The big thing the po-faced prequel trilogy was missing was a good witty character like Han Solo. In the early moments of The Force Awakens it looked as though the distinctly not po-faced Poe Dameron would be filling this gap but it is actually John Boyega’s FN-2187 that provides the most humour. His inability to convincingly blag it is consistently funny but it is the moment where he totally loses his cool having gained the upper hand over Captain Phasma that raises the biggest laugh. This character has all the endearing naivety of a young Luke Skywalker with none of the petulance.
2. Kylo’s Torment
Darth Vader wasn’t conflicted until the end of Return of the Jedi which made him more badass but Kylo Ren is a bag of unpredictable neuroses which makes him more dangerous. It was his refusal to kill his son that eventually brought Vader back to the light but Ren is able to conclusively sever his family ties in a way his grandfather couldn’t. Redemption seems quite far away at this stage; he’s got it all to do. His little tantrums are frightening as well even if they do lead to an amusing little moment.
3. Kylo’s Lightsaber
Some of the fan’s got their nerdy knickers in a twist when Kylo Ren’s lightsaber was revealed in the first trailer and I have to admit I thought it was an unnecessary modification of a classic design. The need to go one better is totally a part of Kylo Ren’s character though and the triple blades work in the film. The way he uses it in battle with Finn is interesting too; pushing the cross guard into his shoulder.
Also, I’ve wondered for years what would happen if you ignited your lightsaber with someone in the way and now I’ve seen it.
4. The Falcon Flies Again
More exciting than seeing several main characters returning thirty years later (not quite such a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away now then) is seeing the Millennium Falcon once again. (Although the older Han Solo is excellent, way better than the older Indiana Jones.) As soon as they refer to an off screen spacecraft as being garbage you begin to hope that signals Falcon time and sure enough it does. The old bird looks brilliant swooping and twisting its way around sand dunes, the carcasses of ships, trees and mountains. I like the fact that we see the Falcon in action before we see Han and Chewie and I particularly like they way they say it hasn’t flown in years as though it has been sitting there waiting for us as the audience to return.
5. The Trenches
There is much in the film that nods back to the original, once the dust has settled and I’ve calmed down I may actually think too much. I felt it was a flaw in Jurassic World that it so closely followed the beats of the first film but with The Force Awakens I lapped it up. I really loved the way the Star Destroyer flew in right at the start only from a different angle to before. More than that I loved the raid on the big floating space gun (that’s no moon, that’s no space station either, it’s a tooled up planet). Nothing is too big to be brought down by a fleet of X-Wings though. You’d think the evil regimes would cotton on to the fact that those defence shields are not quite the guarantee of protection they are sold as. Of course as the fighters approach the weak spot they have to sail down a trench and it is fleeting but glorious.
6. The Beautiful Feminist Moment
Clearly part of Finn’s programming was to be chivalrous because he just can’t help doing it. Despite seeing that Rey is quite capable of handling herself he still feels the need to lead her by the hand when they are running for their lives. It is nice that she calls him out on this but then the point is rounded off perfectly when he falls to the floor and she offers him her hand.
7. Han’s Death
Harrison Ford was the last of the original trio to sign on for the film and I bet this is how they persuaded him. Apparently he wanted to be killed off in Return of the Jedi but they were having none of it back then. It seems this time he may have made it a condition.
In the end the guy who looked out for number one when we met him sacrificed himself for someone else. He knew there was a chance that Kylo Ren would take him down if he went out on that bridge and if he was going to then perhaps he had nothing to live for anyway. Maybe guilt will be the key to Ren’s salvation and maybe Han suspected that and was willing to risk his life just on the chance. Like Ben Kenobi before him he fell in order to save the day knowing that he would be more powerful than his opponent would ever imagine. Not as a force ghost but as a memory.
8. R2D2’s Strop
So basically R2D2 is just having a massive strop. Master Luke has gone and even though he’s got a fair idea where he isn’t telling anyone or even talking to anyone. Luke clearly planted that map in his database saying if anyone needed him that’s where he was heading but R2 was like ‘No, I’m keeping shtum. If you leave me here with your sister and that annoying gold robot I’m not helping you out. In fact I will take the most important part of the directions and hide them somewhere. Then you’ll be stuck in that derelict island temple forever.‘ R2D2 has always been temperamental and hell hath no fury like a droid scorned.
9. Luke’s Look
The only other explanation is that Luke Skywalker is being a dick. So one of his protege turned evil, it’s not like that’s never happened to anyone else. What’s he doing? Running away? Hiding? The universe is going to pot in his absence, malevolence is on the rise, people are dying but Luke has somewhere else he needs to be. Mind you, self exile does appear to be the Jedi way.
Either way, doesn’t he look cool? It’s all he has to do in this movie, just stand there looking cool but he does it well. The flowing grey hair, the intense stare, the metal hand. It’s evidently enough to give him second billing in the credits.
10. No references to the prequel trilogy at all
You do not need to have seen Episodes I, II and III to understand this film, we can happily do without them and now it is as though they never happened. They might not even be canon. They are to Star Wars as Dogtanion and the Three Muskehounds is to The Three Musketeers; a bit of fun for kids that takes nothing away from the original classic.
Finally we have a new Star Wars film that is a proper adventure with heroes we can root for and villains that interest us. It is a Star Wars movie that is far more focussed on what a crowd of people can get from sitting in a cinema and less on what a few special effects artists can get from sitting at a computer. In two words: we’re home.