Star Wars Ep 7: The Force Awakens

Reviewer: D.W. Rowlands

Author: J.J. Abrams

Published: 2015

Reviewed: 2016-01-06

Publisher: Disney

I came into the movie already knowing that I wasn’t going to consider
it canonical, because Disney rebooted the post-Return of the Jedi
continuity when they decided to make the film. I don’t really blame
them for doing so: I’m not convinced they could make a good movie—and
a popular one—out of Heir to the Empire. But, for me, that’s always
going to be the canonical timeline. You see, unlike most Star Wars
fans, I didn’t get into it because of the movies, or the video
games. When I was growing up, I wasn’t really allowed to watch movies
very often, or play video games ever. However, I read a huge amount of
science fiction, and my exposure to Star Wars came from the Bantam
Books-era Star Wars novels of the 1990’s. These novels were
essentially forced out of the official timeline by the Prequel Trilogy
of movies: although they are largely set after the Battle of Endor,
they reference events during the rise of the Empire and Clone Wars
that are quite different from the ones Lucas described in the
prequels. However, they do a much better job of replicating the “feel”
of the original Star Wars movies than the darker tone of more recent
novels, and they essentially defined my understanding of the Star Wars

At this point, I’m going to start talking about my thoughts on The
Force Awakens. Be warned that spoilers follow!

Despite the fact that I don’t consider the Disney timeline to be the
“real” canonical timeline for Star Wars, I was really impressed with
the movie. I think that it did a much better job than the Prequel
Trilogy—or the more recent novels—of recapturing the feel of the
Original Trilogy and the Bantam Books novels. I’m not really exactly
sure how to explain this sort of feel, beyond that it seemed to have
more of an exciting, heroic feel while also not taking itself to
seriously, rather than the darker “high tragedy” that Lucas’ prequels
tried and spectacularly failed to be. But, while the movie’s politics
honestly didn’t make that much sense—I really couldn’t figure out what
the distinction between the “Resistance” and the “New Republic” is
supposed to be, especially since the New Republic supposedly has its
own fleet, and I couldn’t figure out why destroying the current home
of the Republic Senate would’ve knocked the whole fleet out of action,
too—it didn’t really seem to matter because they weren’t an important
focus of the movie.

Furthermore, given that this movie is kind of intended as a reboot
that introduces a new setting and set of characters, an important
point in its favor was that I really liked the new characters and the
way they were introduced with respect to the older characters. Finn,
the reformed stormtrooper, seemed to have a good combination of guts
and self-uncertainty, and looks like he will have a lot of interesting
development to come. In the meantime, though, he was quite neat and
bad-ass. Not as bad-ass as Rey, the heroine, though, who was utterly
incredible. It looks as though she’s going to be the most powerful
Force user we’ve ever seen: not only did she pull off incredible
flying after stealing the Falcon, despite never having flown a
spaceship before, but she—with basically no training—figured out very
quickly how to use a variety of Force powers in a way that even Luke
and Anakin didn’t manage. They managed to make it very clear that she
was a—maybe the—leading character, and that she wasn’t going to take
bossing around from anyone. She even managed to impress Han Solo with
her mechanical skill enough that he tried to hire her as crew. And the
fact that, at the end, she seemed to have sort of inherited the Falcon
from him struck me as very appropriate.

I also felt like the movie did a good job of having things that
mirrored bits from the earlier media in the Star Wars universe. Their
willingness to kill off Han Solo was a good sign that they do intend
to hand over the series to the newer characters, and his death was a
rather appropriate mirror of Obi-Wan’s death in A New Hope, given that
he died trying to reason with Darth Vader’s successor and
grandson. (And, well, Harrison Ford had asked for a hero’s death in
Return of the Jedi, so I suppose it was appropriate that he be the one
to die.) Rey’s flying at the beginning of the movie did remind me of
Luke’s teenager-hood exploit of flying through impossibly tight rock
formations. And finally, it seemed very appropriate to me that she
seems to have inherited Luke’s first lightsaber, the one he lost at
Cloud City. Not so much because of its connections to him, or to
Anakin, but because it’s also Mara Jade’s lightsaber. She is probably
the Expanded Universe character that fans were most disappointed to
lose in the reboot, in particular given the shortage of female
characters who are warriors and Force users instead of just
politicians. So I feel like having Rey inherit the lightsaber that
Jade inherited from Luke in The Last Command was in part a way to
offer her as a replacement for Mara Jade.