There has been an awakening. A new hope heralds upon a new dawn and a new generation has experienced the almighty magic of the Star Wars franchise as it is meant to be.
If you have already checked out our review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then we don’t need to tell you how truly impressed we are with the efforts of J.J. Abrams & Co. If you haven’t, then belive us when we say The Force Awakens is a true to form follow-up to Return of the Jedi. Everything Star Wars fans deserve and more.
What we want to do here, and please turn back now if you have not seen the movie yet, is discuss in more detail the major aspects surrounding each character. The heroes, the villains, the past, the future. Are you ready? Here goes. Last chance to turn back….
Finn is one of the first characters we meet in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was widely rumoured & confirmed through the trailers that he is/was a Storm Trooper. A part of the evil First Order that has risen from the ashes of The Empire to bring a reign of tyranny to the galaxy once more. His arc also gives us an insight into the history of the Storm Troopers.
Finn, along with all the other Storm Troopers, are kidnapped from their families as young children before being brainwashed, reconditioned & trained to be lethal killing machines & given a number. FN-2178 in Finn’s case. The First Order Troopers are more ruthless than we have seen before in the Star Wars Universe & this is vital to Finn’s story.
This mean streak is what leads Finn to turn away from The First Order after a slaughter on Jakku & begin a story of redemption. A story that shows even those who took the path of evil (not always through fault of their own) can always find the light. Going from Storm Trooper armour to dueling ‘sabers with Kylo Ren. Despite his relative prowess with a Lightsaber, Finn is not a Jedi (at least not that we know of yet). He is dispatched by Ren but is brought back to The Resistance base with a heart beat & still harbouring the secret of is past from Rey. This of course, will surely be the main crux of his story heading into Episode VIII. While he revealed to Rey who he really is, we did not yet get to see how she really processes this.
Kylo Ren, played by the FANTASTIC Adam Driver was one of the shining lights of The Force Awakens. However, a stellar performance is only out done by an even bigger origin. Kylo Ren has not one, but two names. Ben Solo. This is a hark back to the old Expanded Universe where one of the Solo twins turn to the Dark Side, but more on that later.
That’s right. The feral hate-filled villain is the son of Han Solo & Leia Organa and grandson of Darth Vader. This was a common theory prior to the movie’s release and one that comes at no surprise, but what is interesting is his origin. Strong in the force, he is sent away by Han & Leia to train with Luke Skywalker in his aim of resurrecting the Jedi Order. The elements of his grandfather in him grow strong and with the guidance of Supreme Leader Snoke, turns to the path of the Dark Side, ends Luke’s ambitions driving him into exile and becomes a kingpin of The First Order. It is clear Ren harbours a monumental amount of hate, anger & pain. This may have been as a result of being sent away by his parents when he was young.
He is not yet fully trained however, and this becomes clear when he meets his match in the form of our new Jedi hero. There is also a part of him that is still drawn to the Light Side of The Force. Ren states this himself as he worships the burned helmet of his evil predecessor, Darth Vader. Although it is not confirmed, it is unlikely that Ben Solo did not make it off the Starkiller Base and will have been rescued by General Hux. Where we see his future is in a major conflict with himself. If he is the Apprentice, then there is a master out there. Whether he completes his training & further pursues his goals, or follows Finn’s path of redemption & salvation from evil is another thing. If the EU is anything to go by, there is precedence for this in the arc of Jaccen Solo aka Darth Caedus.
Along with obsessions with Vader & Han Solo, Kylo Ren also has a fascination with Rey. The mere mention of her by anyone peaks his interest. Which brings us to…
In Daisy Ridley, we are given another show stealer. Rey is also the character where JJ Abrams pulls a JJ Abrams. The Kahn in Star Trek, if you will. The lonely scavenger girl from the isolated planet of Jakku turns out to be our new Jedi hero and one that is immensely strong with the Force.
Her realisation of her Force powers is one of the film’s best scenes. Under duress from Kylo Ren to give up the location of Luke Skywalker, she fights back & resists his mental probing, striking fear deep into the heart of the young villain. She is stronger than him in the ways of the Force and he knows it. What remains a mystery is where she came from, where did she inherit her connection to The Force from? We know Ren is the son of Han & Leia, but where does Rey fit in?
We know she was left on Jakku as a young girl and her greatest desire is to be reunited with her family. Kylo Ren also seems to be very familiar with this scavenger girl, giving us the inkling that he knows her, or knows of her. The question here is, is she a sister or a cousin of Ben Solo? Looking back to the old EU, there is a precedent for either scenario. Be she the brother of Kylo Ren or the progeny of Luke Skywalker, it fits.
When she first meets Han Solo, they hit it off like a house on fire. Sharing a vast knowledge of the Millenium Falcon and mechanically minded. You sense that there is more to their relationship than a scavenger who meets a smuggler and get along. However she is not fully acknowledged by Han & Leia in the same way that Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is. A warm embrace by Leia is about as far as it goes, but maybe that is enough before a further reveal in Episode VIII.
While Luke Skywalker is a Jedi, and Jedi are not meant to take partners (however this may have died with the Old Jedi Order), Rey shares a deep connection with his lightsaber. Her weapon of choice when she kicks Kylo Ren’s ass all over the Starkiller Base. If she was the daughter of Luke Skywalker, it would explain why her power is that much stronger than Kylo Ren despite how undeveloped it is.
Han Solo returns with his Wookiee pal Chewie and absolutely shines as Harrison Ford does. The pair are as comical & heart warming as ever in their interaction with each other and the other cast. We also get a lovely reunion with Han & General Leia Organa where they believe still, that their corrupted son is still good at heart.
This is unfortunately & heartbreakingly the end of Harrison Ford’s Star Wars story. We’d be lying if we said we did not shed a tear at what is one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes in the entire Star Wars saga. At the hands of his own son’s crimson lightsaber, Solo falls. A great disturbance is felt in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. The great quote attributed to Ben Kenobi, who Kylo Ren is named after, has never been more apt than in this moment of the film.
As horrible as it is to watch however, we truly believe it will go down as one of cinema’s greatest scenes. The hope in Han Solo that he can really bring Ben Solo home combined with the genuine fear, anger, hate & pain Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is suffering with as he completes his journey to the dark side. This also leads to Chewbacca absolutely losing his mind and f*%cking things up with that beautiful bowcaster weapon.
Our very own Irish treasure (and not the only one in the film) Domhnall Gleeson absolutely excels as The First Order’s General Hux. A devious sinister character who is as slippery as any high-ranking Empire officer.
His shining moment comes in a spine shivering speech he delivers with dictatorial like conviction as The First Order fire up the Starkiller Base weapon. A rousing, superbly evil piece which is comparable to old Nazi war propaganda, yet somehow even more despicable.
Gleeson’s part is considerably small however. Apart from the speech, he is mostly there to offer quips of nastiness & demands to Ren and other First Order soldiers while being at the beck & call of Supreme Leader Snoke. While he is not exactly vital to the story as of yet, he still offers a fantastic performance as one of the new stars of the Star Wars franchise. We fully expect Gleeson to return with a vengeance in Episode VIII and shine once again.
Supreme Leader Snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke, played by the great Andy Serkis, is perhaps the most mysterious character of The Force Awakens… aside from Luke Skywalker that is.
He appears only as a gigantic hologram (as dark side leaders tend to) and is the one who gives the order for Ren to kill Han Solo. It is clear that he is a pillar of guidance and leadership for both Kylo Ren & General Hux. We can only really speculate past this what his role will be for Epsiodes VIII & IX.
Perhaps the new Star Wars Universe is continuing with the Rule of Two. An unwritten Sith Law which sees a Sith master & apprentice operating in tandem. This has been mostly in place throughout the canonical movie instalments & other materials, along with the expanded Legends universe. This is not to say that there can only ever be two Sith/Dark Force users at any one time, but that they work in pairs. If this is still the case, then Kylo Ren is the still not fully trained apprentice & Snoke is the master. It is told directly to us that Ren needs to finish his training, but until we see otherwise it can be presumed that Snoke is his teacher. We will never complain about Andy Serkis playing a Sith Master, especially if the King of MoCap is to pick up a lightsaber against our new Jedi Rey.
Alternatively, Supreme Leader Snoke could be another pawn in The First Order’s game of galactic chess and there is yet another unseen entity ruling over the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the New Empire. There is also the Knights of Ren group who have yet to be fully explained or even really seen. Could there perhaps be an even more powerful dark side being waiting in the wings to finish Kylo Ren’s training? We wait in anticipation of Star Wars: Episode VIII.
The man, the myth, the legend and the MacGuffin of this movie. Luke Skywalker. The last Jedi… well, you know, until his apprentice to be turns up on a desert planet.
We meet Luke Skywalker only very briefly in the final moments of the movie, yet he is the over arcing object that everyone is searching for. The First Order so that they can end him, and thus end their most feared opposition, the Jedi. The Resistance so that they can fight back against the dark cloud of hate that is The First Order.
What we know of Luke Skywalker’s role in between Return of the Jedi in The Force Awakens is that he attempted to set up a New Jedi Order with a new set of Force sensitive younglings, however this was put to an end by one particular apprentice. Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren. There was too much Vader in him, as stated by his father, Han Solo, and it forced itself over the Light in him.
Luke went into hiding (on the BEAUTIFUL Skellig Michael, Ireland’s second treasure in the movie) and has not been seen in years but thanks to Rey, Finn & Co. he has been brought back into the fold. Like Snoke, where Luke’s story goes from here is somewhat of a mystery. Of course he is going to train Rey in the ways of the force in order for her to defeat Kylo Ren & The First Order, but how much of a part will he play himself? It would be great to see him come back full-time, at least in one episode and duel sabers with the bad guys, especially now that he has gotten his original Lightsaber back. More likely though, is that he goes the way of Old Ben Kenobi and along with Han Solo, is written out of the saga. We just hope this is not without kicking some ass & taking some names first.
The biggest question over Luke involves Rey. Is he her father or uncle? There are enough reasons for either to be true, most of which coming from the old now non-canonical Expanded Universe. Luke Skywalker did have kids who went on to become Jedi in these creations, and there is no reason that this would change unless the ways of the Old Jedi Order from the Prequel Trilogy were to return. If Luke Skywalker was the father of Rey, it would also explain why she is so bloody powerful in the ways of The Force, despite being so raw and untrained (and by untrained, we mean using The Force all of about twice & kicking a trained Jedi/Knight of Ren’s ass). Once Luke’s new Jedi Order fell, he would have had to remove his daughter from the line of sight and where better to do this than unknown old Jakku. Much of the same however can be applied to Rey being Han & Leia’s daughter and both scenarios explain why Kylo Ren is so interested in this girl who has seemingly come out of nowhere. The look Luke gives Rey when she presents him with his lightsaber is one of familiarity and gives off an “I’ve been expecting you” vibe. Be this as daughter or niece, we expect the familial route to follow. Or not… maybe that’s the Episode VIII plot twist!
In conclusion, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fantastic follow-up to Return of the Jedi and a worthy kickstarted for a whole new trilogy. It can be argued that it is pretty much A New Hope all over again, but this is what is so lovable about it. What that original Star Wars movie made you feel, The Force Awakens does all over again. We’ll admit also that there are plenty of holes & future plot devices not expanded on which perhaps weakens The Force Awakens standing as a standalone movie, but since we all know that this is merely one-third (if not one sixth) of a whole new saga, it becomes so very forgivable.
For this writer, The Force Awakens is one of the few movies that has earned a second and maybe even a third watch in the cinema, a privilege so far held only by Guardians of the Galaxy & Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The rewatchability is strong in this one, even just to really take it all in. The Force Awakens very wisely uses tidbits & easter eggs from The Original Trilogy, but does not rely on it to survive. This is the start of a new Star Wars Trilogy, and one that should be cherished fully.
As an Irish based site, we also need to mention how stunning & fulfilling it was to see The Skellig Islands in all their glory. They were absolutely beautifully portrayed and we cannot wait until we see them again in Episode VIII. We also fully understand now why there were such security measures in place in order to ensure that the end of the movie was not spoiled. From what we could also see, the only CGI used was to include the Milennium Falcon after it had landing. Afterall, they could hardly bring a prop for fear of spoilers!
The wait until May 2017 will be a very long one.