Han Solo Force Awakens

Anyone who ran relay races on the high-school track team knows the importance of smoothly passing the baton during transitions. It is now safe to say that J.J. Abrams “coached” his team well — the “blaster” was seamlessly passed from one generation to the next.

Director J.J. Abrams created a Star Wars movie with heart and soul. He created a Star Wars movie that fans can embrace. He created a Star Wars movie that fans do not need to make excuses for, which is a nice way of saying The Force Awakens will open more eyes to the horridness of George Lucas’ prequels.

Rey

Star Wars: The Force Awakens begins, as usual, with its iconic scrawl across the screen. The announcement: Luke Skywalker has vanished. Within minutes the action starts and fans are introduced to the droid BB-8, ace-pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and the soon-to-be ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega).

Poe gives sensitive information to BB-8 and instructs him to flee as Kylo’s Ren’s forces close in — reminiscent of R2D2’s mission in Star Wars: A New Hope. From there we meet “scavenger” Rey (Daisy Ridley), and the mystery unfolds. Everyone is looking for Luke, and the fate of entire star-systems will be determined by who retrieves BB-8’s data first.

Force Awakens Kylo Ren Finn

One of the most welcome surprises of The Force Awakens is Han Solo’s role, played admirably by a grizzled Harrison Ford. Solo and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) could have been given throwaway cameos, but Abrams chose instead to make them extremely relevant to plot.

There isn’t too much more one can disclose without getting into spoiler territory, other than to say Abrams made a movie with a little something for everyone — but he did it well. He was asked to juggle the Star Wars universe for everyone’s amusement, and he didn’t drop a single ball.

In some slightly sad but wonderful way, Abrams is now a better “George Lucas” than George Lucas.

Perhaps the only two criticisms The Force Awakens may be susceptible to are: 1.) Many of the situations these characters must overcome are rewrapped versions of events from the original trilogy, and 2.) Certain scenes seem a bit rushed. I, however, am inclined to dismiss the first critique since history does repeat itself and, more importantly, Abrams’ script and direction were superb.

The second observation has merit, but it does not change the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a legitimate return to form after the embarrassments that were Episodes I-III.

If you haven’t seen J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, then I would suggest doing so sooner rather than later. There is one major spoiler that will not remain a secret for much longer, and it’s better to go into the theater without that knowledge.

Editors Note: I refrained from including spoilers in the review, but the comments section are fair game. Do not read the comments section if you want to avoid spoilers. 

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

33 comments

  1. I thought the movie was good. Considering I grew up with the prequels and didn’t watch the Original Trilogy until later on. This movie really didn’t do much for me. I did enjoy the characters and the story does feel like a way better “A New Hope” Like A New Hope 2.0. And I enjoy how it kept you interested unlike Episode 4 where there was some scenes that dragged on too long.

    I am upset that Finn wasn’t the Jedi but instead it will be Rey. As an African American I was hoping a black character would be there main character/Jedi and have an original black character be the hero (unlike Marvel) but I’m hoping Finn does get better in the sequel. So far he’s my favorite because he wants to run away from danger but steps up to protect those who protect him. I guess I’m not calling it the best Star Wars film ever, since I felt Star Wars wasn’t in any signs of being nonexistent or anything, but it does make me forget about the prequels ever existing….ever. The way I see it, this movie is second place while Empire is in 1st in my book.

    Also, I totally saw Han’s death coming. When the secret is revealed I was like “Yeah Han is gonna die.” What I like the most in the movie is when everyone clapped when the Millennium Falcon appeared as well as Han and Chewie and Luke, yet no one clapped when Leia appeared. lol

    1. I know it sounds weird, but I could see Finn tapping into The Force at some point down the line. He was conditioned to be a part of the First Order since birth, and yet he still rebelled. He also handled himself pretty well with that lightsaber considering he never had formal training. Obviously it ended horribly for him…but if a guy with no experience stepped into a ring with the heavyweight champ and lasted a full round before getting knocked out, then I’d still be incredibly impressed.

      Han’s death was pretty moving given that Chewie watched it happen and he couldn’t really do anything about it. The decision by Kylo Ren also solidified him as one seriously-evil guy. You can’t help but think, “Holy cow, this guy just killed his own father.” Luke couldn’t bring himself to kill Vader, and Vader couldn’t stand by and watch his son perish at the hands of the Emperor.

      There was more heart and soul in The Force Awakens in 30 minutes than all three prequel movies. I’ll always be grateful to Lucas for the original trilogy, but those prequels were bad.

      I think one of the problems with Ms. Fisher is that when you see her on screen it’s apparent she had some sort of plastic surgery. It takes you out of the movie, even if it’s just for that one split second. It really is better to just let yourself age naturally. The vast majority of the time, the effort to hide it just draws the attention you were seeking to avoid.

  2. I know the filmakers want to make Captain Phasma into this trilogy’s Bobba Fett, but for me that privilege ought to belong to the Stromtrooper with the side-arm weapon that confronts Finn and battles him

    1. I was rather unimpressed with Captain Phasma. Sure, she looked cool…but that’s about it. I’m assuming she’ll play a greater role going forward, so in that sense I have to reserve judgment.

      On a different note, that movie was a cos-player’s dream come true. 🙂

    2. I was expecting her to have at least a helmetless scene, since we see the actress in big interviews etc, but not even that happened.

      I think cosplaying as crotchety Han Solo is worth growing old for!

  3. I’ve been enjoying hearing people talk about specific aspects they enjoyed with this movie. What are some of yours? Descriptions in detail are welcome 🙂

    I loved the film personally, and am looking to do my second viewing ASAP. Many older fans agree that the beats of the plot are reminiscent of A New Hope, but as you said, history does repeat itself, and that fault is redeemed in light of our new generation of moviegoers. Not only that, but in the direction that the sequels are heading, there’s enough personality and distinction to The Force Awakens that the argument of it simply being a “rehash” doesn’t cut it for me.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, huynhrichy. I appreciate it.

      I think what is really kind of cool about The Force Awakens is that there are so many genuinely interesting characters. All the old fans are invested in Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, etc. … but Finn, Poe, Rey and others were also done extremely well. So now you have this rare situation where old fans want to see how Chewie and Leia respond to Han’s death in Episode VIII, everyone wants to know what happened to Luke, and we’re all excited to see the new characters’ tales unfold.

      The decision to have Kylo Ren kill his own father was fascinating to me. He was torn between Dark and Light, and because deep down he knows that he cannot kill Supreme Leader Snoke, he kills Han. He took the easy way out. He took the coward’s way out, and no matter how much training he has going forward that seed of cowardice will continue to grow inside him. If I were writing the next two episodes, I’d say the only way he could conceivably make amends would be to kill Snoke or to die a heroic death protecting someone Han loved.

  4. The Prequels have always been a cautionary tale on how one should not pursue something they no longer have a passion for. Lucas had great passion for A New Hope and Empire, but made Jedi as his personal life was falling apart. Lucas did a prequel ‘for the kids’ and it shows. Of course there were a great many hungry supporters in his crew that also wanted to put their emotions on to the screen and they made the movies, even Return, fly.

    Lawrence Kasdan, I think, keeps this new film from being buried in JJ’s instincts. It’s a perfect crew for a truly great movie.

    Hating on the prequels…though fun (thank you Red Letter Media), is a way of hanging on. I’m going to let them go, and enjoy this new stuff. And the expanded universe can go with it with my blessings.

    1. I saw all the prequels when they first came out and never watched them again, which is sad because I’m always game for the original trilogy. I guess what bothers me more than the prequels are the Star Wars fans who weirdly defend the indefensible. For years they’ve tried to turn it back on guys like me and say that I’m just old and jaded and don’t understand…when Abrams’ film proves they were wrong. I know when a movie is bad, so it irritated me when someone would tell me that my nostalgia for the original trilogy blinded me to the merits of, say, The Phantom Menace.

      I suppose it would be like someone telling me Rocky V was just as good as Rocky.

    2. I still find time for Revenge of the Sith, which I sort of do like a bit more than Force Awakens even if it has more flaws than the latter. I can’t put my finger on why, it’s not because of the ham and cheese meltdown performance, or the shoed-in kisses to fandom, I think I just appreciate the slow burn of the story, like I can see it working with a better script and performances.

    3. I think Revenge of the Sith was the strongest of the three movies. Lucas had also taken lumps for the first two prequels, and at the time I remember hearing stories that he had help with the script. This is denied in a 2005 issue of Vanity Fair, but I don’t believe it. Heck, Lucas even admits that he sets himself up for failure.

      “Unlike other writer-directors, Lucas begins shooting with what McCallum calls “a detailed outline” and continues to work on the script well into the post-production phase. ‘I’m not a great writer,’ says Lucas, whose strength lies in concocting huge scenarios, not in coming up with snappy dialogue or in constructing small domestic scenes. ‘I’m trying to tell a story using cinema, not trying to write a great script. I use the script as a blueprint.’ (For past films Lucas has brought aboard screenwriter-director Lawrence Kasdan and the writing team of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck to brighten up the actors’ lines, but [producer Rick] McCallum denies Internet talk that Tom Stoppard was called in to polish the Revenge of the Sith script.)”

      How on earth can he not have more than a “blueprint” for movies like this when he admits he is not a good writer?! It’s a recipe for disaster. He’s going to sink more than $100 million into a movie and just say, “Eh. We’ll go with the ‘blueprint’ when shooting begins and work it out on the fly.”

      J.J. Abrams made sure his script was tight before filming and it shows. The difference between any of Lucas’ prequels and Episode VII is stunning. Lucas was done in by his own hubris. He surrounded himself with yes-men who let him return to the Star Wars universe with shoddy scripts, and he got burned.

  5. I can see why, not only does the Prequels show a lot of wasted potential, but the last prequel was supposed to be a fulfillment of what a lot of Star Wars fans had always imagined that confrontation between Vader and Obi-Wan.

    spoilers…not any big ones, I think everyone knows who the Vader sit in is.

    I actually have a few problems with ‘The Force Awakens’, none of them are really flaws, just things I’m not a big fan of: Kylo seems potent and dangerous, but half way through the film, not only does he show some vulnerability (good), but also a lack of capability (bad). Kylo has interesting motivations and potential, but he’s basically an immature screw up with great power, not scary, but a little pitiable.

    What’s nice about Palpatine and Vader is that they are incredibly potent, dangerous foes. Something that the Red Letter Media review picked up on that I had at the time I was watching the prequels, was that I really liked Palpatine…to the point I was cheering him on…He seems to be the only character really into what he’s doing. The Jedi are boring, emotionless and completely lacking in character, not to mention utterly lost and clueless, a western take on eastern philosophy that doesn’t really get it (they’ll never understand ‘balance’ from a Tao perspective, but we are sure going to get plenty of ‘balance’ for lols…we see this in Avatar too…whats with western pseudo-philosophers anyway?). Next to Deep Blue Sea, this was Samuel L Jackson’s most pathetic role, Mace put me to sleep.

    Rey and Finn are great characters…I wonder if they will learn the ways of the Jedi so they can start boring us to death. Hope not.

    Snoke doesn’t do anything…and his name sucks. I think Snooki.

    1. I’ll have to bush back a little on Kylo Ren there, my friend. 🙂 Darth Vader had already been versed in the ways of the Dark Side for decades. He was an established bad guy, whereas Kylo Ren is still incredibly young. I think Episode VIII is where he is going to complete his training and become much more than “an immature screw up with great power.”

      I always felt that Anakin Skywalker in the prequels was just a whiney kid who didn’t actually have a good reason to rebel against Obi-Wan. With Kylo Ren, it makes total sense why he would gravitate to the Dark Side — his grandfather was one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. His assertion that he is torn is validated by the script, which is something that Lucas’ prequels couldn’t boast.

      I’m really looking forward to Episode VIII given that Rian Johnson is directing. Did you see “Looper”? Great movie on a small sci-fi budget. I think he’s going to make a super-dark “Star Wars” that knocks it out of the park.

    2. Nah, again, I was hoping for a more potent main villain and didn’t quite get what I want. I really like Kylo’s potential has a character. As a father…the scene with Him and Han was by far the most powerful and shocking. I couldn’t help but think what was going through Han’s mind as he fell…holding his son as a baby, playing with him as a child, sharing his hopes and dreams…it was incredibly powerful and sad. Chewie shot him, but I wonder if he wasn’t as much a part of ‘Ben’s’ youth as anyone.

      Before the prequels ruined him, I always pictured Anakin as a more middle-aged man, who had lost everything important to him. A man who had lost his wife and children because of his poor choices or things he could not control. A man courageous and amiable in war, yet difficult at home, in peace. Someone with soldiers that would die for him, and him back…but an alien to his own family. I always think of the guy Obi-wan described in a new hope…and can’t help but be so disappointed with what Lucas eventually gave us. Anakin is now creep-master. a guy whose only real redeeming quality was having the right kids.

    3. Here’s Abram’s describing his thoughts on Kylo Ren via Entertainment Weekly.

      “Long before we had this title, the idea of The Force Awakens was that this would become the evolution of not just a hero, but a villain. And not a villain who was the finished, ready-made villain, but someone who was in process.”

      I can’t wait for the next two installments. This is going to be good.

  6. This was definitely a great movie that I’ll watch again and again, but ISO have my gripes.

    I love Finn’s character. I could identify with him. He might not have been the ace pilot or the Jedi master, but he’s a good, courageous person willing to stand up to evil anyway. He’s also fiercely loyal to his new friends and put himself in danger to protect them from evil.

    I also enjoyed Poe. A Great War hero in the Star Wars universe who isn’t force sensitive. I imagined in the final attack on Star Killer base Obi Wan speaking to him through the force, “Use the Force, Poe,” and Poe considering for a moment before saying, “Nah, I got this.”

    The Han/Kylo story was good, but I felt it was one sided. Many in the audience are probably young and can understand how evil it is for Kylo to kill his father, but they probably didn’t consider the huge amount of love Han needed to step forward and confront his son like that. I would have loved to see a couple 1-2 second flashbacks during that scene of a young Han holding his baby son as the old Han saw him out on that catwalk or after he called out to him. It would have really driven home what Han must have been feeling at that moment, and would have solidified Han as the good man we all know him to be and not just the scruffy exterior he likes to show to the world.

    And lastly, I enjoyed Rey in the first act, and would have enjoyed if she had remained as the “new Han” she was being groomed to become. Instead, she practically mastered the force with no training just minutes after learning that she learned that she might be force sensitive. This was all on top of being shown to be an expert pilot, a crack mechanic, and capable of speaking every alien language in the movie. All of it felt like some Mary Sue fan fiction. It made her character uninteresting and unrelatable by the end of the movie. I suspect her character suffered a bit in this way because of the impossible expectations of modern feminists. I think her character would have flourished more if Abrams had reigned in the “grrl power” a bit and allowed her to show a bit of weakness like every other character did. Luke’s climactic Force moment in Ep 4 was to time an impossible shot. In comparison, Rey mastered the mind trick, the force pull, and light saber battling by the movie’s end. I suspect this was partly because Abrams didn’t want to portray the female lead as being rescued in any way by a male character. While disappointing in this movie, I fear that future directors may lay it on even thicker in future movies.

    1. You make very good points about Rey. I agree with you, and I suspect if anyone other than J.J. Abrams tried to pull off the über levels of “girl power” she displayed, then it would have really annoyed me. It was there…it was done tactfully. Your point backs up my own about certain aspects of the movie being rushed, so thanks! 🙂

    2. I’ve been thinking about the complaints about Rey being flawless and “overpowered”, and I came across a helpful perspective (shout outs to flashmedallion) on why her character works within the larger context of the narrative.

      Basically, her OP-ness would be a bigger problem if she was the sole protagonist, but there are other characters who take on the load of generating jeopardy so she is used to explore other ideas.

      I’ve heard the Mary Sue term being thrown around a lot, stemming from Max Landis’ piece on it if I understand correctly.

      I’m not quite sure the term is the best because of how people are using it. ‘Mary Sue’ typically refers to an Author-Insert character, or I guess in a diluted sense a fan-insert character. This obviously has overlaps in a character who can do anything. Either way, I think the more interesting discussion at its heart is more about ‘is the character too powerful/unbeatable?’ as opposed to ‘is it a Mary Sue?’, the latter case mostly being people who love using a new a new term that they’ve heard.

      As for Rey, I see why people are thinking that. She doesn’t really “fail” any of her goals. That can be a problem, depending on what the character is used for. If that character is the sole person carrying the stakes on their back, it removes drama and tension, etc.

      The thing about Rey is that she’s not really in that position in terms of the dramatic structure. Other characters like Finn and Han do carry dramatic stakes and allow us as the audience to feel like there is risk and any victories may come with costs.

      Rey is more of our window into the force from a fresh perspective. Her story is about more about her overcoming her fears and committing to the task – so her stakes are less about “will she succeed?” and more about “will she choose to be a hero?”. With the way the protagonist duties are spread around, there’s room for doubt about whether she’ll commit or not because even if we step outside the experience and think about the other characters, there is plenty of potential for narrative and story momentum and victory from others if she doesn’t step up.

      At the same time, it’s a Star Wars movie so there’s not a huge amount of doubt, and this status is pretty much over by halfway point. The other sore point which I suspect is where people aren’t really feeling her is that she chooses to run away, and is then captured and put in a position where she kind of unknowingly fights back and then picks up from there and is committed once her power awakens.

      So she does have flaws, and they are explored, but she’s not the one carrying much of the jeopardy in terms of the emotional structure so it’s easy to see why people take issues with that. They’d be experience-ruining issues if she was the sole protagonist, but there are other characters front and center who still create risk and drama for the audience. Overall the situation isn’t perfectly executed but it’s not the mess that some people are trying to paint it as by ignoring the broader context in the film. Not every character (including main ones) has to be in danger, and a character who will always succeed when they put their mind to it won’t create a series of guaranteed victories if they’re not able to be in important situations.

      For my two cents I enjoyed having the extra character room to just focus on the force and how a talented force user can grow without having to rehash the same pitfalls and issues we’ve covered before in the saga. She explores one basic element of the “lore” – fear and it’s relation to the light/dark side – and her arc is her getting over that. It’s simple and solid and gives her both an ending point in this film and a starting point in the next.

    3. I think my opinion of Rey will in many ways be determined by whether or not Kylo Ren wins “Round 2.” I feel as though Episode VIII should really showcase the power of The Dark side… It will be this generation’s “Empire Strikes Back.” And then, with Episode IX, they can bring it back full circle and have Rey be victorious.

      If she goes through all three movies and her only real obstacle is overcoming her own past/fears, then that will be a bit lame.

  7. They are positioning her to be the female Anakin (minus the villainy), who was also a prodigy. She might also be more of a natural “believer” than Luke was, who Yoda said was hampered by his own doubt. It might also implies a secret yet to be revealed, which is, who are Rey’s parents? If they were Jedis, it would explain why she took to it like a duck takes to water. Is she Luke’s daughter?

  8. I saw the movie, finally last night! I thought it was great! The prequels are much maligned but I actually thought Episode 3 was well written with some good character beats, other than having to ham fist everyone into their positions for Episode 4. I will say for Force Awakens 2 things I hope DON’T happen is 1) I hope they don’t opt for a Rey / Finn romance as I just don’t think that makes sense given both characters trajectories. Finn just somehow appropriated free will and learned he doesn’t have to be a mindless soldier, killing merely because he was told to. So I see his story as more what will he do now that he is free to do it. I see Rey as learning more about the Force, and why she’s force sensitive. If they are going to push a romance (which I doubt they will do since Rey is supposed to play the feminist, doesn’t need a man, “stop holding my hand” archetype) I’d prefer it be with Poe, as that is a bit more unpredictable 2) The 2nd thing I hope happens is that Rey is NOT revealed to be Kylo’s sister, cousin, etc. Here’s hoping Skywalker is NOT her father. The SW universe is starting to look really small when you discover that this person over here on X planet is actually the lost son / daughter of character y from 2 films ago who now lives on planet z, who somehow forgot they had a child. I like the many surprises Abrams had and I think if they can keep this up, episode 8 will be tremendous!

    1. What if she’s related to Obi Wan? During her moment with the lightsaber and the flashback you can hear Obi Wan say, “Rey!” 🙂

      On the romance thing, certain corners of the internet are already clamoring for Poe to be gay. Am I weird because when I watch Star Wars movies the thought, “I wonder if that guy is gay,” doesn’t even cross my mind?

    2. Douglas, I’m not sure her how Rey being related to Ben Kenobi would work. She’s too young to be a daughter and the hermit identity that Ben used on Tatooine makes him having a child (one of her parents) a little hard to believe. It would seem likely that if Ben had had any family, the Skywalkers or Solos would’ve searched them out, or something. I think that, if she’s not related to Luke, her family are probably new characters.

      (Good ear though. I didn’t catch that they had Ben saying something during the vision scene.
      P.S. Your are serious about that and not joking, right?)

    3. Good ear though. I didn’t catch that they had Ben saying something during the vision scene. P.S. Your are serious about that and not joking, right?

      I’m not joking. J.J. Abrams has confirmed the audio “cameos.”

    4. I don’t know, OrangeMask, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to either Rey being Luke’s daughter or her falling in love with Finn, although I’m not married to either possibility (pun not intended).

      As, far as Rey being a Skywalker, it would make her meetings with Kylo Ren and Luke carry more weight than they do if she’s a mere stranger. Smaller universe, maybe, but the “Star Wars” series has always played with the idea of destiny and the Force guiding unlikely events, random chance, and people with interesting connections being drawn together to shape the future, so I could buy it. It’s no worse then what we’ve seen before in the movies.

      They would need to have a good explanation for what happened to Rey’s mother, why Luke just abandoned her, and why Luke appears to be a near-mythical figure to Rey, not to mention why Han, Leia, Chewie, or the others don’t appear to recognize her. So, it’s a long shot, but since Rey had the Force vision about her past (including the moment she was apparently separated from her family) while messing with Luke’s lightsaber, he does, at least, seem to be important to her past, specifically with her family.

      As far as Rey and Finn being a couple, they did bounce off each other pretty well and made a good team, and are clearly going to be important people in each other’s lives. By the end of the movie it was believable that they had bonded as strongly as they did despite the minimal amount of time since they had met. (Nothing’s written in stone, yet, and if they end up only loving each other platonically, that’s okay. But, if they go the love story route, I think it’s a better foundation to build with than they had with Anakin and Padme, or even Han and Leia, just based on the actor’s performance alone, such as the scene were Rey realizes that Finn came back for her, or their escape in the Falcon. It felt more genuine.)

      If they wanted to put Rey and Poe together, that could work, but the two didn’t have any scenes together, so they’d have to build entirely from scratch, which doesn’t seem like a good idea for only two movies. Also, it seems like a retread of the Han and Leia dynamic; a hot shot pilot who makes flippant remarks at the drop of a hat paired with a strong personality who’s very competent in her field. While Rey and Finn might seem predictable, it would be a different dynamic than seen before.

  9. In regards to Hal’s response about Rey being a Mary Sue, I’m inclined to agree that I didn’t see her that way. I think that Rey’s challenge (her story arc) in this movie is how she deals with the revelations about herself from that vision with the lightsaber. She’s clearly comfortable with her life on Jakku, eking out an existing and waiting for the family she knows in her heart isn’t coming back.

    When she gets that vision, she gets clues about her past and future, as well as the fact that she’s a Force-sensitive. Her first reaction is to run away; to deny the revelations. Her challenge (in this movie) is to accept this new part of herself and choose what she’s going to make of her destiny. She has an interesting personalty and, as Douglas pointed out, has her flaws. When I think of “Mary Sue,” I think of the character that has no flaws, doesn’t change, always wins, and has no character growth. Rey doesn’t fit that description.

    And as far as her instant Jedi and combat skills, I think it’s not as spectacular as others think. First of all, in her and Kylo’s first encounter, Kylo utterly defeats her, so she’s not invincible. In the second battle, Ren was pretty injured and had being fighting someone else, whereas Rey hadn’t, so I’d buy that Ren was not fighting at full capacity. It’s also worth noting that he tried to recruit her, so he may have been holding back somewhat, and we know from Supreme Commander Snoke’s comments that Kylo isn’t fully trained.

    We also know from Rey’s use of that metal quarter staff that she has some hand-to-hand combat knowledge, which she could draw on for a sword duel. She also doesn’t win until Kylo try talking her into joining his side, where she appears to actually tap into the Force and get the boost she needs. (Finally, Finn, a Force muggle, was able to hold Kylo off briefly, so Rey wasn’t exactly fighting off someone who was shown to be unstoppable).

    In regards to her quick Force abilities, it’s not far out of range of what we’ve seen Jedi newbies use before. Rey used the Force to telekinetically grab the lightsaber; Luke did that with a similar level of inexperience in “Empire…” Rey also appears to use the Force to partially keep Kylo from reading her mind; a common fan theory is that Leia unknowingly used the Force to keep Vader from probing her mind in “A New Hope” (since it’s just a theory, I’m not going to be dogmatic about it, but there is a possible precedence).

    The only thing Rey does untrained that we’ve never seen done untrained before was using the mind trick to get the stormtrooper to free her. She have trouble doing it, so she’s clearly not an instant expert. (Also, other Force-sensitive characters, like Anakin in “Phantom Menace” and Ezra Bridger in “Star Wars: Rebels,” have been shown to be able to instinctively utilize some Force abilities with zero training, so I could see Rey doing the same, especially when she was clearly trying to.)

    Finally, for what it’s worth, I’m extremely suspicious that Rey might be Luke Skywalker’s daughter (why does she get that strong Force vision about herself when she picks up his lightsaber, hmm? And notice how she never gives her last name anywhere in the movie?). If that’s the case, that would soften the “problem” of her seeming like an “instant expert,” since being the daughter and granddaughter of two of the galaxy’s most powerful Force users in modern times would give her a boost.

  10. As someone who was really skeptical about the movie’s success, I was very pleased. When it was first announced, I was worried that it would be nothing more than a soulless money-grab from Disney, and when J.J. Abrams was announced as the director, my memories of how he’d completely screwed up “Star Trek” left me saying: “I have a very bad feeling about this.”

    So, “The Force Awakens” was a pleasant surprise. It was almost a pseudo-remake of “A New Hope,” but I think that (much like “Jurassic World”) they made it distinct enough to stand on its own two feet.

    It was great seeing the old characters again and I think they were properly used; they integrated into the story so they were more than just a throwaway cameo, but they didn’t intrude. There was never any doubt that Rey and Finn were the leads and that this was their story.

    I was sad to see Han die, but I think they gave him a good sendoff; we get to spend some time with him, see how age has changed him, how some things never change, make some good memories, and then have the actual death be in service to making the story better, not just for gratuitous shock value (like, for example, how killing Wash in “Serenity” had no use beyond simply gut-punching the viewers).

    The new characters were excellent. While Poe didn’t have a lot to do, he made himself memorable. BB-8 worked nicely and managed to be cute without being annoying. Rey and Finn were the standouts, being not only the leads, but also my favorites of the new characters. They made good first impressions, were a joy to watch, and left me ready to see what happens to them next. (In a lot of ways, I was more invested in their story than in the original characters.)

    Since Rey and Finn were the most interesting (and entertaining) when interacting with each other, I’m not sure how I feel about having them in different storylines in the sequel(s). On the other hand, they are developed enough that I’m sure the stories will be good ones. I’m just hoping that they get team up again before the trilogy ends.

    In regards to Kylo Ren, I thought he was interesting, but he didn’t grab me the way the heroes (old and new did). I hope we learn more about him in the next movie and maybe see more dimensions to him (like what are the Knights of Ren, why did he fall in the first place, how does he feel about having killed his father?).

    They could be setting Ren up to parallel Darth Vader (the dark side Force user who gets brought back to the light), but I think it would be interesting if he turns into the anti-Darth Vader; he stays a villain and isn’t redeemed. The original six movies are about someone’s redemption. It would be interesting to see the movies explore what happens when someone doesn’t want to be redeemed.

    Overall, a solid entry, and I’m looking forward to episode eight.

    One detail I was really confused about: Was the planet that the First Order destroyed with their Starkiller weapon Coruscant? That’s what I thought, but it’s never explicitly stated to be so.

  11. Douglas, in the review and comments, you’ve expressed a distaste for the prequels. Since I don’t share your views, I’m choosing to respond and offer some counter-thoughts. I may be aggressive in my defense, but I want to make it clear that I respect your opinion, and am not attacking you personally, and have nothing against you period. To spring board, I’m using some of your comments and thoughts to respond to.

    “I guess what bothers me more than the prequels are the Star Wars fans who weirdly defend the indefensible. For years they’ve tried to turn it back on guys like me and say that I’m just old and jaded and don’t understand…when Abrams’ film proves they were wrong.”

    Okay, for starters, I’ll try to keep all this polite, even if my case is a lost cause. And how does Abrams making a good “Star Wars” movie prove that the prequels were bad? It just means he made a good movie. The prequels should be judged as good or bad on their own merits (or lack, thereof).

    I have wondered if the prequel things is partially generational. For a lot of us younger fans, the prequels are what we what we are up with. Although I really started becoming a “Star Wars” fan in my teens, and saw the old ones first, I do have a strong identification with the prequels. They may mean something more to us then for people who grew up with the originals and see the prequels as an edition.

    Now, that doesn’t prove that they’re good movies. However, I’ve kind of wondered if the originals have been really been put on pedestals. Are they really that great? IMHO, I don’t think there’s really a large difference in quality between the two trilogies. The prequels are accused of having bad writing (and in many cases, like the sand monologue, are guilty as charged). But, is the writing in the original movies that much better? I honestly don’t think so. None of the movies are known for their subtle writing.

    I’d also argue that the prequels had a more ambitious story. The original movie, as great as it is, has a paper-thin plot. While the second and third movie build off it well, they are more episodic. The prequels tell one story, working as one movie in three parts. The execution may not have been perfect, but I think that there is some grace in its failing here, if they were trying to tell a different story, rather than rehash the old one.

    The prequels also offer massive amounts of world building to the franchise. The Sith and the Rule of Two? Not in the originals. Stuff that was unexplained in the originals, like the Clone Wars, the Old Republic, the goodness that Darth Vader still had, are explained. New worlds were added. New cultures and designs made the “Star Wars” world look less and less like it was built by the same people, and gave it a more real-life varied look.

    So, if I don’t think that the prequels are that much a step down from the originals, and added much to the franchise, why are the originals held up as the best (besides the fact that they came first, so we’re biased to them)? I think it’s the cast and scripts. While I’d argue that Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, and Liam Neeson turned in performances better than the original casts’ (save for Harrison Ford, and taking into account that Ian McDiarmid and Frank Oz were among the best actors in all their movies), the original cast was overall solid, and gave solid work. While I agree that all the scripts are similar, the prequels do have most of the really bad parts. Because of the overall better performances, any weaknesses in the original script are overcome and we’re more invested in the characters and what happened to them.

    “There was more heart and soul in The Force Awakens in 30 minutes than all three prequel movies. I’ll always be grateful to Lucas for the original trilogy, but those prequels were bad.”

    Let’s see, where was there heart and soul in the prequels? What about Anakin’s scenes with his mother? The Order 66 montage? The opera house scene with Palpatine and Anakin? Obi-Wan telling Yoda that he’s going to fulfill his dying master’s last request regardless of the Council’s wishes? The youngling class Yoda teaches? The aftermath of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s final duel? Don’t sell the prequels short. While not all happy scenes, there is genuine emotion in there.

    “…Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a legitimate return to form after the embarrassments that were Episodes I-III.”
    While we may disagree about how awful the prequels actually were, I heartily agree that “The Force Awakens” was better (although I still might like “Revenge of the Sith” better). I liked the characters more (although Obi-Wan was always great) and found the different experience of watching a “Star Wars” movie and not knowing what was going to happen next a nice change of pace from the prequels, where you know what’s going to happen, just not how it happens.

    A few other random thoughts:
    – I agree with you that “Revenge of the Sith” was the best of the prequels. I also agree that overall, the originals are better than the prequels. Beyond having the better cast of characters, the story is more enjoyable and can be seen by itself. (The prequels work best when paired with the rest of the saga, which makes them less enjoyable on their own).

    – I think “Phantom Menace” really suffered from the hype; that’s the one movie I have trouble understanding the hate. “Attack of the Clones” has the worst script and the worst performances, while “Phantom Menace” was simply a decent “Star Wars” movie when viewers were expecting the second coming of sci-fi movies. (Before anyone suggests that “Force Awakens” success proves that “Phantom Menace” couldn’t have been a hype victim, let me say that “Force Awakens” had very low-key marketing; “Phantom Menace” was everywhere, so I don’t think it’s a fair analogy.)

    – While I don’t hate Hayden Christensen as Anakin, I do think that he had some annoying bits (and that sand monologue! [shudder]). Kylo Ren was Anakin done right. Better acting, better backstory, and is more interesting to watch.

    That’s how I see it all. Agree or disagree? That’s fine. All I’m interested is an interesting discussion, not “winning” a purely subjective argument (where the people I disagree with can and have made some good arguments for their position).

    1. There’s nothing wrong with a strenuous defense of your position, Weblurker. As long as you don’t start swearing or making totally out-of-line comments, then there won’t be a problem. At the same time, I’m not sure if there’s much I can really add to the Great Prequel Skewering that hasn’t already been done to great effect by others.

      “I guess this gives me an opportunity to use a line by my buddy, perhaps the biggest Star Wars fan I know, after Force Awakens came out:

      “It wasn’t just a great SW sequel … it was more than that. It was actually a good movie. Ya know … with a comprehensible PLOT … aaaaand characters that we cared about … aaaand all that other stuff that GL abandoned while he was paying attention to the detail in the imaginary wood carvings on the walls of his digital sets.”

      As I said before, even George Lucas admitted he used the script as a “blueprint.” He literally did not care enough about the script to make it strong and tight before filming. And it showed. The reason why so-called dramatic scenes fall flat in the prequels is because the scripts were atrocious.

      There was a pretty decent article on this by i09 the other day worth checking out: Kylo Ren Is Everything That Anakin Skywalker Should Have Been.

      Chuck mentioned Red Letter Media’s prequel takedown already, so I suppose that would be a good place to start.

  12. “At the same time, I’m not sure if there’s much I can really add to the Great Prequel Skewering that hasn’t already been done to great effect by others.”

    Fair enough. The prequels have chain-sawed apart, analyzed, and pretty much all the arguments have been made against them. I guess sometimes whenever I read something where the prequels are raked over the coals, I tend to think: “Yeah, we know, it’s all been said. We’ve had about fifteen years to examine what went wrong (with some of the “wrongs” being things I don’t agree with). Isn’t it time to start examining what went right with those movies?”

    It doesn’t really help that it’s often hard to tell where objective criticism of the movie as a movie ends, and where fanboy whining about how the movie wasn’t what they wanted it to be begins. (I think, based on your previous reviews, that you fit the objective side of the spectrum.)

    As far as your friend’s quote went, yeah, I agree that “Force Awakens” was a good movie and better than the prequels (I also think J.J. Abrams did a good job making a movie that people on both sides of the prequel issue could go and enjoy without feeling attacked). I don’t think the prequels had an incomprehensible plot, (although I’m not going to argue that it was a perfect plot either in writing or execution, because there are some flaws, and rushed parts). As I said before, yeah, I liked the new characters better than the old ones and very much cared about what happened to them.

    As far as Lucas getting so caught up in the set details that he forgot about everything else, I do agree that the originals are the better movies and I think you’re right that the botching of the scripts was a key reason the movies suffered. I guess I sometimes think that stuff the prequels get ragged about things that the original trilogy skewers toward, but is somehow immune to criticism about.

    Liked the Kylo Ren article. I actually forgot about how great those scenes of him venting his frustration on the machinery with his lightsaber were (and the great gag when the troopers hear the commotion)!

    I’ve heard of the Red Letter review and have considered making time to see it, since “Phantom Menace” is the one of those movies were I’ve never really understood the sheer level of dislike it’s received. On the other hand, I genuinely like the movie (for what it is) and am not really eager to see something that would ruin that.

    P.S. I loved the “Starkiller” in-joke for the movie.
    I also had a chance to listen to your interview on the “Henchmen’s” podcast. Enjoyed hearing a more detailed conversation about the state of Spider-Man and how writers and creators interact with their fanbases. I’d certainly be interested in hearing if you do any more podcasting like it.

  13. My wife watched “Phantom Menace” for the very first time a few weeks ago. Her reaction: “It’s like a big cartoon!” She didn’t mean that in a good way. As for me: the acting was stiff, Jake Lloyd was terrible and terribly miscast, the movie had a lot of uncomfortable ethnic stereotypes, why would a Trade Federation want to block trade?, Padme’s annoying droning monotone, Jar-Jar super annoying in every way, way too much CGI, Jedi so powerful they can foresee a nine year old boy’s dark future, but they can’t tell that a Sith Lord is standing right there in the room with them.

  14. Someone on this page mentioned: My wife watched “Phantom Menace” for the very first time a few weeks ago. Her reaction: “It’s like a big cartoon!”

    Your wife is very astute. It should be apparent that Lucas made the film to be viewed from the eyes of a 10-year-old, the age of Anakin in the movie. The droids, Jar Jar, the Gungans, the sea monsters, Darth Maul, etc., were all designed that way. The same for Attack of the Clones, but from a teen-agers perspective. Apparently many, many people don’t get this, which is quite amazing.

    1. “It should be apparent that Lucas made the film to be viewed from the eyes of a 10-year-old, the age of Anakin in the movie.”

      Nothing says “made for kids” like multiple diatribes on trade embargoes that leave most adults scratching their heads.

      Regardless, even if were one to believe that, the movie still had an embarrassing script and horrible direction. It’s a shame Lucas never took a cue from Disney, which has a library of “kids” movies — cartoons — that both young and old enjoy. Oh well. At least Disney is in charge now. It’s just a shame Lucas is calling the guys who wrote him a $4 billion check “white slavers.”

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