From the Archives: Spoiler Alert: Initial Thoughts on The Force Awakens

From the Archives: Spoiler Alert: Initial Thoughts on The Force Awakens

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Before we get started here I just want to point out again that there are going to be spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this post. Not just light spoilers, either. Full on, ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it SPOILERS. So, SPOILER ALERT. this is your last warning. Do NOT read this if you have any interest in seeing the film with a clean slate. Ok, here goes. At the time of this writing, it’s been about 24 hours since I saw the film, and I’m still cheesing my head off. The film accomplished everything it needed to accomplish and so much more. Unfortunately, I’m still in a headspace where I’m so damn excited about how pleasing it was that there is no possible way to offer a review with any sort of objectivity. Instead, I just want to rattle on a bit about my thoughts. Here goes!


-We need more Poe Dameron. I’d watch a million spin-off movies about his adventures flying for Leia’s army. I’d also love to see him elevate to a major player in the main thread of upcoming Star Wars films. Poe was everything I stereotype a fighter pilot to be. He’s got ‘the right stuff’ if you will. Will you? Good. Here’s a fun thing I noticed: Toward the beginning of the film, he is eye to eye with Kylo Ren, and he’s acting difficult in an effort to piss Ren off. Ren makes a comment about Poe “getting it from his father.”  Did anyone else catch that? Is Poe’s father potentially somebody notable? Did I mishear it entirely because I was so taken aback at how cool it was to see a blaster beam frozen in the air by The Force?

– The first Millennium Falcon chase was simply incredible. This was the one point in the film where it went full 70mm and it was breathtaking. My theater was filled with appreciative gasps and excited giggles. Man oh man, that is how it’s done!

– Without even making a thing of it, the franchise has been gracefully passed onto the shoulders of a young woman, and a person of color. That’s pretty awesome. In addition, as a youth I was always torn between whether I was more of a Han guy or a Luke guy, and Daisy Ridley’s Rey seems to embody the best aspects of both. Amazing.

– A criticism I’ve seen is that J.J. Abrams didn’t insert enough imagination into the film. I see the point, but I disagree. I think he injected just enough imagination into it. Look back at the prequels. They have an abundance of imagination. Too much, some would say. In fact, the gaudiness of the prequel trilogy can absolutely be attributed to unchecked imagination. I actually kinda dig the prequels, but it really is too much. Abrams is a master of finding what we love about pre-existing properties and making it shiny and new. He did it with Mission: Impossible, he did it with Star Trek (yes, those films are more Trek-y than most are willing to admit), and he did it with Super 8 (the franchise here being “Spielberg”). With The Force Awakens, Abrams has tuned into precisely what made Star Wars so beloved and added just enough new ideas and shine to make it not feel dated or like a photocopy. 

– John Williams is the real MVP (am I using that phrase right?). The score is just like the film itself in that it hits all of the familiar beats AND blazes new territory. I felt like Pavlov’s dog when cues from the original trilogy called up old emotions at the perfect times, and I’m sure that new segments of the score are already burrowing themselves into the folds of my brain to do the same.

– That Daniel Craig scene with the stormtrooper being Jedi Mind Tricked? Perfection. It’s about time that the manipulative nature of The Force be mined for comedy.

– Heck, this was the funniest Star Wars film by far.

Ok, second warning. We’re about to get into some HUGE spoilers here. Last warning. I don’t want any hate mail or whining. I’m getting into the big stuff now. Ready? Ok.

– Han Solo. Wow. It’s unreal how smoothly Ford fell right back into character. I was fearful that he would phone it in, confident that his simply being there would be enough (and it probably would have been), but he rocked it. Han Solo was undoubtedly Han Solo, and who could have thought that he’d be such a major player in the story, rather than a glorified cameo. It was a smart move to make him so central to the plot, as handing the series off to a new cast would have been a difficult sell without him.

– Killing Han was a very bold move. He’s not the type of character you can simply brush off. When giving an ending to one of the most iconic characters of all time, the death has to have weight. It has to be earned. The enormity of such a task, from a writing perspective, is terrifying, especially considering how strong the nerd-rage response could be. I think Abrams and company nailed it, and based on the lack of a nerd-rage response, I’m not alone. First and foremost, the fact that Kylo Ren, brood of Han and Leia, is named Ben … I have chills. Secondly, Han’s last-ditch attempt at fatherhood – at responsibility – all in a moment of almost guaranteed demise signals a completion of his character arc. Solo was always the guy to cut and run in the face of assured destruction. He’s on the lookout for primarily for himself (although he does have a knack for popping back in for some deus ex Solo). Even at the outset of The Force Awakens, he is self-exiled, shirking responsibility for his lost son. But when he approaches Ren (Ben! Gah!) on the bridge, he is doing the exact opposite, and although it leads to his death, it’s a beautiful moment of growth that was decades in the making. Plus, I’ve always wanted to see someone get stabbed by a lightsaber being activated into them. Lucky me. Not so lucky for Han

– Was Snoke just a Wizard of Oz sort of illusion being controlled by Luke? I think so, for a few reasons. First, Snoke’s last words to Ren are “your training is almost complete,” and even though we are told that Snoke led Ren away from Luke’s tutelage, perhaps that is not quite the case. I think that Luke may have sensed Ren’s potential fall to The Dark Side, and rather than exercising futility to fight it, he chose to coach it and minimize the damage via the illusion of Snoke. Maybe I’m still just clinging to my initial prediction that Luke was going to be a villain. I guess we’ll see.

I’m curious to see how the criticism of The Force Awakens shakes out once the dust of excitement settles (remember, we loved the prequels upon release). I think/hope that the consensus will remain favorable. The machine tasked with rebuilding the Star Wars universe has been activated and will be building upon a strong base. I’m excited to see where it goes!

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