Star Wars: The Force Awakens SPOILER TALK

SPOILER ALERT: Well, it has finally come. Maybe the most anticipated movie of all time swept theaters worldwide on Friday the 18th and shattered not only a pre-sale ticket record, but also came in and destroyed the opening weekend box office record previously held by another 2015 film Jurassic World by reeling in $248M domestically and $529M worldwide. Basically what I’m saying is that if you haven’t seen it by now, go see it, then come back. It’s worth it. Also if you haven’t seen it, STOP READING RIGHT NOW! This article is going to contain spoilers of the entire movie, and after you read this, you can’t unread it. You’ve been warned!

Storm Troopers Awaiting a Speech from General Hux

Alright, so let’s get into it. This movie has been such a touchy-feely subject and it hasn’t been easy to dance around spoilers. I would consider everything about this movie a spoiler right down to the basic premise. In my spoiler free review, my premise was, “Of course it is good versus evil with lightsabers and the Force, but if you asked me what I knew about this movie a month ago, I would tell you exactly what the trailers gave me. We were going to get Han Solo, a new lord of the Dark side, and two new characters attempting to bring balance to the Force once again. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings our two new characters, Rey, a scavenger, and Finn, a former First Order soldier, together in an unusual circumstance and pits them against the Dark side with the help and teachings of Han Solo.” How vague is that? I tiptoed ever so gracefully (and if you’ve seen me in real life you know I’m anything but graceful) around the subject, but now it’s time to unleash the spoilers. Let’s do this.

Rey (left) and BB-8 (right)

So we begin with the classic opening crawl text, and it’s absolutely beautiful. We already know we are in for a classic Star Wars plot. We aren’t going to hear about Senate meetings and trade negotiations. Luke Skywalker has vanished. Hook, line, and sinker. It introduced our heroes and our villains, the Resistance and the First Order, respectively. They’re basically just the Rebels and the Empire, but it is so good to see that there is already tension in the movie, and we’re being introduced right into it, just as we were in the original movie. Next, we are introduced to exactly who the opening crawl describes as “[General Leia’s] most daring pilot.” His name is Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac. I thought Oscar Isaac was fantastic in Ex Machina, but other than that, I hadn’t taken much notice of him until I saw this movie and thought, “Wow! He was in Drive.” Poe is instantly confirmed to be as cool as he seems when he first confronts our new Dark side menace, Kylo Ren, who I can finally say is Han Solo’s son! Huge spoiler off my chest! We already see he is active, quick thinking, and strong. His village is ravaged by the First Order, and when he gets a clean shot at Kylo Ren, without thinking, he takes it. We are instantly shown how powerful Kylo Ren is with the Force when he stops Poe’s shot from the blaster in mid-air using something we haven’t seen in Star Wars before called “Force Stasis.” That’s a little tidbit for all the nerds out there. We then get a confrontation between Kylo Ren and Poe and the conversation sets the tone for the movie. For me it showed three things: Poe is awesome, Kylo Ren is human, and finally, this movie is going to be funny. In my opinion, it’s the funniest Star Wars movie we have gotten so far and really brings back the comedy elements we loved from the original trilogy and didn’t get from the prequels. Anyways, Poe sends his droid, BB-8, as far away as possible to protect the final piece to the puzzle of a map leading right to the last Jedi himself, Luke Skywalker. BB-8 leaves, Poe is captured, and the First Order murders everybody in Poe’s village on Jakku. As Kylo Ren leaves Jakku, he notices a storm trooper who is definitely uncomfortable with killing these people. If you have seen the trailers or the movie, you can probably guess that this character is John Boyega’s Finn. Finn has been an unnamed storm trooper all of his life, but he finally realizes that its not what he was born to do. He does not like to mindlessly murder civilians and serve Kylo Ren, so with the help of the captured Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the Resistance, Finn is able to make it off of the First Order base, the Starkiller Base, which is basically just the Death Star on PEDs.

Poe Dameron (left) and Finn in his Storm Trooper armor (right)

Next we meet Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. Daisy Ridley gave an absolutely incredible performance in this movie for such a young and inexperienced (inexperienced, not untrained) actress, and I can definitely see her blossoming into a huge star. She and John Boyega have become America’s sweethearts, and they both blew me away, not because they are in a Star Wars movie, but because of the talent they exhibited on the screen. Rey is a scavenger, and must hunt for food every day to bring back to her village on Jakku for rations. When she is scavenging, she runs into a little droid we have already met, BB-8. At first, Rey dismisses BB-8 after saving him or her. I’m not sure if BB-8 is a male or female quite yet. However, BB-8 was absolutely perfect in The Force Awakens. BB-8 was so cute and carried so much emotion. When Finn first runs into Rey and tells Rey and BB-8 that Poe Dameron didn’t survive the TIE Fighter crash into Jakku I instantly felt so bad for BB-8. The sound from him/her and the mannerisms convey so much emotion that I instantly fell in love with BB-8. We instantly see a bond between the three characters and Rey and Finn have instant, easy, and believable chemistry. Storm Troopers end up chasing down Finn on Jakuu, and Finn and Rey must escape Jakuu with BB-8. Finn has convinced Rey that he is a soldier for the Resistance, and we see the glistening in Rey’s eyes, and when Finn tells Rey that BB-8 holds a map to Luke Skywalker, she lights up in both fanaticism and intrigue, and as a long time Star Wars fan, it is very cool for me to see that all of the original characters we love are still very relevant. Rey and Finn run to a ship to escape Jakuu. There is one ship that is closer than another, but Rey believes that the closer ship is “garbage,” and when the other ship blows up and Rey says, “the garbage will do,” the camera pans left to the one and only Millennium Falcon. I saw this movie in a full theater Thursday night at 7 p.m., and the entire theater erupted. It was one of the moments where I couldn’t help but get chills, and set me on the idea that Star Wars is back!

The Millennium Falcon from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

On the Millennium Falcon we get to see Rey and Finn’s relationship develop a little bit more, and once again, it’s all due to the incredible chemistry they have. John Boyega is so charismatic and likable that I can easily see him developing a relationship and bonding with any character the story calls for. He even develops a relationship with BB-8. Rey asks Finn where his Resistance base is, and BB-8 helps keep Finn’s secret safe, and they exchange a thumbs up. Yet another awesome interaction with BB-8. Next the Millennium Falcon’s controls are overridden, by a larger ship, somewhat reminiscent of the original film, and with Rey and Finn preparing for company, who else could come into the movie at such a perfect time but Han Solo and Chewbacca. Right when they came on the screen the entire theater applauded, and with Han Solo being my favorite character from the original movies, I couldn’t help but have a big, stupid grin plastered on my face. One thing I loved about Han Solo in this movie is that Han Solo is Han Solo. We all know that Harrison Ford doesn’t want to be in Star Wars, but it really looked like he had so much fun playing his classic character, and he definitely didn’t just “phone-in” his performance. He was a weathered, aged version of the Han Solo we met 38 years ago, and I was so happy to see that. Rey even asks Han Solo about the Millennium Falcon, saying that he made the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs, to which, of course, Han responds, it was twelve parsecs. It was also great to see Chewbacca back on screen. The chemistry between the two is undeniable. Chewbacca had a life debt to settle with Han, so he would always be at Han’s side, and it was so nice to see both of them together again. The next scene isn’t necessarily a bad scene in my eyes because it introduces the new fans to who Han Solo is, and that’s a lovable, silver-tongued smuggler. That’s who he was when we met him, and that’s who he is in his heart and the heart of the fans. That’s who he is in this movie. The only thing I didn’t like about this scene was that I didn’t feel as though the use of CGI was as seamless as it was in the rest of the movie.

Andy Serkis in a mo-cap suit for Supreme Leader Snoke

Han then takes Rey and Finn to Maz Kanata in an attempt to get BB-8 back to Leia and the Resistance and take Rey and Finn to the nearest inhabited planet. Finn decides he wants nothing to do with the First Order, admits to Rey that he is not fighting with the Resistance, and leaves. Rey then is taken to the downstairs of Maz Kanata’s cantina, and is drawn to a chest containing the lightsaber of Luke Skywalker and his father Anakin Skywalker. She has a Force Flashback where she sees Luke Skywalker, the Knights of Ren, and hears the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Maz Kanata tells Rey that the lightsaber has chosen her, and whoever dropped her off on Jakku and left her is not coming back for her, and her destiny is in the future, not the past, but due to her horrifying Force Flashback, she declines the lightsaber. While on the planet Takodana, the First Order had been informed that Han Solo and BB-8 are there, and Kylo Ren along with an army of Storm Troopers arrived on the planet in an attempt to take BB-8 and find Luke Skywalker. Rey goes running into the forest, but is chased down by Kylo Ren, who easily overmatches Rey, and uses the Force to knock her unconscious. He then takes Rey back to the Starkiller Base, which is basically the new Death Star, just bigger. It was a little bit unimpressive to me because there wasn’t much depth to it. It was just a big weapon that carried some significance, but was treated by the First Order as if it was the difference between life or death, which maybe it was, but the film did not treat it as such. The Resistance then flies to Takodana and fights off the First Order, Finn takes the lightsaber, and we get to see General, not Princess anymore, Leia as well as C-3PO with a red arm. We instantly see that things haven’t been perfect for them, and they went through a difficult split, but we do see that they still love each other.

General Leia (left) and Han Solo (right)

We then go up to Starkiller Base where Rey is being held and interrogated by Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren has so much character development in this scene. It is the first time we see him challenged by another human, and he is a very vulnerable character still making the decision to fully turn to the Dark side. We got a touch of this from his discussion to himself and his grandfather, Darth Vader’s melted helmet, but this is the first time we see a real vulnerability around others. He attempts to take the map to Luke from Rey’s mind, knowing that she has seen it, but Rey actually counters Kylo Ren with the Force, telling him that he is scared that he is not as strong as Darth Vader. Frustrated, Kylo Ren leaves and confronts Supreme Leader Snoke, a character who has been a bit of a mystery surrounding the Star Wars universe, about how strong Rey is with the Force. There are some theories and speculations being thrown around, and we only get a small taste of him. What I will say about Snoke is that I like the look of him. I do not like that he is not as well animated as the other uses of CGI in this film. Both motion-capture characters, Snoke and Maz Kanata were noticeably CGI. At first, I thought Snoke was a living giant, but we then see that when he is talking to Kylo Ren, he is just a hologram, so he may end up being smaller. I am really excited to be able to see what Andy Serkis, who I think is the best motion-capture actor, will do with the character in the rest of the trilogy. We go back to Rey, who is still being held in a room by restraints in a chair. She decides to try her hand with the Force one more time, and after three attempts, uses a Jedi mind trick to make the Storm Trooper holding her release the restraints and leave his weapon. It works for Rey, and we get to see a whole new world of Star Wars open from that scene. This scene confirms that Rey is our new Jedi. Many people assumed it would be Finn from the trailers, but it’s actually going to be Rey, and I think her character suits the title perfectly. The force is awakening, and it’s awakening inside Rey.

Darth Vader’s Helmet in the Possession of Kylo Ren

We go back to the Resistance base on D’Qar, and we are brought together with some classic characters such as Nien Nunb, Admiral Ackbar, and R2-D2, who has been in a state of dormancy since Luke disappeared. After Finn reunites with Poe Dameron, who is still alive, Poe takes Finn to General Leia. Poe and Finn have such great chemistry, and I would love to see their instant friendship continue to expand in the rest of the trilogy. Finn tells General Leia that from his experience on Starkiller Base, he can help turn the shields off for the Resistance to come in and destroy Starkiller Base. In the Millennium Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, and Finn fly to Starkiller Base. We get some great Han and Chewbacca interaction, and we learn that Finn worked in sanitation on Starkiller Base, which makes for a great reaction from Han. We also get to see Han using Chewbacca’s Wookie Bowcaster, so for a Star Wars fan, a lot of nerd dreams come true in this movie. Despite Finn only working in sanitation, they find Captain Phasma, who I was expecting to see more from after all of the marketing and toy sales, and Captain Phasma is easily convinced to lower the shields, allowing the Resistance into Starkiller Base. That actually really surprised me how easy it was to convince a Captain who probably had to swear her life to the First Order to lower the shields. I definitely hope we get to see a little bit more from her because Han asks Finn, a sanitation guy, where the trash compacter is (a little wink at the audience toward the original movie), so I can only assume they actually sent her down into the trash compacter, but we never get any follow up. After Finn, Han, and Chewbacca find Rey, they plan to set explosives on Starkiller Base. They split up, but Han sees his son Kylo Ren, and must confront him. After Han tries to convince an unmasked Kylo Ren, or Ben Solo, to come back to the Light side, Kylo Ren battles with his return, but solidifies his commitment to the Dark side and kills Han Solo. Boy that feels good to say! Haven’t been able to get that off my chest with all of the spoiler sensitivity, but now I can say it. There are things I like and dislike about this. Obviously, I didn’t like that my favorite Star Wars character was killed. I don’t know if I was ready for that. I also didn’t like that the relationship between Han Solo and Kylo Ren hadn’t been built or fleshed out whatsoever. There was a bit of inconsistency in this movie, as there is with every movie, but I feel like there could have been at least one confrontation or mutual glance at each other to show that they both knew each other and had history, maybe on Takodana when Han saw Kylo Ren. It hurt the emotional impact the scene had. What I did like about Han dying in the movie is that this is the final movie where we will see Han being Han. Like I said earlier, Harrison Ford didn’t “phone this one in.” He showed up ready to go and actually broke his leg for this movie. It was obvious that he was actually having a great time playing Han Solo again, but what if he came back in the next movie not wanting to be in Star Wars? I’m glad we got to see him go out as the Han Solo we love. I also think he’s 100% dead. There is no chance, in my opinion, that he is still alive. Chewbacca’s wail once that happens and Finn and Rey’s tears solidified it as a crucial moment, and a final goodbye. Chewbacca instantly reacts seeing his best friend die and takes a shot at Kylo Ren, hitting him right in the stomach.

Finn (left), Chewbacca (middle), and Han Solo (right)

The explosives planted by Han, Rey, Finn, and Chewbacca go off, and the Resistance continues to hit the critical point on Starkiller Base, and Starkiller Base begins to crumble. Rey and Finn attempt to run away, but meet with Kylo Ren. Finn, still with the lightsaber, attempts to battle Kylo Ren, and Rey is thrown into a nearby tree by Kylo Ren using the Force. With Finn holding the lightsaber, Kylo Ren exclaims that the lightsaber belongs to him, and given that he probably thinks he is the good guy, as well as having been trained by Luke, I can see why he thinks that. Finn actually puts up a decent fight with Kylo Ren, which I don’t think is very realistic, but Kylo Ren was also very injured, so to me it is possible, yet improbable. Kylo Ren finally has the last strike delivering a critical blow to Finn’s back, and Finn loses the lightsaber and goes down. Kylo Ren attempts to use the Force to take the lightsaber, but it flies past his hands right into Rey’s, and at that moment, I think I lost it. That was one of my favorite moments of the movie and brought me back to the originals again. Rey and a wounded Kylo Ren battle, and when she is backed up against a gaping abyss, she finally finds the Force inside her, and is able to overtake Kylo Ren, scarring him with a strike to his face. Rey escapes and Snoke tells General Hux to bring Kylo Ren to him to complete his training.
Back on D’Qar, the Resistance arrives after a successful mission to destroy Starkiller Base, and Finn is taken to the hospital. R2-D2 comes out of his period of dormancy and is able to supply the rest of the missing map to Luke Skywalker. Rey and Finn have a moment, and Rey promises to an unconscious Finn that they will meet again. Leia and Rey have a final exchange, and Leia delivers the classic line, “May the Force be with you.” Rey, the new pilot of the Millennium Falcon, R2-D2, and Chewbacca take off toward a planet of water, and land on an island. After a long journey up the island, Rey finds a man overlooking the water. He turns around, and it’s the face of Luke Skywalker. Rey holds out the lightsaber toward Luke, and we get one final wide shot before the final transition to the credits.

J.J. Abrams on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, with all of the nods and the pieces reminiscent of the original, the Force and the saga is definitely awake. All of the swiping transitions will tell you that. Just to reiterate what I said in the spoiler free review, I really loved all of the new characters who were introduced in this movie as well as the classic characters. J.J. Abrams did such a great job revitalizing Star Wars and giving it new life to not only the older fans, but the new generation of fans. I think he nailed it. Now I’d like to take a little bit of a look forward toward some of my theories and what I’d like to see in the untitled Episode VIII. I don’t consider these spoilers because I have no clue what’s going to happen. This is just what I think. If you don’t want to know some of the things that I think will happen in Episode VIII and Episode IX, I understand. Star Wars was the best kept secret of the year, and the secrecy only made it better. First, I’d like to see a little bit more about the Knights of Ren. I haven’t looked too far into them, but was Kylo Ren a standout among them? Is there a reason he is more powerful than the rest? What happened to the rest? Did he kill them. Those are some things I want to know. I also think that Luke will train Rey in the ways of the Force to parallel how Yoda trained Luke. Rey is already much stronger and more powerful than Luke was when he began, so to see the master train Rey, someone with all the potential in the world, could make for a nice parallel to how Yoda trained Luke and for an even more awesome character in Daisy Ridley’s Rey. My next theory is that Rey’s staph is much more important than we may know. There were so many close up shots of Rey using her staff that I don’t see how she could just throw it away. She is already an expert with it, and maybe there are more secrets behind it yet to be unlocked.

Rey (left), BB-8 (middle), and Finn (right)

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty theories. These are my bigger theories that are, in my eyes, the bolder predictions. First of all, I believe that Rey is Luke’s daughter. We never saw a shot of Rey’s parents, and even she doesn’t know about her childhood. She is a mystery to even herself. What if when things went awry with Kylo Ren, Luke dropped her on Jakuu and wiped her memory. Also, how many others in the Star Wars universe are “Force Sensitive?” We know the Skywalkers are, and Han Solo may be, but who else is left and is “Force Sensitive?” She is also very strong with the Force. My thoughts are that she must be a descendant of someone who is also very strong with the Force. Lastly, R2-D2 went into a dormant period when Luke vanished, but when Rey got to D’Qar, R2-D2 snapped out of it. Maybe R2 sensed Luke in Rey, and that was why R2-D2 could come back to his normal self. Next is that Luke Skywalker will not make it out of this trilogy, maybe even the next movie. If the movies are going to continue to parallel the originals, Episode VIII will be a much darker movie. Some serious stuff is going to go down to put the Resistance behind going into Episode IX. What better way to damage the Resistance than for them to lose their newfound Jedi hero. It would be a punch in the stomach for the Resistance, but could definitely work if it’s executed properly. Maybe should Luke face a stronger Kylo Ren, Kylo Ren could kill Luke. I know, I know. That’s eerily similar to Darth Vader killing Obi-Wan, which is why it may not happen that way. I would also love to see Luke battle Snoke. I think that could be a trilogy defining battle pitting the two strongest Force users against each other. Next, I believe that Snoke is Darth Plagueis. If you remember in Revenge of the Sith, Emperor Palpatine mentioned overthrowing Darth Plagueis, a Sith lord who had learned to cheat death. It is never again mentioned, and this is something that has been under speculation for a long time among Star Wars fans. I think that this is definitely a possibility, and after The Force Awakens, I think it is more probable than ever. Finally, I think that Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian will return in the next movie. Billy Dee Williams has been very vague about his return, and I think that now would be a perfect time to bring him back after the death of his best friend, Han Solo.

Kylo Ren

Overall, I really had an amazing time with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson has in store for Episode VIII. Ryan Johnson, in my opinion, is a brilliant director with Looper and Brick, and I think he could bring a very good, dark tone to the trilogy. I’m so excited to see all of the characters come back, and the next eighteen months are going to be long, but we’ve got some good stuff in 2016 to hold us over, but that’s for another article. Well now that you’ve heard the things I liked and the things I didn’t like about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, what did you like or dislike? Spoilers are in full effect in this article, so don’t be afraid to go into details. Do you have any theories about Episode VIII? Let me know down in the comments. Let me know your thoughts and theories, and as always, please stay updated for the next movie review. I’ll have my Throwback Thursday review for the original 1991 Point Break starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze out later today! Thank you and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

PHOTO: PRNewser

About Justin Lyons

Hey, it’s Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm