Okay. I have no idea how long this post is going to be. My review of THE FORCE AWAKENS was like a hojillion words long and dissected every second of the movie that I could remember. I don’t think I have the energy to do that right now; it took serious loin-girding to just get this first paragraph written. So I might run out of steam a few paragraphs in and I might still be sitting here in front of my computer typing away in two hours. We’ll see.
One thing for sure: I’m going to be spoiling the shit out of everything I talk about. You should have seen the damn movie by now, and if you read this you’re going to find out a whole lot of shit you didn’t know. And, seriously? There hasn’t been a Star Wars movie you more wanted to go into blind since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Don’t read this unless you’ve either seen the movie or you’ve decided you’re not going to see the movie and want to know what all the fooferol is about.
One more picture, and then spoilers ho…
PART ONE: SO LET’S TALK ABOUT LUKE
So here’s the thing: you can’t really discuss this movie properly without going directly at its most controversial element: Luke Skywalker. When I walked out of FORCE AWAKENS, I was already annoyed with the way the film treated the big three from the original trilogy. Most of that, honestly, was Harrison Ford’s fault; the only part of him that has done any acting in the last two decades is his left index finger and his “Han Solo as doddering old man” act absolutely did not work for me. I wasn’t happy with him and Leia being separated, and the general sense that the last few minutes of ROTJ were the last happy moment of these people’s lives didn’t wear well with me.
So: Luke Skywalker has spent decades rotting away on an island on Ach-To, mingling with Porgs and milking space walruses and being cared for by leftover puppets from THE DARK CRYSTAL, cut off from the Force and planning to die. When Rey meets him and hands him his lightsaber, he snorts and tosses it over his shoulder, and if he’s built himself another one (or if he even still has his green one) at no point in the movie do we ever see it. He initially utterly refuses to train Rey or help the Resistance at all, and while he eventually backs off a bit on those promises it’s only halfhearted. There’s a scene where he has her sit on a rock and closes her eyes and tells her to reach out with her feelings and tell him if she feels anything. She literally reaches out; he tickles her hand with a blade of grass and then smacks her with it when she mistakes that for the Force.
Luke has a couple of very interesting lines. One, from the trailers, is to tell Rey “This is not going to go how you think,” and fuck me dead if he isn’t talking to the audience with that line. The line about the Jedi needing to die from the trailer is not out of context; Luke is done with the order, done with the concept of Jedi and their “laser swords” (his words!) and their moving rocks. He’s a broken old man, and he wants to be left alone to die.
His other most interesting line is when he asks Rey if she’s foolish enough to believe that the Jedi own a Force that binds the universe and all living things together.
There are (and it’s at this point where I realize that there’s no chance that this thing isn’t a million words long, or that it tells the story of the film in anything resembling a coherent manner) people who will tell you that their Luke would never have made the decisions that this character has. Mark Hamill himself, famously, told Rian Johnson that he disagreed with every single character choice that Johnson made about Luke, and he played the hell out of the character anyway. I never thought I’d say these words, but I want Hamill nominated for an Academy Award. He is astounding. Look at his goddamn face in that picture up there. And this is not a movie that lacks for good acting! Johnson gets spectacular performances out of damn near everyone, but Hamill is head and shoulders above everyone else in the film.
Now, if you’re one of those people, I’m not going to be able to talk you out of that feeling. If you didn’t like the choices the filmmakers made with Luke, you’re gonna have a bad time with this movie. There’s no two ways about it, and we haven’t discussed his mistakes with Ben Solo yet. All I can say is that Hamill sells this character so hard and so well that I couldn’t help but buy it. He’s so good, guys.
PART TWO: A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT PORGS
Shut up. The scene where Chewbacca is trying to eat a porg is hilarious– any time Chewbacca is sharing screen time with a porg is hilarious, in fact– and you shut your stupid fanboy mouth about them. If you aren’t used to the occasional cute comic relief beast on the screen by now you aren’t actually a Star Wars fan, because they’re in damn near every movie, and I don’t want to hear the noises your mouth makes.
PART THREE: A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT THE ALIEN WALRUS MILK-BEAST
No, seriously, shut up. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a scene on Ach-To early in the film, perhaps five seconds long, where Luke, studiously avoiding talking to Rey, walks up to a beast that looks like a combination of a walrus and Watto from PHANTOM MENACE and literally milks a space Thermos of green milk out of it. And then he drinks some, and gets milk on his beard. Fanboys are so angry about the milk-beast!
It’s ten seconds. Shut up.
PART FOUR: WHAT’S THE MOVIE ACTUALLY ABOUT?
Right, the plot.
The movie’s about hope. Dassit. It’s about clinging to hope during the worst of imaginable times, and this movie very much is the lowest point a lot of these people have been brought to. It’s the final word of ROGUE ONE spread out to an entire movie. It’s about, in new character Rose Tico’s words, saving what you love instead of destroying what you hate.
It’s a nightmare two-and-a-half-hour chase scene, where an implacable, indestructible enemy is right behind you, and if he catches you he will kill you, and you cannot get away no matter what you do.
Okay, that’s not specific enough. The film begins right as the previous one ended, with the First Order forces trying to mop up the last of the Resistance on… hell, whatever planet they were on, I don’t remember. All the Resistance is trying to do is escape, and Poe Dameron leads an attack on the largest of the First Order ships that ends up going disastrously wrong, destroying the enemy ship but costing the Resistance their entire bombing fleet and a whole shitton of smaller fighters in the process. There is a great scene where Snoke, unhappy with General Hux’s inability to wipe the Resistance out, slams him to the floor using the Force and then drags him to face his oversized hologram the way you might drag a recalcitrant puppy on a leash. Snoke is not shy about slapping people around with the Force in this movie, and he’s an order of magnitude more powerful than anyone we’ve seen onscreen before.
At any rate: Dameron disobeys direct orders from Leia to keep up the attack on the Dreadnought, and despite his technical success when they meet on the Resistance flagship she slaps him in the face and demotes him on the spot. Yes, technically he won, but he broke the chain of command to do it, and he cost the Resistance a ton of lives– something they can’t spare right now.
This will, uh, prove to be a theme.
And then they emerge from lightspeed, and… moments later, so does the First Order, having followed them through lightspeed, something previously not possible. Somewhere in here Finn wakes up, in his bacta suit, and his first words to Poe, leaking fluid everywhere and clearly not having learned that No One Saves Rey, are “Where’s Rey?”
On Ach-To, of course, but we’ve already talked about that.
At this point the movie becomes a slow-motion chase scene, and this is another point where people are upset and I just don’t get it. The Resistance ships are able to stay just out of fighter range, just far enough away from the First Order that laser bombardment isn’t going to get through their shields but not far enough to actually get away, and without enough fuel to survive a second lightspeed jump– especially since the First Order can follow them now anyway. So the First Order ships, now including Snoke’s massive capital ship, just continue to follow them until they run out of fuel, picking off ships as the ships lose the ability to continue running away.
If you’re all “Why didn’t they just call in reinforcements in front of them?” here, I’d like to submit that you’re missing the point. They’ve got the entire Resistance effectively under siege, here. All they have to do is keep chasing them and wait for them to die. There’s no need to do anything else, and you have the advantage of crushing their spirits along the way. Anyone who has ever had a nightmare about being hunted should recognize this feeling; it’s Star Wars as slasher movie. The enemy is implacable and cannot be defeated; they’re just going to wait until you’re too tired to fight anymore before they finally kill you off, because it’s more fun that way.
(Oh, I forgot: Somewhere in here– before they jump, I think? Leia is badly injured and Ackbar is killed. Leia’s actually ejected into deep space and appears to use the Force to pull herself back onto the ship, where Dameron rescues her and tosses her into a hospital bed. You are forgiven if, as I did, you think oh, this is how they’re coping with the fact that Carrie Fisher died. It’s kinda bad CGI; I feel like they should have come up with a better way to get her back on the ship, and a rare misstep in the movie.)
Oh, eventually there’s a plan, because of course there is. And let’s talk about the plan.
PART FIVE: OKAY, CANTO BIGHT’S NOT GREAT
Specifically, there are two plans, but we’ll talk about the second one in a bit. Finn is an idiot, have I mentioned that? He’s a well-meaning idiot, but the clear no one saves Rey lesson from the first movie hasn’t really sunk in with him yet, and not long after he’s out of his bacta suit we see him trying to steal an escape pod to go find Rey.
Enter Rose Tico! Rose is one of the film’s two new major characters, and she’s generally pretty awesome. Important detail: her sister was one of the people who Poe Dameron got killed in the bombing run on the Dreadnought, and processing the loss of her sister turns out to be one of her bigger motivations as a character. Anyway, she’s… what, a mechanic, I think? And she catches Finn trying to escape the ship, and she hits him with a Tazer, and the next thing we know she’s hauling his barely-conscious ass through the ship on a cargo skid trying to find someone to report him to for desertion. She finds Poe, and somehow Poe ends up in a hilarious little conversation with hologram-form Maz Kanata, and Maz suggests that they find themselves a slicer (she’s in the middle of a firefight, a “union dispute” through the whole thing, and I want that movie too) and maybe a good place to look might be the casino resort on Canto Bight, which isn’t too far away. The slicer will get them onto Snoke’s ship and disable the tracker– sound familiar?– and the Resistance can jump away before the First Order realizes they can’t follow.
So, Canto Bight is supposed to be this film’s answer to Mos Eisley, I suppose, except fantastically wealthy, and it’s probably the flabbiest part of the film. Poe stays behind to run interference and Rose and Finn head off to Canto Bight. Long story short: I enjoyed this sequence more than most people probably did because I read Canto Bight, the Star Wars novella collection that came out right before the film did, and so I had some context that movie viewers lacked. It’s bad form to say “read this unrelated book before seeing the movie,” but I also can’t personally unread the book before I do, so it didn’t bug me as much.
So, again, long story short in a big way: they end up getting arrested just after locating Kanata’s slicer but before making contact with him, and they meet Benicio del Toro in jail (his character is never once named, which is kinda annoying) and well it turns out he’s a hacker too so that’s cool. There’s an interesting subtheme going on here about income inequality and arms dealers and the mass concentration of wealth that Canto Bight represents, but that’s probably something for another post. And there is a giant chase scene on faithier-back, and if you don’t know what a faithier is imagine a racing moose with smaller horns and you’re close enough. There’s also a cool bit where Rose points out that the Resistance is about extending hope to the downtrodden even when the First Order isn’t doing the downtrodding, and she ends up giving a Republic-seal ring to a little kid who mucks faithier stalls for a living, a scene that may be important later.
So, yeah. They leave Canto Bight with Benicio del Toro and head back to the chase scene.
PART SIX: HAVE I MENTIONED THAT GREG GRUNBERG ISN’T IN THIS MOVIE?
He’s not. Not one second of Greg Grunberg or his stupid Greg Grunberg face. He still throws me out of FORCE AWAKENS every time I see it and I’m so glad Johnson didn’t give him even a background part in this one.
PART SEVEN: DUDE YOU’RE AT 2500 WORDS AND HAVEN’T TALKED ABOUT KYLO REN YET
This is the part where it hits me that this needs to be two posts. Still to be discussed:
- Everything involving Snoke
- Everything involving Kylo Ren
- Most of Rey’s arc
- Yoda is in this movie
- All of Crait
- I have not mentioned Amilyn Holdo yet
- Finn and Rose’s attack on Snoke’s ship
And I’ve written 2500 words and okay the TFA review ended up being over six thousand but I have stuff to do today. I haven’t even showered yet and it’s two PM.
I’m rolling now, though. I’ll get the rest up soon. Yell at me in the comments, for now.