This has been a very busy weekend, despite my not having actually done much productive during it. I seem to be catching up on doing social things after feeling so lonely and isolated for the last couple of months. Unfortunately, though, there actually are some chores that I need to manage to get done.
On Friday evening, I went downtown with some friends to see the National Christmas Tree. Most of them had never seen it before, as they aren’t from the area, and they seemed to mostly like it. I was disappointed that the huge yule log wasn’t there this year, though I suppose they may have cut it for environmental reasons. (It turns out that they didn’t: they just cut it because they rearranged the set-up and the fire pit they’d been using was no longer conveniently located.) Afterwards, we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I came into the movie already knowing that I wasn’t going to consider it canonical, because Disney rebooted the post-Return of the Jedi continuity when they decided to make the film. I don’t really blame them for doing so: I’m not convinced they could make a good movie—and a popular one—out of Heir to the Empire. But, for me, that’s always going to be the canonical timeline. You see, unlike most Star Wars fans, I didn’t get into it because of the movies, or the video games. When I was growing up, I wasn’t really allowed to watch movies very often, or play video games ever. However, I read a huge amount of science fiction, and my exposure to Star Wars came from the Bantam Books-era Star Wars novels of the 1990’s. These novels were essentially forced out of the official timeline by the Prequel Trilogy of movies: although they are largely set after the Battle of Endor, they reference events during the rise of the Empire and Clone Wars that are quite different from the ones Lucas described in the prequels. However, they do a much better job of replicating the “feel” of the original Star Wars movies than the darker tone of more recent novels, and they essentially defined my understanding of the Star Wars universe.
At this point, I’m going to start talking about my thoughts on The Force Awakens. Be warned that spoilers follow!
Despite the fact that I don’t consider the Disney timeline to be the “real” canonical timeline for Star Wars, I was really impressed with the movie. I think that it did a much better job than the Prequel Trilogy—or the more recent novels—of recapturing the feel of the Original Trilogy and the Bantam Books novels. I’m not really exactly sure how to explain this sort of feel, beyond that it seemed to have more of an exciting, heroic feel while also not taking itself to seriously, rather than the darker “high tragedy” that Lucas’ prequels tried and spectacularly failed to be. But, while the movie’s politics honestly didn’t make that much sense—I really couldn’t figure out what the distinction between the “Resistance” and the “New Republic” is supposed to be, especially since the New Republic supposedly has its own fleet, and I couldn’t figure out why destroying the current home of the Republic Senate would’ve knocked the whole fleet out of action, too—it didn’t really seem to matter because they weren’t an important focus of the movie.
Furthermore, given that this movie is kind of intended as a reboot that introduces a new setting and set of characters, an important point in its favor was that I really liked the new characters and the way they were introduced with respect to the older characters. Finn, the reformed stormtrooper, seemed to have a good combination of guts and self-uncertainty, and looks like he will have a lot of interesting development to come. In the meantime, though, he was quite neat and bad-ass. Not as bad-ass as Rey, the heroine, though, who was utterly incredible. It looks as though she’s going to be the most powerful Force user we’ve ever seen: not only did she pull off incredible flying after stealing the Falcon, despite never having flown a spaceship before, but she—with basically no training—figured out very quickly how to use a variety of Force powers in a way that even Luke and Anakin didn’t manage. They managed to make it very clear that she was a—maybe the—leading character, and that she wasn’t going to take bossing around from anyone. She even managed to impress Han Solo with her mechanical skill enough that he tried to hire her as crew. And the fact that, at the end, she seemed to have sort of inherited the Falcon from him struck me as very appropriate.
I also felt like the movie did a good job of having things that mirrored bits from the earlier media in the Star Wars universe. Their willingness to kill off Han Solo was a good sign that they do intend to hand over the series to the newer characters, and his death was a rather appropriate mirror of Obi-Wan’s death in A New Hope, given that he died trying to reason with Darth Vader’s successor and grandson. (And, well, Harrison Ford had asked for a hero’s death in Return of the Jedi, so I suppose it was appropriate that he be the one to die.) Rey’s flying at the beginning of the movie did remind me of Luke’s teenager-hood exploit of flying through impossibly tight rock formations. And finally, it seemed very appropriate to me that she seems to have inherited Luke’s first lightsaber, the one he lost at Cloud City. Not so much because of its connections to him, or to Anakin, but because it’s also Mara Jade’s lightsaber. She is probably the Expanded Universe character that fans were most disappointed to lose in the reboot, in particular given the shortage of female characters who are warriors and Force users instead of just politicians. So I feel like having Rey inherit the lightsaber that Jade inherited from Luke in The Last Command was in part a way to offer her as a replacement for Mara Jade.