Star Wars: The Force Awakens – the spoiler post

More detailed thoughts (and mega spoilers) beneath the cut:

TFA is a spiritual successor to the original movie, Episode IV. It uses similar character archetypes, similar plot beats, and similar MacGuffins, especially for the first 20-30 minutes, and in my eyes, that is its greatest limitation. (Opinion appears split on this point – I’ve seen some viewers who agree with me, and others for whom this is a feature, not a bug.)

For me, TFA was strongest when it played with the source material. Its cleverest touch was the use of Han Solo as the Mentor – after decades of Hero’s Journey mystics, Harrison Ford in crotchety mode was a blast of fresh air. In fact, Han and Chewie’s offstage adventures are more interesting than anything we see on screen. In between the original trilogy and TFA, they lose the Falcon, find another ship, acquire and lose a crew, capture a pack of tentacle monsters, get into trouble with two space gangs, and find the Falcon again. I’d much rather watch that than yet another Death Star run!

In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Han is the deepest, most interesting character in the series, or at least in this movie. He’s an everyman, a pragmatic survivor who finally takes a stand out of loyalty to his friends. He finds love, starts a family, becomes a hero, and loses it all. As an old man, he returns to “what he was good at” in his youth, with a harder, more worldy-wise edge. But he never loses that streak of loyalty, which manifests in his love for his estranged son, and which blinds him at a crucial time.

The “new generation” characters are a mixed bag. The heroes are okay, and TFA‘s early subversion of the “damsel in distress” trope was hilarious. Conversely, I don’t think very highly of the new villains. Pouty where their predecessors were implacable, they aren’t fit to shine Vader and Tarkin’s boots.

Ultimately, TFA is enjoyable but not great, held back by its insistence on adhering to its predecessor. If I wanted to watch the originals again, I’d watch the originals again. While I’ll keep an eye on the sequels, I’m more interested in the planned Han Solo spinoff…

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