ford had wanted Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi. He felt his character needed a proper ending. When I heard that he signed for Episode VII, I immediately assumed that he made a Solo death part of the conditions of signing on. I wasn’t spoiled, but seeing how relaxed and happy that Harrison was in the film promotion phase, I was even more convinced. I wasn’t spoiled, but I knew that death was coming. (And it played out a little slowly on screen.)
  • The Droid Awakens – So what triggered R2 to wake up exactly then? It’s not something in Luke’s lightsaber because it was on the base earlier with Finn. Does he now have a wireless midichlorian detector that triggers when a potential Jedi arrives? Or did Luke program him to wait for Rey specifically? Or something else?
  • Rey, I am your Father – I can’t tell if the audience is being misdirected to suspecting that Rey is Luke’s daughter, or if she is. Personally, I don’t think she is and I hope that she is not. Star Wars has been to that lineage well too many times. Rey and Ben being siblings is even more distasteful, because Han and Leia would know they have a daughter. You can call me wrong in three years.

Do you agree? Disagree? What did you think of the film? What did you notice?

One thought on “Seven Thoughts on VII (Spoilers)

  1. Hey Paul,
    It was great to read through all 7 (times 10) points you made. Here are my thoughts:

    • Lack of Fox fanfare – I couldn’t care less, however it was a real shock when the music hit! I’m happy and amazed there was no Disney castle at the start.
    • Opening Crawl – I’m in agreement: it was a great first sentence and a strong opening. I’m okay with Finn commenting on Poe being an amazing pilot because we did just see it.
    • First Line – I hadn’t caught this, but I sure felt it.
    • Intro to Captain Phasma – This was a silly and superfluous character. First off the only way you could tell this Stormtrooper was female was by her voice. And we saw no evidence of her greatness or anything else supporting why she’d get a rather stupid-looking silver suit. There was also no indication or evidence that any other Stormtroopers were female, in fact they all appeared to be male. By the way, what’s the point of the Stormtroopers’ armour when it doesn’t protect them from anything?
    • Force Paralysis – This was great progress as it made the Force interesting again. It makes sense following the essence of Yoda’s lesson to Luke in ESB – with the Force all things are possible. Thought grabbing was pretty much there before as both the Emperor and Darth Vader could pull notions from Luke’s mind (the secret of his sister for instance). I also don’t understand how Kylo could do these things yet was quite weak in other areas. And yes! – I too like this movie’s philosophy of not explaining everything. This got people’s imaginations going. If I learned anything from the previous movies it was that everyone imagined a better story for Anakin’s turn to the dark side than Episodes 1-3 could tell.
    • “So who talks first?” – There was a more playful and fun tone to this story, which was great to see and also helped make the more serious and sad moments have more impact.
    • Space Bread – I’ll never forget blue milk and space Tupperware!
    • Casting – Great casting indeed.
    • Clone Army – I thought Kylo Ren suggested they switch back to a clone army, no? I’m happy they addressed this. I’m even happier they brought up almost nothing about the prequels. They are better forgotten IMHO. When they cleaned up the Star Wars universe/continuity, my feeling is they should have cut the prequels too. Sorry to say that since I know you were involved in them and are emotionally attached. But I’d like to see them remake those movies as if they never happened.
    • Kylo Ren Temper Tantrums – watching Kylo destroy room after room was fun, especially when the two Stormtroopers stopped and simply turned around. He definitely took the advice of “unleashing his anger”. But it failed to equal the famous Office Space scene.
    • Snoke-a-Doke – I also enjoyed this size difference and at first it gave me a LoTR or GoT feeling, so I was happy to have it be a hologram, but also made me curious. It could be a game changer. At any rate, it was a cool setup and lent his character a lot of power. One aside: I miss the old muppets and prosthetics/makeup. The CGI was good for everything except making faces – weather it was Doke, the female yoda-wannabe, or the metal junk-trader.
    • Godwin’s Law – totally agree. We get that they are bad. Why make them an even greater derivative of the Nazis than they were in the previous movies?
    • Rey Lightsaber Visions – Lots to go through, dissect and analyze here! I can’t see Luke being her father. She was so obviously similar to Han (even Chewie liked her), who clearly knew who she was. I also cannot see Luke getting romantically involved with anyone post RoTJ. He was fully focussed on the Force, so much so that he was increasingly detached from those around him.
    • Hello, 3PO – The red arm… so stupid. I hated that scene and it made me realize how annoying this character is.
    • Han and Leia – Harrison Ford truly gave an exceptional performance, especially when compared to the shite performances he’s been giving the last 10+ years. Having seen Carrie Fisher on a TV show promoting the Force Awakens, I thought they worked miracles making her coherent and closer to a rebel princess than a street junkie. But was she good? Not even close. But again, my sense is that this was the biggest challenge they had when using the old cast members.
    • Safety is our Absolute Lowest Priority – No safety railings. Armour that doesn’t stop anything. Now transport ships, in a scene taken directly from Saving Private Ryan, opening directly up to incoming fire. Sheesh.
    • Ben Solo – You did it! 
    • Han’s Death – This was a little too obvious for me. The only thing that saved it for me was Chewie’s reaction.
    • The Droid Awakens – Clearly R2 is a jedi-droid. Yoda said that all things are part of the Force and the Force is in all things – that rock, the artoo unit! Open your mind, Paul. You know it to be true. Maybe in the next movie R2 will start beboping and bouncing all over the place like yoda in the prequels. (oh gawd, I hope not. Please nooooooo)
    • Rey, I am your Father – my guess is that she is Han and Leia’s daughter. As stated before, she simply was too much like Han – even to the point of saying the same things at the same time. Again and again.
    • Death Star: Take 3 – why must they reuse this one idea over and over again? Having said that, this was the coolest iteration. The idea that it would suck the energy from a sun was neato. Transforming an entire planet into a weapon? Too cool. However, what’s the point of needing this when they clearly know which planets to blow up and where the rebels are. So why not just attack and deal with them? Why do they need to wait for a planet-destroying weapon?

    Overall a very well conceived and executed story and movie. It was fun and exhilarating. It left lots of questions open and provided lots of clues. It was nostalgic but also greatly advanced the story with great new characters and gave the whole Star Wars franchise a new level of energy.

    Liked by 1 person

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