Random Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Film reviews, science fiction
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You’ve possibly already read my review of The Force Awakens, so you might be wondering what else I have to say? Well I’ve now seen the film three times, and my initial viewpoint has not shifted one iota because I still love it to bits. It’s my favourite film of 2015 (which is a shame for Kingsman given it help top place from about January) and might well be my favourite film for several years. However it might be nice to talk in more detail about various elements of the film, and some of my own thoughts about its themes and the characters in it. And of course because this isn’t, strictly speaking, a review, I can spoiler the film to my heart’s content.

Yes you hear me. SPOILERS! So if you haven’t seen the film yet I recommend, nay insist, that you bugger off right now and come back once you have. But if you have seen the film, and want to check out my ramblings, why not hop over BB8 here and read on…

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Is Rey a Mary Sue?

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I’ve seen a few comments along these lines, and there is a certain amount of evidence to back this up—she can fly a ship, she can repair a ship, she can fight and shoot and she can use the Force and she’s pretty handy with a lightsabre the first time she picks it up…but, and this is a pretty big BUT, so what? I mean, is her skillset any different from Luke’s? Let’s not forget Luke went from farm boy and hotshot bush pilot to battling highly trained Stormtroopers and flying an X-Wing into battle against the Death Star! In fact you could argue Rey likely had a less sheltered upbringing than Luke, I mean he had Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to look after him, Rey only had herself, so is it any wonder that she’s quite handy in a fight? She’s spent most of her life scavenging downed spacecraft on Jakku, so even setting aside the fact that she had clearly been working as a mechanic as well as a scavenger, she’s probably got quite an intimate knowledge about how space ships are put together. Then there’s her flying skills, which seems to surprise her just as much as anyone else. She’s clearly flown a ship before, but as she herself says, only in the atmosphere, yet suddenly she’s besting Tie Fighters. The interesting thing here is that Finn says ‘how’d you do that’ (or words to that effect) and Rey’s answer? ‘I don’t know?’ so I think we can chalk that kind of natural ability to the Force (same as Luke and in fact Anakin).

As for her use of the Force, this does seem more innate than, say, Luke’s, but you have to take into consideration that Luke had never heard of the Force, or Jedi Knights, or lightsabres, whereas for Rey these are all known things. They might be mythical, maybe even apocryphal, but she’s aware of them, so her trying out a Jedi Mind Trick ™ is a bit like Silent Bob in Mallrats!

So yeah, Rey is a bit of a Mary Sue, but no more than Luke or any number of other fictional ‘innocents’ who suddenly start kicking arse like professionals. Of course what’s the major difference between Rey and most of those characters? She’s a girl of course! Oh lordy, they’ll be wanting the vote next (Paul rolls eyes)

 

Does Harrison Ford pull a Paul McCartney?

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This may be a huge case of me reading things into something I spotted, but when Han and Chewie first show up on the Falcon, and Han’s talking to Rey and Finn, we see him side on and damned if he doesn’t seem to be very pointedly pointing towards his feet.
Now way back the album cover for The Beatle’s Abbey Road featured the fab four walking across a zebra crossing. Three of them are dressed wearing shoes but Paul McCartney is not. Not only is he barefoot but he’s very obviously pointing towards the floor so you notice he’s not wearing shoes.

Now this was interpreted as suggesting that Paul was dead (if you aren’t aware of the whole ‘Paul McCartney died in the 60s and was replaced story I refer you to Google). It’s something to do with him being barefoot.

Last year Doctor Who had a similar photo shoot done, and this time Jenna Coleman was the one barefoot and pointing and again this was interpreted as suggesting the character of Clara was not long for this world.

Now with this in mind, Han pointing towards the floor takes on a whole new meaning, especially given that he won’t survive to the end credits. But, like I say, I might be seeing something that isn’t there. Maybe Ford just stands like that all the time…

 

Masks

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It struck me on the third viewing, that it can’t be coincidence that the three (new) main characters are all masked the first time we see them? Kylo Ren is wearing his sub Vader mask for a good half of the film but the first time we see Finn his visage is covered by his Stormtrooper helmet. This leaves Rey, and the first time we see her, clambering around inside the crashed Star Destroyer, her face is covered by her scarf and goggles.

So what are we supposed to take from this? Than none of them is quite what they initially appear to be? This is most clear with Finn, he looks like a Stormtrooper but he’s actually like no Stormtrooper we’ve ever encountered before. And whilst on first inspection Kylo Ren looks like Vader, he’s about as far from the Sith Lord as you can get. Any rage in Vader is kept under tight reign, but with Kylo Ren it’s out of control. And when he finally does take his helmet off we see that he isn’t some scarred old man, some creature more machine than human, instead he’s a perfectly healthy young man. He doesn’t wear the mask because he has to, but because he wants to, and I wonder if Kylo Ren will actually wear it at all in Episode VIII? You could argue that in removing his mask and in killing his father, the real Kylo Ren has been revealed?

And what does this say about Rey? Clearly that she is more than she initially appears to be more than just a simple scavenger. On the one hand her hidden depths may refer to her Force powers of course, but it may also relate to her heritage. Which brings me to the next point…

Is Rey the daughter of Luke, or even Han and Leia?

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An awful lot of people have suggested that Rey is Luke’s daughter, and cite the way he looks at her at the end of the film as evidence (not to mention her abilities with the Force, and the fact that it seems she was abandoned by someone, and seems quite attached to her Rebel pilot’s helmet and Rebel Pilot themed teddy/doll). Would this make sense? I suppose so. Do I hope it’s true? No.

First off I don’t like the notion that Force ability is only hereditary, it makes little sense, especially when you factor in Jedi Knight’s celibacy. Secondly if she is Luke’s daughter, then that suggests either Luke abandoned her to the tender mercies of a disreputable sort on Jakku, or else someone else took her and Luke just never bothered to try and track her down. Neither option reflects well on Luke.

Finally, it’s just too obvious!

Another option, which frankly holds less water, is that she’s Kylo Ren’s sister. Again it seems unlikely. Sure Han takes to her quickly, and sure Leia hugs her before they’re even introduced, but neither of them talk about having a daughter, which would be kinda weird (and the same problem arises of her being abandoned on Jakku).

None of which means she isn’t a Skywalker, it just means I hope she isn’t.

Why are they still using Tie Fighters and X-Wings?

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I think we all know that the reason they’re still using X-Wings and Tie Fighters 30 years later is because a/ they’re cool and b/for added nostalgia. But, having said that, does it really seem that unexpected? I always figured that X-Wings were a relatively new kind of craft at the time of the original films, and for all we know Tie Fighters were similarly fresh off the production line. Now taking this into account, and factoring some real life 20th/21st Century examples into the equation. First off look at the Panavia Tornado which entered service with the RAF in around 1979/1980. Although it is due to be replaced within the next few years it is still, as we speak, flying combat missions over Iraq and Syria, which means it’s been operational 35 odd years. This isn’t a unique example either, the US Navy has been flying F18 Hornets since the late 1970s.

With this in mind, and considering as well that it’s likely the avionics/engines of both X-Wings and Tie fighters have likely been upgraded making them, technically, different beasts to the ones Luke flew/flew against, then the fact that the First Order and the Resistance are still flying them is quite logical, maybe more so for the resistance who might have less of a choice in the matter.

That said given the original trilogy gave us Y-Wings (my own personal favourites) A-Wings, B-Wings, Tie Bombers and Tie Interceptors, let’s hope for some new ships in episode 8 in addition to the old favourites.

 

Kylo Ren is rubbish, he’s taken down by two characters who’ve had no lightsabre training.

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I think first and foremost we need to consider what condition Kylo Ren is in during this fight. First off emotionally he must be all over the place, you know given that he’s just killed his own father. That’s got to affect his judgement and his thinking. And then of course he’s also just been shot by Chewie. Now the film takes every opportunity to show us how powerful everyone’s favourite Wookie’s bowcaster is. It knocks Stormtroopers clean off their feet, and even factoring in the greater ranger Kylo Ren clearly takes one hell of a pounding via this wound. So he’s emotionally off balance, he’s bleeding and likely in a lot of pain, and from the way he keeps hitting his own wound either he’s getting the adrenaline to pump, or distracting himself with the pain. Neither of which suggest a fighter at his best.

Now to his opponents. Finn might not be adept with a lightsabre, but he is a trained stormtrooper, and, judging by his encounter with the riot-trooper earlier, stormtroopers get a lot of melee training, so whilst he might be unused to the weapon, he probably isn’t unused to the kind of weapon.

And of course Kylo Ren takes him down.

On to opponent number 2. Rey might have grown up a scavenger, might not have had in-depth training, but we find out early on that she’s not afraid of a fight, and is quite useful with the staff she carries. Again a lightsabre might be something very different, but it isn’t like she hasn’t fought with melee weapons before, and you could even argue that her lack of formal training makes her a much more unpredictable opponent than Finn. Plus you have to factor in that Rey is strong with the Force. Likely not as strong as Kylo Ren (yet) but as we’ve already argued he’s probably not at his best.

All of which adds up to what is, the more I think about it, one of the most interesting and mismatched lightsabre duels since Luke went up against Vader the first time in Empire.

If, and it might be a big if, Rey fights Kylo Ren in Episode 8, I imagine things will be very different. Kylo Ren will be more on top of his game, but Rey will probably have had more training.

Of course it wouldn’t surprise me if they leave the rematch for episode 9 and have Rey go up against another of the Knights of Ren in episode 8. I also hope we don’t get Kylo Ren vs Luke, because the likely outcome of that might be as depressing as what happened to Han this time!

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Comments
  1. Neil says:

    The Xwings are T70s instead of T65s and donated by the new republic apparently which would explain a complete fleet rather than the rag tag rebels in episode 4. Anyway Star Wars universe is still upgrading faster than the real world, look at B52s! But yeah more new ships in episode 8 please!

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