#241 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

From 733,480 votes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has an 8.0/10 rating from the users of IMDb.

Three decades after the Empire’s defeat, a new threat arises in the militant First Order. Stormtrooper defector Finn and the scavenger Rey are caught up in the Resistance’s search for the missing Luke Skywalker.
This is another movie that took a few times to watch to completion. For this movie however I was simply distracted by other, more interesting things. Now I have seen this movie a few times and I can see myself seeing it yet more. It feels like an instant classic and a worthy entry in the Star Wars canon. The ‘Force’ in the title could easily be a reference to the fandom, or the franchise as a whole because it’s pretty undeniable that Star Wars is a force to be reckoned with in the world of cinema. And television. And videogames. Storytelling on the whole, really. That said, like every Star Wars film it isn’t immune from critique and there are reasons that it isn’t far higher up on the list like its prequels.
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In many ways The Force Awakens is both a love letter to the franchise and a reawakening. The story follows Rey, a scavenger on what seems like a pretty depressing desert planet (quite familiar) as she is caught up in the Resistance’s (what a familiar organisation) fight against the First Order (hm, also familiar). The crux of the plot is that there’s a cute beepy droid (hm) that has a certain file inside it (hm) that they have to get to the Rebel Alli-sorry, Resistance. The file is a map to Luke Skywalker. And here we are, hurrah! Once this is revealed we are slowly drip-fed famous and familiar faces including the Millenium Falcon, Han, Chewie, the Wilhelm Scream and Leia. This would sate the audience’s appetite to see our old pals again, y’know, if we had actually experienced a separation from them and hadn’t been bombarded with books, television shows and videogames featuring them.
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Snarkiness aside, the movie is incredibly successful in hooking the viewer in. It gives us a new crop of heroes/villains to root for whilst feeling comfortable with old faces and a plot structure so great they used it twice. It’s a very good start to the third trilogy of movies in the Skywalker Saga. It was followed very successfully by The Last Jedi and I’m excited to see the last film. And I’m excited to see what happens when the storyline isn’t anchored in one place and time by the Skywalker brood. There’s already a massive established universe with a mystical force at work and it would be refreshing to see big budget projects take a look at something that isn’t what we’re used to and comfortable with. Let’s see force users who aren’t the Jedi or Sith. Let’s see intergalactic political dramas. Let’s see romance with a sci-fi backdrop. Just a wish.
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On an extremely subjective note, my personal opinion on the movie is slightly mixed. Of the three new-age movies (this, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi) this one is the most boring. It feels done before, and that’s because it mostly has been. I like the characters, but the plot itself just didn’t grip me. I can thank the actors and the stunning backdrops featured in the film for making it a watchable film for me. I liked that they teased and dashed the idea of Finn being a Jedi within a few minutes, and Rey’s force-using scenes were cool. The dogfighting scenes were, as always, awesome. Han and Leia have great scenes together too, and that scene at the end is as heartbreaking as anything really. We were all Chewie when we saw that happen.
All in all, it’s a good movie. I’d say that’s undeniable but when it comes to Star Wars it seems absolutely outside the realms of possibility to please any majority of the fanbase. I know that there exist people who wanted this movie to be even more similar to the original. Somehow. Somewhere. Hm.
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Let’s take a look at villains. I love a villain. It is known that I prefer villains to heroes 110% of the time. The Force Awakens gives us three interesting characters to have a look at who vary in how they act as villains for our heroes. Snoke isn’t here because let’s be honest he was barely in the movie.
Captain Phasma: A stormtropper played by Gwendoline Christie who you probably recognise as Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. She is a vicious, ambitious captain who, according to her own novel, killed her way to her position. We never see her face and in that respect she remains a very mysterious character. We know she values strength above all else, and is not above some sort of ‘reprogramming’ for the stormtroopers under her command that is probably as fun as it sounds. She is gigantic, and intimidating to boot with her custom chrome armour. She also seems to seem to have her own agenda. Just how quick was she to comply with the order to shut off the shields, right? I feel like any stormtrooper under her command would have gone to grave in refusal, and she would have expected that. But she complied so easily. She’s obviously more complex than a simple “evil boss” and has a strong self-preservation streak. Maybe that’s where the ambition comes in – if she’s in charge she can’t be disposed of so easily. She’s a very interesting character who I really hope isn’t dead. Yet, at least. Fun fact, Phasma means ghost in Greek, as in phantasm.
General Hux: A general who rose quickly through the ranks with his father, who he replaced through means of dead man’s shoes. Also, a very big crush of mine. Good lord he’s sexy. Compared to Phasma who acts as an antagonist on a micro-level, showing up to fight the heroes hand-to-hand and serving as a personal villain for Finn, Hux is a far more important player in the piece. It’s on his command that Starkiller Base destroys the Hosnian System, and he does so with a suspiciously nazi-esque speech. He enjoys some scenery chewing and is a pretty classic villain, representing the hierarchy of an evil organisation for the viewer. Oddly though, he’s kind of the butt of a fair few jokes. He is reprimanded by Snoke, and is always at odds with Kylo Ren. He doesn’t seem to command as much respect as one would think, which makes him a bit more complicated than a usual villain in his position. A Grand Moff Tarkin, he is not. If there is one thing The Force Awakens excels at, it’s the concoction of interesting villains which don’t simply resign themselves to “oh he has a tragic backstory”.
Kylo Ren: Here we are. The grandbabby of Darth Vader and one of the more hotly debated additions to the canon. He is another complicated villain and he does have a tragic backstory, but that’s not discussed in any real detail until The Last Jedi so I’ll let that be for now. What we do learn from this movie is that he idolises Vader, he has proper anger issues and he has light inside him, which he actively has to resist. This all seems to set him up for some pretty classic moves in the near future, namely a lot of flip flopping when it comes to whether he wants to be a goodie or a baddie. This isn’t even touching upon the frankly weird relationship with Rey that he develops in this movie. But hey, at least they aren’t siblings. Compared to Phasma and Hux, he is a bit more paint-by-numbers when it comes to his evilness. He has a tantrum where he breaks some stuff with his lightsaber. He is vicious towards Hux with home he is vying for more power in the First Order. He is snivelling when it comes to his interactions with Snoke. We’ve seen these characters before across many genres.
But where Kylo is different is that because we know how these stories progress from our previous experiences with Star Wars. Phasma is a villain on a micro-level, Hux is a villain on a meso-level, and Kylo is a villain on a macro-level. He represents the struggle between good and bad, the light side and the dark side. And this is reflected in both his internal struggles and how he affects the story externally, and this is definitely explored more in The Last Jedi. And I feel it’s going to be a principle theme of the third film of this trilogy. I’m excited to see where his character ends up.

One thought on “#241 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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