Hello All!! Before we get started, I would like to remind y’all this is a movie review–so it will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen it, I would really recommend not reading this! Go see the movie, then come back and read this. Because I have FEELINGS, y’all, and I need to talk. And my husband is sick of hearing about it 🙂
Are you still here? Okay! Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s talk about Episode VII: The Force Awakens!
I have to say, I am still feeling a little shell-shocked about the whole thing. My sister texted me the day after and said, “I feel like I have a Star Wars hangover…we waited so long and now it’s over.” Which I totally agreed with, yet still replied “the only cure is to SEE IT AGAIN.” Because I have a serious problem, clearly. 🙂 I did see it only once, Thursday night, in non-IMAX 2D. I plan to see it again sometime over the Christmas break, hopefully in IMAX somewhere. (I heard it sucks in 3D? Like, more than usual because it wasn’t shot for 3D and that was hastily tacked on afterwards, so it hurts your eyes and gives you a headache? What did y’all think, those who 3D-ed? Is it worth it?) I was so caught up the first time trying to take in every bit of it and remember to keep breathing that I wasn’t really able to just soak it in. I hope to be able to have a less frantic viewing the 2nd time around and just enjoy it. So take this review with a grain of salt–it’s just from one hyperventilated viewing.
My theater was filled with very lovely people. We waited in line to be allowed to go inside and the excitement was palpable. Everyone was practically giddy, even in the horrifically long concessions line. Total strangers kept high-fiving each other. It was like, can you believe we’re here? We’ve been nerds forever, and this is likely the biggest pop culture nerd moment ever, and we are GOING TO GO SEE A STAR WARS MOVIE OH MY GOSH! The last time I’d felt such group merriment was the day of Obama’s first inauguration. It was that level of contagious joy. Once the movie started, there was tons of clapping and cheering, but nobody shouted out anything. Nobody texted. People were 100% committed to the experience, and that was really neat and cool. There was not a casual fan in the house.
Why was Jakku not Tatooine? That just seems silly to me. It was a desert scavenger planet…that was totally not Tatooine. Later, we visit a snow planet that’s totally not Hoth and a jungle planet that’s totally not Endor. I’ve had several discussions with friends about the logistical difficulty of portraying various planet atmospheres (like the water planets of Mon Calamari and Chad, for example, would be hard to do onscreen) but I felt like it was a bit lazy to basically create a shot-for-shot reproduction of Tatooine and then call it a new planet.
The biggest criticism of the film I’ve heard thus far is that it was too close to the plot of “A New Hope”, and I can’t say that’s not valid. There were a lot of times where it was like “I know what’s going to happen here because I have seen this movie before.” And the Jakku/Tatooine thing was perhaps the most grating part of that situation. Even if you want Rey to be a Luke 2.0, who’s stuck in a small town with big dreams, there are a hundred other ways to do that without literally reproducing his hometown (and giving them the same outfits).
I will say, before I go any further, that I am 100% fine with just re-doing Ep. 4, but with a girl in the lead. This movie was among the least sexist movies I have ever seen, and that includes “lady” movies like “Bridesmaids” and “Sex and the City”. There were women! Everywhere! Doing stuff!! Flying x-wings!! Being bad guys! Fighting! Running rebellions! And not while wearing sexy clothes or tons of makeup either, or having to mutter quips like “try doing it in heels!” or “you like pain? Try wearing a corset!” Like how there was a lady scientist in “Star Trek: Into Darkness” but she still had to show her underwear? Nothing like that happened in this movie! Women were just doing the same stuff men were doing and nobody was saying a darn thing about it. It warmed my heart so much, I can’t tell you. People said that about “Mad Max: Fury Road” but I didn’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling from that one. This one made me feel like there was hope for the future. My future daughter, some day, could dress as an X-wing pilot for Halloween and not get asked if she was GI Jane (which happened to me, several years in a row, because X-wing pilots are awesome, okay? And just because I was a girl didn’t mean I couldn’t be one, no matter what the other kids said!) I just loved the movie so, so much for that reason. It could have sucked and I would have still loved it.
Rey. Dear, wonderful, perfect Rey. She’s a strong female character without being a Strong Female Character. She has fears and doubts, but she’s not a slave to them. She’s good at her job and she’s not afraid to show it. She can fly the Millennium Falcon, she’s loyal, and she’s smart. Watching her teach herself to do the Jedi Mind Trick was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. (By the way, did you know that stormtrooper was Daniel Craig? It was!) She’s flexing her powers, coming into her own, and women just don’t get to DO that in movies! I absolutely fell in love with her right away. Many, many people have written articles about how kickass Rey is, and I don’t really have anything original to add–I’ll just raise my voice to the clamoring throng. She is amazing and wonderful. Having her onscreen was a major moment for me. I will argue that “A New Hope, starring a Girl” is a totally different movie, because having a woman in the lead changes things in a big way. When women see themselves on screen, it’s a powerfully validating experience that upsets the whole narrative. It’s a huge deal.
For many, many years, women Star Wars fans have been marginalized and pushed away by the men, only allowed to “like” Princess Leia when we really identified with Wedge Antilles or Han Solo. We’ve had to suffer through ill-fitting tee shirts purchased in the boy’s department because there were no Star Wars shirts made for girls and buying toys in the boy’s section and having cashiers ask if they were for a nephew or a brother. No dude, this lightsaber is for ME. We have to defend our love twice as hard and know our facts twice as well because we’ll be ridiculed if we screw up the difference between Coruscant and Corellia or a twi’lek and a tauntaun. Even though I know the name of the rancor keeper at Jabba’s palace (it’s Malakili) and my husband does not, nobody blinks when he mentions Star Wars at a party, while I raise a few eyebrows when I do the same. It’s a fight to be accepted in the community, is what I’m saying, and I felt like on Thursday I was offered a place at the table. And I’m still not over how good that feels.
Anyway, back to the movie! Finn was fun, if a bit too silly for me at times. I wanted to remind him he was in a Star Wars movie, not a stoner comedy, so please act accordingly. A few of his lines felt tonally off to me. And I was SO BUMMED when he picked up the lightsaber to battle Kylo Ren. I was like “THAT’S NOT YOURS IT’S REY’S DON’T TOUCH IT!” But that’s not his fault 🙂 He held his own next to the force of nature that is Rey, and I liked that they were friends this movie. They’ll probably date by the 3rd movie, but I appreciated that they didn’t rush it. It felt right.
Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) also felt right. I was sad when I heard that one of the most beautiful women on the planet was going to be all-CGI, but I liked it. She’s got a Yoda-vibe going on, but is still her own character. Her palace was pretty neat and I liked her collection of weirdos that hung around her. I believed she’d have Luke’s lightsaber. I hope we see more of her.
Kylo Ren was also pretty great. I don’t even like Adam Driver a lot but I felt his delivery here was right on. I bought him completely in a thankless role (I worry that people will start walking up to him in the street and punching him, yelling “you killed Han Solo!” and then running away.) His first scene with Rey is the one I keep playing over and over in my head. I know part of that is the tension between them (are they siblings? Cousins? What?) but that’s the scene I’m really stuck on. I heard some people say they didn’t like him and he kept pulling them out of the movie, and I just have to respectfully disagree.
Speaking of respectfully disagreeing, it’s okay if people don’t like this movie! We all need to be nice. I get so tired of the zeitgeist just declaring “this is good, this is not” and then no further discussion is allowed. I know a ton of money is involved, and studios pay handsomely for the privilege of being able to say “this will be good just enjoy it, no matter how bad it is” (I’m looking at YOU, Avengers franchise!) but I feel like views on pop culture used to be more divided. It’s like as we’ve gotten further polarized politically, we’ve decided there’s no room in debates for art anymore? I don’t know. It’s probably a silly digression. But as someone who really doesn’t get the Avengers or Adele, and who is often afraid to state those facts publicly for fear of being shouted down by everyone (including movie reviews, which feel more and more rote to me every day), I want people to know that I support you not liking this movie. It’s not for everyone. Nothing is! That’s okay. Go ahead and say what you don’t like about it. Debate is healthy! We can agree to disagree and still be friends.
Okay, digression over. I loved the fight through the old Star Destroyer on Jakku. When the gun gets stuck and Rey puts the ship in free-fall so Finn can shoot from the broken position, I found it heart-stoppingly lovely. It was a really artistic moment in the middle of a fierce battle. It reminded me of Luke staring at the twin sunset to John William’s soaring score–a moment of real magic. Maybe I just like battle scenes.
When Han Solo and Chewie showed up, I was delighted. He’s got this get off my lawn thing going on but it’s okay. He’s Han Solo. I used to pretend he was my dad when I was a kid and that he was coming in the Falcon to rescue me from my suburban childhood. It’s safe to say I’m a bit attached. I like the idea of him and Chewie going back to smuggling, barely making it every time and not even being that good at it. Han was not, never was a big hero–just a cocky pilot that got swept up into something much bigger than himself. It would have crushed me to see him at a desk job for the Resistance, giving motivational speeches to the new recruits about the Good Old Days.
Yet that’s sort of exactly what he proceeds to do, as he fills Finn and Rey in on what they’ve missed. He immediately takes a shine to both of them, Rey in particular. The moment when he’s ribbing Finn, telling him “women always figure out what’s going on”, is so classic. I just love old, wise, cantankerous Han Solo so much. When he says to them “It’s all real”, it felt like he was validating my childhood and my obsession with Star Wars. Because their whole world has always felt very real to me. The audience got to stand with Finn and Rey at that moment, slack-jawed with wonder, as we were given the honor of re-entering a place so familiar yet subtly different after all this time. It choked me up a bit, to be honest.
Having Leia back (as a General!) was great! She’s still awesome. I don’t want anything I’ve said about Rey to be taken as a jab at Leia. Leia was a serious role model to me as a kid. But she had that whole golden bikini thing and was a love object, something which I felt I could never be. She was an ideal–Rey immediately felt like a sister. So to see older, wiser Leia still running the show was deeply gratifying. I’m glad she and Han got to make up before he left. I bought their estrangement, I bought that losing Kylo/Ben to the dark side tore them apart, and I bought that they still loved each other. I wish they had one last kiss, but nothing’s perfect. I can just pop in my ESB VHS tape when I want to see them lock lips.
Some dislikes: Supreme Commander Snoke. That’s a stupid name. And his Emperor Palpatine imitation was a little lame. I was never for one moment afraid of him.
The cute redhead bad guy wasn’t given enough backstory. Like, he sasses Kylo Ren a lot. I was never sure who was in charge. I kept waiting for Kylo to force-choke him because Grandpa would have never put up with that lip. However, he seems like he’s maybe in charge and Kylo’s just a side-ruler? I need a little more exposition. (Someone pointed out that the prequels were ALL exposition, and this one had zero exposition, and I think that’s fair. In an effort to avoid the dour, let’s check things off a list feeling of Episodes 1-3, JJ and Co. perhaps glossed a bit too lightly over some history that could have been helpful.)
I’m sort of wondering where they’re going with Poe Dameron. He was good and interesting but I don’t know where he fits into the saga.
Speaking of not knowing where something fits in, who the heck is Rey? Is she Luke’s daughter? Han’s? Someone else? (Tom said she might be the child of Obi-Wan and Padme’s love child, which I think is highly improbable but totally tantalizing.) Every fanboy worth his salt has been debating this ad nauseum (including me on FB) so I don’t want to belabor it too much, but I think she has to be Luke’s. It would be too much weirdness to have Han and Leia forget they have another daughter/be mind-wiped by Luke to protect her after Kylo went to the Dark Side. I don’t think Kylo would forget he has a sister. I don’t think she’s that much younger than him that she could have been hidden from him (as some have suggested). I think it just takes an awful lot of mental and plot gymnastics to make her Han’s daughter.
Why did Luke abandon her? I don’t know. Possibly after his failure with Kylo he felt he was a danger to all those he loved. Maybe he wanted to protect her. I bet it has something to do with the old man from the beginning of the movie whom Kylo kills in the first few minutes, the “old friend” of the Resistance who had the map. We don’t know who he was, other than the fact he knew Kylo, Kylo knew him, and he HAD THE MAP TO LUKE. So, it seems like he was once a pivotal player in this saga. I haven’t seen a lot of buzz about him so maybe I’m the only one making this link, but it seems at least likely that if he had the map, Luke gave it to him (and sent him to watch over Rey until the time was right, a la Obi-Wan with Luke). So hopefully we’ll hear more about him later, and I will be super-impressed with myself. You heard it here first, folks!
Who’s Rey’s mom? Dunno. It would be extra super lovely if it was Mara Jade, Luke’s longtime love in the Expanded Universe books. I don’t see her giving up her child, so it’s possible she died in childbirth (like Luke’s mom!). It would be super easy for JJ to just name-check her and win the eternal loyalty of the diehard supernerds forever. I can be bought, JJ!! Did you hear me? Mention Mara Jade as Rey’s mom and I will never doubt you again!!
And now, I must cover what I’m still reeling from days later…Han’s death. I have to admit, it’s been a bit jarring to walk through the grocery store aisles and see Harrison Ford on magazine covers. “You’re dead!” I want to shout at them, before I remember I am in a public place and will probably get stared at best-case scenario and beat up worst-case because I spoiled the movie. But it’s affecting me a bit more than is likely healthy. I teared up Friday night as I made my traditional batch of Millennium Falcon-shaped gingerbread cookies. Rest in peace, brave Han Solo. You will never be forgotten.
It’s fair to say I don’t feel good about it, but I guess I do feel right about it. It was not gratuitous or wasteful. It wasn’t lazily written in because nobody knew how to end the movie. Han died trying to save his son. They foreshadowed the heck out of it and gave the audience time to prepare for it. It was what Harrison Ford wanted. It nicely paralleled the Luke/Obi-Wan/Vader scene from Ep. 4. It made sense. I still don’t love it. But I’m at peace with it. That’s about the best that can be said about it.
I feel like, but for Han’s death, I would be running around jubilantly shouting “FORCE AWAKENS WAS SO GOOD!” but instead I’ve been nodding gravely when people ask me how it was, saying “it was really good. People will be satisfied.” I feel like I can never fully love a movie that ends with Han Solo’s death. It’s weird just typing it. But, it didn’t ruin the movie for me. It was well done. I feel like I’ll have more coherent things to say when I’ve seen it again. Thanks to my husband and mom, who were both really worried about me post-movie and asked me in soft, non-patronizing tones if I was “doing okay with it.” I sincerely appreciate your concern. ❤
So, it was awesome, in the old-fashioned “full of awe” sense. I felt like a little kid–not jaded, not skeptical, just loving it for the whole runtime. There was something really old-school magical about it to me, like JJ figured out how to put the fun back in Star Wars. The prequels were visually stunning and compelling plot-wise, but absolutely no fun and no heart. This movie was all fun and all heart, and I loved it for that. Before Dec. 18, there were 3 good Star Wars movies and 3 bad ones. Now there are 4 good ones and 3 bad ones. I have high hopes for the rest of the series (and the million spinoffs that will no doubt follow.) JJ Abrams had the 4-billion dollar weight of the Lucasfilm/Disney purchase on his shoulders, which seems like an impossibly hard to bear pressure when you think about it, and he pulled it off. This film is not a masterpiece. It has its flaws. Only time will tell if it stands up. But for two plus hours, I got to hang out in a galaxy far, far away, and it could have been me saying “Chewie, we’re home.”
So what did you all think? Love it? Hate it? Have a crazy Rey conspiracy theory? I can’t believe I didn’t mention BB-8 in this whole review! (I think he’s cute.) Let me know! Talk nerdy to me, y’all. I want to hear it all!!
Merry Christmas to those celebrating, Cool Yule to everyone else, and take care of yourselves out there!