We were going to watch the newly delivered Preciousss (Rogue One), but my partner, let’s call him He Judges, finally decided he wanted to rewatch The Force Awakens (that I’d been suggesting rewatching for months). It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine here, thank you — how are you? We’ll watch Rogue One tonight. And many more times thereafter.
Look, I’m one of those people who’s not over the prequels. I hold a grudge. I am Tim. So TFA was a big deal; I avoided any information about it for as long as possible before seeing it for the first time, and I can forgive huge amounts of the call-backs/rehashes of elements from the original trilogy. And oh, that cast ❤
An admission: the first time I saw TFA, I was actually (whisper it) a little disappointed when Han and Chewie showed up. I was having so much fun with the new kids: (Poe Dameron is like my mental image of Wes Janson from all the X Wing novels come to life), that chase through the crashed Star Destroyer (it’s a CRASHED STAR DESTROYER), the Falcon, the sheer supportive, lovely enthusiasm of Rey and Finn working together!
Don’t worry, I got over that (the disappointment, not the enjoyment of the rest), though I could probably still do without the rathtars…
I used to watch and rewatch my VHS copies of the original trilogy (who didn’t, right?) and I knew that I could always rewatch them because I’d always spot something new in the background, or realise a new significance in a look or a bit of dialogue. It still feels true when I watch them now, even if I’m just spotting a detail that I’d previously forgotten about. So it was to my great joy that a rewatch of TFA produced the same feeling.
Oddly, one of the big revelations for me on this viewing, was how successfully it achieves what George Lucas was trying to do with the 1990s re-releases. All those CGI beasties that suddenly appeared in the background, or in panning shots of the landscapes of Tatooine (stormtroopers riding dewbacks, herds of bantha, that sort of thing), they’re there in TFA, but they’re models (more like the original worrt outside Jabba’s palace), and they fit into their landscape so much more comfortably. Never did I think that the sight of an Arcona sticking his head up out of the sand would make me so happy. Teedo, the steelpecker (*snigger*), all the scuffed-up props, people and parts that give Niima outpost a palpable sense of place — and one that remains distinct from that of Mos Eisley or Mos Espa.
Sometimes, the beasties do get a bit much, following in the spirit of those ’90s additions. The happabore (that big pig thing at Niima) and its tussle with Finn over the watering hole was fairly unedifying, but I’ll grudgingly admit that kids would presumably enjoy it, and hey, it’s not quite on a level with the slapstick of the prequels. As mentioned, the rathtars felt like overkill on the first viewing too, though now that I expect them they don’t seem so jarring with the rest of it.
I suppose a rewatch also begs a re-evaluation of theories about where the trilogy will go next. I’m most interested in Finn’s story at the moment; I’m not sure he’ll get Force abilities (the theory that the ‘awakening’ was his and not Rey’s), but Ren certainly seemed interested in him to an unusual degree. I hope something comes of that, but at any rate, Force preserve us from the idea that he’s a relative of Mace Windu. The reason I say I’m more interested in Finn at the moment is because of the overwhelming consensus that seems to exist regarding Rey’s family. I really don’t want her to be a Skywalker. I don’t want her to be a Kenobi. I don’t want her to be another Solo. George Lucas made the galaxy small in the prequels. He made it all about genetics and family and systems and order, but I grew up on EU books where anyone could find out they were Force-sensitive, at any point in their lives, and there was no expectation they’d have to become a celibate bureaucrat in order to get their hands on a lightsabre. I don’t want the last bloody Jedi to consist only of a band of temperamental Skywalkers, I want reassurance that the galaxy is bigger than that.
(I might make an exception if Mara Jade turns up).
My hope is that Rey, while obviously one of Luke’s former apprentices, has a history of her own that she can explore, like Finn will get to explore his. But some connection to the wider lore will be necessary, and I’d rather it came from Snoke — although again, I’m agnostic as to whether he’s someone we’ve already met in another guise. The degree to which Snoke is Force-sensitive (I’m guessing he’s not that powerful) and the role of the three Force ghosts seen at the end of Return of the Jedi are a couple of things I’m particularly curious about.
So, like my posts on anything medieval, this got pretty nerdy, pretty quickly. I’m not sure how to discuss TFA as if it’s not part of the Star Wars Saga, and within that setting, I don’t mind its repetitive set-pieces and themes. The new characters are great, none of them is a rehash of any of the original heroes (or the villains), and the characters are more important to me than the fact that the Macguffin yet again involved a shield-generator/Death Star siege/space-battle. I can make all the arguments you want for Rey’s power, and I’ll go along with everyone who’s telling you why Kylo Ren is just as scary as Vader because he’s an unpredictable, entitled brat whose worst qualities are quite familiar to anyone who’s witnessed the behaviour of the self-appointed gatekeepers of geekdom. I won’t claim that Starkiller Base isn’t ridiculous (I can rationalise a lot in the Star Wars universe, but how does its weapon fire faster than the speed of light? How does it not hit anything else that comes between it and the Republic’s headquarters? Should I read the novelisation of TFA to find this out? Is Kylo more Jacen Solo or Kyp Durron?), and I won’t say TFA is yet guaranteed a place in my top 3 Star Wars movies, but it sets things up for a trilogy I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of.