Star Wars: The Force Awakens – our thoughts and questions

With inevitable spoilers, we share our thoughts and lingering questions left behind by Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

NB: Seriously, this article is absolutely full of spoilers.

If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, we recommend a trip to the cinema before reading the following. You have been warned.

Scroll below the spoiler squirrel at your own risk…

  

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It’s fair to say that, when the final credits rolled on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we left the cinema grinning – it really is the feel-good, visual feast we were hoping for. But at the same time, it left us chattering endlessly about the questions it left behind, and whether you enjoyed the film as much as we did or not, we’ll suspect you’ll be the same.

What follows are excerpts of a lengthy conversation between two tired yet very excited Star Wars fans on their way home from the cinema at about midnight. Fumblingly, meanderingly, geekily, we do our best to answer some of the burning questions that immediately sprung to mind – plus throw in a few other thoughts and on-the-spot opinions, too.

So with one final warning for major, major plot spoilers, here goes. 

Where did the map to Luke planet come from? And what about Luke’s lightsaber?

Ryan Lambie: The first 40 minutes or so, I thought it barely put a foot wrong. The pace of it was lovely. I liked the way it made Stormtroopers seem ruthless and evil again. Torching a village… minimal use of Max Von Sydow, but good use, I thought.

John Moore: Yeah. There were all sorts of rumours that he had a backstory, that he was an interesting character. Who was he? I never really knew him.

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RL: Maybe we’ll find out more about his story in the novels or comics or something.

JM: It even mentions him in the title crawl: “an old friend”. It was like a big red herring. How did he come across the map? I thought he was going to be like Lobot or something like that. They didn’t take the obvious route.

RL: That’s an interesting point: where did the map to Luke Skywalker’s location come from?

JM: Yeah! I didn’t get why it was a jigsaw puzzle. Like, the rest of the map was in R2-D2. But why? I have no problems with things being left for the Integrated Universe, but something like that didn’t chime right. It wasn’t as tightly scripted as I’d have thought.

RL: Especially in the latter stages. Like the question to Maz: “How did you get hold of Luke’s lightsaber?” “That’s a story for another time…”

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JM: Yeah! It’s like, “No, it’s not, actually. Let’s talk about it now.” You wanted somebody to say that! “Actually, no! This is quite important. How did you get that lightsaber?”

How powerful is Kylo Ren, really?

RL: I think some of the most effective scenes were the ones with Kylo Ren. He was brilliant.

JM: Oh my God, Adam Driver was fantastic. Just amazing. Him and [Daisy] Ridley in that scene together. I’d have sat and watched them talk that out for hours. That was great. The moment he took his mask off was fantastic. I wasn’t as big a fan as you were of the voice.

RL: I thought they tried to do something different with the way he sounded. They gave him a vocal presence that almost sounded as though he’d crept up behind you in the cinema and started whispering in your ear. There was a kind of insinuating tone to the way he talks. But  actually, the bits that were the best were the ones that gave you insight into his character.

JM: Like him wrecking the room.

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RL: Exactly. The twist on the old “You’ve failed me for the last time” scene we always had with Darth Vader. You’re expecting drone number 217b to be killed – you know, Force choked to death. And instead, Ren smashes his room up in a teenage fit of rage, basically. He rips up his Duran Duran posters. It’s brilliant. It’s funny, but oddly, it was more disconcerting than if he’d have Force choked his underling to death. We’ve seen that before.

JM: Yeah, yeah. And Ren stopping the laser bolt at the beginning was just awesome.

RL: I’d almost forgotten about that. That was brilliant. Because anyone who had any interest in Star Wars would have seen that shot in the trailer, with Kylo Ren throwing his hand out towards the camera. And I sort of thought, “Eh, that’s a weird shot.” But then you see it in the context of the film, he stops the laser blast. It’s fantastic. We’ve never seen anything quite like that in Star Wars before.

JM: What was interesting was, I passed off Kylo Ren’s spluttering lightsaber as, “He’s a wannabe”.

RL: But I think that’s right. I think it’s true.

JM: But he’s really powerful! His Force ability is really powerful. I never saw Vader stop a laser bolt. You know? Is he more powerful than Vader?

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RL: I think it’s different. I’d say that what is, is because he’s young and impulsive and impetuous and impatient, Ren hasn’t learned to control his power yet, which is what the spluttering lightsaber represents. Perhaps he’s not so much a wannabe as just scattershot. Like you said, he’s capable of stopping a laser bolt, but that would have probably killed him if he hadn’t done it. But conversely, if you think about the end, he didn’t have the power to pick up the lightsaber [with the Force]. Rey did it instead, and it shot past his face, and she ended up with it in her hand.

JM: Yes.

RL: It’s like he hasn’t yet completed his training, you know?

JM: Like, he can do it when he’s not thinking about it.

RL: Yeah. He’s at Luke’s stage in Empire. We see Luke retrieve his lightsaber so he can chop the arm off the Wampa and save himself. But obviously, he can’t yet lift an X-wing. It’s something like that, maybe.

Han Solo’s exit

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RL: What did you think about Han Solo’s death? I felt it wasn’t quite earned. It felt like something thrown in.

JM: I was sad about it, but I didn’t feel the emotion I was expecting to feel about it. It wasn’t a sacrifice.

RL: I think that was the problem. It felt a bit senseless.

JM: It was as though he was suckered. I know the one thing that Han wouldn’t be is suckered. And we hadn’t spent enough time with Ren and Solo to understand what was going on. Did he let it happen?

RL: It was tragic, I suppose, because this was Han’s last-ditch attempt to save his son. He wanted to believe there was still good in him, and he was willing to try it to win him back. And the gambit didn’t work.

JM: It was a sucker punch, wasn’t it? If he’d have sacrificed himself… the initial rumour was that he sacrificed to save Ren, to save his son. Possibly from Luke. I don’t know if that was from the Michael Arndt script or what, but there’s definitely a gulf between what we’ve been reading and what came out in the film. It makes you wonder how many of the rumours came from the Michael Arndt script. […] I guess what I wanted was a call back to Empire where Chewie’s stroking his hair. I wanted something a bit more emotional.

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RL: That was a problem, wasn’t it? It was unceremonious. He just fell off the platform. He fell out of the film.

JM: Unceremonious. That’s exactly it.

RL: We don’t know the full story, though. Ren called Solo spineless and weak. Maybe he and Leia really were bad parents. Maybe Kylo Ren actually has a really good reason to hate everybody and smash up his bedroom.

JM: I know what they wanted, which is that it’s cold. You die alone, this kind of thing. I just wanted a bit more. I wanted something like, “Tell your mother I love her,” and someone to say, “She knows.” Whatever, something along those lines.

If you’re going to kill Han Solo off, I want a damn good reason for it, and I didn’t feel it. I don’t feel like I got enough of the daddy son thing for that to really resonate.

RL: He didn’t get a proper goodbye, it’s true.

What does Kylo Ren know about Darth Vader?

JM: Did Kylo Ren completely miss the bit about Vader turning good at the end [of Return Of The Jedi] and returning balance to the Force?

RL: This is the thing, isn’t it? He called him grandfather.

JM: “I will finish what you started, grandfather.”

RL: Maybe it’s the whole First Order version of the history books. Maybe they wrote that whole bit out with Darth Vader turning good. The only people who know that are Luke and whoever he told, his fellow rebels. Maybe it’s like North Korea, where they only know the version of history handed down to them.

JM: Okay, yeah.

RL: That was the interesting thing, wasn’t it? When Captain Phasma’s talking about Fin, someone asks, “Has he been for reconditioning?” And he says, “It’s only his first offence.” So they don’t have clones, but they do have mind control.

JM: Yeah, someone threatens to bring the clone army in.

RL: [Sings] Send in the clones…

JM: Soleful and doleful… [laughs]

Was Maz Kanata’s role cut down?

JM: The first 40 minutes were amazing. But that’s when it had time to breathe. The more I think about it, the more strange the decisions in the last half of the movie get. There are missing bits. Mainly Maz.Where she goes I have no idea. Unless I got wrapped up and I missed it.

RL: I remember there being a shot where some ship doors opened, and I thought Maz had got a ship from somewhere, and was going to emerge and say, “Come with me!” But it was actually Leia turning up instead. So they completely glossed over where Maz went.

JM: Yeah. She just disappears for the second half of the movie. What seemed to be set up as a main character…

RL: She’s on the poster!

JM: It’s little more than a cameo, really.

RL: She’s in it less than General Hux, and he didn’t make the poster.

JM: Missing bits. Random, missing bits. What happened to Maz handing over the lightsaber [the scene in the trailer]?

RL: Maz going on about the eyes in the trailer. There was a whole thing about Maz being clairvoyant, being able to see things with her special eyes. That didn’t come into it other than when she looked at Fin and said, “You’re running away.”

JM: I’m interested to see the cut scenes. I’m sure she had a bigger part to play in that movie than what we saw, for whatever reason. She just disappears off the face of the film. She has that key scene to… who does she give it to? I’m trying to remember now.

RL: She gave it to Han Solo, then he gave it to Finn.

JM: How does he know how to light it?

RL: He just knows. How he knows I’m not sure. Maybe old legends explain how they work.

JM: But she just disappears.

RL: Something changed, definitely. Like you were saying earlier, there seem to be fewer planets in this version. The whole thing seems to have been streamlined to a certain degree. Like you were saying about the tentacled creatures that would have swung through the trees.  

JM: Yeah, there were artists’ impressions of how they’d been described. And they’re swinging from trees. I think that was meant to happen somewhere else, and they kept the monsters for that scene [on Han’s ship]. I did like that they can turn into a giant ball, and you see Solo running away from a rolling…

RL: Yes! Clearly a call back.

JM: It had to be a call back. It didn’t go for the whole Indiana Jones grabbing his hat, but it was definitely a little riff.

Did the story need the Starkiller base?

JM: The Starkiller base – I didn’t get a sense of scale. They even went to the trouble of showing how its size compares to the Death Star.

RL: That was a very funny bit.

JM: But it still didn’t give me a feeling [of scale]. It gave Han Solo a funny line, I’ll give it that. That was a good little comic bit.

RL: It’s telling that they had to actually show you a diagram, isn’t it? They couldn’t let the power of it [the Starkiller base] just speak for itself. It wasn’t much, but I liked that it could fire a series of beams at different planets. That was quite cool, but…

JM: They didn’t really explain it.

RL: No.

JM: The Starkiller was largely extraneous to the plot. It’s like you said earlier about Empire and the “I am your father” moment.

RL: You had the big Hoth battle sequence up front, and then the dramatic bit at the end of the movie. To his credit, George Lucas says he spread them apart because he knew one would distract from the other. If you imagine “I am your father” in the middle of the Hoth scene. It would have been too much. It’s two big climaxes.

JM: Maybe that’s what’s missing in the Han Solo scene. It comes in the middle of a big action scene.With the Starkiller base, there were no stakes. We’d seen some extras get blown up. But why were they firing on those planets? What was the point? “Today we will destroy the Republic.”

RL: I think it goes back to what we said about it not being rooted in the personal. When Alderaan’s destroyed in Star Wars, Leia’s witnessing it, so…

JM: You saw it through her eyes. There’s nobody to see that in The Force Awakens. You got it right when you said, “Why didn’t they destroy Jakku?” Because then Rey’s got an investment in Jakku, we’ve got an investment in Jakku…

RL: Rey wanted to go home, but now she can’t because her home’s gone.

JM: It’s the only link she’s got to whoever dumped her there, whoever she’s waiting for.

RL: It would be like Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru dying, wouldn’t it?

JM: Yeah. Even though it’s a minimal connection, but it’s better than just randomly blowing up four planets. If they’d have established that Jakku was one of the planets and Rey was trying to get back there, that would have been perfect. A better option than the one they took.

Why did Luke Skywalker go into exile? And is Rey Luke’s daughter?

JM: I want my Luke Skywalker money back… Right, here’s a weird thing. The whole of the Resistance, including his sister, have been searching for Luke Skywalker for 30 years. Who do they send? The strange girl they barely know and the Wookiee. It didn’t make sense.

RL: You know what I think? It would make sense if Luke is Ren’s father, and then Leia might say, “He’s your father. You should go and meet him.” For whatever reason, maybe they’ve held that back. That’s something to string out for the next one.

JM: It makes no sense for Rey to go off and find Luke at the end. Why? Send Leia!

RL: Leia’s his sister! Why wouldn’t she go? She’d want to go to tell him about Han, his old friend.

JM: There are bits missing. There were ellipses in that story. It’s a shame. I wonder whether the Arndt script spat all this out, got it all out of the way, and they’ve gone, “This is too good. We can keep some of this back.”

RL: Mystery box!

JM: Mystery box. There was no mystery to the Ren thing. They blew that straight away.

RL: Snoke said it first, I think.

JM: Yeah, yeah he did.

RL: If Rey is Luke’s daughter, the fact that they took the information out leaves that final scene, that last look that passes between them – it doesn’t mean anything. They’re strangers.

JM: That’s exactly it. Some stranger just turns up with a lightsaber. Maybe he knows who she is.

RL: He’s foreseen that she would come. Imagine if there was a scene where Maz says “Luke’s your father, you should find him,” and finally she does at the end, that would suddenly make sense.

JM: The whole journey of Rey was very well done. But if Leia knew that Rey was her niece, then she’d let her take Han’s ship and send Chewbacca too, because “he always looked after us.” That would have been a great scene.

RL: It would have made perfect sense.

JM: But there’s an ellipsis. Something’s missing.

Is Supreme Leader Snoke really that big?

JM: I don’t think so. He appears as a hologram. Could be, though. Who knows?

RL: Maybe he just likes appearing big to intimidate people. I still hope it turns out he’s Darth Plagueis.

Where will the story go in Episode VIII?

RL: So. What do you think’s going to happen next?

JM: Is Luke’s planet going to be the new Dagobah in the next film?

RL: Yeah, unless Rey convinces him to leave.

JM: Well, why did he leave and let Kylo Ren run riot? Why isn’t Luke kicking Kylo Ren’s ass is what I want to know. There has to be back story. Why is Luke hiding?

RL: Luke trained Kylo Ren and then Ren turned to the Dark Side. It’s guilt, that’s what I think. Luke’s in some kind of funk, and he needs someone young and optimistic to get him to snap out of it, get him back on the road again. Something tragic’s happened; maybe his wife was killed, the Jedis were killed, and he’s banished himself. He’s put himself in exile. Maybe he thinks nobody should have the Force.

JM: But why would he leave an unbalanced Force?

RL: He’s left Ren to run amok, hasn’t he?

JM: Yeah. It’s the old saying, “All evil men need to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Han tried to explain it, but it didn’t really seem satisfactory to me. We’ve got to see more of that scene with R2-D2. What else is R2 hiding? In Rey’s vision of the massacre, or whatever it was, it looked as though Luke told R2 something.

RL: It looked as though she was kidnapped or whisked away for some reason,  maybe for her own safety.

JM: If that’s the truth, is there still a Mrs Skywalker? Is that the next movie…?

How does it compare to the earlier Star Wars films?

JM: It was a lot of fun. What can I say? It’s a Star Wars movie. Star Wars movies are meant to be fun.

RL: In terms of a pure cinema entertainment you can enjoy with your kids or your friends, I think it was pretty hard to top. You can pick it to pieces forever, which we have, but even so.

JM: Exactly, and you can with the originals. “Why didn’t they blow up the escape pod?” Blah, blah, blah. But Abrams is the ultimate safe pair of hands. In general, there’s nothing wrong with this film. Considering the poisoned chalice this is…

RL: It’s a career-ender, isn’t it? If you mess a Star Wars movie up, you don’t walk away from that. It doesn’t matter who you are as a director, you don’t really walk away from that.

JM: Not even George Lucas has walked away!

RL: Exactly.

JM: It’s a potential career-ender, yeah. Has The Force Awakens done enough to be the biggest movie ever?

RL: I think it’s in with a shout. I think people will come out and say “I’ve had a really good time,” which I can hand-on-heart say I did. If enough people will do that, more casual cinema-goers will go along as well.

JM: I’d happily put my name to it. But for me, it’s not a five star film.

RL: I keep changing my mind. The way I was smiling and laughing – if I was smiling and laughing like that through a comedy, I’d say it was an extremely good comedy.

JM: I’ve sat through comedies and laughed far less than that. But how much of that is riffing on the language we know really well? It’s like Space Balls. It’s easy to make Star Wars jokes when you know it well. But even the bits that weren’t Star Wars references work really well. The bit where Poe goes to Ren, “Who talks first, me or you?” That was brilliant.

RL: There were enough bits like that to show that the filmmakers actually had imagination. They weren’t just relying on call-backs. Just funny little grace notes, really, like the bit where Finn drinks out of the trough with that huge pig-like animal.

JM: And it kicks him out of the way… that was great.  That was what I mean about the new characters showing the old ones up.

RL: It felt as though they brought them back because they had to.

JM: I think they’ll slowly disappear. It’ll be interesting to see what they’re going to do with Luke.

RL: He’ll probably be a bit like Yoda in Empire: important, but not really in it all that much.

JM: You know what’s amazing? We went into a movie knowing next to nothing about Luke, and we’ve come out knowing nothing! It’s so weird. I’ve watched two hours and 10 minutes of Star Wars and I still know nothing about Luke Skywalker than before we went in. We know there was a new Jedi order, which is interesting, but that’s not something we’re going to see.

RL: Unless they do some prequels.

JM: Prequels to the sequels after the prequels? Prequels to the sequels of the originals and the prequels?

RL: Crivens.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out now in UK cinemas.