Saw the new Star Wars

It was more or less exactly what I expected. The story hit the formulaic Star Wars beats, it showcased some visually impressive special effects, and overall confirmed my prior statements that the reboot Star Trek movies demonstrate J.J. Abrams is the correct person to be running Star Wars.
Some spoiler-y thoughts below the cut:

  • There were pretty much only two moments in the whole movie that surprised me. More on the first later, but the second is that I really expected Rey to say, after Luke turns to face her in the final scene, “That’s impossible,” and Luke to respond, “Yes, Rey, I am your father.” Credits. That they’re holding that reveal to the next movie shows remarkable restraint. Perhaps they will even change their mind about doing it, though I doubt it.
  • It would be nice if they did, though. The Star Wars movies’ obsession with one family contributes to this problem it’s always had, which is that in its moral universe some people just don’t matter. That’s why storm troopers wear masks, and why the prequel trilogy had armies of robots fighting clones: so that the Bad Guys can be a faceless, inhuman Other our alleged heroes can slaughter with impunity. Of course most action movies feature heroes who are mass murderers, but at least most of their victims have facial expressions. In Star Wars, we the good guys are varied individuals; they the bad guys are a faceless monolithic Other. The world is a simple place, and there are no moral restrictions on what you may do to the bad guys: kill them, mind-control them, it’s not like they’re real people who matter.
  • Which is why, just a few minutes in, The Force Awakens had already taken its place in my mind as the best Star Wars movie, and the rest of the film cemented it as being almost good, which is to say better than any of the others. Because The Force Awakens starts out by questioning that simplicity, and I’m not actually talking about Finn; he’s the most obvious case of a stormtrooper being an individual, but he very quickly ceases to be a stormtrooper, literally shedding the identity as he walks across the desert of Jakku, leaving a trail of armor. No, I’m talking about someone else: the unnamed stormtrooper who dies in Finn’s arms, who reaches for his face and leaves a bloody handprint on his mask. Never before in the series have we been asked to feel anything about a stormtrooper’s death, or seen what is clearly friendship between two troopers. The later trooper who calls Finn a traitor is another example: he recognizes Finn, knows him, and is angry at him for leaving. His motivation is not just inexplicable loyalty to the regime; it’s personal, and thus renders him a person.
  • It would be nice if the movies continued to explore this, and perhaps ended with getting some or most of the First Order’s forces to turn against Snoke. I’m not getting my hopes up, but it’d be nice.
  • Another thing I want that probably won’t happen: for Snoke to turn out to be two feet tall, which is why the hologram projects him to be so enormous.
  • One thing confused me: What system did Starkiller base actually destroy? I thought it might be the system in which it was constructed or maybe Jakku, but it seemed to densely inhabited to be the former and Rey keeps talking about going home after, so probably not that either? I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter, but it was a very oddly set up scene, seeming to deliberately defy any sense of space, which otherwise is pretty meticulously maintained in the rest of the movie–we get a fairly good sense of how the key positions on Starkiller Base relate to one another, for example, or that the ship graveyard on Jakku is a long walk but a quick spaceship flight from Rey’s village, but just like the destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek, here the planets destroyed are simultaneously in a distant star system and incredibly close. I’m starting to wonder if this is a Thing.

4 thoughts on “Saw the new Star Wars

  1. For the “reveal,” I didn’t think they needed to say it at all. I thought it was so ridiculously obvious that it remained unsaid. I think even if they never said it, him being her father would still be canon.
    I thought the moment where Finn had his reckoning was quite powerful as well, especially because it seemed like Poe was clearly the hero here. But here was this random stormtrooper that you paying attention to and you didn’t know why.
    For the star system, I assumed the one the Republic was in was “far away.” I didn’t get any impression it was close at all, as everyone was so amazed that you could use a weapon that required light speed to get to.

  2. I hear you about the reveal, but this is Star Wars. It doesn’t do subtlety.
    Yeah, my friend Charles texted me about that and we discussed the scene a bit. I seem to have misunderstood what was happening fairly heavily: apparently I was supposed to take General Hux’s statement that this was the day of the destruction of the Republic literally, and they blew up its capital at interstellar range. As to why it was visible from the planet the main characters were on, that’s rather less clear. I assumed in Star Trek that it was just J.J. Abrams not understanding interplanetary and interstellar differences, but as I said in the post, I’m starting to think it might be a deliberate Thing, though what that thing is I’m not sure.

  3. At first I thought Coruscant was one of the words destroyed by Starkiller. But I heard a different name – which I wasn’t able to memorize because they only said it once – so I took it to be the planet where the Republic Fleet was stationed to defend against the First Order if they chose to attack Republic space directly. It would also be the local center of economic and military power.

  4. 100% Luke Skywalker is the one who left Rey on Jakku. It is overwhelmingly likely this is because she is Luke’s daughter by birth. However, she could have been adopted as an orphan, and this would be much more interesting.
    I have a reason for thinking this: Kylo Ren clearly knows exactly who she is. The moment he hears that a girl was involved in BB-88’s escape from Jakku is the moment he stops responding to bad news by damaging equipment and actually threatens the person of the messenger. For the rest of the movie he is certain that she is important. When she starts using the force, he expects her to excel. Obviously all of this is because he knows she’s Luke’s daughter. But he does not entirely react as if she is related by blood to Darth Vader: He believes she has no claim to Anakin’s lightsaber and does not appeal to blood connection when he asks her to join him. In the interrogation he seems to take pleasure in contemptuously calling her “scavenger.” Any child of Luke is a competing claim to the legacy he’s invested in. But an orphan adopted by Luke is a competing claim Ren can think illegitimate.
    An adopted Rey would oppose Star Wars to the Bloodright narrative, putting faith in true born heirs alongside other trappings of authoritarianism that attend the Dark Side.
    As a side note, I liked the entirely magical logic of the consumed star emerging from within Starkiller Base and resuming its prior state. Note that although the star is bigger than the planet, the scale of that difference is overwhelmingly less than real. I bet Neil DeGrasse Tyson had something to say about it. (If you wanted to placate the Tysons in the audience, you could have spent some time in a chase sequence with the Resistance starships racing to escape the rapidly expanding star)

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