Wait, there’s a new Star Wars movie?

Because of spoilers, most of this post is blacked out. If you want to post spoilers in your own comments, please use the redaction feature in the comment editing bar, or ROT13 them or something.

The only non-spoilered thing I have to say is this: They did not screw it up. That may sound like damming the movie with faint praise, but screwing it up was a distinct possibility and JJ Abram’s failure to screw it up is worthy of note and kudos. If you liked the original trilogy you will find The Force Awakens at least satisfactory. If you don’t like Star Wars movies, this one will not change your mind.

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Spoilers begin below:

The new heroes all worked for me at least a little. You can see bits of the original characters in each of them but arranged differently to create new people. Oscar Isaacs does a great turn as Poe Dameron. Rey is still a little bit too much of a cipher for me to have a strong opinion of her at this point but I liked what I saw of her. But my stand-out favourite was Finn. His reactions to the unfamiliar situations he found himself in were great, but my favourite thing about him was that he was a defector stormtrooper. So far the stormtroopers have been portrayed as a homogeneous, faceless (literally) foe who did little but attack and occasionally hit. It’s not often in an action movie that soldiers are portrayed as having doubts and fears and Finn’s mere existence does a lot to humanise the stormtroopers (although i think it would have worked better if Finn has been a bit less gung-ho about fighting once he left the First Order). I like that Finn and Rey made some mistakes in the early part of the movie

The old heroes were used judiciously, which was a good idea. Luke was barely in the movie, and Leia was in support. Only Han was doing much, which made sense since it was to be his last movie. Bringing the old crew back was good, perhaps even essential, but they needed to give the new characters room to breathe, and I think they did that well.

The new villains were pretty promising. Captain Phamsa is very Boba Fett, in that she looks cool but basically doesn’t do anything. I really hope to see that change in later instalments, I want to see Gwendoline Christie in some fully-fledged action scenes. Kylo Ren is basically what Anakin Skywalker should have been in Episode 3, powerful but uncontrolled, less angst and more unfocused rage. The scene where he stops Poe’s blaster bolt mid-flight did a very good job of setting him up as someone dangerous (as well as being visually engaging) – even without his light sabre he doesn’t care about your puny weapons.

The new setting elements were interesting, but under-developed (admittedly setting is the thing I tend to pay the most attention to in a work, so others may be bothered less by this than I am). How did the Rebellion manage to bring down the Empire, and at least partly restore the Republic, but yet still be the plucky underdog to the First Order who almost have to be less powerful than the Empire was? How did the First Order get the resources to rebuild a planet as a Doomsday Device? And what was the plan once it had used up its local star? Did they have a way to move it near another star to reload? And who is this mysterious Snoak, and how did he come to be part of the First Order? Who trained him? Later movies may answer some or all of these questions, but until they do it’s a little hard to judge how well these setting elements work. I am glad to see though that the First Order is smart enough to A) Design a Doomsday Device that can’t be disabled by a purely external attack and B) Equip and train some stormtroopers to deal with Jedi.

The weakest element was the plot, which was just a straightforward re-telling of A New Hope. I can understand by Abrams and the House of Mouse wanted to play it conservatively, but they’ll need to up their game for Episode 8. Still, its clear that the franchise is back in competent hands now and that augurs well for the future.

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James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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10 thoughts on “Wait, there’s a new Star Wars movie?

  1. My favorite spoiler moment:

    When Kylo Ren removed his mask and revealed… a guy. Just a guy. (Well, my first thought was “they cast a young Snape.”) A good looking guy, maybe… but given that I didn’t know what in the heck I was expecting, the fact that it was not particularly notable what was under the mask was pretty cool.

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    • Yes. Kylo Ren was… well, not my favorite character, quite… but the character whose creation and portrayal I am most pleased with. He feels like an apology for everything that Lucas did wrong with the Skywalker Family force melodrama in RotJ and the prequel trilogy.

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      • Oooh, one thing that they had him do that made me really, really interested?

        When he started talking about the pull of the Light Side. I find myself hoping that that particular metaphysic is going to be with us for the rest of the series. Though it does make me wonder what the ideal end goal would be for any given force sensitive… a balance between the two, where neither side pulls excessively?

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        • This was for a long time, basically the same as my theory.

          I had a whole mythology for how the Force worked; why the Jedi approach was limited, how and why the Jedi banned study of the Dark Side, why that decreased their actual power and eventually led to their downfall, why the Sith came about in the first place (beginning as a principled fork of the Jedi), and ultimately why Luke’s family destiny to restore balance to the Force means something other than just restoring the Jedi to an “all-Light side, all the time”. I had this whole thing worked out where the reason why Vader ultimately was able to resist the Emperor was due to him having been immersed in both the Dark and Light sides of the Force, that this was why Luke was able to also resist him as Luke used the Dark side to a degree in the fight with Vader, and that enhanced his abilities.

          Interestingly, it seems like J.J. ***may*** be doing something like this here, as Rey seems to learn most of her beginning Force skills by resisting Kylo; she’s toying with the Dark and the Light sides of the force in an utterly untrained way.

          It will be interesting to see if this is how the story plays out over the next two movies. I expect not; having the Force actually be united under a new Force order that uses both the Dark and the Light sides of the Force will kinda end the entire framework for generating Star Wars movies, and that’s not what you do when you paid $4 billion for ’em.

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          • One of the things I wondered as I watched the trailer for Marvel’s movie covering the Civil War storyline is the whole “wait, are vigilantes good or bad?” kinda thing and wondering how in the hell we’re going to watch that moral storyline play out.

            The whole “we are what we pretend to be” thing.

            I mean, we’re having a discussion about whether or not we should register guns with the government. We know that the “good guys” argue that we need a registry and the “bad guys” are the ones screaming about the rights of people who have guns…

            But the Civil War storyline was about registering people who were Living Guns with the government. If we live in a place where a guy can blow up a bus by looking at it wrong, doesn’t it make sense to say “maybe we should write his name down somewhere”?

            I mean, if you’re a fan of gun registries?

            And, suddenly, we’re talking about registering people with the government and that feels really, really creepy.

            In that same way, we grew up knowing that “The Light Side” was the good side… but now we’re wondering if it’s a case where “excess” is what needs to be overcome rather than “Darkness”.

            And there are some really, really creepy places you can go from there.

            We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

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