Like any self-respecting nerd, I have capital-t Thoughts on The Force Awakens. I didn’t see it on opening night but I did make it before the weekend was out. I’m sure my thoughts aren’t anything new but I want to get them out of my head so they’re coming out here.
It should go without saying but there will be spoilers ahead. Sorry, no getting around that.
I should also state off the bat that I loved the movie. I’m going to focus on things that could come across as complaints but I feel like they’re nit-picks more than anything. The Force Awakens was beautifully put together. Well-acted, visually-stunning, with an incredible John Williams score.
I came away from the film feeling like it was a “darker and edgier” remake of A New Hope. Orphan from a desert planet meets an unexpected older mentor, finds that s/he is force-sensitive, sees said mentor struck down by a dark Jedi in a black suit and mask, then barely escapes as a planet-destroying superweapon is wiped out by a rag-tag fleet.
But wait! It’s gender-bent! And the mentor is killed by his own son! And the superweapon is even bigger! And people actually get stabbed/sliced/etc. by lightsabers! It’s like they took the Battlestar Galactica playbook and applied it to Star Wars.
It’s awesome. It’s larger in scope than Episode IV. But I think it’s impossible not to make those comparisons.
Additionally I have an issue with the balance of power between Rey and Finn. Rey is a complete badass. Pilot, mechanic, handy with a blaster and, apparently, extremely strong with the Force. Finn… Well, comparatively, he’s okay, I guess.
I’ve seen a lot of stuff calling Rey a Mary Sue (or other worse, misogynistic things) but I actually have no problem with her character. I just wish we saw more of what makes Finn tick. This is a guy who deserted the First Order because it was The Right Thing to Do. Who picked up a lightsaber because it was the only weapon available and he needed to fight. Who used that lightsaber – with no training – to fight the closest thing to the personification of evil that he’s ever seen.
That’s badass, too, but seems overshadowed by just how incredible Rey is. Not saying anything should be taken from Rey, I just would have liked more backstory for Finn.
That said, I imagine backstory for both characters will be prevalent in future films.
On the Dark Side, we have Kylo Ren. Clearly this is a heavily-conflicted character. It’s impossible not to compare him to Anakin Skywalker (which, as he basically worships Darth Vader, is pretty much the point). I think he could actually be more of a bad guy than Vader as Anakin was pretty much tricked into joining the Dark Side. Han Solo tells his son that he’s been tricked, but I think Ben chose of his own free will to become Kylo Ren. We may learn otherwise in future films – redemption arcs are big in this series – but it seems to me that Ben didn’t want the power of the Dark Side for any noble purpose like Anakin, he just wanted power.
Seeing him without his helmet adds to that, I think. He’s not a deformed half-man confined to a suit like Vader. He’s a human who chooses the suit. He can take it off. He just doesn’t want to.
Speaking of the Dark Side… As Rey embraces the force in her battle with Kylo Ren, it sure seems like she’s putting a lot of hate and vengeance into it. We know those lead to the Dark Side. I wonder if anything will come of that.
If the new trilogy is darker and edgier, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Rey to turn to the Dark Side, with her conversion showing Ben just what a horrible thing the Dark Side is and pushing him back to the Light Side.