Some Thoughts on “The Force Awakens”

Something a little less directly LEGO-related today. LEGO have, of course, released their line of sets from the movie, but this is not really a LEGO post. I’m branching out. Inspired by Luke Skytrekker’s “Thoughts on The Phantom Menace” et al, I offer my own “Thoughts on” the latest in the Star Wars saga.

The Force Awakens is a great Star Wars film. I like it a lot. But it’s not without its problems. Watching it again, I’m faced with a few issues. So these are a few thoughts on the film, things I find puzzling or problematic:

  1. Ugly Spacecraft. Star Wars is responsible for some of the most famous and iconic ships of all time. Ships like the X-Wing, TIE Fighter and Star Destroyer are instantly recogniseable even to non-fans. So why are most of the ships in The Force Awakens so monstrously ugly? Apart from the Millennium Falcon (which takes its “hunk-o-junk” status to new heights) and the second-generation X-Wing and TIE Fighter (which look like their first-generation versions and thus are not original) there is not a single handsome spacecraft in this whole movie. I talked a little about this last time, but it bugs me, so I’m talking about it again. Kylo Ren’s command shuttle is perhaps the best-looking ship from the film, and even that is a brutalist echo of the completely superior Imperial Shuttle. The First Order landing craft have a sort of WW2-esque LST functionality, but they’re graceless slabs of metal nonetheless. General Hux’s Star Destroyer (presumably it’s a Star Destroyer) is painted black and you never really see it. It might be cool-looking, but you can’t actually tell. But that Resistance landing craft is unforgivable. All the elegance of a flying brick and half the style, it’s one of the most monstrously ugly ships I’ve seen in a while. I suppose, with that side pod for the pilot, that it’s a sort of B-Wing derivative, but if so, why? The B-Wing is exactly the wrong kind of ship to derive a landing craft from. Why couldn’t it have looked like a Y-Wing writ large, or anything other than the flying metal bar we ended up with?

    It’s not LEGO’s fault. This looks like the movie version.

  2. Why the Resistance? For the purposes of echoing the Rebel Alliance, it works, but that’s not a reason that exists in the story. The Resistance is, we’re told, supported by the (New) Republic against the First Order. But why? Why can’t the Republic just send in soldiers to protect their citizens from the First Order’s attacks? Why is it necessary to have a Resistance? In the wake of the Empire’s demise, the Republic is the legitimate galactic government, surely. We’re told that the First Order arose “from the ashes of the Empire” (or some such), but they don’t call themselves the Empire as if they are the continuation of that government. The Republic are the government now. Which makes the First Order the rebels and the Resistance a sort of loyalist paramilitary. I begin to wonder why the Resistance’s job of opposing the First Order can’t be done by the Republic’s armed forces. Or if the Resistance is the Republic’s armed forces, why call yourselves that? It makes you look illegitimate, like terrorists rather than soldiers.

  1. Why do the bad guys have all the body armour? Seriously, why? The Resistance is supported by the legitimate galactic government of the New Republic. Why can’t they afford to equip their troops better? When the Empire got overthrown, all or most of the Empire’s factories must have passed into the hands of the Rebel Alliance’s New Republic, so they ought to be able to make themselves some. Even if they don’t have all-enclosing helmets for humanising purposes, they ought to be able to afford, and produce and distribute, at least some body armour for their troops. Possibly in Republic dark red, or green or something, to visually distinguish them from stormtroopers.

  2. That stormtrooper nunchaku thing. Ok, I can see the crackles of energy along it, but come on. Finn’s using a lightsaber, and that stormtrooper manages to parry with what looks for all intents and purposes like a physical weapon. And this is after lightsabers have been shown to cut through basically everything in the first six movies. As a fight sequence, this comes perilously close to my threshold of disbelief. And as a weapon, this thing makes little sense. You’re asking me to believe that the First Order has special anti-lightsaber weapons issued to members of every squad, just on the off-chance? Surely there aren’t that many lightsabers floating around out there? It doesn’t make sense.

  1. Rey’s “instinctive” use of the Force. Luke had to be trained by Obi-Wan and Yoda before we saw him demonstrate the Force’s mental effects (on Bib Fortuna). He seems to struggle all the time with controlling his Jedi powers, at least until Return of the Jedi, when he seems to shrug off his inability and become a full-fledged Jedi even though when he left his training he was erratic at best. Yet Rey seems to pick it up completely by instinct without any instruction or guidance at all. It’s weird. If using the Force is that easy, it puts a whole different spin on the Jedi Council’s implicit claim to comprise every Light Side adept of the Force in the galaxy, and makes you wonder how many other non-Jedi Force-sensitives and untrained users there were and are. Now, Rey could be special in that regard, but the fact that she uses the Force so well so suddenly, without any training at all, is definitely odd.

  2. How much can Maz use the Force? Maz Kanata is one of my favourite characters from the whole movie. I’ve written about some of the differences between her and Yoda on my other blog, the more “serious” one, in fact. By her own confession, she is “no Jedi”, but “I know the Force”, she says in the next breath. It remains to be seen exactly what “I know the Force” means in practical terms, but every other character in the saga who has been able to say something like “I know the Force” (even if they never actually said it) has been a Force-user. Han Solo, in Episode VII, knows about the Force, a little bit, but I can’t see him ever claiming to “know the Force”. It’s a really interesting statement, and contributes to my personal certainty that there’s a lot more to Maz than meets the eye. (Incidentally, her LEGO incarnation is terrible. One of the worst expressions in LEGO of any Star Wars character). She appears to be using precognition when she talks to Rey, telling her that “the belonging you seek is ahead, not behind”, and that’s a Force power. Just because we haven’t seen her move stuff around doesn’t mean she’s not able to “do stuff” like Yoda is. She even has a lightsaber, at least for a while (though as Finn shows, it doesn’t take Force powers to wield a lightsaber). And she evidently retrieved that lightsaber either from the bowels of Cloud City or the surface of Bespin. I’ll let you decide which of those is more remarkable.

For all that, The Force Awakens is still a great movie. It’s like the storytellers finally woke up and remembered what the prequel trilogy studiously avoided: that the Jedi were first known as Jedi Knights. Fighters, protectors, soldiers. In the prequels, they’re more like monks than knights, but in the original trilogy they are almost always “Jedi Knights”. I like this.


5 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on “The Force Awakens”

  1. Luke Skytrekker

    Some very good points! I agree with a lot of what said here, though admittedly I’m generally too busy geeking out when I watch the move to be bothered too much by these things. Now that you point it out though, the Resistance does kinda make no sense. The whole political situation in Force Awakens, is, in fact, quite confusing.
    Oh, on a side note, you probably know this, but there’s a deleted scene where Maz actually does use the force to stop, like, a crumbling wall from collapsing or something like that.
    As for Rey, well, I think the unrealism of the suddenness of her Force powers will depend on her origin story, which still remains a mystery.


    1. geoffhorswood Post author

      You’re right about Rey. A lot does depend on her own origin story. But I’m deliberately paralleling Luke, because he was the son of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One who would return balance to the Force, and yet he needed training. A lot of training. Rey’s Force use, by comparison, springs from nowhere after she realises she has the mental strength to block Kylo Ren. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it is weird.

      Liked by 1 person


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