Sunday, December 20, 2015

An even more spoiling spoilery post on my reactions to The Force Awakens.

So, again, damned spoilers be here.

This is basically a play by play of what happened and my reaction to it.

Opening crawl tells us things like the fact that there are now three factions in the galaxy: The New Republic, the New Empire The First Order, and The Resistance.  We aren't given any decent details, but it appears to work like this: The First Order took over evil duties of evil, rebel alliance split into two groups: The New Republic is a governing body that pays attention to governance and uses it's military to protect its territory which happens to include The Resistance strongholds, The Resistance actively opposes The First Order.

So The First Order and the New Republic aren't technically at war, but The New Republic is a state sponsor of terrorism and the terrorists in question are used to count on their ability to hide behind The New Republic's military so it's effectively an undeclared war in which The New Republic's military is divided into the official defensive military and unofficial, autonomous, offensive military of The Resistance.

Got all that?  Good.

Luke disappeared and Leia, resistance general, sent her best pilot to find the only clue that's turned up in the time since he disappeared.

Already I'm throwing up a bit of a "whut?" because why would you send your best pilot on a mission to make contact with an informant.  Why not top spy or most trusted aide?

But ok, that's what happens and instead of a mere clue it happens to be a map piece that makes no sense which shows exactly where Luke went but because it doesn't show where he started (I think it's trying to be the map with no names from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where once you find the point of origin the map is extremely useful) and is the only piece of the puzzle either side is lacking.  Though The Resistance don't realize they don't have the rest of the puzzle because plot.

What makes no sense about the map is that it covers too large of an area of the frequently traversed from end to end galaxy for it to be believably uncharted and it's showing Luke's course in spite of no one but Luke knowing what that course was.

It could have made sense.  After being repeatedly stolen by a variety of people, the Millennium Falcon ended up on the same planet, so it could easily have been that, while Luke's whereabouts were secret he transmitted his journey to the Falcon where it was stored on some secret encrypted hard drive or other but, due to the Falcon being stolen, the right people never managed to look it up.  The movie's droid could have had the keys needed to open the encryption.

Thus the clue could have been an actual clue, a lead on the whereabouts of the Falcon.

Or, alternatively, the planet in question is filled with scavengers because there was a battle there, leaving random spaceships all around for people to pick shit out of.  The empire already has much of the map, so maybe maybe some of the imperials who had been involved in the battler had been tracking Luke, explaining why they had much of the map, they never transmitted it until the ship was going down because they were afraid the rebels would find Luke if they did, but one of the vital pieces got separated at the time of the transmission thus the final puzzle piece that drives the plot.

I like the Falcon as the macguffin more, though.

Regardless, old guy who you wonder if he's someone you're supposed to remember from the original trilogy (he's not) hands off the map to the hotshot pilot and then stormtroopers come and kill everyone except for one who apparently tries to comfort one of his colleagues when he/she dies and then doesn't do any shooting.

Guy with the scary lightsaber (as in I'm pretty sure it functions the way it does specifically to be scary because I see no way that the ripply pulsing blade could actually be more useful than a normal one) Kills the old guy himself.

The droid is sent to hide in the desert for safety, the pilot is captured.  They search him with a pat down.  Seriously.  Don't they have technology on the level of those wands at airport security?

Cut to female lead, Rey.  I was totally ready to love the character the moment of her introduction just because she's a scavenger who is looking around a crashed star destroyer for useful parts.  Very little in the movie gave me reason to like her less and she is the awesome.

 She goes to a scavenger place and trades her goods for a food ration and it appears that she's being shortchanged.  Back at home she rescues the droid from someone who wants to use it for parts.

Pilot, Poe the Kung Fu Panda, is interrogated.  The torture technology doesn't work, but evil guy, Kylo Ren, uses the force to pull the information from Poe's mind.

Wait, what?  They can do that?  I honestly don't have much of a problem with the idea but given that Ren apparently can't live up to his grandfather Vader (Ren is Han and Leia's son) then . . . if this ability is possible why didn't Vader use it on Leia in the original Star Wars?  Either he would have gotten the location of the Rebel Base or he would have learned that Leia's a potentially powerful force user.  Either way, win for the forces of evil.

Ok, but that happens, which means that the bad guys now know they're looking for a droid, as well as what type of droid they're looking for. Poe is left in the interrogation room.

The Stormtrooper who didn't kill anyone shows up, bluffs his way into taking Poe with him and they steal a tie fighter.  Why?  The stormtrooper wants to run away but he can't fly.  Poe is a pilot, they need each other.  On the way out the stormtrooper is given a name, Fin, which he never had before because he was taken from his family as an infant and refered to exclusively by his serial number,

He also demonstrates a total lack of concern for the lives of his colleagues who might, just like him, be waiting for an opportunity to run away.  His total lack of conflict over killing swaths of the people he grew up with will persist throughout the movie.

Fin and Poe end up crashing on the planet.  Fin separates himself from his ejector seat and runs to the smoking remains of the tie fighter which may or may not contain Poe.  (It doesn't.)  The tie fighter sinks into the lighting sand which burps after devouring it.  Ain't fire swamp random desert grand?

Fin assumes Poe is dead even though if he had an ejector seat wouldn't it make sense that the pilot did too?  Regardless, he does get Poe's coat.

The droid has taken to following Rey around and people try to buy it and steal it from her.  During one of those attempts Fin sees Rey up against superior numbers, goes to help, but she's kicked ass before he gets there.  The droid recognizes Poe's coat, Rey chases Fin down and whacks him with her preferred weapon (a big metal stick) but he manages to convince her that he was with Poe (true) and he's with The Resistance (false.)

At which point the imperials First Order arrive.  Apparently the droid, in spite of being a model everyone can recognize, has a one of a kind appearance which is why whenever they go anywhere everyone immediately knows that it is the droid they're looking for.

Fin is very grabby, instead of just saying, "Run," and demonstrating by example, he always grabs Rey by the hand.  This pisses her off greatly (she even points out that she's fully capable of running without some jerk holding her hand.)

They try to get to a ship to outrun the bad guys, Fin asks what about another, off screen, ship and Rey tells him it's a piece of junk.  Intended ship blows up.  "The junk will do."

The junk is, of course, the Falcon.  And here we get our first hints that Rey is in tune with the force.  She's a pilot, but she's never flown anything like the Falcon before yet it comes to her as if by magic.  Fin meanwhile has to stumble through learning how to use the Falcon's guns in spite of just learning how to use an extremely similar system which he had found wasn't that different from the on the ground shooting he'd been trained in doing.

A nice touch as there's a battle going on is that we see one of the tie fighters shot down and scavengers immediately going to collect the fresh wreckage.

Soon after they get away, they're caught in a tractor beam and assume they'll be boarded by stormtroopers.  It's Han and Chewie.

Han and Rey operate on the same wavelength to the point of finishing each other's sentences while Chewie seems to like her too.  (And she can understand wookie-speak perfectly)

Han's luck has gotten worse since the original trilogy.  Remember when his debt to Jabba the Hut was the only major fuck up hanging over his head?

Well for this job he's double booked with people who don't like him very much on account of his past failures, and the acquiring the deadly cargo he's got (so he did in fact get the job done) ended up killing off the larger crew he had been working with leaving it so it's just him and Chewie again.

Both of the people he's working for show up.  The droid is noticed as the one the bad guys want, and things seem like they're going extremely badly.

Rey and Fin are in hiding in a service area under the walkway where the confrontation is taking place.  Pulling fuses would trap both gangs but ... wrong fuses, oops.  The creatures of doom escape and both gangs end up getting what they paid for, if not in the form they wanted it.  All of our intrepid heroes flee Han's not-falcon ship for the Falcon.

Chewie was wounded which led to the first time in all the time he's known Chewie that Han used Chewie's weapon.  Which... huh?  Even disregarding all of the myriad reasons this makes no sense, it's a fucking energy crossbow.  How do you spend decades living with an energy crossbow as close to you as your best friend and never once think, "Energy crossbow sounds at once nonsensical and extremely cool, I should really try it at least once.

Han is very impressed with Chewie's weapon.

On the bad guy side we finally learn who Ren is when the news of the droid being on the Falcon with Han Solo reaches The First Order via one of the people pissed off at Han who didn't get eaten by the cargo.  Ren has some qualms, he can feel the lightside within him trying to get out.  He asks the beat up helmet of Darth Vader (remember, Vader was cremated while wearing that helmet) for help in quashing said feelings.  This is a weird kind of ancestor worship.  Vader was redeemed at the end so apparently he's trying to call out not to Vader but the idea of Vader before said redemption.

Notable that Star Wars has a thing with helmets.  In the prequels when Boba Fett's dad is decapitated the head goes one way while the helmet another.  Young Boba goes to the helmet.

Anyway, back to the good guys.

With Chewbacca injuried, Rey takes over as copilot and there's even more evidence that she and Han are in sync with each other and she'd be perfect working on the Falcon.

Anyway, Han claims that the Falcon, now that it's in the air/in space, is easy to track (note how quickly he found it) and thus takes the to Bespin someplace we've never heard of so Lando someone we've never heard of can procure them a ship that's less easy to track.

The only way to make sense of this is that Han was lying his ass off and just wanted to be rid of the kids in a way that wouldn't get them killed.  The Millennium Falcon is actually hard to track without a tracking beacon (how it was tracked in Star Wars) and in this movie they will take it to a rebel base without it being tracked there.

"Someone we've never heard" of is Maz Kanata who is an awesome character.

They have a conversation in which Fin points out that, since they just walked through a crowded establishment, The First Order will know they're there (they do, the only people who weren't called with a, "The droid is here," message were, "Random Unnamed Third Parties.)  He points out that they'll kill everyone.  He says that they should run away, very fast.

The other's aren't so big on the run away plan, which is ok, but that they're not down with the "Run" part of the plan is a different matter entirely.  It's ok to disagree on direction, but they should be with him on velocity.  They should totally be running, they aren't and they don't.

Of course them not running allows for an important force experience.  Maz Kanata has Luke Skywalker's original Saber (the one Obi Wan took from Anakin to give to Luke) in an unlocked box.  I really want to know if she also has Luke's severed hand.  Why?  I don't know.  I just do.

The saber calls to Rey, and she goes down to the room in which it is kept, opens the box, and then has a force induced vision when she touches it.

As I said in the other post, I think I can see what's going on here, but the movie never even tries to make sense of it.

What makes sense is that after Maz got it, however she got it, she's been leaving it in a secluded but easy to access part of her establishment and waiting for someone to come and find it.  She's been waiting on this precise moment.  Why didn't she give it to Solo given that it did belong to his friend?  Because if Solo were meant to have it the saber would have called to him and he'd have found it on his own.

Unfortunately the visions terrify Rey and she runs away.  Way too much of the rest of the movie will be spent with everyone in the audience thinking, "Can we just get Rey the fucking lightsaber already?"

This is when the super weapon of the movie is used.  It fires an incredibly slow beam that somehow (it must speed up when we're not looking) manages to blow up planets in another system.  It takes out the seat of government of the New Republic, definitely wipes out the senate and most of the fleet, and probably decapitates the entire government.  So that's fun.  This is visible from wherever the hell Maz lives.

Fin, moments away from leaving on a ship to the outer rim as part of his "run and hide" plan, runs to Han to tell him exactly what happened.  Fin worked on the weapon, you see.  Given that the weapon is made out of a gutted planet, a lot of people worked on the weapon.

The bad guys come, Maz entrusts the saber to Fin to give to Rey.  Not a bad idea because after Rey gets captured (what with her being defenseless against a petulant darkside user with an overcompensating lightsaber.)

Maz gives Fin the lightsaber to give to Rey.  This is a very good plan.  Then he asks for a weapon and she points out he's holding one and what the fuck?  He does make use of the saber, but becomes significantly more effective once he has a blaster, which he's actually been trained to use.

Rey as noted, is unarmed.  She also has no force training.  So movie antagonist Ren has little trouble capturing her.  When he realizes that she's seen the map he just takes her and calls off the search for the droid.  Just after he's taken her, the cavelry come.

They're led by not-dead Poe.  I was expecting him to be back since there was never any reason to think he was still in the tie fighter when it sank into the sand.  You know what's great about the cavalry?  They're not all human.  They're not even mostly human.  Most of them come from a diverse set of alien races.  Finally the fighter pilot fantastic racism has ended.  Aliens in X-wings, woo!

This leads to a reunion of Leia and Han as well as a reunion of Poe and Fin.  Fin says Poe can keep the jacket.

They stand around a holographic display of the new superweapon and Han suggests just blowing it up since there's always a way to do that.  Since the superweapon functions by sucking a sun into a planet as its power source that's actually a completely reasonable thing to suggest.  Suns are bigger and hotter than planets.

Someone points out that to contain that power they must need a technobable, Fin can point to where it is.  The problem is it's sheilded.  Fin says he can take down the shield but he needs to be physically present on the planet to do so.  Han says he can get Fin there and Leia would really rather not know how he'll pull it off. with all the pieces in place Han and Leia have some reconciliation (after their son turned evil and killed off whatever other non-Luke Jedi might have been in training, Leia and Han split, Luke ran away, and things have been kind of crap.)

Rey resists force interrogation which leads to Ren realizing that she's extremely strong in the force and leads to Rey getting into better touch with her forceyness.  Add to this that she's a total fangirl of this stuff and it'll let her escape, but first Ren reports to his dark master the giant Gollum (because, what with this being a long time ago, Gollum hasn't fallen into mount doom yet) that the girl is really damned strong and he'll need master's help.

Master says, "Sure, bring her to me."  Also, since they let the droid get away it is assumed that The Resistance probably has the map and that's bad.  In one of the conversions before this he said, "There's been an awakening, have you felt it?" which... no.  Nope.  Didn't happen.  No.

If it had then the whole focus on the importance of Luke would make perfect sense.  Jedi training as seen in the original trilogy works fast.  So maybe the force just has some kind of Jedi to Jedi mind connection going on during training.  So if there had been an awakening and there were all of these force users but no one to train them, but if someone did train them they could quickly become a superpowered army for good, then it would make sense.

The resistance wants Luke because he'll be able to give their force users the guidance they use to actually put their powers to use, the bad guys want a lack of Luke because most people are not all that enamored with the idea of evil and probably most of their stormtroopers justify their actions to themselves via appeals to the greater good or some such instead of the embrace of evil that it takes to really be a dark sider.  Thus the awakened force users are very much Republic/Resistence Skewed and all they need is a Jedi to mind meld with link to train them.

That would make all of this make sense, as the last Jedi Luke is the last one who can super-quick-train people.

Granted that is entirely new bullshit that isn't attested elsewhere, but it's entirely new bullshit that could fill some plotholes while contradicting nothing.

Back to Gollum, who might actually be normal sized given that all we ever see is a hologram of him.

So we've got, "The girl with the information we need is really strong in the force, bring her to master," and, "The Resistance probably has the same information by now, that's bad."  Proposed solution is to simply blow up the resistance.  And, points to the script on why everyone is trying to blow everyone else up at the exact same time.

The resistance responded to the New Republic seat of power getting blown up by wondering, "What the fuck was that?" so they located the superweapon (it eats suns, so it's not hard to find) and sent a reconnaissance vessel to gather what data they thought they could get away with getting.  It wasn't much, but apparently it was too much because the reconnaissance vessel was spotted and tracked back to the rebel base.  Thus the same trip that led to the rebels --excuse me, The Resistance-- learning about weapon lead to the people with the weapon learning about the Resistance.

Granted it's the same trick used in Star Wars (the ship the death star plans are on is the one they follow to the rebel base) but if you can't handle them doing the theatrical equivalent of playing Star Wars in a different key signature then the movie won't be for you because they recycled so much.

Rey, meanwhile is doing the aforementioned putting her fan-girl knowledge together with the revelation that the force is using her to escape.

It takes her three times to get the Mind Trick to work, the first two of which end up amusing and annoying to Storm Trooper, but on the third time it does work and she's loose.  And the scene works in part based on being funny, which is a very Star Wars thing to do.

Anyway, Leia asks Han to bring their son home.  Han figures he can't if Luke couldn't, Leia thinks that a father might be able to succeed where a Jedi failed.

Han, Chewie, and Fin get through the shield by waiting to come out of lightspeed until they're on the other side (the shield doesn't block light or things moving at the same pace.)  Mind you this involves slamming the Falcon into the ground, the trees, and pretty much everything else.  So you do see why the X-wings couldn't have used the same trick, they're not rugged enough and would have been destroyed on impact with nice Star Wars explosions.

At around this point Fin reveals that he worked sanitation and has no idea how to take down the shield, he was just trying to get there because that's where they'd be holding Rey.

He does, however, know who knows how to take down the shields, and that's good enough.

Mind you we do get some interesting dialog

"We'll just trust the force." - Fin after he reveals he has no idea what he's doing.
"That's not how the force works." - Han

"The longer we're here the less luck we'll have." - Han

When they get the shields down and the fighter pilots start shooting the technobabble one complains that it's not blowing up the planet while another points out that, yeah, incredibly vital component is armored so they'll have to bomb it a lot to make a difference.

After everyone meets up Fin doesn't give Rey the lightsaber because WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.

Han realizes that the fighters need help, they have explosives, to they try to put them to good use.

[Added] And at this point Rey pulls the right fuse and gets them easy passage where they want to go. [/Added]

I loved:
Han: We'll put a charge at the bottom of every other pillar
Chewie: Wookie noise
Han: You're right, that's a better idea.

That Ren murders Han is hardly surprising.  It's really frustrating because in the brief time that they were together Han and Rey had great chemistry.  Apparently Rey noticed this because on of the things that Ren did managed to pull out of her head was the fact that she was thinking maybe Han could be the father figure she never had.

Lightsaber battles.  Fin vs Ren because what the fuck?  He loses, though not nearly as badly as you'd expect.  Never underestimate the fencing training of sanitation workers.

Rey vs Ren because we've been waiting for this the whole fucking movie.

Ren falls victim to the classic darkside blunder: he tries to convert Rey.  In the time that gives where, when he doubtless thinks she's considering her options, she manages to get a much better connection to the force with concentration and clear mindedness and all of that shit Jedi need.  So she wins.

Everybody not dead returns to their respective sides.  The story ends with Chewie and Rey taking the Falcon to find Luke.  I think Chewie prefers to be co pilot because he clearly outranks Rey on the Falcon.  Note that earlier Han had offered Rey a job with them (which would have been fucking awesome.  Han, Chewbacca, and Rey: Galactic Smuggling and Salvage.)

Fin is unconscious.

Dark master has order that Ren be brought in to complete his training.

When Luke is found Rey offers him his lightsaber with the blade side facing him.  Granted it was off, but still bad form.  Blade toward yourself, not the person you're handing it to.

And blah.


  1. I still think that the lightsaber shenanigans with Finn are forgivable if it's eventually revealed that he's Force Sensitive, too. Not that it makes it make sense in story for him to not give her the lightsaber, but it at least then makes sense on a writing level. (A not as good as it could be writing level, but...) Of course, if that doesn't turn out to be the case, then WTF.

    Wait, what? They can do that? I honestly don't have much of a problem with the idea but given that Ren apparently can't live up to his grandfather Vader (Ren is Han and Leia's son) then . . . if this ability is possible why didn't Vader use it on Leia in the original Star Wars?

    Different Dark Side training? Though, as someone who has consumed much of the old EU, exactly what Sith are/were capable of varies wildly. As does what Jedi are/were capable of. The Force is very much a case of "powers as the plot demands."


    It suddenly occurs to me that my EU consumption is exactly why the large swaths of "wait what" in this new movie don't bother me. I don't actually expect Star Wars things to entirely make sense. If they have the right feel (and I felt it did) and I like the characters, the nonsense doesn't interfere with my enjoyment. Even if I'd have preferred they made different choices here and there (The Falcon as macguffen is such an obvious thing! Were they just so enamored of "message in the droid" mirroring that they couldn't see it? And, hell, why not have BB-8 be a unique droid - and have people after it because they want Poe back because they wan to find the resistance base? I'm pretty sure we could fix all of the plot holes in like five minutes flat, here.)

    which would have been fucking awesome. Han, Chewbacca, and Rey: Galactic Smuggling and Salvage.

    I second this. (Though I also like Finn, Poe, and BB-8.)

    1. Did the Emperor do something telepathic-ish to find out Leia existed in ROTJ?

    2. Vader picked up that Luke had a sister during their fight. Because he'd learned telepathy since A New Hope? Because Luke was thinking really loudly? (Force = powers as the plot demands. *shrug*)

    3. Yeah, Vader did that, and it's a good point.

      Luke was probably thinking about Leia because he'd just learned that the people on Endor were walking into a trap and while he cares about all of the ones with names, Leia would be particularly on his mind since he's recently learned that she's his sister and he'd probably like the chance to get to know her as a sister which isn't going to happen if she dies because he tried to convert his father to the side of good.

      All of that said, he wasn't doing it in an interrogation setting which means that Luke probably wasn't actively trying to prevent the information from being pulled from his mind.

      Which would imply that the best way to use the force to get information from people would be to be in another room (Vader didn't need line of sight) and do it when they don't realize they're being interrogated. Have them thrown into a holding cell and listen to their thoughts as they're all, "I'm glad I managed to keep [sensitive information] a secret."

      Or let them think they're escaping in hopes of hearing, "I can't wait to get back to [location of base]."

  2. His total lack of conflict over killing swaths of the people he grew up with will persist throughout the movie.

    I was going to say that the writer(s?) didn't address this because they aren't good enough to figure out how to handle "the enemy soldiers are people" and still do a fun space adventure.

    Then it occurred to me that addressing this could've given us a very different focus for the action. Because it seems like you could swap out superweapon for mass rescue. Possibly, anyway. He was supposed to report somewhere to get his indoctrination fixed (or something like that). Could saving a bunch of other First Order soldiers with doubts from the re-indoctrination facility work as a climax?

    (Since, yeah, that really does need addressing in some manner. That is very definitely some bad writing there. :\)

    1. Then it occurred to me that addressing this could've given us a very different focus for the action. Because it seems like you could swap out superweapon for mass rescue. Possibly, anyway. He was supposed to report somewhere to get his indoctrination fixed (or something like that). Could saving a bunch of other First Order soldiers with doubts from the re-indoctrination facility work as a climax?

      This sounds like a great idea.

      Maybe it could be tied to the Force waking up, if that means a bunch of people becoming Force sensitive as Chris suggests. Presumably the indoctrination is based in part on dehumanizing everyone without a First Order uniform. However, that becomes much harder if you suddenly can sense some of their emotions. That could explain why Finn's change of heart happened so quickly. And in that case, there might be a few new Force-sensitives in the re-indoctrination center, without the First Order knowing at first. (However, in that case it needs to be made clear that everyone in re-indoctrination gets the chance to be rescued, not only the Force sensitives. They would make for a good ending shot, though, with Rey being at the head of a group of 5-10 former New Order and Resistance soldiers who all want to be trained by Luke.)

      But even without the Force element, I like that idea a lot.

  3. Chewie was wounded which led to the first time in all the time he's known Chewie that Han used Chewie's weapon.

    Oh, I think I missed that somehow. So I only remembered the time when Maz's castle is attacked, where, of course, it seems like he has used it before. Yeah, that doesn't make much sense.

    I'd like to ask a question. For a few hours now a possible change to the final confrontation is floating around in my head, but I don't know if it would make it better or worse. I'd love to hear what you guys think about it. Its actually three changes, two smaller ones for throughout the movie, and one big one at the end.

    Change 1: Finn is clearly Force sensitive and somewhere in the middle of the movie decides that he wants to receive training. Leia (or Maz) wants to send him to Luke, but as things go he wants to save Rey first.

    Change 2: Rey rejects the Jedi much stronger. She doesn't want to be one of them. Maybe there is even the implication that she received some training in the past, but something happened that made her abandon it and become scavenger on Jakku.

    Change 3: Now the big change. After Kylo Ren defeats Finn in their lightsaber duel, Rey doesn't take the lightsaber to fight him. (She does try to shoot him with her blaster rifle, perhaps.) Instead Leia arrives. Maybe she felt Han's death and knew the others needed her help, or something else, it would probably be possible to find a plausible reason for her to go there. Point is, she duels Kylo with her own lightsaber, he is outmatched but manages to flee. At the end, Rey goes to find Luke to train, because Finn is injured and unconscious and she decides to take his place.

    As I said, I'm uncertain if those would be good changes. On the one hand it kinda reduces Rey's awesomeness (by removing her lightsaber victory) and it also means that Finn gets fridged in some sense (even though he survives). On the other hand, Leia is a Jedi.