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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

13. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


**also warning, lot's a fanboying below**

Yet another film that people seem to be a bit divided on. I know a lot of people found this film to be derivative, too similar to episode 4, or whatever there gripes are and I get that, it's not a perfect film, it certainly wasn't the best film made last year, but it was my favorite for personal reasons. I am a huge Star Wars fan, have been my entire life (or at least since I was old enough to watch movies and actually understand what was going on). Seeing this film in theaters gave me a feeling I hadn't felt since I was 8 years old. I had never seen a good star wars film in theaters (I saw 3 and the Clone Wars movie in theaters as well but those weren't particularly good). The film was everything I wanted it to be and it was and probably always will be the best theater experience I have ever had (having seen it 4 times all in theaters). Honestly the film only had to be solid for me to love it, but this film was, in my opinion, a hell of a lot better than solid.

The story definitely does feel reminiscent of A New Hope, I'll admit that, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing and it definitely didn't bother me. It's not what the movies is about that matters so much as how it's about it, and the movie executed it's plot very well. Also, most of the similarities to me are more superficial aesthetic similarities than significant ones. Yeah, they blow up a big planet destroying ball in space at the end like they did in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, so what? That wasn't the point of the narrative that was part of the narrative.

To me, this story was brilliantly paced and executed. From the first sentence of the opening crawl the dramatic premise is established. Luke Skywalker is missing. This film is about searching for Luke. The film begins with telling us he's missing and ends immediately once he's found. Every key plot point in between serves the purpose of finding Luke, ultimately. The film also acts as the first act of a larger narrative that will be the story of the trilogy as a whole, presumably. That larger narrative is the hero(ine)'s journey of Rey.

Let's talk about Rey actually. A lot of controversy has surrounded her character and whether or not she's a 'mary sue' or whatever. I don't believe she is in fact I'd say all of her capabilities in the film are extremely obviously well explained. Why is she a capable fighter? Well she's survived on her own since childhood on a scrapyard planet with no help from anyone, she had to learn to fend for herself otherwise she'd have been toast. Why is she so good with ships? She's a scavenger, she's almost certainly familiarized herself with hundreds upon hundreds of various parts over the years so she could get rations for them. Why is she capable of using the force? Well it's obvious she has a strong connection to the force based on her connection to Luke's saber, and it seems like she's barely controlling it and just beginning to figure out how to tap into the latent gifts she has (and this will likely get even more context when her parentage is ultimately revealed).

Why can she take on Kylo Ren, a guy with much more experience than her, in a lightsaber duel? Well for one thing, Kylo is not at 100%, he took a direct shot from Chewies gun and managed to just take a knee and walk it off which is d*mn impressive for one thing since that weapon has taken out multiple stormtroopers in one shot just in the vicinity of them, so he's mortally wounded and also he's emotionally unstable after killing Han. She's hopped up on a connection to the force while he's at maybe half rate and he's also still not fully trained. Not to mention, Kylo has the distinct advantage in the fight all the way until the end when she taps into the force at which point she overtakes him. These are all things that are relatively easy to understand based on what's communicated in the film and I don't see how people see her as a Mary Sue simply because she's strong. Her strength is completely reasonable in the context of the story. I loved Rey and am so excited to see where her story leads her.

Back to the Han Solo death scene. This scene definitely takes some inspiration from the emperor's throne room scene in Return of the Jedi. The split lighting technique I discussed in my Jedi review is used again in this film, to great effect, as Kylo Ren, Ben Solo, is facing the conflict of light and dark and facing conflict with his father as Luke faced before him with Vader. However, where Luke succeeded in resisting the dark side and sparing his father, Ben fails, succumbing to the dark side, his face shrouded in red as the last bit of light from the Star is absorbed by the starkiller base, as he stabs his father with his lightsaber ending his life.

I also really loved the dynamic of Finn and Poe as they established more onscreen chemistry as a brotherly friendship in 10 minutes than Obi-Wan and Anakin did in 3 movies in the prequels. I absolutely can't wait to see more of those characters in the future films. There are rumors that they could potentially be made into the first main character gay relationship in the entire franchise, and it's a move I would totally be for. I don't think there was any romance in The Force Awakens (except for the already established Han and Leia), so really they have the freedom to go with any pairing of characters they choose, however to me Oscar Isaac's Poe and John Boyega's Finn had the most on screen chemistry of any characters so I don't see any reason they shouldn't go for a romantic subplot for them, so long as it's well written I don't care what the sexualities of the characters are.

Anyway, with all the controversy around the film addressed, the film itself is really incredibly well made. I would say that the cinematography in this film is the best the series has had except for maybe Empire Strikes Back (and that's a toss up) and the acting is most definitely the best in the series. The effects look great, using practical as much as they can and cgi when needed. The score is great (Rey's theme and Kylo Ren's theme are both instant classics for me).

I've said before the JJ Abrams style of filmmaking really speaks to me and it's on full display here as well. This film, like I said, brought out a feeling in me that I haven't felt in a theater in a long time, and that feeling is why I want to be a filmmaker. Movies have shaped so much of my life through that feeling (really that feeling applies to most every film on this list to some extent or another). I think that's the point of filmmaking. It's not about the music, or the acting, or the camerawork. It's not about the technical prowess of the movie, it's not even about the story. At the end of the day, the goal of a film and the goal of any work of art is to make the audience feel something. This movie made me feel a way I haven't felt since I was a little kid, and was a d*mn good too, if not completely narratively and technically perfect (though was still very good on both fronts in my opinion), so on it's most fundamental premise as a film, it was an absolute success.

And also, I feel like the film fits so well within the lore of star wars. As part of that universe it's a success too. The eternal struggle of light and dark, of good and evil, is a central motif in the mythos of Star Wars, and in fiction at large. It's core to the universe of Star Wars, so it seems only natural that Darkness rose again. And as a natural response to the revival of the darkness, the light continues to fight to keep it at bay, this time in the form of the resistance. And this time, the light side reawakens as well, in the form of Rey (conveniently named, ahem, 'ray of light'), and that's the point of the entire story. The continuation of the eternal battle of light and dark, as history repeats itself and we see yet again that someone will rise to face this darkness, a reluctant yet brave heroine (Rey) taken from her former life aided by courageous allies (The resistance, specifically Finn) and a wise mentor (presumably Luke in the sequels) and thrust to the forefront of this battle where she will ultimately triumph and grow as a result of this journey. It's storytelling, it's the hero's journey, that is the point of all this. That is Star Wars.

I love this movie so much. You're allowed to not like it but that's how I felt (sorry that this turned really long and rambly and preachy and incoherent, I just have a lot of thoughts about this film, in fact I just wrote 1500+ words on it and I could probably write another 15000 if I wanted to).

(some of the stuff I wrote I also pulled from some of the earlier posts I've made about TFA in the spoilers thread since I was making the same points)