My thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII

Let’s Talk About Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens

 

Tea: Sencha Lemon Verbena

 

Before everyone starts complaining: Spoiler-Alert! The following article will cover The Force Awakens in its entirety and talk about everything that happens. Therefore, do not read this if you have not seen the movie. Thank you. With that out of the way, I will talk about some things I liked and didn’t like in the new Star Wars movie. Let’s get down to it.

The biggest point of debate (apparently) is Kylo Ren and whether he is a good villain or not. First of all, I would not consider him to be the main antagonist (that would be Snoke) and second, I would consider him a good villain indeed. He is a villain with personality and that is indeed a new and welcome change in the Star Wars Saga. He is tempted by the light as opposed to all the other Jedi that have been seduced by the dark. It sheds light on the central dichotomy of the franchise and that they are simply concepts with connotations attached to them, neither inherently good nor evil. Basically just words with nothing behind them. And it ends the time of anger and hate inside a black hood and nothing more. Kylo Ren is given a backstory and struggles attached to them and it made for a refreshing take on the standard-Sith archetype whose character begins and ends with hate and anger.

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– While that lightsabre is still a bit stupid, it was a cool visual distinction –

The death of Han Solo may not have had the best dialogue associated with it, but I certainly liked the overall execution. It was obvious as soon as he drew attention to himself, but I respect the move to kill a member of the old cast. I can also buy into the transformation of Kylo at this point, since he actively tries to overcome his inner state of turmoil and sure enough, afterwards he gives off a far more intimidating vibe than before (without the mask that is). Sure, he looks like a wimpy kid before, but that is sort of the point, he is a kid after all and the mask and coat are nothing more than a Darth Vader cosplay for him, without them his personality crumbles away. That is why the shift afterwards and the menacing aura without the mask are well-achieved. He is no longer in need of the mask, since in his eyes he has achieved his transformation. When he was mask-less and Hux entered, he felt agitated, since his mask is his authority. Yet, at the end the mask has become part of his face, if you will. However, I do not discount the possibility of him wearing a mask in the next movie due to the injuries he sustained. I would rather have him proudly wear a scarred face, but we can only wait and see for that.

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– Babyface: Yes. Intimidating villain: only later on –

My favourite character was without a doubt Poe Dameron. He is instantly likable and has a great chemistry with Finn and I must admit that I jumped a little inside as he came back from the seemingly dead. He could have been given a lot more screen time, in my opinion at least. But his interaction with Kylo Ren at the start was well-done and set his character in the right direction. Not really that much more to say about him.

Rey is a tricky customer. For one, I really like a strong female character and the fact that she becomes the series’ new Jedi is even better, but there is nothing else to her. Her character IS “strong female character”. She has so little agency and everything is just happens to her. Yes, she deals with it in a good way, but I cannot shake this “right place right time” feeling. Yes, she struggle against her fate, but it is so synthetic and she might as well not even bother, since it is blatantly obvious that she will turn 180° on the decision in the near future anyway. She gets the lightsabre, the millennium falcon, and stronger force powers for next to no effort. She is lucky more than strong and that is a huge missed opportunity. Having a developed female character would have been a nice change, but at least we get so see a female lead for once.

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– It all depends how they handle her training in the next movie –

The Starkiller is something I am not quite certain about. First, it is an artificial raising of the threat level by simply giving them a bigger Death Star. Second, I don’t quite understand how this was built. Did no one have any say into this? Was it kept a secret? What influence does the First Oder have? But I do like the fact that is uses the energy of a sun to fire, yet I cannot help but wonder how it will function the next time. Does it move around the galaxy? Can it even move, can you push it? The fact that it is a planet is actually in itself not a bad idea, but how it was built simply escapes my mind.

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– That is one slow laser-beam –

And now the overall plot: It was obvious that this movie would be very close to the original trilogy and I can understand that, but I would have appreciated some more risks. The theory that Luke would be evil in this one floated around before the movie’s release and while I did not believe it for one second that they would actually go that far I would have appreciated something in that regard. All of the old characters remained rather stale, as if they had been frozen in ice for the last 30 years. They did not change or develop at all. Luke’s inclusion in the movie was somewhat unnecessary and it would have sufficed to simply show Rey leaving to meet Luke. The ending felt dragged and Mark Hamill was simply there to play the iconic theme again in the background.

The lightsabre fight is something I want to talk about, since it was probably the best one in the entire saga. It was a fight like one would expect, not overly choreographed like the prequels and not sluggish sword touching like the originals. It felt as if they swung a weapon that can cut through anything. Although it is somewhat hard to believe that Finn would survive that sabre slash across the back without ending up in the wheelchair, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that both sides got hurt. This is exactly what would happen if two people swung these things around: People would get hurt and the surrounding would take a beating.

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– Amazing fight (sorry, no better images until the movie is out on DVD) –

All in all, I quite enjoyed the movie, but kept my expectations purposely low. The dialogue writing was bloody awful at time, but that might have also been the German translation I had to watch. I am most interested as to how Kylo Ren will develop in the next movies, since he is definitely the most promising character. I believe it was a good move to rip this franchise out of Lucas’ inept hands. He had a great idea with the original, but by now has proven that he cannot write for shit at times and handles the licence like free candy. I would like to know whether the new movie managed to live up to YOUR expectations or left you feeling cold. What did you like and what could have been done better?

 

 

Image sources in order of appearance:

 

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12 thoughts on “My thoughts on Star Wars Episode VII

  1. Sure, a villain that is attracted to the light side for a change is something new and brings a fresh dynamic into this whole “there´s only good and bad”-concept but Sith are supposed to be somewhat intimidating and I can´t say that I felt intimidated by Kylo after he removed that helmet. At all. Perhaps it´s the fact that the movie doesn´t give the reason why he chose the dark side. My personal theory is “puberty” (or “cookies”) but that´s just me. I just can´t respect a villain that looks like his mother could give him house arrest for playing dark Sith-lord.
    My favourite character is Finn, I guess. I really love the story of the storm-trooper developing a conscience and deserting. How ever did he manage to become so independent from lifelong indoctrination, though? Anyway, he´s a really cool guy and it´s a shame that they completely scratched his character from the movie posters in China.
    I absolutely back your impression on the dialogues. It´s mostly bland and that´s that.

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    • For the first time, I must strongly disagree with you. Writing Kylo Ren of as a pubescent teen does not do him justice in my opinion. In a movie that took so little risks, I more than welcomed the change to the standard Sith formula. He is not supposed to be intimidating, so if you think he is a child that’s because he is one. A confused child with a short temper that longs to be something he is not. A very human struggle when you think about it. His choice for the dark side lies in his affinity in giving in to his emotions easily. A trade he shared with his idol Darth Vader. But I respect different opinions, of course.
      That is indeed an interesting aspect, although Finn sometimes was too much of a comic relief for me. When he said he scrubbed toilets on the Starkiller Base didn’t laugh, but cringe.
      I don’t know whether it is the German version or the dialogue in general, but hey at least the lightsaber fight was cool.

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      • But the standard Sith-formula works brilliantly! At least for me.
        And I simply cannot buy the reason for Ren falling to the dark side because he gives in to his emotions too easily: emotions also include compassion, pity and love. And these emotions certainly didn´t push him to kill innocent people (and his own father. Nice reversion of that evil father vs. good son-dynamic between Vader and Luke, by the way.)
        You might say now: Well, sure, his negative emotions are just more dominant, then. But: why is he so full of hate and anger in the first place? What is the source of these emotions? The root of all evil? Apart from his admiration for Vader (which may as well be an effect and not the cause)? Or puberty?
        Btw, just looked it up: the actor of Ren is over 30, actually! Oh my Gosh, does he look young, how is he doing that? Anyway, in the movie, he´s just a teen.

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      • The scarf, it is that scarf tied around his neck too high that makes him look so teeny, if I had to guess at least. Literally the only thing I did not like about his design.
        Giving in to any kind of emotion is a way to the dark side, be it negative or positive. He is the Anakin Skywalker we never got. I never bought Anakin’s quick transformation from “I love my wife” to “I murder children”. It comes out of nowhere. Kylo makes more sense, in my mind at least, since he is struggling and feels tempted by either sides, but his admiration for Vader tips the scales and yes, I would agree that is it more symptom than cause, simply because he can identify with Vader more easily than Luke or his father.
        At least he didn’t cut of Han’s hand first.
        Also veerying away from the standard formula is never a bad idea and the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra never breeds new and exciting ideas.

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  2. The scarf didn´t bother me at all, I have to say.
    The problem I have with Kylo´s emotional struggle is that there only seem to be two extremes again: either bright side or dark side. What´s wrong with grey? There actually ARE (or rather WERE at the time the movie plays) grey Jedi. In my opinion there is a glaring difference between finding oneself in emotional turmoil and destroying whole planets.
    At least they TRIED to give a reason for Anakin´s decision to join the dark side (as lacking it may be). Kylo is just so… Why, boy? There MUST be a reason for you to join the dark side and it has to be a good one if you murder your father for it. If there is, I can´t see it and I guess neither can Kylo himself, which makes him joining the dark side all the more absurd. That guy is just completely nuts in my opinion.

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    • Alright, next round: I would not entirely agree with the fact that there are only two extremes. There is a lot in between when he is collected enough to maintain the Sith person which is usually only possible for him with the mask on. However, failure causes him to lose grip and therefore throw his little tantrum. And if there would only be two extremes he would not have taken off his helmet in front of Rey, but he felt confident enough to show his other side, not his persona. Therefore I can sort of see your point, but would argue for a more layered approach.
      Also, he did not destroy the planet. The first order did, where he has no clear position, just like Vader which is why he has sometimes authority-trouble, just like Vader in Episode IV.
      Sorry, but I cannot stomach Anakin’s reason, since it is so absurdly contrived, maybe because Lucas realized this boy had to turn evil at some point. But do you really think Kylo grew up with no problems? The father always away and smuggling? A Jedi Master that was never properly taught and probably did not know how to handle a difficult student? Kylo’s turn to the dark side did not have a singular cause, but is a culmination of a lot of small contributors. At least that is how I see it.

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  3. Anakin Skywalker had a difficult childhood, how traumatising could have been Kylo´s past compared to that?
    And in my opinion, there are only two options in Kylo´s mind, that being either the bright or the dark side. There is not one moment, where he acts in a way that would convincingly show his pull towards the light side. We only know of his struggle because he says so in his “prayer” to Vader. If you left this scene out, things would start to blur. Again, there is a difference between saying something and also acting upon one´s words. I think it would have been great to actually see Kylo pushed so far in his indecision for him to actually act mercifully at one point, just like Finn when he was is ordered to shoot the villagers but disobeyed. Of course, Kylo isn´t supposed to become a fervent defender of justice after that but it would underline Kylo´s inner turmoil which was only asserted linguistically and which does not suffice in my opinion. On the contrary, throughout the whole movie, Kylo always chooses the dark side-course of action, so how torn apart can he truly be? I´m yet unconvinced.

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    • A bad teacher such as Luke surely would be (I mean come on, he almost fell to the dark side at the end of Return of the Jedi) can mess a lot of things up. I am not saying Kylo had a difficult childhood, but one filled with uncertainties and his mentor did not provide the help he should have.
      Kylo is not bi-polar, he feels a pull towards the light, not an impulse to act upon it. He doubts himself. And his failures (letting Rey escape for instance) are weaknesses for him and show him that he should have been more determined and rigid. These failures are his moments of the light side, when he did not act (in his mind) like a proper Sith lord. Also you can see his struggle when he kills Han. He does not strike him down immediately or play a game with him, he actually struggles, but manages to kill hi while starring directly at him -> Transformation has taken a huge step. After that he does not feel the need for his helmet anymore. He has become (in his eyes) a menacing and powerful Sith.
      Yet, maybe we should settle on agree to disagree. How does that sound?

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      • I see your point, although I don´t understand in how far the fact that Rey escaped is Kylo´s light side moment. You mean, that he interprets it as light side because he considers it to be weak and prone to errors? In that case, our young man has an utter misconception of the term and Luke is really the bad teacher we all believe him to be. (Never said that he was the opposite but arguing that this was one reason for Kylo to turn all dark side, which is pretty extreme, is still a bit far-fetched in my opinion.)
        So, yes, I agree to disagree.

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      • Exactly: Light = weak. Well, it depends on what he associates with the light side, probably only Luke, and that is not a stand-out example. I can also understand your point and maybe Episode VIII will ultimately disappoint me with an all too typical reason for him to turn to the dark side, but as for now, I like his character. Mr Teatime always has the last word btw.

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