I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens almost three weeks ago and had some thoughts about it the moment I stood up from my seat. It didn’t occur to me to put them down onto paper (or rather, in a blog post) until today though. My opinion on my opinion (so meta) went something along the lines of this:
‘I’m not really a sci-fi type of girl. I enjoy the Star Wars franchise, I know quite a bit about the lore and history of it, but I’m not that hardcore of a fan to have an opinion on it.’
And then three weeks later, I slapped myself for thinking that because as a viewer and a fan (even if I am the most passive fan in any fandom I am a part of) I am allowed to have my opinions about this movie. I will never claim to be a fan since I was in diapers, or be the most knowledgeable fan, but I am a person who receives enjoyment from the Star Wars universe and I will happily discuss characters and plots and important events with other fans. This makes me a fan, all the same. But enough about my self-realization…
I stood up from my seat after an uninterrupted two hours and sixteen minutes and the initial wave of emotion that I felt was a bitter-sweet wistfulness. I knew it was brought on by nostalgia, a comforting remembrance of the original trilogy that was echoed by Episode VII. But the echo was more like a loud siren. I walked out of that movie theater into the cold, December afternoon and asked myself “did I just watch Episode IV again?” This will be my biggest critique of The Force Awakens: the movie was so absorbed in trying to relive that unimaginable and delightfully surprising glory that was the first Star Wars movie, that it had no voice of its own. The plot points were uncannily similar to A New Hope, that I anticipated what was going to happen next and made the storytelling less exciting for me. This aspect of the movie was disappointing. So much time had passed, a whole new world was opened up in the universe with the elimination of the Empire; the movie was called Return of the Jedi! And yet here we begin The Force Awakens with Jedis being fairy tales and another oppressive regime fronted by dark side users terrorizing the galaxy. It’s been 30 years; did everyone literally say ‘fuck it’ when they noticed Death Star 2.0 rising off in the distance?
Despite my opinion on the plot, I did find a lot of other points to enjoy about the movie. The biggest critique of Star Wars over the years is the lack of women in the universe, with Leia being the prominent face of the feminine sex through the years. Rey is a woman who can fend for herself, mirroring Leia’s self-reliant streak but coming even further in that she is revealed capable of using the force. Unlike Leia, who takes charge leading people, Rey is put on the front lines because of her skill. She is no passive damsel in distress either; Leia has two notable captures in the original trilogy (from Darth Vader in in the beginning of Episode IV and then from Jabba the Hutt in Episode VI) and both times she needed saving from a third party. Rey on the other hand, is captured by the First Order and mind tricks the guard into letting her out. It’s a small gesture in the film but it speaks volumes on how women are viewed now versus then. I’m hoping more females will come into future Star Wars films and be shown the same type of competence that Rey has (can you hear my chair squeak from my bouncing as I think of Captain Phasma?). Otherwise, we are still just left with one woman in a male dominated world.
I’ve also come to fall in love with the character of Finn. It’s a really interesting take on a Stormtrooper; the Star Wars universe has a hard line drawn between good and evil without much grey area, with only a handful of characters ever changing sides (and when they do, they usually go evil). So here we have a character who is supposed to be evil, realize that what the First Order is doing is immoral and medieval, and escapes with Poe. To be completely honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how prominent Finn was in the movie: he’s our leading male character, the Finn peanut butter to Rey jelly. He’s also the most human of the cast of players in this universe. Rey is a bit more untouchable, with her stern personality and tragic backstory; her skills show her to be a damn fine mechanic and pilot, as well as a versed fighter and quick learner and shows almost no fear. Finn on the other hand, is breaking from the oppressive mold forced upon him and learning about himself (a process I feel never ends with myself). He’s brave, but not so reckless to go jumping into a situation that looks dire. He finds joy in the little victories (he’s little confident outbursts are both endearing and relateable) and he is an unmovable force of loyalty to his friends. Also, was it just me, or did anyone else get the satisfying feeling of a possible relationship between these two unlikely heroes?
And then there’s Kylo Ren. I love bad guys; I really do. A main, evil character is usually driven by some sort of tragic past or event that skews their worldview into a warped, wobbly semblance of what it actually is. They have no trust; they’ve been wronged. He even oozes cool from his design. Perhaps I like them because I worry I could be like them one day (or I am). I was excited to see Kylo Ren on screen, to see him and learn about him. And my initial reaction was met with disappointment. The internet is abuzz with it: Kylo Ren is just an angsty teenager. That was my first impression too; he’s moody and quick to anger with no self control. On the surface, we have to wonder: why? The son of two badass characters and trained by the last Jedi in the universe, how did he turn to the dark side? Some whispers were circulating around the electronic community that the “dark side was strong in him,” despite his immediate family fighting the Empire. This theory perpetuates the Star Wars idea that good and evil are separate and people are one or the other. Since my first viewing, I have retracted my first assumption of Kylo Ren’s character; as of now, we simply don’t know enough about him. In the first of more movies to come, we are not supposed to like him: he’s our great enemy. So I hope that with the holding off of this information, that the revelation of his past will be that much more satisfying.
In the end, what can I say about this movie? Like any nostalgic fan, I liked it. Though it was not the movie I was building up in my mind, it has promise and I hope that the following episodes will bring about a more satisfying feeling in their storytelling. I am excited to join in the journey of these unique characters and hope to be whisked away again to a galaxy far, far away.
(Yes, that last bit was cheezy and yes, I feel ashamed of it and no, I will not change it.)