Star Wars: A Little Late to the Party

Part of the problem with running a blog at the expense of your free time, and not getting paid to do it, is that it’s hard to be timely. Everyone and their mother had done a spoiler discussion for The Force Awakens already, but here we two months later finally getting around to our version. Do we add anything that you haven’t heard before? Maybe not, but we had fun doing it so hopefully you have fun reading it.

Jesse: Allow me to channel my internet troll persona for just a moment. Ahem… WHAT THE HELL MAN?!! I waited ten years for a new Star Wars movie and that’s the BEST they could do? Nothing original, shamelessly ripping off the originals, and hardly any substance. Tell me what the hell was the point of making this movie and why I shouldn’t go egg J.J. Abrams’ house RIGHT NOW.

Kevin: Sorry bud, its all about the $$$. We let the idea of “originality” in Star Wars go after Episode I, when we all turned our backs on Podracing and Jar Jar Binks. There’s no room for that anymore. Disney doesn’t eff around. They hand the reins to J.J. and they say, “Lightsabers, explosions and a bad guy in a mask, go.” So you might be upset but would you rather have a modern day near remake of one of your favorite movies or a modern day butchering of your childhood? Pick your poison and be excited that a damn entertaining and accessible Star Wars movie exists.

Okay but really more than money, the point was…well more money! Think of this movie as the tee on a golf course. And think of the Star Wars universe as a whole as the golf ball on that tee. And I guess that makes J.J. Abrams the golfer and Disney the caddy? Sorry, let me refocus. This movie is like a soft reset while also being a universe launcher at the same time. They took all the good from the originals (action, romance, sci-fi, mystery, Han Solo) and took away some of the bad (lack of diversity and uh…outdated?) and wrapped it nicely with some flare lens, wonderful new characters and lots of nostalgia. And now that the golf ball has been hit the best is, hopefully, yet to come.

Since we are on the topic of film making rather than the film itself, let me throw you a big question. We all know that George Lucas’ has a…complicated history with his fans. And at this point it seems obvious that the prequels were his vision, without much worry about Star Wars fans right? Meanwhile J.J. Abrams gave us, for the most part, what we wanted. As far as an entertainment product goes, J.J. did it right and Lucas did it wrong. But does it bother you at all that this movie, most likely, did not fall into what Lucas’ envisioned? Or are you just thrilled he didn’t have the chance to “screw it up” again? Basically, what’s more important to you, the entertainment value of the audience or the artist telling his story the way he envisions it?

Jesse: Well I’ve seen The Force Awakens twice and have already pre-ordered the blu-ray, so Disney has already raked in its fair share of money from me. Point taken. The Lucas topic is a bit touchy, only because I don’t particularly enjoy railing on the guy when he’s already been shat on by pretty much every Star Wars fan from this galaxy to the next. After all, this was his creation. Without Lucas, there’s no dark side, no Yoda and no Mos Eisley band playing the same song over and over. However, I was relieved as anybody that Lucas had nothing to do with the new movie, and here’s why.

I liken the trajectory of the Star Wars franchise under Lucas to a coach winning the Super Bowl in his first year as the head coach. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant and fans and media pundits alike are kissing the ground he walks on. He wins a second straight Super Bowl in even more dominant fashion, and at this point he’s untouchable. The third season goes pretty well, albeit somewhat disappointing. His team makes the playoffs and bows out rather meekly, but no one cares because they are still delirious from the other two championships. Then changes are made during the offseason. The coach clashes with the general manager to the point that it’s obvious that they can’t co-exist, but does the owner risk alienating and losing his coach, the guy who led his franchise to unbounded success and is still the darling of the league? Hell no. The owner fires the general manager and hands over complete control of personnel to the head coach.

The problem is that there isn’t a system of checks and balances in place anymore. There’s no one to challenge the coach on his decisions and no one to overrule him on any changes he wants to make to the team. If he wants to run a certain system even though the players on the roster fit another system much better, that’s the way it’s going to be. The fourth season is an unmitigated disaster, mainly because the coach is adamant that he knows best and is running the team with no filter. The fifth season is even worse. Fans are in denial. How can this be the same guy who did so many things right before? The sixth season sees some improvement, but not so much because of the coach and more because of a few fan favorites who were around during the glory years. These veterans salvage the season, but can’t deliver another championship on their own. Then the coach starts changing his tune about what he thinks of the two Super Bowls in an attempt to revise history so that it falls in line with what he wants. Now the fans are pissed. Not only has this guy become a colossal failure since he gained all the power, but now he’s trying to tarnish those first few seasons? Screw him, he has to go.

The original Star Wars movies where a collaborative effort between Lucas and his writers and directors, but for the prequels he pretty much did everything on his own. We saw how well that turned out. Then there were the questionable changes and alterations he made on subsequent releases of the originals. It was clear that this guy was out of touch. I respect him for creating a franchise that has such a high sentimental value to me, but sometimes you just need some new blood. Maybe Abrams delivered a movie that was a bit too familiar, but at least I’m excited about where this new trilogy could be heading. I can’t say that I’d feel that way if Lucas was still the captain of the ship.

As a guy who had grown weary of the relentless hysteria surrounding this movie well-before it was even released, have you bought into the hype now that you’ve seen it? Or are you just relieved that it was entertaining so that you didn’t have to loathe it for being so overhyped?

Kevin: First of all, let me be clear, the movie was good but I did not go buy a R2D2 butter knife. Second, let me translate your question for you, “As a party-pooper, how does it feel to be wrong?”. And now, let me defend myself. Prior to the movie’s release I was suffering from PTSD due to Jar Jar Binks okay?

Jar Jar Binks was solely created as a marketing tool. His entire existence comes down to, what I imagine, an executive in an ill fitting suit demanding toys to rake in the cash. He was so goofy, annoying, strange and useless that the only people who could truly love him are kids. Well that didn’t work out so great did it?

In my previous rant about the hype surrounding the franchise I wrote about how I was just a fan because my dad was a fan. Fitting for such a patriarchal franchise right? But what I realize now is that my dad’s generation got R2D2, the force and action. My generation got Jar Jar, midichlorians and soliloquies about sand.

In fact there are now three generations of fans. Which makes us the middle child of Star Wars fans. Not as great as the first time, not as cool and hip as the youngest and just best if forgotten about.

So we became distant and agitated. We started glorifying the good old days and longing to be apart of them. Basically we became Kylo Ren. We are trying to respect our elders but also look cool to the kids. We are trying to fit in, trying to find our place in history and trying to figure out how to be respected. And in Kylo-esque fashion, I lashed out against the new franchise.

Did J.J. Abrams seriously represent an entire generation of disappointed millenial fans as Kylo Ren? Does Kylo Ren represent people like me who were prepared to hate on the new trilogy because we are bitter about our childhood? Am I crazy here?

If I am crazy then feel free to ignore my questions and go ahead and answer me who you are shipping. Rey and Poe or Rey and Finn and does it matter?

Jesse: I don’t think it’s an accident that Kylo Ren evokes feelings of bitterness or anger about previous Star Wars films, both for the story and for the audience. One of his lines in the movie is literally, “I will finish what you started.” You can take that as Kylo’s own personal mission to complete the work of his grandfather Darth Vader or Abrams’ promise to the fans that, “We know the prequels sucked. Here is this humorless, borderline-emo character to remind you that we understand how you feel and that we won’t make the same mistakes.” So no, you’re not crazy.

(On a side note, it’s quite refreshing to have a villain who is basically a complete douche but is tempted to do good rather than a nice guy who is convinced to be evil.)

So after googling what “shipping” meant and asking you to explain it to me, I decided I’m not a fan of either of those couples. Rey and Finn just seems too obvious but is probably the more likely of the two. Finn already asked if she had a boyfriend and laid a hilariously cheesy line on her: “You looked at me like no one else has.” Then again, maybe I’m just jaded. It may be a cliche romance, but this is Star Wars we are talking about. It’s foundation is rooted in cliches. As for Rey and Poe, I don’t like it because it would create a love triangle between these people and lord knows we got enough of that in the original trilogy. Granted, Rey is the first competent female character that Star Wars has given us in over 30 years, so it’s not surprising that guys would go crazy over her.

Alright, time to address the elephant in the room. Han Solo. How did his death make you feel and was it a good decision to kill him off?

Kevin: You didn’t ask but I will still tell. I’m all about Rey-Finn. I’m all in.

But onto your question. I was sitting there watching Han Solo speak with his son. I knew this was it for him. Everyone did. Going into the film I didn’t think I would care if someone had died. But during that scene, I was totally into it and devastated by the conclusion. (My wife on the other hand made some witty remark while stuffing some chocolate covered cookie dough in her mouth, which might have received a glare from me. I have feelings woman!)

Seriously though, maybe it’s because Han Solo is the shit. Or maybe it’s because he was such a central part of this great movie. I mean, here was Han Solo again saving these clueless kids and helping them on their journey. He tries to be heartless and rogue but he can’t help but get involved. I mean, did you see how he looked at Rey when she said she has never seen so much green? How can you not love the guy?

Chewbacca on the other hand, eh, I’m over him and I was secretly kinda wishing he was the one who would die. Is that a #UnpopularOpinion? I’m not sure but it’s how I feel.

Harrison Ford gave the film a big feel to it. I mean, we all knew Luke and Leia would be back, but Han Solo? I never thought I would see the day. A lot of people are mumbling that it was a mercy kill to free Harrison Ford from working on the future films. I have no idea how true that is. Either way, if there isn’t a Han Solo hologram or vision or something in the future films it will be a damn shame.

Alright you gave me an easy one so I will send another one your way. What was your favorite moment of the film and why is it not the shit eating grin that Finn and Han shared over throwing Captain Phasma in the trash compactor? Because it should totally be that moment but I know you’re going to disappoint me.

Jesse: While that may not be my favorite moment (sorry man), it is one example of why the Han and Finn pairing was pure gold. They just clicked so well together. Whether it was Han trying to teach him about the power of female intuition (“Women always figure out the truth. Always.”) or lecturing him over his cluelessness concerning the Force (“That’s not how the Force works!”), I just couldn’t get enough of these two. I would totally be down for a spin-off featuring Han and Finn doing nothing but getting into hairy situations and bantering back and forth, and it kills me to know that we’ll never get that.

Which brings me to my favorite moment. I’m going to cheat and give you a few.

  1. Han’s Death – To say this is a favorite moment is a bad way to describe it, because like you said it was devastating. However, when I think of The Force Awakens, this is one of the scenes that always jumps out at me. There’s an emotional punch here that surpasses any other moment in the movie, and in my opinion this hit harder than even Obi Wan’s death. Han was a fan favorite who was trying to redeem his son, so the fact that he died at “Ben’s” blade is just excruciatingly painful. I also believe that Han’s death raises the stakes for future installments.
  2. Rey’s Visions – We don’t really get a lot of information regarding how things went so wrong for Luke since we last saw him. The same can be said for Rey’s backstory, where hardly any light is shed. I think that’s why I loved the disturbing visions that Rey experienced after she grabbed Luke’s lightsaber. It’s not real clear what’s happening during these visions, but it laid the foundation of a promise of things to come. Rey will obviously have a lot to do with that and as we see at the end, Luke will have the opportunity to take her under his wing and finally try to make things right. Plus, if you listen carefully, you can hear Yoda and Obi-Wan talking during this scene.
  3. Finn vs. Kylo – I know. You’d think I’d prefer the battle between Rey and Kylo, where she taps into the Force for the first time and gets the best of him. However, I think it’s Finn who shows the most character here, as he knows that Kylo is probably going to whoop his ass but Finn fights him anyway because he wants to protect his friend (“That lightsaber belongs to me!”/”Come and get it!”). It’s the culmination of a wonderful character arc for a guy who for the first time in his life finds something to fight for. Maybe there’s something to that Rey and Finn romance after all…

If anything we’ve mentioned isn’t your favorite moment, I’d love to know what it is. Otherwise, two of the biggest questions surrounding The Force Awakens are who are Rey’s parents and who the heck is Supreme Leader Snoke? So naturally I’m going to sidestep those and pass them off to you. Enjoy!

Kevin: I actually tried to bring this question up to my wife.

“So is there anyway that Luke isn’t Rey’s dad?”

“Nope.”

“But what if…”

“Nope.”

So I haven’t really been able to bounce ideas off of anyone yet. While I love the idea of Luke being her father I also hate how obvious it seems to be. To make myself feel better I’m going to try my best to make a counter argument.

There are two moments that stick out. I spent a good 5 minutes looking for pictures of both online but apparently J.J. Abrams paid off Google to delete any trace. The moments I am talking about are when Rey mentioned she had never seen so much green to Han and he looked at her like his puppy died. And the other is the embrace Leia and her had near the end of the movie. Both of those moments felt like some deep parental bonding moments. Then again if she is Luke’s daughter that would make her Leia and Han’s niece so maybe they were just deep uncle/aunt bonding moments.

Really, I got nothing. I simultaneously want her to be Luke’s daughter and to be shocked. But that’s not gonna happen.

Besides that I’m not well versed enough in Star Wars lore to even know if Jedi’s can have kids. Well I guess they can right? Are there any little Yodas running around? I have no clue.

As for…Snoke, well I am even more puzzled on that. The rest of the movie was so damn good I didn’t want to waste precious moments looking at this…projection of a bad guy. Seriously though, between him and the short haired nazi guy there were too many bad guys I didn’t care about. I’m sure they’ll be important later but for now I say thumbs down.

Okay so we know two things about J.J. Abrams, he’s not directing the next Star Wars and when he leaves projects things usually get worse. I.E. post season 2 of Lost and the latest Beastie Boys music video Star Trek trailer. So should we be panicked?

Jesse: Much like you, I hate the idea of Rey being Luke’s daughter. Not the idea itself, but like you said it’s just too obvious. I would hope they would have something more surprising planned for their main protagonist. Maybe she’s Obi-Wan’s granddaughter? Or she is the offspring of people we haven’t met yet. Now we’re talking!

The departure of Abrams is not as concerning as it seems on the surface. Part of the reason is that he’s still involved creatively with what’s going to happen in episodes 8 and 9, so he’s not leaving entirely, but here’s why you shouldn’t be panicked at all and instead should be eagerly anticipating the next Star Wars movie: Rian Johnson.

Johnson is a terrific, uniquely tuned director. His resume includes the detective thriller Brick, the amusing caper The Brothers Bloom, the outstanding sci-fi/time travel film Looper and perhaps the single greatest episode of possibly the best TV show ever, “Ozymandias” of Breaking Bad. The dude knows what the hell he’s doing behind the camera. Looper in particular gives me great confidence that Johnson will be right at home in the Star Wars universe. And as I mentioned, Abrams collaborated with Johnson on where the story should go in episode 8. Here you have two great directors working together to create the most satisfying and innovative sequel possible. If there’s anything I would be upset about, it’s that we have to wait until December 2017 to see what they came up with.

Where do you want to see the trilogy go from here? Or where do you think it will go? Will there be some crippling revelations and bad times in store for the good guys, a la Empire Strikes Back, or are Johnson and Disney going to take a chance and give us something we haven’t seen before?

Kevin: It’s tough to say where the trilogy is going from here. Don’t forget they are also making some spin off movies like Rogue One. My initial thought was that the trilogy would continue to be safe and feel similar to the original trilogy and the spin offs would be used to take chances.

But while The Force Awakens was a massive success it has received criticism for being so similar to A New Hope. So now I’m thinking they are feeling pressure to switch things up a bit. Then again there is 0.001% chance we don’t get a Luke telling Rey he is her father scene right?

As for where I want it to go…I’m going to let you handle that question because you are much more in tune to Star Wars lore.

Jesse: Gee, thanks.

Both the original trilogy and the prequels both revolved around the Skywalkers and their struggle to resist the dark side of the Force. Family drama ensued, characters fell from grace and were ultimately redeemed. We’ve already seen Kylo Ren flip the script on that storyline to a degree, but I want more. If Rey is a Skywalker too (0.001% she isn’t, right?) then odds are we’re going to see her try and walk the line between good and evil too.

It’s always intriguing to see, but at a certain point it just becomes more of the same. Give us something different. What that entails, I’m not sure. I’ll let Abrams and Johnson figure that out.

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