I have now seen The Force Awakens twice. So the ‘event’ has subsided slightly. More people have seen the film and importantly I have been able to talk about it with people I have been friends with for over 30 years.
So now my views are more or less what will remain of this film. These opinions are drawn only from what I have seen on screen. I haven’t read any articles that expand any details, for me it is what is on screen that really counts (until later confirmed).
I have marked this review with ‘SPOILERS’. I am aware that I am perhaps more sensitive to what constitutes a Spoiler and regular readers may take my ‘Spoiler Light’ to mean ‘Ain’t nothing to worry you’. I most in that case stress There are Spoilers in this article.
I will deal with things both out of order and context. The risk of Spoilers will increase the further you read. Each time I think the level goes up I will let you know. There will be reasonable breaks so you shouldn’t accidentally see any Spoilers stronger than you want.
If you have not seen the film you really do NOT want to read to the end of this article. There are MAJOR SPOILERS at the end.
Before Spoilers start I’ll give you a few comments on this review just so everyone understands how I am approaching this.
I’m not big on the Expanded Universe of Star Wars. So I have no vested interest in books or games. I’ve drawn my conclusion on this matter based on what we saw on screen in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens.
I’ve used images from the Official Website for this article. I’m using them under a ‘fair use’ assumption for review purposes only.
One main thing I have noticed in conversations about this film is a disagreement on the setting. The New Republic, The Resistance & The First Order.
There is enough on screen for me to be perfectly happy with what the relationship between the groups in this film.
In the crawl at the beginning:
Luke Skywalker has vanished.
In his absence, the sinister
FIRST ORDER has risen from
the ashes of the Empire
and will not rest until
Skywalker, the last Jedi,
has been destroyed.
With the support of the
REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa
leads a brave RESISTANCE.
She is desperate to find her
brother Luke and gain his
help in restoring peace
and justice to the galaxy.
Leia has sent her most daring
pilot on a secret mission
to Jakku, where an old ally
has discovered a clue to
In the film dialogue references are made separately about the Republic and the Resistance. I won’t say who says what as that leads to stronger than ‘Spoiler Light’. But there are comments made by characters on all sides that add to the idea the two Rs here are slightly separate entities.
So in my mind it seems to be clear that the Resistance is not the military arm of the New Republic. They are Freedom Fighters fighting within territory that is either disputed or actually under First Order control.
This is politically different to the first films. In Star Wars (A New Hope) the Empire are the established power with the Senate being the Legislative arm and The Emperor as the head of state. The Rebellion are exactly that, a group of insurgents. In A New Hope’s setting it is soon clear that there is a difference between Good and Bad. So our sympathies (in most cases) are with the Rebellion.
In The Force Awakens there are TWO Governments each with territory. The New Republic capital is on Hosnian Prime and it seems there are several inhabited planets in that system. We do not know where the First Order are based but it is clear that they have substantial resources of equipment and personnel.
The end of Return of the Jedi has also been raised regarding the current film; “The Empire was defeated. Where has the First Order sprung up from?”
In A New Hope we are introduced to the Military arm of the Empire in more detail to the Legislative arm. And what we learn is that there are Governors of Star Systems – Moffs and Grand Moffs. There are Fleets, not just one Fleet. All those were not defeated. They’d have lost a lot of the integrity essential for running the Empire when they lost the Emperor and Darth Vader. Star Systems will have been lost but some retained.
The crawl above stated ‘the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire’. Those Moffs and Fleets that may survived must have retained some control somewhere. Whether they were a cohesive group or not and whether it was a Moff or an Admiral or even a civillain that brought things together we do know it didn’t start being a big problem until after Luke went missing.
There are many similarities in this film to A New Hope. I won’t tackle them all here because some include Strong to Major Spoilers. Locations however are one.
Jakku is a desert planet and there are several comparisons drawn between it and Tatooine, not least an orphan (Luke) or abandoned child (Rey) being ‘trapped’ here. Luke with a longing to leave but Rey with a deep felt need to stay. Even a few shots are reminiscent, including one where a character looks down on a township form a dusty outcrop.
These planets are also where we see a Droid with a secret trying to avoid being captured by the villains and meeting the young hero. Plus that hero meeting a companion who will assist.
Yes this is familiar but it is also different. The characters are sufficiently different, the relationships are different. And in some ways… at least this film doesn’t centre around Tatooine, at least it is a different dusty planet.
These characters are all introduced here – after the pictures the spoiler level increases. Don’t go further if you don’t like spoilers…
The trailers make it seem fairly clear that Finn is a Stormtrooper who deserts the First Order. It also suggests that he is Force sensitive, a potential Jedi or Sith.
We learn a lot about Finn. Firstly that isn’t even his name, he is designated FN-2187. He is a Stormtrooper in a detachment sent to capture a target on Jakku. That detachment is lead by Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren.
Here we’ve a character with no direct comparison in any of the earlier movies. No one other than Anakin switched sides and that was of course essential to the plot of the Prequels.
Finn and Rey perform the theatrical duties that Luke did in the original film in so far as it is through them that we learn most of the detail, whether it is through things they do, learn or are told. Many works of fiction uses protagonists in this way, giving us characters with little knowledge of the plot alongside whom we the reader, viewer or listener can learn.
The dynamics between Poe, BB8, Finn and Rey are in some ways reminiscent of Luke, Han, Leia and the Droids. Again, familiarity with a twist and here it is much more welcome and less contrived that in A Phantom Menace with Anakin and C3PO. All of this seems natural and a moment between Finn and BB8 where they gain trust of each other is absolutely brilliant.
We know the Millennium Falcon is in this film along with the central cast from the original trilogy. Lots of cool scenes on the Falcon as you can imagine it brings a few nods to the earlier films.
The introduction of Han and Chewbacca was fun but spoiled by the Trailer in my opinion. Yes I knew they were in but I knew they would arrive on the Millennium Falcon when someone else had it. So seeing Rey and Finn getting the Falcon was a thrill but not a surprise.
Chewbacca delivered some great lines. His reply to Finn asking if Han was a ‘War Hero’ was perfect.
Kylo Ren is one of the most anticipated character for this trilogy.
Viewers can already deduce many things from his image. The Mask and the red Lightsaber tell us much.
Is he a Dark Jedi? A Sith? A replacement for Darth Vader? Who is he?
We learn much about the First Order and Kylo Ren in this film.
Firstly we know that Storm Troopers are not Clones, they are children taken from families ate a very young age and indoctrinated to the ways of the First Order. Captain Phasma even talks about FN-2187 needing to undergo some reeducation in a way that suggests brainwashing.
Kylo Ren is the leader of a group called the Knights of Ren. The use of the word ‘Knights’ suggest they are all users of the Force. It is a plural term and suggests they are not Sith.
I’m calling this a ‘Strong’ Spoiler even though many viewers will have assumed it already. Kylo Ren is the grandson of Darth Vader. He even keeps the remains of Darth Vader in his room.
He is a much more complicated character than Anakin in the prequels though prone to the rage we saw in the young Darth Vader. Kylo Ren’s rages have much more feeling in them and other characters reactions to them vary.
We know early on that he is the son of Han and Leia and we learn later in the film that his true name is Ben Solo. Clearly he must be the Jedi pupil of Skywalker who rebelled.
The head of the First Order is Supreme Leader Snoke. We learn little of him as he only appears as a hologram, a towering figure. It is strongly suggested that he is a user of the Darkside of the Force. Who he is exactly and where he is is unknown but it seems we will find out in Episode VIII.
We also learn a lot about the Light-side of the Force. Rey has a few visions supplied to her through the Force and hears the voice(s) of Obi Wan Kenobi. Both of them…
Watch out for one of the Stormtroopers who speaks… He might be famous for having a name that is a number… and I’m not referring to his Stormtrooper designation.
Simon Pegg is also in this film and though I knew this I avoided spoilers so well I didn’t recognise him at all – I know someone who knows him quite well and she also didn’t recognise him. I looked it up after my first viewing and it is a character with a fairly large support role.
The old cast reunited but what has changed? Spoilers go up to Major from here. Don’t go further if you haven’t seen the movie as it will ruin it. Seriously there are two big Spoilers below that will wreck your enjoyment.
There are no coincidences when it comes to the Force. And coincidences is something that some viewers seem to have a problem with. It is long established on screen that the Force surrounds everything and that it can help anyone do anything if they are sensitive towards it. How that turns out is affected by intention and reason. Anger, Fear, hatred etc.
We learn that Han and Leia are separated. The loss of their Son to the First Order broke their relationship. The love is still there though and a rekindling seems possible.
Han and Chewbacca are still partners in crime, literally.
C3PO is still annoying, OK that isn’t a spoiler… R2D2 is broken… yeah that is BAD. R2D2 has been powered down since Luke disappeared and may never function again. BB8 seems to want him to wake up.
The biggest shock is the death of Han Solo. The scene is brilliant in my opinion but received criticism from many because it mirrors the original trilogy. Tough – that is how Star wars works, I liked it in how it was handled (though not that it happened). Losing Han is so huge that my face still showed shock on my second viewing even though I knew exactly how and when it happened.
Luke only appears at the end of the film and I have heard some people complaint about this scene. Some that it was too long and others that Luke wasn’t in the film enough. Some complaints are regarding the ‘coincidences’.
Like I said before with the Force there are no coincidences. R2D2 was powered down. He had the map. He powered up when the missing piece of the map arrived. Luke couldn’t plan that? Of course he could. That just isn’t a coincidence it was planned and it was sign posted. Above I mentioned that R2D2 had been powered down since Luke left… without that scene I’d agree it seemed wrong. But with the scene it makes perfect sense.
Over all I enjoyed this film, there were a few things I would have done differently but I’m not in charge. I’d have had a shorter intro for Luke. We knew they had the map I didn’t need all those minutes. Of course I wouldn’t have killed Han Solo off… but doing so doesn’t make J J Abrams wrong… death of a main character shows there are consequences.
I’ve shown above that I’m not troubled by ‘plot holes’ as much as some. The pacing might have benefited from a few tweaks, I’m not certain how much that would improve the film. What I am saying is that it isn’t perfect. No film is (not even the originals are perfect).
What I am saying is that this was a fitting new film for the series and it puts the series back on track for me following the more disappointing Prequels.