***HEAVY SPOILERS FOLLOW, so you have now been warned!***
Having seen STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS twice, I now feel comfortable giving my review of the movie as well as some insights that I am thinking we may eventually be seeing in future episodes.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS was, in my opinion, an enjoyable if not completely original movie. It draws heavily from the original trilogy; from a simple scavenger (farmer) with untapped powers being thrust into an intergalactic conflict between good and evil, to a droid carrying secret maps (secret plans), to the destruction of another Starkiller base (Death Star). But for all the similarities, it was still a fresh take on the series and was executed very well, even having many humorous and well-acted scenes.
Onto some of the characters…
Kylo Ren being the son of Han and Leia was told to the audience about 45 minutes into the movie, but did not come as a complete shock to most. Leading up to the movie, I was actually thinking that Kylo was going to turn out to be Luke’s son turned to the dark side; I certainly figured there was a family connection with him and Vader. We will have to see how future movies play out and how Kylo was seduced and if he was sent to Luke why Luke Failed. Having watched it twice, I am not convinced he was sent to Luke.
Leia’s decision to tell Han to talk Ben down ultimately turned out to be Han’s demise, but I think the decision to have Han be the one to confront Ben was the wrong choice in the first place and once made I was convinced Han’s time was numbered. I think Han’s mistake was telling Ben he knew what he was doing was wrong and only embracing Ben once he was already stabbed, though I am sure that will play an important role in future episodes. Ben’s coldness to Han tells us he feels an emotional detachment there. I do believe if Leia was the one on the bridge, she would have embraced Ben before admonishing him and that may have made the difference at the time. But it is obvious that this is Rey’s future conflict.
So on that note, who is Rey? We are introduced to Rey on Jakku as a Scavenger working for rations who finds BB-8, dumps her speeder, steals the Millenium Falcon, and ultimately gets pulled into the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. Sound familiar? My theory, and not a stretch, is that Rey is likely a Skywalker. I’m personally shipping Luke’s daughter, but she could be Ben’s sister. Considering that was done in the EU already, I’m not sure if Lucasfilm would want to touch on that. A friend of mine has an interesting theory that she could be a Kenobi, though while STAR WARS has always been a Jedi/Sith and Republic/Empire conflict, it has also centered around the Skywalkers and I think in terms of the main storyline, that is where it will stay, so I am staying away from that. Also her being Kenobi’s kin would not mesh well with why R2 woke up when she arrived at the resistance base or why Anakin’s lightsaber was calling to her. Also, when Ben encounters Rey, he clearly picks up on something that makes him notice her; maybe her force ‘aura’? Ben would likely still pick up on her ‘aura’ even if she was a Kenobi, but to me, there feels like a bit of kinship there since he also knows when Han arrives on the Starkiller base. Also consider Ben only took his mask off twice throughout the movie: once when talking to his father and once when interrogating her.
Enough about who Rey is related to and onto her role since it is clear Rey is the main character of the movie. So clearly she is very force sensitive which to me, upon my second viewing, clearly explains why she was able to pick up on force abilities as well as Jedi mind tricking the Stormtrooper with no formal training. My theory is this: when she was resisting Ben’s force interrogation, she got into Ben’s head without realizing it. Unchecked power can be dangerous, which leads her to pick up on the fact that Ben is afraid and maybe even subconsciously picked up a trick or two. It was like a lightbulb clicking on and though she doesn’t know what to call the ability or the powers used for it, she has gained this knowledge, not unlike Harry Potter being unable to control his powers before training. Jedi Mind Tricks, in my opinion, seem like a thing a Jedi can learn early on since they really only work on the weak-minded.
I do however believe this will cause problems when she begins training as maybe some thoughts on the dark side of the force also got into her head. Part of her training may have to be to learn to get past them or keep them in check, which is what I think Luke/Leia/her parents were afraid was going to happen when they ‘exiled’ her to Jakku.
My final thoughts on Rey/Ben: I think one of them will die during Ben’s redemption.
So onto Finn, the Stormtrooper turned Resistance fighter. Is he just a person who had a conscious and could not be programmed or does he have some force sensitivities? I don’t have a lot to say, I am intrigued by the character and I am eagerly awaiting his continued development. I don’t know if he will be a Jedi, but I think he has more courage than most. While he always wants to flee he does stand up for himself and for what he feels is right, which takes uncanny bravery. If this were Harry Potter (I know I know) he would be awarded 5 points for the enormously difficult task of standing up to his friends. He could have fled multiple times but instead chooses not to attack innocents, fights for the resistance, goes to save Rey (who does not need her hand held) and still faces off against Ben. He’s scared before the moment but he fights in the moment. I am waiting for him to develop; I just don’t know if he will develop into a Jedi.
And now we come to Poe, the bravest, riskiest pilot in the resistance. He is, in my opinion, all over the place and a wild card. Leading up and even during the movie, I suspected he could he be a first order spy. I doubt the empire would care for the loss of a hundred or so tie fighters, but he was the main cause of the Starkiller Base’s destruction and I doubt the first order would want him to go that far. So I think we can safely say he is not a spy, though his circumstances of escaping Jakku after the tie fighter crashed are suspect. That said, here is a character that may be force sensitive. The way he flies and his shooting abilities feels like he is drawing from the force, maybe even at a low level. I will find it interesting when Luke runs across Poe and to see if he picks up on a force ‘aura’. Now you can say Ben used his force tricks on Poe and found nothing, but I think Poe’s abilities are latent or very low and Ben is not trained enough to pick up on latent force sensitive people or force sensitive people he is not related to.
I do have a theory on how Anakin’s lightsaber ended up at the catina, which involves a certain bounty hunter returning to Cloud City and then making a stop at the catina, but that is just wishful thinking.
Least favorite for me were the other empire villains. They were all very young and in high-ranking positions, which I don’t get. Also, Captain Phasma was very weak. From the trailers and buildup, I was hoping for a lot more. I hope there is more of her story that got cut since all I heard was how STAR WARS was building more strong female characters and while Rey certainly fit the bill, Phasma did not. She did not do much, got captured easily, and lowered the base’s defenses. I’m more afraid of the New Inquisitor in the STAR WARS REBELS show than I am of her, and I have not even watched the second season of REBELS yet.
Favorite scene: The two stormtroopers turning tail when Ben was on his warpath was amazing! It is exactly what I would picture two underlings doing in that situation. The humor was strong with THE FORCE AWAKENS. This also explains to me why Ben keeps talking to Darth Vader’s helmet and saying he needs guidance; Vader would just force choke a person, Ben likes to destroy Empire property. I don’t know if it was in his first order contract that he cannot force choke Stormtroopers because of accidental death coverages.
Leading to my final point; I would like to know what intergalactic bank keeps signing the loan papers for the first order to continually construct new ‘Death Stars.’ At a certain point, the risk calculators have to come on at these banks and these loans have to be denied. At a minimum, heavier door locks must be the first thing built before the full funding comes through!
Overall, I was an excited fanboy sitting in the theater and it still gets a solid 4 out of 5 ninja stars from me.
– MICHAEL LEVENTHAL