I went over to the Cinépolis last night for a second watch of The Force Awakens, and I’m ready to discuss the movie. There are going to be a SPOILERS so if you hate SPOILERS and if for some reason you haven’t managed to see this film yet don’t read anymore because there are going to be SPOILERS!!!!!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
I had seen the film on opening day with Len Wein and Chris Valada. As with the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film I liked the “feel” of the movie. What I hadn’t expected was that the structure is basically identical to episode IV A New Hope. (Or as I know it — Star Wars because I saw it on opening day back in 1977. Okay, maybe it wasn’t actually the first day since the theater had added a midnight showing of the movie to accommodate all the crowds so technically it was the second day.) Point being I love Star Wars. I saw the original film six or seven times while I was taking the bar review course and studying for the bar exam. Star Wars kept me sane. I even managed to pass the bar and I give Star Wars some of the credit for that. But I digress.
Back to this latest film. Well, compared to the three prequel films it was Shakespeare. During my first viewing I was taken aback by the constant call backs to the first film. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, the similar beats to the first movie — everybody looking for a Droid that has a piece of critical information, a desert planet, an alien bar with an alien jazz band, a honking big weapon that brave X-Wing pilots have to destroy.
There are differences. In the original film Luke can’t wait to get off Tatooine. In Awakens Rey wants to stay and even keeps trying to get back to her desert world. The similarities are that both of them are great pilots and unknowingly strong in the Force.
I really appreciated that we got to see the world from the point of view of a storm trooper and Finn is a darling. I also really liked the fact he wasn’t a top commander or something special. He was a janitor.
Poe is sexy and fun. I liked the fact that he couldn’t resist our villain’s Force powers, but Rey could. That was a nice touch.
It was a relief to see women in roles other then princess and slave. It was also great to see an ethnically diverse cast.
I thought the youngsters they brought in were all terrific, especially Daisy Ridley. For me it was great to see the old timers — Leia and Han and Chewie. And our new young villain. I thought Ben/Kylo Ren was terrific. Not only is he very pretty he’s the kind of tortured character I just love.
So now I’m in my second viewing and I actually ended up liking the film much better than the first time I saw the movie. I went in knowing it was derivative, and I expected the great visuals of the crashed imperial ships and walkers, and the exciting action sequences so I could sort of ignore them. This time I just focused on the dialog, the characters and the actors performances.
And as a film it worked much better for me. Why — because this time I saw the theme and how that theme was subtly supported throughout the film in the exchanges between the characters. Here’s a short hand I used at a panel discussion last month — plot is the shit that happens. Theme is what is all means. If you don’t know your theme before you start writing you are never going to produce a satisfying book or film.
So, what was the theme of this movie? It’s a story about lost and abandoned children.
Finn — torn from his home and his family as a child and molded into a killing machine. Though unlike his fellow conscripts he resists and find his soul. But in terms of how he was raised he’s not a moral man or a hero. To his companion he’s a failure and a traitor.
Rey left by her family, guardians? Some unknown somebodies on a desolate world and told to wait. She’s been waiting, lost and alone and wondering why they abandoned her? What was wrong with her?
Ben/Kylo Ren. Growing up in the shadow of parents who are legends. Tormented with powers he can’t control. A father who is at heart an irresponsible child and walked away. A mother who was too busy for him. There is a telling line of dialog from Leia when she says “I should never have sent him away.” That has to make a kid wonder — “what’s wrong with me?” He’s given into the care of an emotionally distant uncle who tries to mold him in the Jedi ways which aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy. And when Luke screws up and Ben turns to the dark side Luke walks away — another abandonment.
Just as Thor is the story of a distant and abusive father who fosters a toxic relationship between two siblings this is a film about bad parenting and as such I thought it worked. It certainly worked much better for me upon this second viewing.
An aside. I’m guessing that Luke is Rey’s father which absolutely makes him the leading candidate for the shittiest parent in the galaxy award.
And yeah, Kylo Ren and Rey were my favorite characters though I really loved Finn and Poe too.