A NEW HOPE1 of 12***SPOILER WARNING FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS***
By now, thousands of fans have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens - including the staff of Newsarama. And, as many of you do, we have a lot of thoughts about the implications of the film for the Star Wars Saga, and for the rest of the new trilogy.
But it's impossible to discuss some of these things without giving away details some of you might not be ready for just yet, so we're giving this article the highest possible Spoiler Warning we can muster.
Still here? Good. There's a lot to unpack in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we're going to get to as much as we can. So without further ado, here are ten things we noticed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
And seriously guys, SPOILERS.
DIVERSITY2 of 12One of the most noticeable changes to the Star Wars Universe in The Force Awakens is just how diverse it is, not just in terms of the alien species that populate the film – of which there are hundreds – but in terms of the human population.
Like it or not, the original Star Wars trilogy, and to some extent, the prequels, were largely populated by Caucasian men. And while that’s undoubtedly a product of the time those films were made, now that we’re in the 21st century, it’s exciting to see that The Force Awakens paid attention to putting women and non-white actors in the film, both in the background as citizens of the galaxy, and as soldiers, pilots, and even Stormtroopers – not to mention the lead actors.
It’s not that The Force Awakens feels like filling a quota – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The presence of women and people of color is as natural as it is in the real world, and that’s how it should be.
On the other hand, it’s very interesting to see that the xenophobia of the Empire – a staunchly pro-human organization – has seemingly carried over to the First Order, shown in Finn’s ignorance as to what a Wookiee even is, let alone how to speak to him, or really any other non-human.
LOR SAN TEKKA3 of 12Max Von Sydow’s Lor San Tekka appears only in the film’s opening sequence, where he suffers the wrath of Kylo Ren, making it unlikely his story will unfold in future films. But the opening crawl establishes him as an important ally to the Resistance.
So who is Lor San Tekka, and will we ever find out? The Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary establishes him as a member of the Church of the Force, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the Jedi order, but this doesn’t come up in the film. Will his role in the saga be explored later, through anthology films or flashbacks?
Speaking of which...
BACK TO THE FUTURE4 of 12Star Wars isn’t exactly known for including flashbacks in its films – unless you count the prequels as kind of an extended flashback. But there are a lot of gaps left to be filled in the 32 years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s almost a given that some of that time will be explored in the Star Wars “anthology” films, like the upcoming Rogue One, but there is a lot that ties directly into the plot of the new trilogy that needs to be answered.
For example, what exactly is the relationship between the Republic, the Resistance, and the First Order? It seems that the galaxy is split between the rule of the Republic and the First Order, with the Resistance operating in First Order territory. But that’s a much more complicated political structure than the Empire Vs. the Rebellion, and a relationship that demands exploration.
Furthermore, what exactly happened at Luke’s Jedi Academy? How did Kylo Ren turn, and turn others with him? Who are the Knights of Ren, and what does that mean? Obviously, some of these answers will come as the new trilogy rolls on, but will they be talked about, or truly seen?
WHAT'S THE SCORE?5 of 12Star Wars has one of the most iconic scores in cinema history – hearing just a few bars of any given movement can take you back to the specific scene it originates from. However, while the original Star Wars composer John Williams returned for The Force Awakens, he didn’t bring as many new tricks with him.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of some kind of “sophomore slump,” but the most memorable parts of the film’s score are the themes that are already familiar – there’s no new Imperial March to accompany the First Order, no new victory swell. Maybe it’s just a matter of not fixing what’s broken.
On the other hand, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new “cantina” music might just be stuck in your head for the rest of the year…
TALES OF THE NEW REPUBLIC6 of 12One of the true victories of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the way it recaptures the tone of the original trilogy by embracing its Saturday morning movie serial aesthetic without going as tone-deaf and wooden as the prequel trilogy. However, there were some contemporary elements that occasionally broke that mold.
For example, Star Wars has always had a sense of humor, but some of the dialogue in The Force Awakens, while funny, occasionally errs on the side of modernity. By that same token, there are some storytelling tricks straight out of the J.J. Abrams playbook – which makes sense, given how much this truly is his film. Still, there’s a sense that, with The Force Awakens, Star Wars has truly found its way into the 21st century.
SUPREME LEADER SNOKE7 of 12Another big mystery waiting to be explored in future installments of the saga is the identity and nature of Supreme Leader Snoke, played in a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis. While his scarred, twisted visage is seen only in holographic projections, it’s clear that he is the Dark Side mentor to Kylo Ren – though we know he’s not the one who introduced Ren to the Force.
So who is Snoke? Is he a Sith, unlike Kylo Ren? Or is he something stranger? The Expanded Universe has many Dark Force traditions, and while much of that material no longer counts, some of them, like the Witches of Dathomir, still exist in official canon, meaning that there’s room for non-Jedi, non-Sith Force religions in the new world.
And, there’s always the possibility that Snoke might just be a character we’ve seen before, though we’re not quite ready to make that prediction…
REY AND FINN: WHO?8 of 12One of the biggest mysteries leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the parentage of heroes Rey and Finn – and it turns out that’s still one of the biggest mysteries after the release of the film as well.
Finn is established early on as a lifelong Stormtrooper, taken from his family and brainwashed into service for the First Order as a baby. But that heroic streak must come from somewhere – and in Star Wars, there are few coincidences. So is there more to Finn’s story than meets the eye?
As for Rey, the nascent Jedi and presumed padawan to Luke Skywalker, her lineage will undoubtedly become a central plot point in Episode VIII and beyond. In fact, many theories are already circulating as to where she comes from. More on that later…
A TRILOGY OF TRILOGIES9 of 12It’s hard not to see the influence of the trilogy structure on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Whereas the original Star Wars was always intended to be expanded upon, its sequels weren’t guaranteed, meaning that the film had to tell a complete story while leaving enough cards on the table for the films that followed.
But The Force Awakens is self aware. And while much of the plot follows the general structure of A New Hope, the threads designed to continue into the rest of the new trilogy are more obvious, making this a less seamless experience on some level.
EXPANDED UNIVERSE10 of 12When the Star Wars Expanded Universe was declared non-canonical by Lucasfilm and Disney, it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. But in the long run, what other choice did Lucasfilm and Disney have, if they wanted to tell new stories with real surprises and real twists? But the death of the Expanded Universe doesn’t mean elements haven’t survived – in one way or another.
For example, Luke Skywalker did indeed found a Jedi Academy of some sort, though it ended in tragedy rather than rekindling the Jedi order. And Han and Leia did indeed have a Force sensitive son who was trained by Luke, but who turned to the Dark Side. And then there’s the matter of Rey’s parentage – something we mentioned earlier. See, in the EU, Han and Leia had twins - a boy and a girl. Could the secret of Rey’s family – and the thing that drove Ben Solo and his parents apart – have to do with a long lost sister? That’s not exactly new territory for Star Wars…
Legacy11 of 12As may be predictable, there’s an overwhelming sense of legacy in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Whether it’s the presence of Han Solo, Leia Organa, or even the barely seen but much mentioned Luke Skywalker, or the way Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron somewhat encapsulate the archetypes the original “trinity” embodied - or even Han Solo filling the Ben Kenobi role - there’s a sense that everything old is new again.
And then there’s the matter of Kylo Ren, the only new character with a direct connection to the original cast (so far). Birthed by Han and Leia, trained in the force by Luke, Kylo Ren – or Ben Solo, if you prefer – represents the true subversion of the legacy of the original cast, even moreso than if Luke had turned to the Dark Side himself. Kylo Ren was the hope of the new generation, and, like his grandfather, with whom he shares so many similarities, he gave in to the pull of the Dark Side.
But, like a true Skywalker, Kylo Ren is torn between the Light and the Dark – a dichotomy that is sure to lead to an arc that promises to be a reflection of the journey of both Luke and Anakin Skywalker.
And speaking of Anakin, it’s important to note that, despite his sacrifice at the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader is still remembered as a villain, making his redemption Luke’s burden to bear – and, quite possibly, the key to saving his nephew Kylo Ren.
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