Having seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens a few times now, I wish to share with you, m’nerds, some of the thoughts, feelings and ideas that have arisen.
First off, I believe I would describe it as the first competent Star Wars movie since 1983. Let’s just not talk about…anything else. Aside from the obvious stuff about the practical effects, real sets, no fully CG characters (but nonetheless, WOW), I found myself comparing TFA to the prequels in other ways. The chemistry between the characters worked, the pacing was great (apart from a lull partway through the second act) and there were clear protagonists and antagonists, all of whose motivations were clear. Small wonder it’s set to become the most successful movie of all time. Star Wars, like Anakin Skywalker, is redeemed.
Let’s talk a bit about the characters.
One might argue that Finn’s desertion was rather abrupt, given that he’d been conditioned his whole life to kill on behalf of the First Order, but since he was not engineered that way (i.e. like a clone), it is conceivable that he found himself ill-prepared for the horror of actual battle. A fellow trooper died right in front of him, smearing his blood on Finn’s face. If it was someone he knew well, it could have been deeply traumatising for him. Finn might’ve felt he’d been sold a lie by the First Order and that the deaths of his fellow troopers was just part of the job. It doesn’t mean he is necessarily able to agree. Finn might be one in a million, one in a billion, even; having the odd trooper unable to comply with orders to kill is still a possibility. Finn’s dissidence is hinted at when Captain Phasma sends him for ‘reconditioning’, implying that there is a special place for troops who begin to stray from the path.
One might wonder where Finn’s sense of humour comes from. Do the stormtroopers who were trained from childhood really get much chance to goof around? Well, I imagine they must get some down-time. No one can function if they work non-stop. We don’t really know what Finn’s training consisted of, but it’s likely the troops were allowed to socialise when not training. Allowing the stormtroopers to develop a little as individuals would give them the edge over clones or droids in that they’d have a greater ability to think on their feet. The downside is, of course, that they might decide war is not for them.
Now, here is a sadly underdeveloped character. Phasma did not really have any bearing on the outcome of the story. It was established early on that she was ruthless and cared only for her duty to the First Order, but it didn’t lead anywhere. Sure, the Resistance used her to lower the shields on Starkiller Base, but they could’ve got anyone to do that. Phasma felt shoehorned into that scene, and the comical method with which they disposed of her detracted from her intimidating presence. It’d be like slapping a “kick me” sign on Darth Vader’s back. How’s Phasma going to be taken seriously after that? It’s a shame to use such a great actress (Gwendoline Christie), give her character this air of cold authority, a fantastic chrome panoply, and then make her the butt of a joke.
I was surprised that Phasma would not rather die than allow the resistance to compromise the shields of Starkiller Base. Her dedication to the First Order seemed such that she wouldn’t consider her own life as important as protecting the remnants of the Empire. As much as I loved the movie, this part didn’t add up.
Obvious parallels to the young Luke Skywalker. She’s down on her luck on some backwater world, when a droid is dropped into her life; a droid carrying vital information. She finds herself thrust into the struggle of the forces of light against dark, and along the way unlocks a strong power within herself. Well, at least she didn’t say anything like “But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power convertors!”
A lot of people are questioning how Rey came into her powers so swiftly. One obvious answer: she’d already had training that for reasons as yet unknown, she cannot remember. You can just about forgive the lightsaber duel, as it was established early on in the movie that Rey was pretty handy with a melee weapon. But the Jedi mind trick on the stormtrooper? Hmm, tougher to explain. How could she know that would work? How would it even occur to her? Maybe there is something in those flashbacks (or visions) she had; something hidden from her waking thoughts. Time will tell.
Again, there are parallels. Ren is a far less stable duplicate of Darth Vader, of whom he is the sole acolyte. Unlike Vader, he’s a more developed and complex character from their respective first movies. All we really knew about Vader at the end of Episode IV was that he was evil, was once a Jedi knight and had supposedly killed Luke’s father. At the time, people didn’t even know he was human under that mask. That particular reveal didn’t come until the next episode, three years later. This is where the comparison ends. From early on, we see that Kylo Ren has far less control of the force than Vader did; indeed is not as powerful as the dark lord. Not until Return of the Jedi do we see that Vader has anything but hatred and anger within him, but with Ren it’s quickly established that he struggles with his alignment. This is what makes him such a fascinating character. He feels a “pull” to the Light Side and it scares him. He wants to be as feared and powerful as Vader was, but he himself has too many fears and insecurities. The instability of Ren is reflected in his lightsaber, which ripples and crackles when activated instead of having a smooth, even blade. This was a stroke of genius on behalf of writes JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. What better way to show, without words, that Ren is not in complete control and is living in Darth Vader’s shadow?
There were two key factors depicted in the movie to stress that Kylo Ren had not lost his humanity. This was, I think, for two reasons: a) taking off his mask showed that unlike Vader, he did not need it to sustain life (thereby showing he was not totally lost to and corrupted by the Dark Side); and b) his talking about feeling a pull to the Light, in addition to point a, set up the payoff which was to come later. It was clever the way the reveal that Han Solo is Ren’s father was just tossed in there casually, as opposed to having it happen when Solo confronted Ren on the bridge and having close-up looks of astonishment on the faces of the witnesses coupled with swelling, dramatic music. Been done. Wouldn’t work a second time. It had to be something matter-of-fact so that the audience had time to process it and it wouldn’t get in the way of the confrontation between father and son. Speaking of which…
Another parallel between Episodes IV and VII cannot be drawn here. I’ve heard a lot of people say that VII is nothing more than a retread of IV, but I don’t quite believe that. At first, it does seem preposterous that the First Order would build yet another “Death Star” (this time called Starkiller base) only to have it destroyed. Episode IV culminated in the destruction of the first Death Star; it was the point to which the whole movie was leading. Starkiller Base was merely a device to move the plot of the movie forwards (this is known in movie terminology as a McGuffin) and has little to no bearing on the outcome. It served as a McGuffin because it is where a lot of the main characters met: Kylo Ren, Han Solo, Rey, Finn, Chewbacca and Captain Phasma. The climax of Episode IV was the destruction of the Death Star; the climax of VII was the death of Han Solo. This was so beautifully done that I’d have to say it was the most poignant moment in the whole Star Wars saga. Now, it could be a trick of time: I am so used all the moments and revelations of the original trilogy that I have grown inured to them. It is hard to compare the two biggest shock moments (the other being the revelation that Vader is Luke’s father). But if you grew up with the originals, you’d never think that Han Solo could die. Ultimately though, it does make sense. I mean, what could Han do for the rest of the trilogy we haven’t seen already? It was the right time. Captain Solo has made way for the new heroes. He was and is a legend.
I could be here all day, every day discussing the characters, but I won’t. Like you, I have stuff to do. I’ll just get on and do my predictions.
There is a possibility that since Finn does not know who his parents are, or indeed his true name, his father could be Lando Calrissian. It’s quite odd that such a major character has not been mentioned at all. I think Lando should put in an appearance, or at least his absence should be explained somehow. I do not, however, think it should be revealed that he is Finn’s father. You can only have so many of these twists before they become tiresome, which is why it’s good they didn’t make a big deal of Han being Ren’s father. It adds more depth to Finn’s character and makes the audience feel for him more if he never discovers his lineage. It should just be a part of who he is. He’s already exceptional in being the only known stormtrooper of the First Order to defect, so he doesn’t need to stagger the odds any further.
Finn has a nemesis: Captain Phasma. The First Order might cast her out for her failure at Starkiller Base. She will blame Finn for robbing her of her purpose and further drive her hatred towards him. Since she’s no longer with the First Order, she could become a bounty hunter in order to make money, while trying to track Finn down and exact her revenge.
Phasma will do something to hurt Finn very deeply in Episode VIII. She might kill or seriously wound someone close to him, or destroy his chances of ever finding out who his family is. This will lead to a showdown in Episode IX.
Captain Phasma is the new Boba Fett: she’s enigmatic, we don’t know her history or what she looks like under that helmet. I believe she is the reason why it would be awkward fan-service nonsense to have the Fett man himself put in an appearance. Since his grudge was against Han Solo and Han Solo is no more, it wouldn’t make sense to shoehorn him into the new movies. I know people want to see him, but at the same time they don’t. Look what happened in Attack of the Clones. I just…I don’t even want to talk about it.
If the First Order do indeed kick Phasma out and she does become a bounty hunter, then she’ll most likely have the same armour (so that we know it’s her), but it will have a new paint job to imply her disassociation with her previous employer, plus a few dents and scratches to show that she’s survived some heavy action since.
Well, there are two possibilities. She’s either the daughter of Luke Skywalker or she’s not.
If she is:
Luke abandoned his daughter on a barren, uncaring world into the hands of an amoral junk dealer. Seems a bit unlikely. Moreover, if he knew she was Force-sensitive (and he must have), then didn’t he run the risk that she’d fall to the Dark Side? With no guidance and being surrounded by people who didn’t care for her, isn’t it conceivable that anger would become her defense and she’d find she could channel the Force through it? Luke would foresee that, surely.
In spite of all of this, there are hints here and there that she is at least connected to the Skywalker family. When she picks up Luke’s lightsaber, she sees images, some of which are obviously flashbacks. She sees herself as a child, crying at a ship that is leaving. There must be some connection between that memory and Luke, or it wouldn’t have come to mind. She sees someone in a hood with a powered prosthetic right hand touching R2-D2. If you notice the camera angle, it is low. That means if we’re seeing it from someone else’s point of view, it must be someone small, like a child.
Luke has considerable Force powers, which might explain why Rey does not remember him and why we never see memories of her parents. She even states that she thought Luke was a myth. He might’ve been able to suppress her powers and leave her somewhere he deemed it unlikely she’d be found. He could then return for her when he thought it safe to do so. Indeed, he no doubt felt the Force “awaken” within her, activated Artoo himself and allowed Rey to come to him. Why he might do that is as yet unclear.
If she is not:
There is a theory that Snoke is in fact Darth Plagueis. I suppose it’s possible. he must be a powerful Sith Lord, as he is training Ren and does seem to be pulling the strings within the First Order. But how has he remained hidden for so long? Could he have been frozen in carbonite or something? Actually, that could work. Perhaps Darth Sidious thought he had killed Plagueis, but someone was able to preserve him in carbonite until they had the means to save him from his injuries. In that way, his life would be saved and he’d be hidden from the whole galaxy.
I mention Plagueis because legend has it that he had the ability to create life. Perhaps he created Rey, which is why she is so strong in the Force and we see no images of her parents in her flashbacks. She never describes them. The images she sees when she touches Luke’s lightsaber could therefore not be flashbacks but visions; a connection through the Force.
An alternative might be that she was simply born Force-sensitive, and since the stories of the Jedi, Sith and the Force itself were generally considered to be myths, her abilities might’ve frightened her parents. They could have believed their daughter to be a freak of nature and abandoned her; too ashamed to give her to foster parents within the republic, where she would quickly draw attention and her lineage would be traced. The visions she had could have been Luke reaching out to her through the Force (isn’t it funny how you can explain everything by just saying “it was the Force”?) and summoning her.
It would make for a fascinating twist if Rey were to fall to the Dark Side in Episode VIII. If she was indeed created by Snoke (or even if Snoke were her father), then he could have orchestrated her whole life from the beginning. I know we’re dancing rather dangerously into the Anakin-had-no-father territory here, but Rey’s story so far has been told so much better than Anakin’s ever was. If Rey does fall to the Dark Side, I think it would be a mistake to have her return to the light. That would mean someone would have to oppose her and only one person springs to mind.
The death of Han Solo was a set-up. I don’t mean it was faked for any reason; I believe it will have a payoff in Episode IX. Leia will confront her son, and Ren will overestimate his ability to do the same to his mother as he did to his father. At the crucial moment, he will not be able to kill her. She will leave herself open to it, but he will weaken. His moment of weakness will result in one of two things. Either he will turn to the Light Side, which will only happen if Rey falls to the Dark Side, or he will remain on the Dark Side, but his hesitation in killing Leia will be his undoing. Perhaps Snoke himself will strike Ren down for his hesitation, or it will give a still-Light Side Rey a chance to intervene.
The death of Han Solo has definitely set something up for Episode VIII. It might be trying to conceal the idea that Ren could return to the Light. In the eyes of the audience, his act against his father makes him seem irredeemable. So wouldn’t it be a great twist to have him reject the Dark Side, possibly in that crucial scene mentioned above? Remember: Anakin Skywalker committed far more atrocious acts during his reign as Darth Vader, yet he returned to the Light Side and was instrumental in saving the galaxy from Imperial tyranny.
Well, he’s basically the new Han Solo. Our beloved rogue and captain had to make way for him. His character wasn’t developed much after he and Finn were separated, but we will delve deeper into his life in Episode VIII. Someone will need to fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewie as co-pilot. One might think that Chewie should be captain while Poe assumes the role of co-pilot, but I can’t see him easing into that role. The man wants to fly ships. Even this may not happen. It has been established that Rey is a great pilot and has already taken the helm of the Falcon, whereas Poe is the best X-Wing pilot out there. It might seem odd to change that now. None the less, we have our new Han, and I for one like him.
Several questions floating around about this dude. Who is he? Where did he come from? Is he the last vestige of Vader’s Dark Side? Why such a cutesy-sounding name?
He seems very keen to complete Kylo Ren’s training, but for what purpose? Perhaps he sees him merely as a means to an end? He must be aware that Ren’s instability will very likely lead to his undoing and so Snoke just needs him to do his dirty work.
Since Snoke has a vested interest in what’s going on in the galaxy, he must’ve been a part things for some considerable time. He could be the Emperor in another body. According to Star Wars canon, he is able to transfer his essence to other bodies.
There is a fan theory that Snoke is in that bacta tank in the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer. A little insurance policy for the Emperor, perhaps?
Well, that’s all I have for now. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things, but if they crop up, I’ll let you know. I mean, there could be any number of things to add to this article: it is Star Wars, after all.