My plan all along was to see the three original Star Wars films (New Hope, Empire Strike, Jedi Return) in advance of seeing the brand new Star Wars film (Force Awakens!), and I have officially kept that promise. R and I saw it last night at a small movie theater in Hudson, NY which happens to be the town where we were married. It will now be know as the town where R and I stayed married.
I will try to provide a succinct recap of the movie here, but my feelings are far from succinct. I loved this movie. I threw my hands up in the air twice. I cheered five times. I cried a number of times that is more than two but less than five. Here are all the SPOILER FILLED details, according to me.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*
*this movie is too important to give a dumb fake title
Some things to know right off the bat:
- This movie is brought to you by the combined team of people who also brought you Star Wars V, Star Wars VI, Felicity, Indiana Jones, The BodyGuard, The Big Chill, LOST, Alias, Little Miss Sunshine, and Toy Story 3. It shows.
- BB-8 is a real. working. robot. It also shows.
- The whole British accent/American accent remains a confusing issue in this galaxy still far, far away. This time Ray (main new girl/Luke 2.0) has an English accent but Fin (main new boy, Storm Trooper quitter) does not even though they both have English accents in real life. Moving forward I will stop thinking about this.
- 75% of the cast of Ex Machina is featured in this movie.
- Kylo doesn’t have a Darth-style music cue so I can only assume he is not as powerful as Darth.
- Do you have to see the original Star Wars to appreciate this Star Wars? I’m torn. The story will make sense, but all the magic, excitement and reveals will be lost on you as will the feat of making a movie in 2015 that so honors what was invented way back in the ’70s. I say watch them all because it’s the right thing to do. Or, rather, the light thing to do. (that’s for us superfans).
Same galaxy, thirty years later. Same bad guys, new name (The First Order). Same confusion about who is in charge of the bad guys (Kylo Ren aka Darth 3.0 or General Hux aka good guy from Ex Machina?). Same good guys, same name, new leader (Rebels/Rebellion, GENERAL Leia Organa. J.J. Abrams was hip to the last name miss). Massive new mission: FIND LUKE SKYWALKER.
This Movie Is About Four Things
- Finding Luke Skywalker (who went missing because he’s really upset about something that happened with Leia + Han that I don’t want to reveal yet)
- Informing Rey (as in ray as in of light as in light side?? Lawrence you genius…) that she has the force
- Trying to convert Kylo Ren (easily the new best Star Wars name, sorry Lando) back to the light side (many people involved here. Can’t give it away yet. Will say it has something to do with the missing Luke…)
- Stopping The First Order from blowing up essentially the entire universe (why, I don’t know? It really seems like there are enough planets, nay, galaxies, for The First Order and The Rebellion to live peacefully, but then, the Middle East, so…)
We start on a planet called Jakku. Po (aka bad guy from Ex Machina) – the (current) best pilot in the galaxy – is given a droid (BB-8) containing a map to the location where a super upset Luke Skywalker is hiding out. His task is to get that droid + map to GENERAL Leia Organa so she can find Luke. Unfortunately/predictably The First Order (which I’m just going to call The Empire from now on) raids the planet and captures Po. Luckily/predictably, BB-8 escapes.
Rey No-Last-Name (yet..) – a scavenger without a family living on this same, sand-based planet planet – discovers BB-8 and is annoyed with him at first (just like Luke!!!).
Meanwhile back on whatever they’re calling the current Death Star, Kylo Ren (aka new Darth) is trying to Bad Jedi the information about the droid from the captured Po. He succeeds, but then a disgruntled Storm Trooper (Fin) with a strong moral compass defects from the troop and saves Po. Po tells him they have to find BB-8 and describes the droid aka Po is about to die. They crash on Jakku and Po doesn’t survive (do I know movies??) leaving Fin to find the droid…and with it, Rey!!!
Rey assumes Fin is part of the rebellion, and Fin doesn’t exactly correct her. A similar device is used in the plot of 75% of romantic comedies, so now I am positively twitching at the prospect of Rey + Fin going full Han + Leia.
Rey/Fin/BB need to escape Jakku because The New Order is a ‘comin. Fin suggests using a ship we don’t see in the distance; Rey says it’s a piece of junk. But when her intended ship gets blown up she says the piece of junk will do.
Then the camera pans and the heavens open and angels sing a beautiful song because IT’S THE MILLENNIUM FALCON YOU GUYS (first time I cried).
Rey/Fin/BB masterfully escape the Empire on the Falcon because Rey turns out to be a genius pilot/electrician/crisis manager (just like Han) and Fin is a sharp shooter (like no one, but some things need to be original). Unfortunately/fortunately they don’t get far before the Falcon breaks down, then they’re sucked into a big freighter ship THAT IS BEING PILOTED BY HAN AND CHEWIE (first time I cheered). Han looks…fine. Chewie looks better than ever. It now dawns on me that he’s been carrying a side-slung saddle bag for 3.1 movies and I wonder if he is A. carrying something important or B. transgender. These are equally exciting prospects.
Anyway we learn that Han is back to the smuggling business because he left the rebellion owing to some personal issues (so help him if he walked out on Leia…). Rey/Fin/BB help him fight off some bad guys trying to steal the killer octopi he has on board and they all escape on the Falcon, but not before the bad guys inform the Empire that Han/Rey/Fin are together.
Now seems like a good time to tell you that Rey is perfect. She is strong, smart, capable, thoughtful, and well-dressed. My only complaint is that she’s forced to rock ’90s prom hair for the entire movie (those tendrils…oy), but there weren’t exactly female fashion role models on Jakku so we’ll let it go.
Back at Empire Base the new emperor Snoke (aka Supreme Leader w/ not scary name) drops a major bomb on Kylo Ren, but mostly us. He tells him that in order to go fully dark side he needs to kill his father…HAN SOLO.
A few things:
- Han + Leia had a baby (+++++) that has The Force (+++++) but turned dark (???—-)?! I say this very thing out loud to R. He says, “seems that way,” but means, “stop talking right now and do not start again.”
- Kylo has to kill Han? But Leia has The Force? Wouldn’t he have to overcome his mother not his father? Or at least his uncle (Luke)? I suspect mom murder is just too much for Star Wars but I’m going to call BS on Snoke being so so evil.
- I’m sorry but Snoke is just too big. I know he’s a projection and that there’s probably a lot more to it, but it was too 3.0 for me. Also where did he come from? Is he the old Emperor’s cousin/brother/son?
- And again the Empire needs to get their power structure in place. We’ve got this non-Force guy (Ex Machina guy) and Kylo running things together/separately but now with the added confusion of a female Darth (Captain Phasma – whose name I had to IMDB to find) running what seems like security? All unclear.
Meanwhile Han takes Rey/Fin + Co. to a really beautiful green planet where an important/wise woman named Maz runs a Cantina 2.0 (Maz is CGI Lupita N’yongo but also kind of an older, black Edna from The Incredibles). Here Fin finally confesses to Rey that he’s ex trooper, and Rey doesn’t flip out because this isn’t a rom/com and she loves him just that deeply.
More importantly (and you know how important that must be), Rey hears sounds in the basement of Maz’s restauraunt and finds LUKE’S FLASHLIGHT (which I will now call a light saber because I am true fan). This prompts her to have a vision of her past. We see a Darth-like figure leave her somewhere? Or take her away? All unclear, but Maz comes and tells her that she has The Force, which we all knew because why else is she in this movie, but it was still a powerful moment. She doesn’t want to believe it (not sure why. She was obsessed with the idea of Luke) so she runs away, but Kylo Ren captures her and decides he can bad force the map of Luke out of her mind so he leaves BB-8 (who has the actual map) and takes Rey on board. Fin sees this go down and decides he’s back in the game to save her (meanwhile if he had never left the game she might not need saving, but he is so charming we’ll just let it go). Also, Fin takes Luke’s light saber, which is good instinct on his part.
Now we have a few things tracking:
- We’ve got to get Rey back from Kylo
- We’ve got to get the map to Luke back to the Rebellion (aka Leia)
- We’ve got to stop the Empire from blowing up everything. In the Maz-land mess we learned that the Empire has the biggest gun in the world and is going to use it to destroy everything.
Luckily the Rebellion is already on the case. They heard about the fight in Maz-land and have come to the rescue. AND BY THEY I MEAN GENERAL LEIA ORGANA aka Han’s ex wife (if there is marriage in Star Wars and if things between Han + Leia were so bad as to warrant a divorce? I suspect they just consciously uncoupled when therapy stopped working).
Han finally sees Leia (I cheered and cried for the second time) and tells her that he saw their son on Maz-land. I almost cry again but keep it together. Leia says there is still good in him and that Han can convince him to come to the light side – so now we know that’s going to happen in the rapidly approaching 3rd act. They also reference that the reason Luke ran away is because he couldn’t live with himself for Kylo going dark. I guess Luke was training him? Sounds like a real mess and a great Netflix series.
Anyway, BB-8 shows the map to everyone, but it’s incomplete. I think someone says, “maybe R2-D2 has the rest of it?” but someone else says, “no way, and also he’s been sleeping for 30 years.” So in other words: R2 has the rest of it. No time for that now because we have to take care of the other bullet points first.
In some great news we find out that Po is still alive and is now tasked with blowing up the Death Star (for what will be the third time in Star Wars history). Here’s the plan:
- Han/Fin/BB-8 board New Death Star (long story, but they use the hyper speed function on the Falcon that Rey restored like. a. boss.). They have two objectives:
- Disable the shield protecting the D Star (again) before the killer gun fully charges from the sun.
- Find Rey.
- Po + Co. are prepped to fly in and bomb the F out of the Star once the shield is disabled. This is exactly the same plot as both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, but I’m not mad at it.
It’s finally time for Rey to discover that she has the force because we don’t have much time left and she obviously needs to fight Kylo Ren (who is maybe her brother? seems too similar even for this movie. I suspect he is her cousin, but we’ll get to that). She does so quickly and without any training, which now leads me to believe she is Yoda reincarnate. Good for him coming back is a really hot British girl. He deserves that.
Fun note: there is a scene where Rey Jedi mind tricks a Storm Trooper into releasing her from chains. That Storm Trooper is Daniel Craig because he wanted to be in the movie teaching us all the important lesson in what you can have when you’re famous as hell.
Han/Fin/Chewie hatch a plan to disable the shield. It involves convincing that female Darth with way too much security clearance to just do it for them. What a wuss. She is a distant fourth to 1. Rey 2. Leia 3. Maz in terms of female characters in this movie. 5th if we’re counting Chewie, but that’s still TBD.
Fin runs off to find Rey leaving Han + Chewie to further mess up the D Star using the explosive Chew is carrying IN THIS PURSE! Three movies with this purse and it finally pays off. That is some long tail storytelling. The minute Han gives Chewie the detonator for this bombs I want to start crying. I now know Han’s fate.
Sure enough in what has to be the most beautiful homage scene in this movie (the bridge, the light saber, the light + dark, the father + son) Han meets Kylo whose real name is – wait for it – BEN (didn’t cry all the way). Han tries to convince Kylo to come back to the light but this is a space opera not an episode of Modern Family; Kylo/Ben is too far gone. He light sabers his own father throwing him off the bridge and sending Chewie and me into hysterics. We cut to Leia on the Rebellion ship. She knows in her heart what has happened. I cry harder.
Through my tears I see that Rey has watched this all go down, so now it’s really time for her to fight Kylo. She and Fin run to do so in a gorgeous snowy scene that is very Game Of Thrones inspired. Fin goes down (of course), but Rey fights on, mustering all her self-taught force skills just as Po and Co. are attacking the Death Star forcing it to implode. Rey holds off Benji (that’s what Leia would call him) and then my heart jumps out of my chest when I see that a mourning Chewie has come in the Falcon to take Rey + a very hurt Fin away. Ugh that was a tough ten minutes. I completely forgot that I had to go to the bathroom for the past hour and a half.
Back on the Leia ship everyone is incredibly sad, but there’s still one more plot point to brighten their mood and mine. R2 magically comes back to life (perhaps he was awaiting to awaken when the force did the same…in Rey? Chills…). He does have the rest of the map (so somebody promote that Rebellion guy who called it) and after a Rey + Leia hug that could warm an entire galaxy, Rey is off with Chewie + BB to find Luke. BUT FIRST, she must say goodbye to Fin who is still at the infirmary. She comes so close to Sleeping Beauty-kissing him awake with the power of her force/love, but instead whispers “I’ll be back” in his ear. At first I was disappointed, but then I was so grateful. This is not a love story. It is a tale of good vs. evil with a strong lens of female empowerment. No one kisses in this entire movie, and the girl still saves the day. This is progress.
The final moments of the film feature Rey climbing the world’s tallest hill to find Luke. His back is to her, but he knows she is there, and I suspect he knew she was coming. They say nothing because they’re saying it all with their Jedi minds. With outstretched arm she offers his light saber – his connection to his past, her entry to her future, and my third and final tear trigger of this masterful movie.
I will not post a photo of this moment because it is too special for the Internet. You’ll just have to go see it yourself.
Who is Rey? Luke’s daughter? Obi’s grandaughter? Yoda 3.0? Will Luke come back? Will Ben try to kill Leia?! Will we ever find out with Snoke is so big? And will the dumb Empire actually build another Death Star?
I have no idea when we’ll find out, but I’ll be there, tissues ready.