So, I was asked to write a spoiler review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I was like “You do realize that this is going to be a lot of all-caps screaming punctuated by odd rambling and theories?”
I ended up writing it, so clearly that was okay.
But how do I begin this? At the beginning, I suppose, where I was surprised not to see the Disney title opener before Lucasfilm flashed on the screen. It felt oddly respectful? It was strange, but also nice.
Then the fanfare started up and everyone in the theater flipped out appropriately, and it all felt kind of surreal until the first sentence: “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” And at that point, everything suddenly became very real and I had to keep telling myself to stop crying, sheesh Emily, nothing has even happened yet.
We start of with Poe Dameron, and I was initially kind of disappointed because we’ve been shown Rey and Finn in the trailers for the most part and I was excited to get to them. And then Oscar Isaac opened his mouth and now and forever I plan to be furious at THIS CHARMING MOTHERF*CKER WHO BARELY SAYS TWO SENTENCES AND I’M IN LOVE WITH HIM FOR SOME REASON, STOP BEING SO AFFABLE AND FULL OF CHARISMA, YOU JERK.
The First Order shows up to ruin everything, and Poe gives the plans to BB-8 who manages to be the perfect hybrid of R2-D2 and Wall-E, and tells him he’ll come back for him, so already I’m full of emotions about that and also pleased by the smartness of the symmetry—hey, this cute droid had super important plans needed by the Resistance. How wonderfully familiar….
There’s a firefight and one of the stormtroopers visibly panics at the death of his fellow trooper, and of course it’s Finn, but this isn’t how I imagined being introduced to him, and I’m so damned impressed by the amount of character we can glean through a full suit of body armor. I’m worried for him already. Then there’s Captain Phasma being a boss, but here comes Kylo Ren, the character I was the most concerned about. His mask has been everywhere since this circus started, and I know Adam Driver is under there (who I have mixed feelings about), and it if he turns out to be a weak link, the whole movie is gonna crash and burn.
Then he pauses that blaster fire in mid air, and the physicality is on point, and it’s something new. He speaks and his synthesized voice is frightening, not the joke that General Grievous wound up being. Wow. I’m on board with Kylo Ren. My estimation at how much I’m going to enjoy the movie soars at that point. Then Max von Sydow and everyone around him dies, and we’re on a Star Destroyer, and Finn takes off his helmet and oh god, I hope Tumblr is prepared for their newest precious cinnamon roll because he truly is too perfect for this world. Leave him alone, Phasma, he’s having feelings.
We meet Rey and her life is horrible—she is worse than a cinnamon roll, and as I watch three minutes of this girl scrounging for scrap and eating horrible rations, I think, I would protect her with my life. Wait, what? What is happening to me, I did not expect to latch onto everyone so instantly HOW DARE YOU, JJ, I DO NOT REMEMBER STRIKING THIS BARGAIN WITH YOU. Then she saves BB-8 and they are friends and everything is right with the world. (Except for Rey and Finn’s aforementioned horrible lives, which require fixing stat.)
Finn busts Poe out after an unfortunate interrogation, and I am 500% on board with how much these two love each other instantly because it mirrors my own feelings about everyone in this movie, and also they are freaking adorable. Poor Poe disappears (though he’s obviously not dead), and Finn and Rey meet, and then they have to run away very quickly and they’re arguing about a garbage ship, and you’ve got this niggling sense in the back of your head going ‘But why don’t I see the garbage ship, where is OH GOD OF COURSE’ and the Millennium Falcon is standing by in all her glory. Star Wars just got even more Star Wars. The ensuing chase scene is excellent, and I will forever be mesmerized by BB-8’s ability to give a thumbs up.
Han and Chewie appear, and I’m actually kind of jarred because I was expecting to have to wait a little longer for that one. My favorite thing about their reintroduction is how done Chewie clearly is with propping up Han’s BS in old age. It’s just sarcastic comment after eye roll every time Han opens his mouth, and it feels so right. The revelation that Han is back to his old tricks is fun, but fills you with a sense of dread because you know that there’s bound to be a reason, and it can’t be a good one. But he strikes up a rapport with Rey and Finn right quick, and its wonderfully paternal and sweet.
I should mention here that I walked into this film expecting two things, thanks to the semi-drunken conversations I had with Chris Lough and Ryan Britt in the months leading up to the film: that Kylo was Han and Leia’s kid, and that Han was probably going to die in this film. It all just seemed to add up too well. So when Supreme Leader Snoke (not quite sold on that guy yet, hopefully he’ll come off a little more scary and shrewd going forward) tells Kylo about his dad getting involved in their business again, I wasn’t exactly surprised. More… unsettled.
Takodana is the most beautiful planet, though. I want to have a vacation there now please. Also, if you can’t have Yoda in a movie, Maz Kanata is exactly right as the wizened guide for the new generation. And her bar/temple is amazing. Because seriously, if you’re a thousand year old pirate, why wouldn’t you have a temple with booze in it? And then Rey finds The Lightsaber, you know, the important totem-y thing, and she has flashes of her own childhood and of what happened to Luke’s order of new Jedi, and clearly Rey is the super-special-destiny-cookie and I AM INTO THIS. Enough with all the guys being chosen ones, let this darling girl take the wheel. I have a choked up moment where all I can think of is the little girls everywhere watching this, and how much Rey is going to mean to them in the coming years.
She runs from the saber because that’s what you have to do when destiny is dropped on you, but it unfortunately leads to her capture. On the other hand, it gets Finn all invested because she and Poe are literally the only people that have imprinted on him so far. The face to face with Rey and Kylo, that first moment he takes off his mask, it’s perfect. My favorite thing about Ren is his inability to control the excessive anger he clearly feels all the time. It makes his use of the dark side a very different animal, raw and wounded and grasping for anchors. Even his lightsaber reflects that—the thing looks like it can barely contain its energy, it’s too much, just like the rest of him. You juxtapose him with Phasma and Hux, both carefully controlled (Phasma being the consummate trooper who never removes her helmet for a second) and it’s clear that the First Order is comprised of people with differing passions, which makes the organization that much more interesting.
An aside for the fact that First Order stormtroopers are recruited at birth, and that’s so similar to the Jedi Order, and I have so many thoughts about this the instant Hux brings it up, so that’s something I’m going to have to get out of my head eventually.
The Resistance shows up to drive the First Order back, and that is how you make a heroic entrance, THAT is how you do Star Wars. What a spectacular dogfight. Suddenly Han and Leia are reuniting, and I’m holding my breath for that one, but it’s interrupted by C-3PO who is the only character who is allowed to interrupt this moment. (Can I take a moment to talk about the fact that Anthony Daniels clearly gave Threepio an ever-so-slightly altered cadence to show that the droid is getting older? It’s carefully halted in odd places, and it just broke my heart. Threepio, you are my favorite.) And we finally get the real talk about Han and Leia’s estrangement—their kid turned to the dark side, and they broke apart. It make so much sense; effectively, their son died, and they retreated from each other. What hurts the most is how guilty Han clearly feels for failing Leia—he wants to fix things between them, but he doesn’t feel capable, hence his reason for volunteering to run a mission that he hasn’t really planned at all. Leia, on the other hand, has come to the revelation that love is really the only thing that can save their son, a parallel of Luke’s journey that hurts me so much.
We get Starkiller Base, blah, blah, let’s go blow it up, blah, blah, I mean, I don’t have a problem with the Death Star parallel, it’s just not all that interesting to comment on. On the other hand, the intense reunion between Poe and Finn is my jam. And then Finn goes with Han, and Han realizes that Finn does not really get what the Force means, which is going to be a problem with their not-plan. Rey is busy discovering that whenever she really calms down, she can access extreme wells of power, and she mind tricks a stormtrooper to break out (learning the Force by trial and error is a new favorite thing), and I’m thinking I know that trooper voice….
Which I do because IT’S DANIEL FLIPPING CRAIG. YOU TERRIBLE MAN. ILU.
Phasma gets thrown down the trash compactor (best callback ever), so we can be sure we’ll see her again, and then Han’s like ‘we gotta go blow up the thing with detonators’, and that’s the point where my stomach drops—it’s a big old red flag if I ever saw one. And then we get one better when he walks out to meet his son on catwalk over a bottomless pit with no railings. (Oh shit, his name is Ben, they named him Ben, just like Luke’s kid in the Legends canon, and I’m freaking out even more.) I actually don’t mind that they telegraph this moment. I’d rather be prepared for Han’s death, I’d rather not get caught off guard. And it’s tragic, and wrenching, but I can handle it, I can keep it together—
—and then Leia feels it and I’m sobbing audibly in this giant theater, and I will never recover from this.
And everything from that point on feels like a blur until Finn and Rey end up facing off with Kylo Ren. Poor Finn does his best, but he’s not really ready for this face off. (Still wondering if he’ll end up Force sensitive later on? I’d like it if he were….) And Ren is reaching out for Anakin’s lightsaber, but it comes to Rey because she has to have her crowning moment as special-destiny-cookie, and this is a beautifully sure one. Their fight is fantastic because we’re dealing with untrained elements again. Kylo’s technique is cruel but sloppy, and Rey clearly has no idea what she’s doing, and it makes for a great first fight. Chewie comes to the rescue, and he’s flying the Falcon alone because, you know, I hadn’t cried enough at this movie.
The Resistance wins the day, and Rey arrives on planet and immediately goes to Leia, and they hug and I am also entirely here for these two women sensing each other’s pain and caring about each other and fine, I’LL CRY AGAIN, ARE YOU HAPPY, MOVIE? But even with Finn out of commission, and questions about the next step, there’s only one question taking up my mind at this point—
WHERE THE HELL IS LUKE.
R2 finally wakes up! (Shout out for the fact that Threepio and Artoo clearly love BB-8. Droid friends forever.) And the map happens, and it’s quest time for Rey. She gets on board the Falcon—so many thoughts and feelings about how Chewie just latches onto her, and how there’s never any question that she inherits the ship—and arrives on a gorgeous island-dotted world, where she has to make a trek up a mountain with her offering. I’m about to chew my own hand off because if I don’t see him—movie, you better show me Luke Skywalker’s face…
And there he is. (Sobbing again, obviously. I’ve only been waiting for this moment since I first saw Return of the Jedi.) He sees that lightsaber and he knows. That one look is all we need. And we’re left with the two of them standing on a mountain, teacher and apprentice, and the possibilities just stretching out to infinity. Movie over.
So that was pretty much how that first viewing went. I’ll probably see it several more times in the theater, and I have lots of aspects I’m desperate to discuss, but that was my blow-by-blow reaction. With all caps and ramblings and the like. Time to spend another day in the office bouncing more theories off of coworkers and generally flailing.
Because Star Wars is back.
Emily Asher-Perrin also finds herself shipping Stormpilot without ever recalling giving herself permission to do so, because idk their love is so real. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.