Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (The Dusty Complains)


You loved The Force Awakens, right? Sure you did. Everyone did. It's made a gazillion dollars and shows no signs of stopping. It's washing that icky prequel Jar-Jar taste out of our collective mouths. It's giving us young feminine heroes sans slave bikinis to rally behind while still bowing the nostalgia strings of our cello hearts making J.J. Abrams look like the Yo-Yo Ma of space opera.

I understand. Really, I do. I took my eleven year old son to go help awaken the money force in IMAX 3D and it was nothing less than a spectacle. I loved the original trilogy like everyone else and The Force Awakens paid tribute in a way that fans dreamed about when they bought tickets for The Phantom Menace and had nightmares about when they left that movie.

It was entertaining as a standalone, also. The actors were solid. The story succeeded on the strength of a tested formula. The special effects were without equal.

But after the Star Wars intoxication had passed I had time to analyze a little deeper. I had time to pick apart things. Basically, I found things to bitch about. Bitching about them doesn't suddenly mean I don't like the movie. But I see no reason I should have to ignore these things either.

Kylo Ren is kind of a wuss. So is Finn, but I have a lot more problems with his character than just his uselessness in a fight. So let's stick with Ren for now. Here's a guy who's the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Both a couple of certified badasses. If that's not enough, he was identified as being strong with the force at a young age and received training from Luke Skywalker. Yet he's easily outwitted by some kids and eventually defeated by a child who has literally never held a lightsaber before. He couldn't even out-muscle her when they were leveraging for position. I understand she's a force prodigy, but he was able to toss her into a tree a few seconds earlier, then suddenly he's at her mercy. Even fucking Finn gets a wound on Kylo and he's got no force helping him out.

(Yes, I know Kylo is wounded from Chewie's blaster. It's no excuse. He's a wuss. Let's hope Supreme Leader Snoke fixes that.)

Tangentially, why do any of the Jedi or Sith fight with a lightsaber when they can sling people into walls or squeeze there brains telekinetically?

Now for the part that might be a bit controversial. Of course, there was already controversy when folks first found out there'd be black and female storm troopers. There's always idiots ready to spout nonsense at such announcements. I'm fine with black actors getting all the parts in Hollywood. Black Santa Claus? Bring it on. Idris Elba as James Bond? Might be the first Bond I watch in years. Remake of Passion of the Christ with a black Jesus? I say go for it. And don't leave the women out. You wanna make all female Ghostbusters? Sure, why not? Make an all female Magnificient Seven while you're at it.

But now that I've seen the movie. I don't think we should have had black and female Stormtroopers. Before I make my case, let me show you a couple of pictures.

Actual Fucking Nazis

Space Nazis (AKA Stormtroopers)

Does the First Order (and why the fuck can't they just be The Empire?) look like an inclusive group to you? If you're going to base an antagonist off the most historically racist government in the history of mankind, then it's a little self-defeating to have them be inclusive of other races and genders.

Besides, when did they stop being clones? (Don't answer that, angry nerds.) Which brings me to my next issue.

Finn is also a wuss. He wants to run away from everything. He wants to avoid conflict with the First Order at all costs. I understand that he was taken from home at a young age. The fact that he's a non-conformist despite his years of training and brainwashing is a pretty cool gimmick. But what about his attitude. Why is he trying to be sassy and funny? Why wouldn't he be stone cold serious all the time? He acts more like a guy who's been kidnapped last week, not as a child.

Let me offer a different version of Finn and Rey. Finn is indeed a pacifist. He doesn't want to kill, but he's underwent the brainwashing of the First Order. He's white, and the First Order has taught him to see other races as inferior. After making his escape to Jakku he meets Rey, a young black salvager who's in possession of BB-8. The girl proves her mettle time and time again, causing him to question everything he's been taught. He decides to join the resistance and use his superior Stormtrooper training and cold logic to help win the fight. Against the odds he and Rey become close, and Finn becomes a softer character over the course of the film.

That's my version. Maybe a little too deep for the kids buying Star Wars happy meals.

Another tangential question. If you are going to open up Stormtroopers to other races and genders, then why are there still only humans in the First Order? The resistance has all kinds of weird alien allies, including Ackbar and Nien Nunb. Why don't the bad guys ever have anyone like that? There are clearly some badass aliens in the Star Wars canon that would make for better soldiers than humans, so where are they?

Lastly, lets talk about Han Solo's death. Should it have been saved for the second or even third film? It's impossible to say without knowing what else is in store. It was a beautifully tragic moment but if the other two films lack anything comparable then it will be for naught. Plus, Han was really terrific in The Force Awakens. I'm not sure the new stars can carry scenes the way Harrison Ford does and I don't think Carrie Fisher is up to that challenge either these days. Even if she is, it doesn't look like she'll have that sort of role in this trilogy. That leaves only one hero who can save us. Help us Mark Hamill, you're our only hope.


  1. Let's put aside that a trilogy is a story meant to unfold over three parts and just tackle your points, head on. I'll try not to use this fact as cover, even if it is profoundly relevant to many criticisms I've read (and not just yours).

    BTW, this is meant in good fun!

    “Kylo Ren is a wuss.” Of course he is! He's not Darth Vader; he hasn't had decades of bad-ass training necessary to master of the dark side. He's young, foolish, emotional, with too strong of an affinity for his family (which, I believe, even Snokes said was one of his weaknesses). That's the reason for many of his actions, from his tantrums, to his flip-flopping fighting prowess, to the reason behind his patricide. He's on a journey, much like a young Luke in Empire Strikes Back, where instead of confronting and killing Vader in order to progress to knighthood, he’s forced to confront and kill Han in order to deepen his connection to the dark side. Also, unlike with Vader, this isn't the story of his swan dive into goodness and defeat; it's his rise to evil and (dark side) power!

    Finn as wuss. No one ever said the man was a ruthless warrior. He was just one of many kids kidnapped and indoctrinated by the First Order. However, it shouldn't be a surprise that he's capable with a saber, even *IF* he's blinded to the force. Presumably the First Order wanted their soldiers to be equipped for battle, meaning he probably had a decade and a half worth of combat training, which would have included hand-to-hand and marksmanship. Cutting into Kylo Ren can be seen as a result of this, added to Rylo's injury and a bit of luck.

    Rey as master swordsman. This plays into that bit about unfolding story, but it need not rest on it. The whole of Force Awakens seems to hint at two things: 1) the force is awakening, which I take to mean people are powering up like mofos and 2) there's something more to Rey than just an orphan scavenger. The flashbacks she experienced hinted at two possibilities, one of which implies she was trained by Luke himself. In the prequels, younglings trained all the damn time. In the Clone Wars cartoons (which are canon, I believe), they were even fairly capable Jedis themselves, albeit not quite knights. Add that to the possibility she's a Skywalker, or at least has Skywalker blood, and she's most likely crammed with awakening Force stuff! All bets are off when you got lots of force stuff inside you. Furthermore, skill with a lightsaber isn't all training and the Force. Some Jedi are naturally better than others. (Mace Windu, Yoda and Annakin were considered among the top five best with a lightsaber. Others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, could have been rubbish). This isn't even to mention how Rey was using Annakin's expertly crafted lightsaber, while Kylo was using an inferior, cobbled piece with, I believe, a broken Kyber crystal.

    Lastly, the cloned troopers had a limited life span and would have aged out sometime before A New Hope, that's why! By A New Hope, they were already recruiting folks to the Imperial Academy. That's where Biggs Darklight, Luke's besty, ended up before joining the rebellion. (Luke seemed interested in joining too, if only to escape farm life). In other words, clone troopers were an expendable fighting force meant only for the so-called Clone War period and were never meant to be a permanent alternative to normal-born military force.

    Angry nerd mic drop!

    1. Kylo losing that fight was still not believable. He was not only outclassed by a (seemingly) untrained child, but out-muscled too. That makes no sense. Especially when it was so easy to force slam her into a tree minutes earlier. And Kylo apparently had loads of technical training. Let's say he's in his 20's (Adam Driver is 33 actually). But Kylo was born into Luke's family so he would have had force training from the time he was old enough to walk. That counts as decades, homey. Way more training than Luke or Anakin had at that age. Way more training than Rey could have even if she had started at the same age since she's obviously younger.

      As for Finn, this guy's go no guts at all but then can suddenly go toe to toe with Kylo. No storm trooper in any version of Star Wars I've ever seen would have even considered fighting even the lowliest of sith.

      I do agree that Rey was probably trained at Luke's Jedi Summer Camp but I don't think she's a Skywalker. I don't think she's a Kenobi either. I don't know who'd she be, then. Maybe someone new. Maybe a distant relative of Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe Yoda's granddaughter. Or Chewie's niece. You never know what side of the family someone will take after in appearance.


Be nice to me, please.