Okay gang you’ve all had a chance to see Star Wars The Force Awakens. I know some of you haven’t but the time has begun to discuss important things.
So if you’ve seen the movie, go after the jump.
If you haven’t here’s some pictures.
I loved this movie. Unlike many, I have only seen it once, but I plan to see it at least once more. So I’ll save detailed someone until then. but a few observations:
• It is amazing how the assembled Star Wars fandom came together as a group mind to (mostly) avoid spoilers. As soon as the world premiere took place a week ago I expected to see lots spoilers but as befits the tradition of a cult, or a religion, people respected the need for other members of the cult/religion to have their own mystical experience. The initiation must be experienced first hand. The result was (for me anyway) the closest thing I’ve had since seeing The Empire Strikes Back. (High praise.) The two big plot points (both involving Han Solo) were fairly obvious but had the impact intended.
• I’m a big JJ Abrams doubter, but the filmmakers managed to make an exciting action movie where all of the action served the characters. Looking back, it isn’t even like “the scene in the trash composter” or “the speeder bike chase.” The action scenes fit seamlessly into the narrative and always put the character development in the forefront—even the final lightsaber battle which was incredible on its own. This is so smart and amazing. If only more filmmakers could do it. Maybe more will. I think it’s this, more than anything, that contributed to the overwhelming positive reaction to the movie.
• The opening shot of the blood on the stormtroopers helmet let you know immediately that this was a new, modern Star Wars movie. It was perhaps an echo of this famous meme,
but told us right away these were not clones, drones, or CGI. Real people, always the heart of the franchise at its best, were at stake. The casting of the new leads—Latino, black, female and a quirky indie movie star—reminded us that Star Wars belongs to everyone, and the Force is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.
• The new leads were wonderful. Isaac and Boyega showed all the star power of their previous roles, and Daisy Ridley perhaps had a bit of an onscreen bildungsroman, but her courage and resolve were given more depth because of it. As for Adam Driver…well keep reading.
• This movie was sad and wistful. Seeing Leia and Han split up was a blow to all our ideas of happy ever after but having your kid go over to The Dark Side would put a strain on any relationship. It’s melancholy that we’ll never seen them as a couple growing old together in the movies, but, well that’s what comics and the expanded universe are for.
• Am I the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD who saw the last scene as a homage or echo of The Farthest Shore by Urgula LeGuin, and perhaps the Studio Ghibli film. (Kyle Pinion suggested a Nausicaa vibe to Rey as well.) The third book in her Earthsea series is about Ged, a powerful wizard on a world that is nothing but islands. In this book (which was originally the last of a trilogy until LeGuin continued the seres.) who travels to Selidor, the farthest island, found on the edge of all maps. If it wasn’t direct, it followed in the archetypal tradition of the exiled wizard on a lonely island. And it gave me goosebumps.
§ Now some behind the scenes. Having seen Peter Mayhew around at cons for the last 20 years I was impressed with his return as Chewbacca, but he was not the only Chewbacca. Sorry to shatter any illusions, but because of Mayhew’s bad knees, the action scenes were portrayed by 29-year-old Joonas Suotamo who is either 7’2″ or 6’10 and a Finnish basketball player. New generations for all.
§ Okay and now Kylo Ren. Portrayed by Adam Driver, he made this movie for me and only enhanced the concept that this is a more complicated, emotionally nuanced Star Wars. Essays have already been written about his inner conflict and of all the characters, he’s the one who most most directly stands in for what we experience with this film. Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is aware of the heritage and tradition of the Force and the Jedi and he’s like a fanfic writer who goes whole hog, throwing in ancestor worship to boot. He’s also a cosplayer, wearing a helmet just like his grandpa just because…it makes him scary. It’s The Force Awakens one callback to the prequels, but it’s a fitting one since they were all about Anakin’s fall, and Kylo Ren has not only absorbed that story but made it a conscious decision to follow that path. Unlike the awkward forced motivations of the prequels, Kylo Ren’s struggles are on screen and Driver brings them all.
§ And yeah, Adam Driver. I’ve been a fan for a while due to his uncomfortable sex scenes with Lena Dunham on Girls, and eccentric yipping in Inside Llewyn Davis, and I understand some people had a problem with that. I am here to say, that is hogwash.
We have our Snape.
Walking out of the theater, I was pretty sure that Ren—creepy interrogator, childish tantrum thrower, tortured father-slayer, would be the character that most captured the imaginations of the fanfic community, and oh yes, I was right. Here’s a fanfic longline that sums up the general feeling: “Rey needs to know how exactly she’s related to Kylo Ren. For… reasons.”
JJ Abrams could have cast a conventional, brooding, handsome British/Irish/Australian guy as Kylo Ren, but having a quirky, oddball actor was almost like a gift to the fanfic community. And indeed, people are already shipping him all over the place, and “Reylo” is the name for Rey/Kylo shippers, despite the fact that he’s essentially a stalker/mind controller—with long flowing black locks, in the Snape tradition. And maybe Rey’s brother/first cousin to boot. Which makes it all the more irresistible and completely Tumblr ready.
There’s already a talking Kylo Ren doll, and his utterances are very very different from Darth Vaders:
• “don’t fight it, you know you can’t”
• “you know what I’ve come for”
• “don’t be afraid”
• “I feel it too”
This is the true Emo vader.
But it isn’t just Reylo that’s getting shipped, oh no:
And the whole trio of heroes will live long on Tumblr, to be sure.
Anyway, mark my words. Moar to come.
§ FINALLY there’s the matter of whether Rey is Mary Sue or not. Guess that deserves a spoiler filled post all its own, but until then here’s where Noelle Stevenson stands.
So yeah, Disney, you did it. You gave us back our Star Wars. And all we have to do is give you our money from here until the end of time.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.