Star Wars: the force awakens – a review

Warning: This post does contain spoilers from the movie.

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I have mixed feelings about this film. I loved, loved, loved the first half to three quarters. The Force Awakens is fast-paced but I could feel a connection to the characters. It has a very old-school feel; it is styled after the first trilogy which is pretty much universally recognized as better.

In some ways, it almost felt like a reboot of the original movies. Fiftyish years on, the story is the same but the costumes and special effects are incalculably better. In The Force Awakens, I didn’t come out of the movie-verse to think on the special effects as characters go hurtling through space because in the moment, I forgot that wasn’t real. That a camera-man wasn’t hanging out in a spacesuit picking it up. Those are some good special effects.

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The issues with the movie, in my opinion, were very small. Certainly The Force Awakens is a successful return to a series that is much beloved. It is awesome that whole new generations are being brought into this universe and Disney did a great job with a project that came along with so many expectations. So did the actors. Both new and known to Star Wars.

** Here is where the spoilers really start. **

My problem is that I knew who the new Dark Lord was the whole time. Pretty much. Okay, so I know that in the book/comic book world, Luke Skywalker struggles with the balance between the Light and the Dark. I also know that Leia and Luke’s son does cross over the Dark side. So the whole time, I was expecting it to be one of those two characters.

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Luke has a very dark intensity. I’d believe his turn to the Dark side

I have to admit, I was hoping for it to be Luke. And it made sense with the plot-line, because the bad guys were trying so hard to prevent the Rebel Alliance from getting the map that lead to Luke. There was no clear admittance that they needed the map to find him themselves, just that the rebels couldn’t get a hold of it. Clearly Luke could tell from the Force that bad things were happening, and several planet systems had been incinerated. But he didn’t return.

These circumstances made me hope that the new Dark One was Luke and that he was desperately trying to control the map so no one followed it to him, before he was ready to declare himself.

Alas, I was mistaken.

My second choice was accurate. But I didn’t love him as the bad guy. Throughout the movie, his loyalties waver as he struggles with the call of the Light. You see it in his prayers to his Grandfather, Darth Vader, and in his relatively gentle treatment towards Rey. He seems to have a crush on her and is trying to persuade her to join him, much as Anakin felt towards Padme in the end.

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*Minor interlude. In the end Darth Vader returned to the Light. He died saving his children and the universe from the Sith Lord. Surely Kylo Ren knows the true story of his Grandfather’s end. So it didn’t make any sense to me that he prayed to him to give him the strength of the Dark, no matter what else Vader had done.

 

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Ok, back to what I was saying.

The problem is, I just didn’t buy Kylo Ren as a such a major character. I would have preferred that he had rare shining moments of good intermittent in his overwhelmingly evil activities. But the only true evil he committed was killing his father, Han Solo. (I was temporarily inconsolable by the way). Instead he was written as more of a middle-ground character.

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If you are a regular reader of Mackenzie’s Mountain, then you know I love it when the writer takes a character who is seemingly past the point of redemption and then has him/her do something that stops the viewer from writing him/her off completely. Like a truly despicable Dark Lord who falls in love with an enemy aligned with the Alliance. But I didn’t get those goosebump-inducing feels.

I also expected him to be over-overwhelmingly handsome, when that mask was finally removed. Fantasy has largely moved past the trope that good guys are handsome and bad guys are not. Look at the Lannisters. However, Star Wars seems to have not, which disappointed.

Another problem I had with The Force Awakens was the power that Rey held. It felt too similar to the Anakin story that has already played out.

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I would have preferred that Rey lost her battles with Kylo Ren, that he let her live for his own purposes, much as he does in the forest when he uses the Force to knock her out and carry her onto the ship. The idea that a completely untrained person could go up and win against such a formidable opponent is a little too unbelievable. It is a one in a billion chance, and one that the Star Wars universe has already done. Not to mention her inauspicious beginnings replicate Anakin’s, right down to living on a desert planet, destitute and more or less a slave to scrappers. It made this movie seem more like a reboot. In less of a ‘yes this is an awesome return to the glory days’ way, and more like they were retelling the same story.

Overall, I loved the first half or so of the movie, as I said. I sat in my seat and giggled because I loved it so much. But all these little plot points and character reveals turned the tide in the second half, and unfortunately, that disappointment is the impression that I was left with when the film ended.

* * * (and a half)

xx

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