Tag Archives: Jedi

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Rey: A Hero’s Awakening

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While Rey is in many ways an obvious reflection of Luke and Anakin, she also has a unique twist to her starting point. Unlike Luke, and even Anakin, Rey has no family to support her in her struggle to survive in the harsh environment of Jakku. There is no wasting time with friends or picking up power converters in her future. Rey also seems more self-sufficient and capable at survival than Luke. I doubt Rey would lose in a fight against a single Tusken Raider. Her skills at using her staff for self-defense are also a necessary setup to explain her ability to fight against Kylo Ren in single combat, something Luke never had to face in his first adventure.

While Rey is very capable and self-reliant, she is also lonely and longs for adventure, as seen in the adorable and poignant moment where she wears an old Rebel pilot helmet, and in her excited reaction to Finn’s claim to be a Resistance fighter. However, she is also trapped on Jakku by the fear that her family won’t be able to find her when they return. While she tries to maintain an unshakable belief that her family will come back, Rey also has moments of realization that she may be stuck on Jakku her entire life, beautifully shown through her melancholy gaze at the old woman at the cleaning stations of Niima Outpost.

Though she is isolated and without family, Rey still shows compassion, as seen in her immediate reaction to BB-8’s distress. Rey treats BB-8 as if he is a person, telling him that his would-be captor “has no respect for anyone.” This connection to droids is another link to Anakin and Luke, who treated their droid companions with similar respect. Continue reading

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Leia Organa: A Princess and a General

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Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of General Leia was a wonderful surprise. The lack of her presence in the trailers beyond a few brief shots made me worry that we would either see very little of her in the film, or that Carrie’s acting wouldn’t be on par with the other actors. But her scenes with Ford immediately recaptured their chemistry, and helped start the process of filling in the gaps of Han and Leia’s relationship between Episodes 6 and 7.

Han and Leia love each other, but could not face their grief. Han believed Leia saw him as a failure who reminded her of her lost son, and Leia immersed herself in politics and the building of the Resistance, finding herself labeled a warmonger and alarmist by the majority of the Republic.

We learn in the novelization that Leia kept Han in the dark about Snoke’s involvement with their son, believing Han’s reaction would drive Ben further towards the dark side. In The Force Awakens, she has come to believe that by sending her son away to Luke, she actually lost her hold on him, and that Han, as his father, is now the only one who can save Ben. It remains to be seen what real effect Han had on his son, though the novelization suggests that Kylo did not find what he was seeking from killing his father. Continue reading

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Finn: Born for One Purpose, Destined for Another

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Like Rey, Finn is on his own hero’s journey. It starts with the death of fellow trooper FN-2003, aka “Slip.” This trooper’s identity was established in the anthology novel Before the Awakening and confirmed in the Visual Dictionary. Slip was the weakest link in Finn’s unit and Finn was reprimanded by Captain Phasma for helping Slip during training simulations, where Finn otherwise received top marks.

It has also been revealed that the trooper Finn fights on Takodana is another of his former teammates, FN-2199, aka “Nines.” I think that information would have added to that fight, needing only a simple line from Finn using Nines’s name, though I also think that character should have been Phasma. I found her character to be completely disappointing and underused. Having her defeat and almost kill Finn would have made her far more interesting and worth all the marketing hype.

While Slip’s death was the start of Finn’s turn in the film, it is cemented by the slaughter of the captured Jakku villagers. However, Finn is not yet a hero and spends most of the film running from the First Order. Finn does have moments of bravery and enjoys the feeling he gets from Rey believing him to be a Resistance fighter. But this is little more than a childish game when he reveals to Rey that he has been lying to her. He wants nothing to do with being a real hero, though he sincerely desires the safety of Rey. It isn’t until the attack on Maz’s castle and the capture of Rey that he becomes a true hero, willing to risk his life for others, and for a greater cause. Continue reading

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Kylo Ren: A Villain’s Journey

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Kylo is tied with Rey as my favorite new character. Having searched out spoilers, his characterization was actually one of the few surprises of the film for me. I suspected long before seeing the film that he was Han and Leia’s son and knew that he was a Vader fanatic, but his volatile and emotional nature were new to me.

Kylo could have easily been a carbon copy of Vader, but he is nothing like the focused and confident Sith Lord of New Hope and Empire and is much more like the Anakin of the prequels. In fact, I like his characterization and performance more than that of Anakin. He is less pouty and whiny while still conveying a conflicted and emotionally damaged person. Adam Driver gave an incredible and nuanced performance, even when hidden behind the mask.

While Kylo is trying to be like Vader through his appearance and actions, it is all a facade. One of my favorite moments showing this is when he has an unguarded moment with Snoke while out of his helmet. When Hux, a rival for Snoke’s approval, comes into the room, Kylo immediately straightens and puts on a stoic face. He is embarrassed by his show of weakness to someone he sees as an inferior and competitor. Continue reading

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Droids: Faithful Companions Old and New

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BB-8:
BB-8 is a great achievement in conveying emotion in a non-humanoid droid. It is hard to match R2, but I believe BB-8 lived up to the challenge. BB is immediately likable with an almost childlike personality. The emotion he shows at Poe’s apparent death; the hesitation to lie for Finn; the thumbs up; the sad, questioning bump into R2 (which nearly made me tear up); all of these make BB-8 an instant classic in the Star Wars universe.

C-3PO:
3PO interrupting the reunion of Han and Leia was a perfect introduction and a wonderful callback to The Empire Strikes Back. While he is in most ways the same old 3PO, he has had some changes over the last thirty years.

According to expanded canon material, 3PO has received a promotion as the “spymaster” of the Resistance’s droid spy network. In the novelization, 3PO made the mistake of not activating BB-8’s tracking signal before his mission to Jakku. His solution is to send a message to every active spy droid, stationed around the galaxy, to search for BB-8. The droid in Maz’s castle in one of these spies.

There is, unfortunately, one single criticism I have for 3PO. The oddly dull finish of the costume makes it look more plastic than metal. I have to wonder what the reason for this is. Is it supposed to be another mark of his age, or is it just a design mistake? Either way, I found it slightly distracting on repeat viewings.

One small mystery is the origin of 3PO’s red left arm. In the film, it simply serves to show the passage of time on the character. The Visual Dictionary mentions that his arm is a memento of another droid’s sacrifice. The novel reveals that he has the ability to replace it at any time but has some sentimental attachment to it; however, he does go back to a golden arm by the end of the film. The full story of his red arm will be told in an upcoming comic book on March 30, 2016. Hopefully, it will be worth the rather long wait.

R2-D2:
Almost as sad as Luke’s absence from the film was the revelation that R2 has been in low power mode since Luke’s disappearance, in what is essentially a coma. While it was a sad reveal, accentuated by being hidden beneath a dusty old cloth, it is also a perfect storytelling device that shows the impact Luke’s absence has had on our old heroes. R2 is a touchstone to Luke as his faithful companion, and his inactive status removes us even further from Luke, while also acting as the frustratingly inaccessible key to the final piece of the puzzle to Luke’s location.

An interesting reveal from an Entertainment Weekly article is the original source of the map pieces that R2 and BB-8 are carrying. According to co-writer Michael Arndt, the backstory of the map can be found in the original film. When R2 plugged into the Death Star to find the location of Leia’s cell, he also found a map in the archives leading to various Jedi temples. Luke later used this map, along with the help of Lor San Tekka, to explore these temples.

Arndt acknowledges that the timing of R2’s awakening was convenient, though he explains that when BB-8 first tried communicating with R2 his boot cycle was triggered, which took time due to his deep coma-like state. But in the end, they simply wanted an emotional return for R2 rather than a logical one.

Until next time: May the Force be with you. Always.

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller