…a week ago, actually, so my thoughts have had plenty of time to percolate in my head. THIS POST WILL BE VERY VERY LONG AND I’M GONNA GO OFF ON A TANGENT OR TWO JUST FYI. (I’m writing this part last – I had no idea I would have so many thoughts about this movie!)
This review is NOT spoiler-free!
Although my brother and I watched The Force Awakens a few days after opening day, the theater was still packed. I was beyond giddy with excitement because A) this was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and B) I never thought there would be any more movies in this franchise. I mean, I knew that George Lucas had had plans to continue, to make a sequel trilogy, but like a lot of other people, I didn’t think that would ever happen because so many years had passed since the release of the last movie.
It was fun to people-watch while waiting to get into our specific screening, too – while there were certainly plenty of parents with little kids, and roving packs of teenagers such as my brother and myself, there were also a ton of adults there on their own. At this point, multiple generations have grown up watching these movies, so the amount of hype is HUGE. To tell the truth, I’m not one bit surprised that The Force Awakens is smashing records left and right – today, it was announced that ticket sales reached $1 billion globally in just twelve days, the fastest ever.
And all that hype was well-deserved, too. The Force Awakens FELT like Star Wars. This may sound obvious, but I wasn’t sure that it would… I have a huge grudge against J.J. Abrams for creating those awful new Star Trek movies. (I’m still mad about Into Darkness, TBH. The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite science fiction films ever… and he remade it into an epic mess starring Benadryl Cabbagepatch, who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.)
But this? This felt right. This felt like it should.
Take the humor, for instance. One of the things I’ve always loved about Star Wars is that it is simultaneously serious and silly. The movies cover some Big Ideas – friendship, family, love, destiny, et cetera – but they’re also, well, humorous. SO MUCH SARCASM. SO MANY RUNNING GAGS. I loved the scene when Poe is captured by Kylo Ren towards the beginning of the movie, because the humor there – “Do I talk first, or you talk first?” – is exactly the sort of thing Han Solo would’ve quipped in an earlier movie.
The music made it feel like Star Wars too, of course. JOHN WILLIAMS IS A FREAKING GENIUS. I’m not trying to be morbid here, but he’s quite elderly now and I will be so so sad if he dies before the next two movies are released, because his music is a huge part of the series and Star Wars simply would not be the same without him.
…on a happier note, I’ve been listening to Rey’s theme quite a bit lately because IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL. It makes a reappearance in tracks such as “The Scavenger” and “The Jedi Steps,” which makes me even more excited for the next two movies because I love that theme soooooooooooooooo much.
Cinematically, there are a lot of parallels with the previous films, especially the original trilogy. I was incredibly amused and delighted to find that Abrams kept the original cheesy, PowerPoint-ish transitions between scenes. A number of camera shots stood out to me, too – in particular, there was a scene with an X-wing speeding down a trench on Starkiller Base that was clearly supposed to parallel Luke in his X-wing in A New Hope. Those are all little things, to be sure, but they came together to make this movie feel like it belonged with the others – to reference the movies that came before it.
But don’t worry! This movie can stand on its own as well! The Force Awakens is a good movie in its own right. It draws heavily from the original trilogy, but improves upon it as well.
It’s very diverse, for example. The main character is a girl! The supporting characters are black and Latino! There’s a female villain and female Resistance pilots and I’m pretty sure I even saw some female members of the First Order? THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT WHEN I SAY I WANT MORE DIVERSITY. There’s a great quote from writer Jane Espenson: “If we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones.”
I love the original trilogy, but haven’t we had enough sci fi movies about straight white men? Why shouldn’t we see a teenage girl become a Jedi? Why can’t we have black stormtroopers and Latino X-wing pilots and whatnot? STOP PANDERING TO STRAIGHT WHITE GUYS.
The diversity of the new characters is amazing, but let’s not forget the older characters. Leia was always my favorite anyway, so I was super proud of her for being a freaking GENERAL in this movie. WELL DONE. But what really stood out to me was, well… when you consider science fiction movies as a whole, there aren’t many women to begin with, and especially not many older women.
I mean, it’s yet another form of pandering to men – specifically straight men, in this instance. Think about it: In most science fiction movies and TV shows, women are the sidekicks… who eventually become love interests. So they’re all, like, twenty-five years old, at most. (Even when the male characters are much, much older.) Because EVERYONE knows that there’s no point including female characters unless they’re SEXY!
(…that was sarcasm.)
SO THIS IS HUGE. There just aren’t very many science fiction movies with old women – who aren’t treated as a joke – but there are a ton with old guys. For the record, President Coin from the Hunger Games franchise is an exception. (If you don’t mind evil people, I guess?) The only other one I immediately thought of was M from the James Bond movies, but those aren’t science fiction so she doesn’t count.
…well, seeing as how I talked about Leia and then love interests, I should probably put my thoughts about Han Solo & Leia here, because I don’t know where else in the review they would fit. UGH THEY’RE SO CUTE. LOOK AT THESE DISGUSTINGLY CUTE OLD PEOPLE THEY’RE STILL SO MUCH IN LOVE.
I don’t ship many F/M couples. To be honest, Peggy/Steve and Han/Leia are probably the only two pairings I have strong feelings about.
(WAIT. HOLD ON JUST A SECOND. I just realized that both couples meet and fall in love as young people, and then their story shifts to the point in time where they’re heartbroken old people. I’M NOT OK. THIS IS SO RUDE HOW COULD MARVEL STUDIOS AND LUCASFILM DO THIS TO ME?!)
Most F/M couples leave me going, “…well, that’s cute and everything, but where are my lesbians?!” So it’s rather remarkable that I enjoy shipping Han & Leia as much as I do. THAT IS ALL.
…actually, no, that ISN’T all, because I just remembered one more thing that I wanted to say about them: They still bicker like an old married couple. Only now they actually ARE an old married couple. And I think that’s adorable. OMG LOOK AT THESE GRUMPY OLD PEOPLE IN SPACE. Harrison Ford was good as “irascible smuggler Han Solo,” but he’s even better as “crochety old man smuggler Han Solo.”
But back to the subject of diversity. Can we talk about how nonsexualized Rey was in this movie? How nonsexualized all the female characters were? Even aside from all the other parallels between her and Luke, I couldn’t help but feel that this was exactly how Luke would’ve been treated by the narrative – because guys aren’t sexualized in movies and television and, well, everything the way girls are.
I’m not generally a fan of writing female characters to be more like guys, because I think that ventures dangerously close to creating Strong Female Characters who reject everything feminine. Girls don’t need to have stereotypically masculine hobbies or personality traits in order to be considered worthy of respect, people. That’s kind of one of the basic tenets of feminism.
But in this case, I’m actually happy that Rey was written as though she were a male character. There weren’t any gratuitous camera shots panning down her body, and she was actually allowed to look like she lived in the middle of a freaking desert – her clothes are brutally practical, and she’s probably in need of a bath.
Not that I’m complaining… again, there are weird double standards for male vs. female characters in that the women are expected to look flawless all the damn time while the guys just aren’t. Rey’s face was sweaty and her hair was frizzy and falling out of its buns and that was good because it looked like she actually belonged on that desert world and not on a runway as a model.
We seem to have moved beyond the days of Padmé’s costume strategically ripping to show more skin during a freaking BATTLE (which doesn’t even make sense because I’m pretty sure that A) her whole entire shirt would’ve come off during that attack and B) realistically, she should’ve been more injured afterward) and, heaven help me, Leia’s bikini… thing.
(I never even understood how that was supposed to be attractive? I always thought she looked prettiest in the throne room or on Hoth or Cloud City, but then again I’m not part of the straight male audience the bikini was aimed at.)
[Rubs my little queer feminist hands over everything you love] Queer feminist analysis is the best kind of analysis. Now where was I…? I seem to have gone off-topic and started discussing the other two trilogies. Sorry about that.
ANYWAY. None of the female characters in this movie were sexualized! Not the teenage female lead, not the older woman. Not the female villain. (I LOVE CAPTAIN PHASMA SO SO MUCH JUST SO YOU KNOW. I love what the official Star Wars Facebook page said in response to a whiny fanboy who said her armor wasn’t feminine enough.) Not the Resistance pilots. Not the First Order soldiers. Not Maz Kanata the wise old alien.
(I almost said, “Well, of course… who would sexualize a tiny alien?” And then I remembered that that’s basically the entire point of the scenes in Jabba’s palace. [Side-eyes straight male sci fi writers] WHAT THE HECK. WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS.)
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. I want to talk about Rey’s parents… or rather, who they might be! We don’t really know yet at this point, but most of the theories I’ve seen so far fall into three categories.
First of all, there’s the theory that she’s the daughter of Luke and some unknown woman. I think definite parallels were drawn between Luke and Rey, and there are a few lines that have me wondering if he could be her father. On the other hand, something feels off – as some of my friends have pointed out during our discussions about this, finding his family was HUGELY important to Luke in the original trilogy, so it doesn’t really make sense for him to dump Rey on some desert planet.
Maybe she’s Han and Leia’s daughter? This is my favorite theory, and I think it would make her relationship with Han even more emotionally powerful – i.e., he’s not just a father figure, he was her actual father and she didn’t know it. And I swear I heard Kylo Ren’s voice during the scene when Rey is left on Jakku as a toddler, which would make sense since he’s Leia and Han’s son. (This could be a great way to borrow some ideas from the Expanded Universe, where Han and Leia have a son who turns to the dark side, and a daughter who eventually defeats him.)
But I can’t get over how Leia gave Rey a hug at the end of the movie and… well, she seemed to care about her in that scene, but not very much? Like she’d care about an acquaintance, not like a daughter, which seems odd. I mean, maybe she’s just really really good at hiding things and is going to tell Rey the truth in the next movie, but generally scenes like this are written so that the relationship is obvious to the viewers, while the characters remain oblivious.
Aaaand then the third and less common theory I’ve seen is that she isn’t a Skywalker at all, “because that would be boring.” I disagree, though – the fact that all the major players thus far have been Skywalkers by either blood or marriage is kind of the POINT of Star Wars. It’s a story that looks at an entire universe through the lens of one family.
All this was left unanswered at the end of the movie, AND THAT’S OK. I don’t want all the answers right away… it’s a trilogy, for heaven’s sake. There are still two movies left! It’s called creating suspense, peoples – and I like open-ended conclusions more anyway!
All in all, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. (Which you probably already figured out, seeing as how this post’s word count has gone completely out of control.) I can’t believe we have to wait until 2017 for the next one!