The Force Awakens has met all my expectations and confirmed all my fears.
Before I continue with my (hopefully) SPOILER-free review, let me give you my verdict: Must See.
I will begin with the visual presentation of the film. J. J. Abrams delivers with a stunning world of both props and CGI. The lightsabres’ reflections on the actor’s faces are instantly visible and incredible to look at. Nothing is left to be wanted in these gorgeous sceneries filled with details that remain undetected after the first viewing. In this regard TFA retains the magic of Star Wars. John Williams also returns to score the film’s magnificent soundtrack. However, the music often vanishes in the background and it only resurfaces to the consciousness of the viewer when it revises familiar themes. While this may be considered a good thing in most cases, it is not in William’s. His scores are always a second layer to whichever story is being told. This time around, we only got about 3 actual themes and original compositions. The rest was either background ambient noise like Snoke’s Theme or a patchwork of action cues, intermixed with musical motifs from the previous six films and the new themes and hints of Indiana Jones. In some places the music almost sounds desperate to get some time to breath. This is most likely due to the pacing of the film. The best track of the soundtrack is by far the End Credits, where Williams has the time to actually let his compositions play out in full length and achieve their desired greatness. The last tone of the end credits elicited a wonderful emotional response from me. It takes a few times to listen yourself in to the soundtrack, so do not expect to leave the theatre humming anything but the original Star Wars theme, as you won’t remember any of the new tunes. That being said, I have spent all day yesterday listening to the soundtrack and cannot get Rey’s Theme and the Resistance March out of my head anymore and I do hum them at random intervals.
I was able to see the film in proper 70mm 3D IMAX format and for the first time ever I liked the 3D aspect and it did not make me sick or give me a headache, even though I was sitting in the very first row (below the official first row).
Performance-wise all actors did incredibly well. Finn and especially Rey were marvellously portrayed. BB-8 is the cutest little thing and he fits in so well into the world of C-3PO and R2-D2. Sadly Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher do not get much to do or much screen time at all. But this film is owned by the three new heroes and Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew. We got our best Chewbacca ever and perhaps Ford’s most heartfelt performance since Regarding Henry. Whoever claimed he was emotionally disconnected from this film has been proven completely wrong.
I now discuss story and plotting without any details. Should not but could potentially spoil the experience.
The subject of the story is difficult as it is not a stand-alone film. If it was I would probably call it one of if not the best film I have ever seen. Unfortunately it is part of a series of now 7 and soon to be 9 films. And it makes no sense in this saga. Reviewers have said the film feels like the Original Trilogy. But it doesn’t just feel like the OT, it IS the old films. The plot of TFA is completely copied and pasted off the OT down to the very last plot point.
The first 15 minutes are a rearrangement of the Tantive IV scene and essentially Star Wars porn. We follow a new character in a chain of events any kid would have wanted to live through. The film even admits this by letting a character use the line “I’ve always wanted to fly one of these.” Out of the fan’s mouth and onto the big screen. The entire film is essentially a reboot of A New Hope, designed to introduce a new generation to the same experience, like Abrams’ new Star Trek films and it suffers from the same problems. It is ANH, but changed a plot point here and there, to encompass elements from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as some elements from Revenge of the Sith. While it works well in some places and fixes some scenes that were poorly designed in the original, it makes little sense, because it is history repeating itself. This is within Star Wars continuity, but the problem is that every single thing is the same even when it clearly doesn’t have to be or even shouldn’t be. It goes so far as to even straight out tell us that it is doing the same thing. For example, the X-Wing attack shown in the trailers is introduced by the pilots talking about the attack on the Death Star. And this is not the only instance of this happening.
While the film tries hard to appeal as a comedy with little funny moments, it is actually very dark. Episode IV was also dark, but this has been Revenge of the Sith’d. Furthermore, while in Episode IV the pacing helped the viewer to digest powerful dark moments, the pacing of TFA is off. One particular scene (which was completely unnecessary but was there for the sake of keeping a previous ANH plot point) ran for about a minute and changed the entire underlying landscape of the film, but was not even explained. We are still trying to figure out what just happened and the next big thing is already thrown directly into our faces. Another scene draws out far too long for dramatic effect only to take the obvious plot route we would expect. Many hints at things to come and things that had passed were thrown in, giving the familiar sense of Star Wars mythos.
The First Order is essentially Nazi Germany, which is a tad distracting at first, as one concentrates on the similarities of the two. It also opens up a plot hole, as one character knows a lot about rebel history and other galactic facts, despite living their entire life being brainwashed by the First Order. This is only one of many plot holes, conveniences and problems with the film, but to avoid spoilers I won’t discuss them here. Overall there are many occasions on which we are told what happens rather than shown, which, as every writer knows, is never good and contributes heavily to the pacing issues of the film.
While exposition is used very well through short conversations that clue us in on what happened in 30 years’ time, we have no sense of what happened when and why, or what the galactic situation is, how desperate which faction is, or who has how many resources. In my opinion, a little more exposition would have been great (which is something not often said), as right now the only way to even understand the events of the film properly, is to read all the new canon comics and books that have come out so far. I for one, am not planning on doing that.
Characters’ motivations are for the most part terribly explained or not at all. When asked why a character did a certain thing they reply “Because it was the right thing to do.” There is no bigger cliché than that.
Like in Star Trek the media strategy did not work out. While in Into Darkness fans quickly guessed John Harrison was really Khan, The Force Awakens was incredibly predictable, so much so that I knew almost every single plot point before I had sat down to see it and saw everything else coming just before it actually happened during my first viewing.
Some characters were overhyped and over-promoted, even if their roles were incredibly small and largely insignificant.
Also like in Star Trek, inexperienced characters know far too much and are capable of performing feats no one would ever think them capable of without the proper training and experience.
The new stars are incredibly loveable, but we have not spent nearly enough time with them to justify the death of the Expanded Universe.
While only hard-core fans have known and loved characters like Jacen and Jaina Solo, Mara Jade and many others, these people will no doubt be let down by the developments in this film. While the EU had some elements to it that fans criticised, they were largely reserved to apocalyptic events playing out during the same time as the film. The stories prior to this time were some of if not the most loved of all and have kept Star Wars alive in our hearts throughout the decades.
Instead of removing disliked content and retaining characters from the EU, we were presented with new characters that more or less lived the same terrible future people hated about the old EU (with less extragalactic aliens). This was a missed opportunity. I can accept not wanting to use the existing source material, but was it worth it just to copy the Original Trilogy and Revenge of the Sith? While the darkness of the Force Awakens may be dramatically appealing, it ruins the Original Trilogy. A New Hope is now a less action packed version of The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi’s happy ending is mute. Only Empire still holds up, though you might as well skip it. This film has managed to age the original films, when before they were timeless. Part of me wonders if the franchise would have been better off in George Lucas’ hands after all, or rather if he shouldn’t have done that Disney deal long ago and given us a series of Post-Return of the Jedi films with the original cast instead.
I am most worried about Episode VIII, as much depends on it. If it turns out to be an Empire Strikes Back Clone, the franchise is doomed in my eyes. Should it turn out to be a new original story that is just as engaging, we could forgive the missteps of The Force Awakens. As it stands we have a very good reboot, but a terrible sequel. I am hopeful for the future, as the story was put in different hands and J. J. Abrams no longer is at the helm. As great as his understanding of Star Wars is, we require someone with a fresh vision to step forward. Otherwise, my Star Wars will remain the old Expanded Universe. They are just stories after all and my preference is the EU.
SPOILERS for everything Star Wars to follow!
I will now discuss the film’s scenes in detail and also talk about the story and universe-building, including a comparison of the new canon to the old Expanded Universe.
What you do not get to see in the film is the new universe we now enter. Much like in the EU, the New Republic has replaced the Alliance of Rebels to Restore the Republic and has been at war with the Remnants of the Empire. However, in this new era, apparently everything happened in just one year after Episode VI. That is the establishment of the New Republic, the crushing defeat of the Empire and the eventual peace treaty between the two galactic governments. The New Republic under Supreme Chancellor Mon Mothma almost immediately demilitarised itself and only kept a small amount of ships and troops as militia and peace-keeping forces (sounds a lot like the European Union). The old crew disbands, Leia remains a general in the military, Luke goes off to train a new generation of Jedi and Han and Chewie go back to being smugglers and also try to liberate the Wookie home world from imperial control (sounds like an actually awesome version of the Holiday Special to me).
At the same time, the Empire is in disarray as it is bleeding star systems and resources to the Republic and a new Emperor gets declared all the time as everyone plots to take over and fill the power vacuum left by Palpatine. Essentially, we are talking about the Cold War Soviet Union. While the Empire tries to establish order in its own ranks and the galaxy, the right-wing extremists in the Empire leave to create their First Order (which for all intents and purposes is Nazi Germany). They are obsessed with their mythical belief in the Dark Side and its power and go to gather artefacts at the edges of the galaxy to find the source of the Dark Side, which apparently Palpatine suspected was coming from outside their own galaxy. This is interesting, as in the old EU Palpatine also sent out his forces to the edges of the galaxy, but it was explained there that he knew of the threat posed to the galaxy by the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong and strived to create the Galactic Empire to unify the galaxy against what was to come. Now we get the alternative explanation that he was looking for more power (which isn’t quite as intriguing, but does away with the Yuuzhan Vong, which many people disliked).
The mysterious First Order also becomes violent very quickly and in response to them, the Resistance is born – a left-wing terrorist organisation/ freedom fighters, funded by the New Republic that uses guerrilla war tactics to strike at the Empire and the First Order, led by Admiral Ackbar and General Leia Organa. This is where we stand in terms of possible knowledge at the beginning of the film. The rest is all foggy and we only know what we assume to be right from the Legends (= old EU), but which can’t all be true. One way of looking at it is that it is all just fan fiction, the other is that the new films are the definitive versions and that the EU is actually a collection of tales not for us the audience, but the characters in the films. No one in TFA actually knows what has happened in the past. They have vague ideas and they have heard stories and legends, but they don’t know what is true, only Han, Leia and a few others do and they are slowly letting us in on it and clearing the fog that is the fantastic misinformation of the Expanded Universe. If viewed like this, the EU still feels alive to some degree at least for a little while and anyway I like to think of it this way if I am to accept the new films at all, because they were great stories and legends all have a kernel of truth to them. In fact, the film does allude to several EU plot points and stories at times in one way or another, which I will talk about later on.
Now let me take you through the actual film and tell you why I think it is better suited as a reboot than as a continuation of the saga.
After the title crawl, we see a Star Destroyer in orbit of Jakku, the planet of the last defining battle between the Republic and the Empire. Poe Dameron is receiving vital information on how to locate the missing Luke Skywalker, the Resistance’s last hope. Before he can flee however, the village is attacked. Troop transports descend and the villagers get ready for battle. The doors open and the Stormtroopers rush out, blasters blazing. Many on both sides fall. Poe tries to get away, but his X-wing is immobilised before take-off. He gives the information to his trusted droid BB-8 and tells him to run and find help. Enter Kylo Ren, the new Darth Vader wannabe. He walks over the fallen troops and interrogates the man in charge of the villagers, then strikes him down in cold blood and tells his troops to round up the villagers and kill them all. Poe witnesses this, shoots a few Stormtroopers and is then stopped by Ren and taken prisoner by him and his Stormtroopers. Sound familiar? Yes, it is the same opening scene from Episode IV, except on Jakku instead of aboard the Tantive IV.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Rey, the young scavenger longing for her father’s return from space, who barely gets by on Jakku. She meets BB-8 and saves him from one of the other scavengers (not a Jawa, but same thing). BB-8 won’t reveal what its mission is or who it belongs to, but follows Rey, because she is a nice girl. So far we have not really seen anything new plot-wise.
Now we get to meet Finn properly. He is the first fresh thing in the film. A Stormtrooper who refused to fire at the villagers and is ready to defect from the First Order as his brainwashing has worn off. After Poe is interrogated successfully by Kylo Ren, Finn rescues him and they fly off in a Tie Fighter. Before they do, however, they take a little joy-ride in it and blast some turrets, because hey, this is cool and they don’t want to be shot down by the two only cannons on the Star Destroyer, which apparently are not shielded and can easily be destroyed by one bolt of Tie Fighter laser fire. Except they’re not the only cannons, they get tagged by missiles, do some more cool stunts and get shot down anyways. Finn parachutes out, which happens off-screen. He looks for Poe, but can’t find him in the wreckage before it sinks into the sand and then explodes.
Finn goes off into the desert in a little montage until he reaches a little scavenger outpost. There Rey refuses to sell off BB-8. Finn recognises the little droid from Poe’s description and wants to help Rey, but finds that she is far less helpless than he anticipated as she beats her attackers and then rushes him as BB-8 tells her Finn is wearing Poe’s jacket.
Finn tries to explain that he rescued Poe and pretends to be another Resistance fighter, by which Rey is very impressed as she had only imagined meeting one someday. The First Order catches wind of BB-8’s whereabouts and sends in a few TIEs. Rey and Finn run for their lives to get to a “quad-jumper”, which blows up. So instead they run for the “garbage”, also known as the Millennium Falcon. The aim of the TIEs suddenly becomes ridiculously bad and Rey and Finn manage to get in the Falcon and start it up without any danger of getting blown to bits. They fly through Jakku in a little Starfighter dog-fight, which is little more than fan-service and reminds us of the TIE-chase aboard the Falcon in A New Hope.
After disposing of the TIEs (we never learn how Rey comes to know so much about tech or how she became such a skilled pilot, having never left Jakku, having no friends or family and scavenging her entire life), the Falcon flies into open space, we get a scene reminiscent of the hilarious Falcon repair-scene from Empire Strikes back and then the ship gets caught in a tractor beam, like in A New Hope. The two smuggle themselves inside the smuggle compartments, like in ANH and Han and Chewie board the Falcon. Except they know where the smuggling compartments are and catch Rey, Finn and BB-8. We learn he is Han Solo and how awesome he is, then BB-8 gives him the message from Poe and Han gives us a little exposition as to himself being a rebel veteran and what happened over the past 30 years, explaining that Luke’s apprentice Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side and killed all the Jedi and then joined the First Order, leaving out the bit that he knew who Kylo really was before he turned. Luke then left everything behind and went into exile out of guilt and the Resistance has been fighting Kylo Ren ever since (= Obi-wan’s scene from ANH).
The scene is interrupted by something fresh, where to gangs are trying to get back their money from Solo and Rey accidentally releases a few CGI monsters which kill almost everyone before they make their escape aboard the Falcon by jumping into hyperspace from within another freighter, which makes little sense, which Rey points out and which Han confirms he thought as well, before he tried it for the first time.
Kylo Ren gets to go all berserk when he finds out BB-8 escaped and who it has joined up with and we get to see him and General Hux talk to Supreme Leader Snoke, who appears to be some sort of ancient giant, until we find out it is just a hologram. More importantly, we learn that Snoke believes this is destiny and influenced by the Force as even Han Solo, Kylo’s father is now back in the mix, even though he had gone out of the galactic conflict long ago. It is not quite as powerful, but still a strong reminder of the “I am your father” scene from Empire, which is probably why we didn’t get another with Rey in this film.
The map to Luke is incomplete and so Han decides to visit Maz Kanata, a 1000 year old Yoda-like alien with great wisdom, who happens to run a cantina and combines the ANH cantina scene with Yoda’s cave on Dagobah as Rey wanders into the cellar, where she finds Anakin’s and Luke’s old lightsabre. As she touches it, she gets a Force vision, which very briefly shows us some images from the past and possibly the future. We see something that could be the corridor on Bespin where Vader and Luke fought, Kylo Ren, killing all the Jedi with his Knights of Ren and a young Rey being abandoned by her family on Jakku, as she watches a freighter take off without her, then a brief shot of Luke in exile with R2 and a glimpse of where he is now. Maz tells her that this lightsabre had been passed down from father to father and now is passed to her and she seems to realise that it was Luke’s, but we never get 100% confirmation that she is in fact his daughter, though it seems very obvious she is. She says she wants nothing to do with this, as she is terrified and gives back the lightsabre. Han asks where Maz got the sabre and Maz answers this would be a story for another time (right, please don’t explain anything at all, that would be bad).
Both the Resistance and the First Order had been contacted by spies inside the cantina, as soon as Han had arrived. So when Finn confesses he isn’t part of the Resistance and tries to leave, Rey wanders off into the forest and the First Order shows up. But not before we don’t get our obligatory Alderaan scene. First General Hux gives a Hitler speech and gets his Heil salute. Then he orders to fire the Starkiller weapon and destroys the New Republic (or its capital, apparently Chandrilla, but maybe it was Coruscant, nothing is ever explained) in one fail swoop. Finn sees it and goes crazy. Han tells him to get down, as the TIEs fly in. There are a few bombings and Han and Chewie emerge from the rubble to kick some ass and add some comedy and distract us from the planetary annihilation of a government we didn’t even know existed and for which we do not get an explanation. Finn wants to help but says he doesn’t have a weapon. Maz hands him the lightsabre and he fights one of the Stormtroopers with it. He is not quite a Jedi warrior, but handles himself okay for his first time, knowing a few swings and moves here and there, but ends up being saved by Han. Kylo Ren arrives in the forest and takes Rey hostage, who again sent off BB-8 to escape with the map to Luke, while she holds off the stormies (yes, there are seriously two Tantive IV scenes in The Force Awaknes!). Finn, Han and Chewie get captured, but then the Resistance shows up in their X-wings, led by Poe Dameron. We get an awesome montage displaying just how over the top of a pilot Poe really is (it is almost ridiculous how well he flies). After the battle, Finn tells Han Rey had been taken captive and freaks out. Han waves him off as he has seen his son take Rey away and has much other problems to deal with. A troop transport lands in front of them and out come the Resistance fighters and their general. There is a heart-felt reunion of two people with great pain in their hearts and Han tells Leia “I saw our son.”
Rey is interrogated by Kylo Ren aboard the Starkiller (nice nod to Vader’s apprentice in the EU, who ironically was responsible for the creation of the Rebellion in the first place). But she fares much better than Poe and focuses on the Force and is able to not only defy Kylo but also find out his greatest fear: To not live up to the power of Darth Vader. This is not unlike the interrogation scene in ANH, but I wouldn’t call it copying as it does play out somewhat differently.
The Resistance meets and plans to attack Starkiller base and compare it to the tiny little Death Star from ANH. Finn provides intel instead of R2’s stolen plans and they come up with an attack plan, but need to disable the shields from the inside (much like in Return of the Jedi). Han and Leia again talk about their time on the Death Star and she tells him to get back their son, as there is still good in him and while Luke couldn’t get him back, only his father could reach him (= variant of the scene where Luke tells Leia there is good in their father from ROTJ).
Finn sees Poe and they enjoy a heartfelt reunion, which made me think it would actually be nice to see them as the first gay Star Wars couple on the big screen, but it won’t happen, as Finn is definitely in love with Rey.
Han leads Chewie and Finn in with yet another ridiculous stunt of bypassing the shields by jumping from Hyperspace into the atmosphere of the planet weapon. Duh, of course that works, why didn’t the Resistance think of that one and just jump their X-wings in there as well? While I love Han and I think he deserves to be shown as the legend he is, his new tricks are just so over the top, I can hardly believe them at all.
Anyways, Rey instantly learns how to do a Jedi mind trick and gets the Stormtrooper formerly known as Daniel Craig to free her and does her own little Death Star – I mean Starkiller – escape. Meanwhile Han, Chewie and Finn have some fun banter and then go off to hold Captain Phasma at gunpoint (who only got a few lines until then). They force her to deactivate the shields and then talk about (yes, it’s never actually shown!) throwing her into a trash compactor, where she presumably remained and died.
They encounter Rey on their way out and all seems well, but then they see the X-Wings make their attack run and see that they are failing miserably and get torn apart. So they opt for going back in and putting some explosives on the inside, like they did in the bunker on Endor in Return of the Jedi. Rey and Finn get to watch from an observation platform as Han and Chewie plant explosives around the facility. Then Kylo Ren walks in and onto a walkway in a shaft like the one where Luke and Vader faced each other on Bespin. Han remains undetected, struggles for a bit and then does the admirable but stupid thing and calls out to his son “Ben!”
Kylo Ren stops and turns around as Han approaches him. There is some cliché dialogue, Kylo takes off his mask, tells Han he is conflicted, then asks him to help him do what must be done, hands him his lightsabre. All seems well, but then Kylo doesn’t let go, turns the sabre on his father and ignites it. Solo dies and falls into the chasm as Kylo thanks him. Leia feels his death from across the galaxy in Yoda-like fashion (part of me wishes he was actually force sensitive and could return as a Force Ghost). “Noooooo!” Rey screams in Obi-Wan-like fashion, as her mentor dies as she watches helplessly from afar. Chewie goes into a frenzy, shoots Kylo Ren in his side, kills a bunch of Stormies and then sets off the explosives in his most spectacular scene yet. While I hate to see Han Solo get the Ben Kenobi/Qui-Gon Jinn/Gandalf/every mentor ever treatment, at least he died with dignity and it furthered Kylo Ren’s character development. Ren is sure to be the newest most hated character in the Star Wars universe for this transgression against the most beloved character and his father, no less. It is also interesting to see Ben Solo turn to the dark side, as in the EU, Luke’s son was named Ben Skywalker and remained good. However, Han’s son Jacen Solo was trained by Luke and did turn to the Dark Side. So this is one of those moments where you could imagine the stories got the facts wrong and Jacen was actually called Ben. Also, in the EU, Jacen had a twin sister Jaina and another brother Anakin. It would be nice to see if Anakin did exist in this version and died long ago, potentially triggering Ben’s turn to the dark side. Or perhaps Luke had the twins instead of Han and Leia and Jacen was killed by Ben and Luke sent off Jaina to protect her from Ben? What if she is actually Rey and Luke’s daughter and Ben’s cousin? If any of this comes to pass in the next films, it would give a redeeming quality to the new sequels.
The Resistance sees they got help from below and do not hesitate to think about their friends down there and unload on the base. Poe tells everyone, including his version of Biggs Darklighter (same helmet design) to fly off, as he enters a completely unnecessary trench complete with gun towers and pursuing TIE-fighters to go inside the Starkiller (like Lando and Wedge did in Return of the Jedi) and shoot the place up.
Meanwhile, Rey and Finn run into the snowy forest and find an injured Kylo Ren before them. He is bleeding heavily from the wound Chewie inflicted upon him and hits his wound several times to enrage himself. He then force pulls Rey into a tree, leaving her unconscious. He then calls out Finn and ignites his sabre. To his surprise Finn has Luke’s lightsabre and he tells him that it belongs to him. Finn tells him to come and get it and the duel begins. For someone with no force powers, Finn fights very well and even lands a small hit or two, but he eventually is struck down spectacularly by Kylo Ren, leaving the audience wondering if he died (or at least we would be wondering if they didn’t confirm him for Episode VIII in advance). The Skywalker blade flew away in a long arch and Kylo tries to force grab it. It moves a little but doesn’t seem to want to go into his palm. Having seen Kylo Ren’s immense force powers (like Force stasis), we are left to wonder why the hell he would have such troubles retrieving an inanimate object. But it does have a will of its own, apparently, as it suddenly flies towards Ren, but shoots over him and flies into the open hand of Rey, the true heir to the Skywalker legacy, as it would seem. Rey and Kylo have the most spectacular and at the same time, realistic lightsabre duel (though I would have loved more iconic background music here) that looks a lot like the Return of the Jedi duel between Luke and Vader, but even more glorious. Rey apparently has no idea what she is doing, only guided by emotions, as she is backed into a corner, but then Kylo offers to train her in the ways of the Force if she joins him (of course he does!). She hears him say the word Force and she is like Ooooh, so that’s what I’m supposed to do. Okay then! So she closes her eyes, even though they are locked in a sabre grip and lets the Force flow through her (Finn: “We’ll just use the Force!” Han: “That’s not how the Force works!”). Congratulations, Rey just graduated to strongest Jedi Master in the history of the Jedi without any training required. She kicks Kylo’s ass, but doesn’t get a chance to finish him off, because the ground splits between them, leaving them to stare at each other. She leaves him severely injured, like Obi-Wan did to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith and goes to get Finn. Chewie saves the day and carries him into the Falcon. They make their escape in old fashioned style with the other X-wings as Starkiller Base gets blown up. Before that, however, General Hux talks to Snoke’s hologram and is told to evacuate (yay, Tarkin lives!) and get Kylo Ren (RotS: “I sense Lord Vader is in danger…”). He should now be ready for the next part of his training, as he is finally and invalid.
We see Finn being treated aboard the Falcon like Luke was in Empire Strikes Back, then transported off.
Rey hugs Leia and Han’s Theme plays one sad last time as we get to say good-bye to him emotionally. Sadly there is no medal ceremony. Just grief. In a way it is fitting, as we just lost our biggest hero and our Jedi Master Skywalker is still nowhere to be found. But wait! R2-D2, who had been in low-power mode ever since Luke disappeared magically turns on again and he has the missing piece of the map. We don’t find out who created the map, why or why it was split up, how it ended up in some Resistance guy’s possession on Jakku of all places, or how any of this is possible, but let’s just go with it for a moment. We know where Luke is! We see Rey in her new Jedi-ish clothes take off in the Falcon with Chewie, BB-8 and R2, but not before kissing Finn on his forehead and hoping to see him again someday, as he was her friend. I kind of felt like he had just sacrificed himself for a girl, only for her to banish him to the friend zone, but hopefully that was just awkwardly written dialogue.
They jump to hyperspace. Roll end credits? No! We see them land too! Rey ascends the “Jedi steps” and finds Luke’s campsite. A hooded figure stands at the edge of a cliff and turns around slowly. We see a very rugged and distraught Luke take off his hood and look at Rey. She gets out his lightsabre and holds it toward him. He looks at it or her or both and he seems sad. No words are exchanged. We have no idea what is happening. They are just standing there, while some of if not the most impressive John Williams music of the entire film plays us out into the end credits. Either there was dialogue cut at the end, like “I am your father!” (which would have been perfect fan service I could have lived with), or they just put in that scene to have Mark Hamill appear in the film at all, so they could fool us with the cast roster into believing he was actually going to play a role in the film, other than being mentioned by name. In any case the last scene felt completely different to the rest of the film, especially musically and that look on Luke’s face just made you feel really bad for him and everything that has happened to the original cast’s characters over the decades and wishing for a better alternate future, like say the Expanded Universe.
The end credits roll and we get to hear the new Williams themes in their proper glory for the first time and without the cacophony of action cues used during the film itself.
The audience claps for a satisfactory Star Wars experience and I find myself conflicted by the fact that I enjoyed this film, but find myself unable to fully accept it as part of the Star Wars saga, even more so than with the prequels, which at least offered us original storylines. Mind you, my critique is not with the repetition of story themes. This is normal for Star Wars, but we got hundreds of original stories in the Expanded Universe. The Force Awakens, while a great enjoyment, is nothing more than a copy of A New Hope with bits and pieces from the other films thrown in. When you have to resort to taking every plot point from one film and clothing it in different colours, you have a problem. The originality of the script is incredibly limited and it all feels like fan fiction, unlike the actual fan fiction that was the Expanded Universe. While I often wished to rewrite the prequels in the past and still intend on doing so properly at some point, I have no desire to re-write the Force Awakens, because I am already happy to declare Star Wars: Heir to the Empire the original Episode VII.