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December 19, 2015

The SPOILERS Awaken
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:38 AM * 313 comments

Chewie, we’re discussing the film where people who haven’t seen it aren’t present.

Nota bene: the gnomes have an office outing to the cinema on Monday. Until then, our dear Idumea will not be reading the thread. Please change your username in the unlikely event that anyone behaves so poorly that we need mod intervention; that way the flag to my attention will show up on the latest comments.

Comments on The SPOILERS Awaken:
#1 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 05:14 AM:

I hope it's okay to copy and paste a comment I made elsewhere:

I had fun, and I'm glad I went. The sentimental grab stuff--you know, seeing old faces--worked for me, and made me happy.

That said, I thought there were some storytelling problems.

My first clue that there were problems came in the inevitable and nostalgic scroll-up, where as I read it, I found myself going, "Wait, what? I don't understand. What are the sides?" The reason for this became clear shortly after things started.

Remember in Episode 1 (yes, I remember Episode 1, however much I try to block it out) the bit about the "duly elected Queen"? They want to have their cake and it it too: all the romance associated with royalty, but no, really, it's a democracy, honest! Irritating as that was, the set-up for The Force Awakens was worse. They want to have the "plucky band of rebels" because, you know, that's cool. They also want a "Republic" because that has a certain halo over it, and so the bad guys can be fighting against something good. But it makes no sense for "rebels" to be rebelling against a group that is attacking an established Republic. Those aren't rebels, that's the Republic's standing army. It kept bugging me the whole movie.

Also, I really liked the new guys, Rei and Finn, especially Rei. It became clear toward the end that she was our Luke Skywalker replacement. The bad part of that is, "toward the end." If I had been pulled into her story sooner and harder--in other words, if she'd been established as the one I was to follow and root for, I'd have had less trouble settling in and watching things unfold.

More minor issues (to me) were that the Darth Vader in this one isn't Darth Vader enough; not intimidating enough, not powerful enough, and, if he's had all this training, why is it two untrained people are able to hold their own against him? The conclusion from this is that the amount of training you've had doesn't matter, it is all about how much the Force flows through you.

Those were my main problems. I'll repeat, I enjoyed it, and old characters (especially the Millenium Falcon) were very welcome. The new bot is totes adorbz. I thought it was an interesting decision to kill off Han before he'd resolved things with Leia, and to only bring Luke in at the very end and leave us hanging about what role he'll have. Sad that we won't be able to have a Luke-Han reunion, though.

#2 ::: Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 06:08 AM:

It should, I think, have been obvious that Rey was the new Luke as soon as she started throwing the Millennium Falcon around. It's long been known that Skywalkers who are strong in the Force are natural pilots as a result, and there's no other explanation for her piloting skills.

I don't think anyone referred to the good guys as rebels in the film. They're the Resistance, not the Rebellion. Think French Resistance -- the legitimate government of the Republic is no longer able to defend itself by conventional military methods, because it faces overwhelming forces, and so it sponsors irregular forces to keep the fight going as guerillas.

#3 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 06:15 AM:

Right. Resistance, not rebellion. I stand corrected. Same problem, though.

#4 ::: DJ Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 07:20 AM:

I saw the film Thursday night -- my company rented out five theaters at a local multiplex and handed out free tickets, popcorn, and sodas.

Anywho, Rey was the obvious Luke replacement the instant she appeared on-screen. The planet's resemblance to Tatooine (moisture 'vapourators' everywhere you looked), the revised landspeeder, the way she dressed...

There were so many references to the original that I was getting whiplash from all the deja vu.

And am I the only one who recognized pieces of sets from Episodes 5 and 6?

Still, even with all of that jarring me out of full immersion, the movie was far superior to Episodes 1 - 3 combined, squared, or cubed.

#5 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 08:27 AM:

Saw it last night. I… I think I really liked it, but am afraid to really admit it even to myself. I just remember how badly I wanted Phantom Menace to be awesome, and wanted to convince myself that it was, and it so wasn't. I can't trust any of my immediate reactions. I should see Force Awakens again in a year and see how I feel then.

But Rei (sp?) and Finn and BB-8. I care what happens to them, which I didn't for anyone in the prequels. And I was genuinely shocked when Han died. I saw it with my husband and one of our friends, both of whom said they knew it was coming a mile away -- the movie was echoing New Hope so much that there had to be a scene where it echoed Obi-Wan's death. But I was so involved with Han's hope that he could save his son (and save his relationship with Leia) that I couldn't even process what had just happened until I saw him fall. Maybe I'm a sucker, but the movie's setup worked on me.

And I absolutely loved the music with our first encounter with Kylo Ren -- the same progression as the Imperial March, but stripped down to just a few chords. Later, he gets his own motif, but that first moment. I only heard it because I was expecting the Imperial March (and would have been disappointed if I'd heard it; too obvious).

#6 ::: xaaronx ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 09:44 AM:

DJ Macdonald @4

Where do you work, and are they hiring? :)

#7 ::: Deadra ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 09:59 AM:

I also saw it yesterday, and I was really anxious to the point of chanting "Please don't suck please don't suck pleasedon'tsuck..." in my head.

And it didn't suck. By the time Finn and Dameron escaped, I had the widest grin on my face. I like the characters, I like the look of the whole thing, I like that the interactions have life to them.

Of course, the film isn't without its issues. What is this First Order? Where did they come from? Why do they have all the storm troopers? How much of the galaxy do they control?
I know the film was pretty much made to fan specifications - no Jar Jar, no trade negotiations, etc. - but a little bit of info on what happened in the last 30 years now that everything I knew was retconned would have been nice.
Clearly, the New Republic isn't strong enough to declare open war on the First Order, but they were strong enough to remain independent until Hux brought out the Starkiller? How did they do that?

Rey...how great is Rey? Apart from the fact that she figures out how to use the force at the convenience of the plot (*sigh*), I love that she just happens to be a woman and no one cares. She isn't sexualised, there are no gendered threats or insults - it's amazing how good the abscence of leers can feel. Assuming that Rey is Luke's daughter...who is the mother? The Star Wars movies have always had issues with mothers, and if whoever-she-turns-out-to-be is less amazing than Mara Jade, I will be SO disappointed.
At first I thought Rey would turn out to be Jaina to Kylo Ren's Jacen, but then her parents would have recognised her, right? I mean...there is a proud Skywalker-tradition of only knowing about one twin, but Leia would be aware, at least.

I knew for sure what was going to happen the moment Han stepped on that bridge, and I really loved him in that moment, because he knew he was going to die, but he tried anyway, because that was his son, and because Leia had asked him to. I loved the whole idea of Ben being torn between the Light and the Dark, just like his grandfather, except the other way round. He'll be interesting. (Although I'm a bit nervous about that - Star Wars' daddy issues plus JJ Abrams' daddy issues = oy vey squared)

There are other things about the film that are problems I have with the wider Star Wars universe - the Jedi were such an integral and respected part of the Republic that they were recognized and accepted everywhere. And yet, within about 50 years, they're so completely forgotten that people think they and the Force are a myth? How does that happen? Are there no historical records whatsoever? Do old people not talk to anybody? Has nobody ever pointed and said: "That massive hole in the ground over there? Most important Jedi Temple outside of Coruscant, that was. My uncle worked there as an assistant quatermaster. Died when whe Empire blew it all up."

Oh well...I'll watch it again on Monday and try to get my thoughts straightened out a bit.

#8 ::: Devlin du GEnie ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 11:59 AM:

I cared about the characters and the action sucked me in. That's far more than I can say for Episode 1. I want to see the next one.

I loved loved loved Han's dying gesture. You can bet it's going to pay dividends in the next movies.

The closing scene worked for me, too. "I know you're tired of death and war. Still, take up your sword." I hope that they play more with this.

I caught lots of echoes and references. But the out-and-out repeats kicked me out of the story… a planet killing weapon, again? Flying down a trench to blow it up, again? Daddy issues, again?

#9 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 12:20 PM:

It was clear to me that Kylo Ren wasn't trying to kill Rey, just to hold her off from killing him, because he wanted to bring this newly Force-active person to the Dark Side. I can only explain Finn by saying "he wasn't trained in saber, but he must have learned some fighting skills that transferred."

Was anyone else as bothered as I was by the Nazi imagery being ramped up higher for the First Order than it had been for the Empire? Red banners. Uniforms gone full Hugo Boss SS. The fucking Sieg Heil salute. I felt physically queasy.

Other than that...what everyone else has said. I do want to see more of these characters.

#10 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 12:56 PM:

Just saw it this morning. I'm still in the middle of responding emotionally, so I'm not going to try for any analysis right now.

But I will say this: when I got out of Episode 1, my immediate reaction was "When does the video game come out?" When I got out of the theater today, my immediate reaction was "What happens next?"

#11 ::: Mike Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 01:36 PM:

Deadra @7

The only people who we see regarding the Jedi as a myth are Finn and Rey, who both lost their parents at an early age and grew up very isolated from Galactic society. I don't think we can extrapolate from them to say that educated citizens of the New Republic (of whom we really only see Leia) are not aware of recent history.

#12 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 01:50 PM:

I am afraid I am incapable of being objective, as I am just the right age that I imprinted on the original trilogy like a baby duckling. I am in agreement with all the reviews that point out the narrative flaws, but overall I loved this movie. It was the Star Wars universe I grew up in.

I had no idea how much I needed to see a girl Jedi until Rey touched that lightsaber. Like the long shots of her speeding around the hulk of a Star Destroyer she had been scavenging, or the appearance of the "piece of garbage" Millennium Falcon, watching the flash forwards of her swinging that light saber gave me a lump in my throat I was not expecting.

JJ Abrams has taken a lot of heat for stating that the original trilogy wasn't built for girls. My knee-jerk reaction was WELL WHAT ON EARTH WAS I DOING BETWEEN THE AGES OF 6 AND 16? but he was absolutely right; it wasn't made for us. Like girls throughout pop cultural history, we took it and appropriated it for our own purposes. All it took was the well-written galactic Smurfette, Princess Leia, and it was OURS, even if some of us did feel more comfortable playing as Han Solo. Deadra's observations about Rey being neither sexualized nor exoticized are spot on. I have seen too many movies and TV shows where a resourceful female character is treated as an Exception, where they go overboard letting us know that she's "spunky", or there's something weird about her competence that I'd almost rather see media with no women at all than that with a narrative moment where the badass takes off his helmet and OMG IT'S A CHICK CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?! I'm so glad girls are getting to grow up with this character.

On the other hand, I agree with the questionable galactic politics that has the rebellion going straight into resistance after the triumph at the end of Jedi, but I will accept the hand-waving (albeit with an epic side-eye) with the full knowledge that too much world building was one of the things that killed the prequels for me. I will seek out some good fanfic if I need further explanation, and read it with the appreciation that the hand-waving got us back to the Underdog Vs. Space Nazis that feel so much more satisfyingly space operatic than trade agreements and elected child queens in couture gowns.

... but yes, Rikibeth, I think the Space Nazis were just a bit too on-the-nose. Good lord, the tailored suits, jackboots and monochrome are enough to signify fascism without further plagiarizing Riefenstahl.

I thought the film did really well with the arc of mini-Vader. For that matter, I thought it accomplished in only two or three scenes what Lucas failed to show in his three prequels - the conflict and ultimate tipping over onto the dark side. Despite not seeing it every step of the way I felt the familial anguish. When Han stepped onto the (no safety rails. again. FFS, Empire/Order, maybe you want to invest in some basic OSHA standard equipment) NOT A DEATH STAR, I knew what was going to happen. And yet the confrontation between him and his son was so heart-breaking. Honestly, just watching Ben's face as he shut off his lightsaber and offered it to his father, I thought, well maybe he'll choose the light side... it's possible. Incredibly good acting to see those emotions in the space of a few seconds. And I was in too much shock to cry until Rey got off the Falcon and looked at Leia. (am I the only one who kind of thinks that the Falcon should have been set on fire with Han's body or a reasonable facsimile and floated down the Kessel Run after he died, Viking-style?)

I loved that they were able to integrate the main three original protagonists in a way that didn't feel like weird baton-passing cameos. That they were allowed to have grown as characters with age, wisdom, damage. Yes, even the woman. I've heard some fan whining about OMG CARRIE FISHER IS SO OLD WHY IS SHE TALKING FUNNY SHE IS SO WOODEN and I can't figure out what's wrong with these "fans". She is gorgeous in this movie. She still looks the youngest of the three of them. Of course Leia looks like she has some miles on her - it's not like she was ever a complacent sedentary princess. Why do we have such a problem accepting women being stoic in the face of adversity in our fiction?

I could have used more space battles and if I never see another Spherical Planet Killing Not A Death Star being destroyed by a plucky group of rebels with a lucky shot again, it will be too soon. But these are quibbles. This is definitely part of "my" Star Wars and I will see this more than once in the theatre.

#13 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 02:27 PM:

I wasn't sure how they were going to play the Kylo Ren/Han scene until he said "I'm not sure if I'm strong enough." Then I was sure. I was on the fence until then.

Rey was everything I wanted. She was the character I became when I put on my crappy Woolworth's Halloween Luke mask and picked up my lightsaber with the flashlight hilt and inflatable plastic blade, back when I was seven. I loved that she started without a family present, so they didn't have to die like Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

It bothered me that C-3PO was played as dimwitted, not just prissy. A protocol droid would understand how humans recognize faces - a colored arm is CLOTHING, compared to the rest! A false note.

I was also mildly disappointed that Wedge Antilles hadn't made it up to the command echelon. I would have loved to see Denis Lawson there, especially if he'd carried over some of Dreadnought Foster's cockiness from Hornblower. He is still with us, isn't he?

The dialogue was almost TOO good! The young characters were such natural-sounding teenagers that they didn't quite sound like Star Wars characters! But they were very endearing. I liked Poe's "I can fly anything" being a slight overstatement. It didn't bother me that Rey could fly the Falcon; she obviously knew some piloting, or she wouldn't have wanted to steal the quad jumper that blew up. And every time she and Han said a ship-mechanic thing in chorus - that was me, and my dad, with carburetor-era cars, yes it was. I'm glad there was no Viking funeral; it would have been too much to lose Han and the Falcon BOTH. And when R2 powered up...it felt like I was being given back a little of what they'd taken away.

Does anyone else feel like Luke is going to decline the saber and tell Rey that it's hers now?

#14 ::: Deadra ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 02:43 PM:

Mike @11

Except there's Han, who, by his own admission, didn't believe any of it 30 years earlier even though he got around more than a fair bit.

And Officer What's-His-Name, who thinks Vader is a member of some silly cult and gets force-choked for his lack of faith.

The speed with which essential information is lost in the Star Wars galaxy is just part of a larger issue I have with it - there are no scholars. If you ignore the Jedi Masters, who are more like a warrior priesthood-type institution, there are no scholars in the movies. The closest we ever get to see is a Skywalker or three who like to build things (and even they don't create anything truly original - C3PO is a homemade imitation of a commercially available model). Nobody reads anything beyond the immediate data output on the screen in front of them, either, and the closest they come to "research" is looking up coordinates, finding a great big lot chunk of nothing, and sending Obi Wan to investigate.

I mean...there don't even seem to be any journalists around. No news anywhere. It adds up to a pretty disturbing picture of a society where important information can be lost almost instantly, because it never goes any further than maybe to the one person who was there to watch the sensors at the right time.

#15 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 03:16 PM:

@nerdycellist

Yes! Leia has lost everything, twice - first her family and her planet, then, maybe 12 years ago, her son, the safe republic she'd put so much into building, her brother and her husband. And she has kept right on fighting. And it must feel like it's all happening again - with the seat of the New Republic planets destroyed, and Han's death. And still she DOES NOT GIVE UP. Leia was always the strongest and most focused of the three.

I had not imagined a worse tragedy than Alderaan and found watching that weapon work very difficult. I was reading it as its making 5 suns go nova and destroy the planetary systems around them, but maybe it was just shooting one planet directly? This film, even more than the other Star Wars, seemed to be very sure that distance was instantaneously traversed by both ships and communications and even light, so it's hard to know what you are seeing.

But I did really enjoy the movie, because it's very much a Star Wars movie, and only occasionally rolled my eyes at just how much imagery came from the first three; mostly I really liked the remixing.

Rey in particular is made up of all three of Luke, Leia and Han, and it is wonderful to have her. I truly hope that she does not turn out to be part of the family, that there are others strong in the force in the galaxy and that she is not The Chosen One due to family blood, that she just is. It seemed to me that that was what Maz was implying with her talk of going forward not looking back, though it does seem likely that Rey was a student in Luke's Jedi school, and saved when it was destroyed, and left on Jaaku by someone. The bait and switch where they kept Ben's existence very, very quiet while front and centring Rey so that everyone thought she must be Leia and Han's daughter from that very first table read makes me hopeful that they won't go there.

And Fin is wonderful, his story is partly new, partly Han's but I'm so happy to see him there, getting to be a hero.

@Rikibeth, the wikipedia page says Denis Lawson chose not to return.

#16 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 03:53 PM:

I liked that everything was grimy.

I want to know why all those dead ships were on Jakku. Junkyard, or big battle?

I liked that there were plenty of women everywhere, on both sides, and no attention was called to it whatsoever.

#17 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 04:17 PM:

I'm pretty sure they said Jakku was a junkyard, but then it's confusing why people make a living scavenging. Maybe there was a big battle and a junkyard and scavenging trade grew up to capitalize on the remains? How is the junkyard owner the sole keeper of dough-powder? But then, the galactic economy has never made much sense.

I cannot stop loving Rey. Her solitary existence felt like Menolly in her cave. If I was being manipulated, IT WORKED.

It was very strange to see a single sunset instead of Tatooine's binary one. I know they did it on purpose. Don't care.

Does it seem like they finally got over single-climate planets, for the most part?

It would be interesting if Rey weren't a Skywalker, but I'm betting on Luke's daughter. Then again, from the trailers, I thought Luke had gone dark, so they may pull some twists on me.

#18 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 05:12 PM:

Jakku is a junkyard because there was a huge battle there - you can fight it in the new Star Wars Battlefront computer game.

Ren had taken a Wookiee bowcaster to the torso, something we previously see knock people across the room. The surprising thing then isn't that Finn could hold out against him in that fight, it's that Ren was even able to walk under his own power.

The New Order looks like space Nazis who regrouped in space Argentina fighting a proxy war with the Republic in space Afghanistan and then with a new super-weapon caused space 9-11. A bit more explication would've been nice, but after the prequels I can see why they kept the politics to the absolute minimum. I could also really do without any more super-weapons, but this one at least seems inspired by the EU Galaxy Gun. R2D2 conveniently waking up really bugged me, as did the whole map once we got to see it - that seemed waaaay too big a chunk of the galaxy to be unsurveyed.

I really, really enjoyed watching Han be Han, including the bickering he had with Leia (Leia: "When did that ever work before? And don't say 'The Death Star!'") As soon as we heard that Kylo Ren still had issues with him I knew Han was a dead man. However, that only worked to amp up the tension in the catwalk scene like Hitchcock's proverbial 'bomb under the table'.

Two of my favorite moments were from Chewbacca, namely when he hit on the medic treating his arm and when he gave Han a coat because Chewbacca himself felt cold.

I was impressed that Abrams was finally able to fully weaponize lens flare by having Starkiller Base shoot it.

My first thought at seeing the Supreme Leader was that he was a Zentraedi. I also kept hearing his name as "Snopes", and so kept secretly wondering if he was just an urban legend.

There is a HUGE amount of nerd porn in the film. It's a Blue Squadron X-Wing! And Nien Numb! And the McQuarrie concept sketch Chewbacca! &tc.

#19 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 05:29 PM:

What? No one comenting on Daniel Craig's role in the film yet? -

Daniel Craig

#20 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 05:58 PM:

"if he's had all this training, why is it two untrained people are able to hold their own against him? "

Kylo hasn't had a lot of training, just more than none. When Snoke orders General Hux at the end to come to him in person and bring Kylo Ren, he explicitly says "It's time to complete his training".

"if I never see another Spherical Planet Killing Not A Death Star being destroyed by a plucky group of rebels with a lucky shot again,"

While the chain of events was definitely ad hoc, it wasn't a lucky shot. Once the people on the ground blew a hole big enough, Poe flew into the structure and circumnavigated it placing multiple hits.

#21 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 06:35 PM:

@Rikibeth,
Denis Lawson declined to reprise Wedge. It's an entirely understandable decision.

My big takeaway from the movie was that it didn't suck which was a great relief. After the prequels, my expectations were (very) low. But then I saw the trailers and hope grew. I became cautiously optimistic, and so when the lights faded and the opening crawl text came onscreen, I was both excited & apprehensive. But I liked it. Quite a lot. Apprehension turned to joy. Sure, there are any number of things a fan can grizzle about but this was the first Star movie in years I really enjoyed watching. And that counts for a lot.

#22 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 06:40 PM:

@16 Jim Kiley
I liked that there were plenty of women everywhere, on both sides, and no attention was called to it whatsoever.

I liked that the film made the assumption that almost everyone* is competent at what they are doing. Captain Phasma isn't in charge of the stormtroopers because she's a woman, or has some Sooper Sekrit Power, it's because she's the right person for the job. (Also, completely terrifying. Which ought to be a requirement if it isn't already.)

*Han still can't bluff his way out of a wet paper bag.

#23 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 08:53 PM:

On forgetting the Jedi

I had a lot of problems with how rapidly the galaxy forgot the Jedi. When I was playing a Star Wars RPG set in Empire Strikes Back time, I came up with an explanation that fits with everything we know about the Empire.

After the Empire's establishment, talking about the Jedi becomes... if not a crime, a reason for suspicion. Do it and you get put on a list. It is not a good list to be on. Everybody who was super close with the Jedi dies during the war, immediately after the war, or keeps their mouth shut so that nobody comes for them. The result is that most of the people who talk about the Jedi are people who are too dumb, brave, or out-of-touch to know what might happen if they talk too much. Stories become unreliable. There are still a bunch of people out there who know about the Jedi, and I assume there are some cousins-of-Jedi families out there who pass down the lore pretty steadily (and maybe even some rudimentary force-adept-not-Jedi techniques for the occasional gifted kid), but don't share that stuff in public.

On the Resistance, the Rebels, and The Republic

I haven't quite sussed out the New Order, the Resistance, and the Republic yet... but here's some guesswork based on the original trilogy and a smattering of defunct EU knowledge I picked up by osmosis. I'm writing this up from memory, I may get some details wrong in terms of canon.

At the time of A New Hope, the Imperial Senate is largely symbolic and highly dysfunctional - made up of 25% legitimate Organa-style rebel sympathizers trying to get something done, 50% do-nothing career politicians trying to get favorable trade deals and military spending for their sectors, and 25% staunch Imperial loyalists. Imperial Governors are militarized loyalists appointed by the Emperor.

The destruction of Alderaan shakes things up in the senate. Destroying entire planets and dumping half the gross galactic product into Death Stars gets the complacent career politicians talking. Eventually a 2/3 majority is on the verge of dissolving the Empire and reforming as a new Galactic Republic. Informed of this by the few loyalist senators, the Empire preemptively disbands the senate and transfers all power to the governors.

All those jobless senators are still on Coruscant, though. While the empire doesn't acknowledge their power, they are the duly elected representatives of their planets, and they start plotting together. They move their activities the Hosnian system, because Coruscant is too heavily controlled by the Imperial Navy. They begin working with the Rebellion, and as soon as the Emperor is dead they establish themselves as the new Galactic government: the Republic they intended to form to begin with. (Note: while some of this comes from guesswork and the now defunct EU, most of it I got from making guesses based on the original trilogy).

A new Republic government is all well and good, but all non-rebel military power still lies with the Empire, who still retain control of some systems and most of the fleet. Still, they can't maintain a full military presence in non-vital sectors, so they abandon some of them. These sectors are able to start helping the Republic build a proper fleet, though much of that was destroyed in this movie's planetsplosion.

To sum up: much of the galaxy is technically part of the new Republic, if you ask its Senators, but strategic locations are pretty much universally occupied by the Order.

The question of "Ok, but how much of the galaxy, and where?" is what the movies really give us no hints about.

My best guess is that the New Order is literally the entire Imperial military - though they don't have an emperor anymore so they needed a new name - desperately occupying as much of the galaxy as they can manage.

#24 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 06:23 AM:

To steal a phrase from nerdycellist above, I was the right age to imprint on the prequels like a baby duckling - 10 for Phantom Menace, 13 for Clones, 16 for Revenge. Ahem. Then I grew up a bit, reflected a bit and realised they were drek in many ways, but (this is important) I loved them anyway. I was a dedicated fanficcer for years.

So Star Wars is very important to me for reasons only sort of related to quality. But I hadn't quite realised that this was still true until I heard the first notes of the main theme and it suddenly hit me that THERE IS A NEW STAR WARS MOVIE IT IS REAL THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I'm going to go see it again just to make sure I'm not dreaming.

I, like Leah Miller @23, assumed that the First Order is just the Empire in a new hat. The Rebels cut off the head in RotJ and cost them a lot of materiel, but there was a whole galaxy's worth of infrastructure out there which doesn't automatically stop functioning because Number One is dead. On reflection, I like it as a comment on the limits of the "let's kill Hitler" approach: okay, you've taken out the despot whose idea this all was; now what? It made sense to me that while the Rebels established the New Republic, the Imperial remnant would also regroup and find a new leader. And start building (or finish building) additional superweapons.

So good to see a more diverse cast. So good to see a female instance of the tech wizard/ace pilot. So good to see Leia reinforced in her role as strategist (When Han said "I went back to the only thing I was good at" and General Leia said "We both did" ...!)

And Kylo, Kylo. I loved Kylo as main villain. Vader was commanding and apparently invincible - we don't need another one. I was very sceptical when I saw the publicity shots; another inscrutably masked Sith Lord, really? But then to see a villain so very young, not properly trained, desperately trying to live up to his famous grandfather and adopting the mask as homage/shield - that made a lot of emotional sense to me.

I read Peter Bradshaw's Guardian review afterwards. I don't agree with everything, but was particularly struck by his assertion that "Star Wars has now gone beyond the sci-fi genre to its own kind of intergalactic quasi-Arthurian romance".

I concur with the conclusion but would say that it's been like that from the beginning - the sheer scale, the happy location-hopping without any regard for plausible geography, and the way that huge good/evil struggles are mirrored/re-enacted at the scale of the family - all of those are characteristic of medieval(ist) romance. Especially the family part and the generational motor that underlies things - the machinery turning through the same sequences with different people.

(I did giggle at how the plot of TFA is mostly the plot of ANH (... or ROTJ) but Bigger, but I can't really object; it's appropriate in context.)

There's a medieval romance called Sir Eglamour of Artois which is almost two romances in one: Sir Eglamour's quest to win his lady, but then when they're betrothed and she has his child (usually where these things finished), the mother is shipwrecked and the baby carried off by a griffin, and Part 2 is set fifteen years later with Eglamour's long-lost son Degrebelle describing almost the same arc (down to wooing one of the same princesses, which is, er, weird.)

Guy of Warwick, one of the most famous romances insofar as any of them are, has a sequel about Guy's son Reynbrun, which in some MSS is separate and sometimes found bolted onto Guy's story. Again the broad shape is very similar.

Kylo Ren, powerful, untrained, running away from what his family have sort of assumed he's obviously going to do, is describing the same arc as Anakin Skywalker and indeed the same arc as Luke Skywalker (but Luke did it in the opposite direction). It all goes around.

Academic ramblings aside, I loved this film so much, unreasonably much. I'm not sure how much of that is the movie and how much of that's me.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 11:24 AM:

I had many of the same problems listed above: the economics/history not making sense, Yet Another Death Star, etc. (How cool would it have been if the bad guys had been guerillas/terrorists/insurgents instead of the Huge Nazi Organization With All The Ships And Troops?).

But. This felt like Star Wars. The people behaved like people, and they weren't all white dudes.

It made me grin widely on multiple occasions. I can forgive it much.

#26 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 01:13 PM:

When our heroes visited Maz's (the new "cantina" scene), I didn't see a single alien species that I had seen in a previous Star Wars movie, and I thought that was wonderful, because it reinforced the idea that the galaxy is huge, and we haven't seen all of it yet.

This would be the primary reason that my wife and I disagree as to the identity of Rey's father. She believes that it's clear that it is Luke, while I feel (hope?) that the galaxy can be big enough to have Jedi who aren't descended from Anakin Skywalker.

#27 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 02:54 PM:

I just remembered that the Millennium Falcon's design was inspired by a hamburger with an olive next to it. That space monster trying to eat it suddenly makes a lot more sense...

#28 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 03:53 PM:

Jim Kiley@36: But thematically the Star wars saga is the story of the Skywalker family across the generations since the immaculate conception of Annakin. To have this trilogy *not* be about the next generation would just be wrong. It's why I'd be extremely surprised if Rey turns out to be the daughter of anyone other than Luke. Also, Finn being apparently the only person to be able to resist stormtrooper indoctrination suggests there's more to him than we've been told. Annakin fathering kids was verboten, but being force sensitive runs in families. My guess? He's the grandson of Mace Windu's sister.

#29 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 04:15 PM:

Oh yeah, Kylo Ren. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and theories about Kylo Ren.

The first few hours of TFA on the internet, I saw a lot of people complaining about him: "Ugh, a whiny darksider just like prequel Anakin." That seems to have died down and a lot of people are embracing him as an interesting new take on the traditional Star Wars villain. Still, before that was the internet consensus, I noticed people-who-like-guys my age and younger making tentative "um. feels maybe?" posts. Anakin definitely never evoked a single feel in me personally. When Kylo is out in the snow physically beating on his own wound in an attempt to overcome his inherent weakness, I was like "oh honey no, that girl is gonna wipe the floor with you."

I have to wonder whether the screenwriters were deliberately trying for the Loki Feels demographic. The thing is, while I have some sympathy for Loki during Thor, I also know that he just straight-up thematically can't ever permanently be redeemed. He is the scorpion, etc. (In the comics, he can sometimes maintain good guy status for a few years, but pretty much only if he is de-aged... I'm not sure if that's symbolic, or just a narrative convenience). My "Loki Feels" were not something I would have thought important enough to put a name too without the rest of the internet's prompting. My Bucky feels, however...

And dang, this might end up being a total Bucky feels situation. Completely brainwashed, willingly submitting to the process that will eliminate painful doubts, no matter how horrific that process is? Yeah. So Kylo killed friggin Han Solo. What could make him more irredeemable in the audience's eyes and in his own?

For me, the franchise's future hinges a lot on having Kylo's fall to the Dark Side make sense, and what they do with him long term. Everyone else is already on a course to be completely awesome, but there are a bunch of different directions they could go with him.

One of my friends complained that he didn't understand why Ben Solo would have gone dark side, so I whipped up a plausible backstory. Or rather, I wrote down the one my brain had already created, because it does that automatically. I didn't read any of the Han and Leia's kids stuff in the EU, so I may be reinventing the wheel, but let's go.

So we have this kid: named for a Jedi, strong in the force, anger issues. He gets sent away to his weird uncle's military school, begs his Dad not to send him but his Dad says "no, you really need to get this whole thing under control." So now he's at this school and everyone expects him to be the best: he's crazy strong in the force, he has the bloodline, he has the name, but he just keeps fucking up and getting angry and his weird uncle reprimands him about it in front of everybody. Unlike Anakin, who was a fully-grown adult with a best friend and a girlfriend and a support system, Kylo has nobody. At first people were standoffish because he was Related To Folks, but now it's because he's the weird fuckup angry kid. Luke still believes in him though, but delivers exactly the wrong message: light side and dark side are all or nothing, you're going to have to control your anger and not fall prey to temptation.

Which, to an angry sixteen-year-old, sounds impossible. So all that needed to happen was for someone to come along and tell Kylo "Oh yeah, the reason you can't be a perfect emotionless zen master at sixteen is that you're destined to be full-on Dark side. You know how everybody says you're like your grandfather? That's true. Really, none of this is your fault - it's just a fact that people who can't control their anger end up on the dark side and you know you can't control your anger. There's no other path available to you, and the dark side path leads to being a badass. I suggest you lean in to it."

(Aside: I'm fascinated by individualized coping mechanisms for negative emotions among the force sensitive. It seems to me the problem isn't having emotions, it's letting your negative emotions rule your actions. From a psychological and therapeutic standpoint, telling someone "you shouldn't feel that way" is just bad, because then their feelings are just another thing they can't do right. It can send someone into a total spiral.)

Anyway, back to Kylo Ren. So he strikes out against his classmates and man does that feel good. All these people who looked down on him because he couldn't get his anger under control sure do fall like cordwood when anger is an asset. So now he's leading a New Order, looking badass in his dark helmet, having incredible power - he can read minds, stop blasters. Everything he could want, right? Except he doesn't actually have, you know, friends. He has one colleague who is his age but that guys' a weedy little fascist sociopath who kind of hates him.

Also, this whole "all or nothing, dark or light" deal? It's not as easy as he was told. He doesn't feel the natural compunction to be a stalwart isolated badass all the time. He wants to be respected, but he also wants companionship... and he's pretty much reduced to talking to his imaginary friend version of his dead grandfather. Unlike Anakin who made conscious decisions to throw his greater network of connections away, Kylo was a dumb teen who was thought this was his only option, and probably thought that being dark side would magically erase his desire for human connections.

So he sees Rey and oh dear lord is she Force Sensitive. He kidnaps her and calls off the search for the droid not just because he thinks she can do the map thing, but also because he cares more about this opportunity than he does about finding Luke, even if he doesn't want to admit it to himself. He takes his mask off for her with such minimal prompting, because he wants her to see him as a cool powerful handsome badass and become his apprentice and hopefully friend. He definitely wants her to see him as a person, because nobody has seen him as a person for a long, long time. He justifies this to himself as wanting to bring a powerful new weapon to the dark side, but that's not his main motivation and everybody knows it. Then it turns out that Rey has a better relationship with his own father than he does and she's known Han for all of a day, and that provides him with the answer he seeks: Vadar's 'downfall' was not being able to kill his family, Rey is drawing strength from her relationship with Han, and a true dark side person would be capable of killing anyone no matter how he feels. So Kylo again has literally only one option available to him: Kill Han Solo. He's never been provided with an example for how to be a good guy other than "don't have any anger" or "do something dramatic and DIE," so his only option to resolve this conflict is to kill Han Solo (or to kill himself, which I do think he legitimately contemplated there for a second).

So he does it, and guess what? Turns out killing Han Solo has solved ZERO of his problems. It's given him a new problem, namely getting shot in the gut with a bowcaster, which only throws the fact that he's weak and lonely into sharper relief. He hates his own weakness but cannot admit it, has to continue fighting with the casual swagger of someone who is used to utterly dominating every combat. But he's hurt bad, so bad the blood is pouring through his clothes, so he can't casually dominate this one. As a result, his sales pitch for the Dark side comes off as weak and desperate. The moment of advantage he uses to makes his pitch doesn't occur because of the inherent strength of the Dark Side, it happens because he has years and years more training than she does... and even then, she rapidly grasps that while she may need SOME training, the dark side really hasn't done poor Kylo any favors. So she light-sides it up, overpowers him, and the only thing that prevents her from either killing or capturing him is an act of structural collapse.

She goes to check on Finn rather than waste time trying to reach Kylo and finish him off, because Finn is more important than the concept of total victory. Chewie comes in with the Falcon (symbol of friendship and family and Han Solo's love) to save them. This is gonna eat at Kylo, and may be much of what his master uses to drive him deeper towards the dark side. Like, I'm SURE that part of him wanted to be captured or killed when she defeated him, but she doesn't even care enough about him to do that.

And the thing is, she's not obligated to. She's not obligated to care about him or save him, and the movie understands that and reinforces it.

Still, I'm kinda fascinated with the whole Kylo thing, because while everyone talks about Vader's conflictedness and redemption, Prequel Anakin never seemed all that conflicted and Vader didn't seem to doubt the inherent radness of the Dark Side AT ALL, he just wanted Luke to come along for the ride. Here we're seeing genuine conflictedness for the first time and AGAIN the problems with the Jedi's reductive all-or-nothing, black-and-white bullshit. At first Kylo thought the Dark Side would solve all his problems and erase his pain, but now he knows that it can't and won't, that pain and fear and light/dark conflict are going to be a constant in his world forever.

So that's the big question: is this gonna be a redemption story or not? A lot of people say that a redemption story is a cop-out, because we've seen it before with Vader... except we really haven't. Also, redeemed people in settings like this usually do not get to live, because how do you square that? How do you live your life with the man who killed Han Solo standing next to you? Vader didn't get to live, no reformed villain in a Hero's Journey style narrative ever gets to live long term, unless it's a girl who was turned good by the hero's goodness... which, ick.

This brings up my relationship with salvation/rescue/friendship narratives. I'm actually in favor of stories where friendship and understanding redeems someone (see Nux and Capable), but I'm also cognizant of how society consistently portrays this as the obligation of the main female character. Rey is a badass who exists outside that obligation, and that's incredibly important narratively. It also gives Kylo's arc options to go somewhere really compelling.

In the same way that social narratives tell girls they have to save guys, sad guys get the social narrative that they are entitled to the romantic attention of the opposite sex that will save them, and if they don't get it then it's everybody else's fault when they go on a murder spree.

They can fix all this by having Kylo eventually break free of this thing of his own accord - not because of family or the love of a good woman but because he's miserable and this isn't working and even if nobody has ever shown him an example of how to be good if you're not perfect or dead, he's going to figure it out himself - and then hopefully spend a few decades apologizing and coming to terms with everything he did.

It isn't Rey's job to save Kylo, or even to care about him other than as a threat. Her job is to be the most important young Jedi in the galaxy, and to save it from whatever greater existential threat is lurking in the wings.

Kylo can save himself, or not. Whether he's redeemable is entirely up to him.

That's the direction I hope they take, anyway.

#30 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 05:19 PM:

Leah Miller @29: *raises hand for Kylo feels*

I think what sharply differentiates him from Anakin is that while Anakin had many issues, a lack of self-confidence wasn't one of them. It's already visible in Phantom Menace - kid is sure he can do anything, and that never really goes away. He hates the idea he might be helpless to save the woman he loves; as soon as Palpatine suggests that the Dark Side could deal with that, Anakin's on it, never mind that this is a legendary feat of Force power we're talking about. He spends at least a few moments on "I shouldn't ..." but never considers "What if I can't?"

Luke had that, too, the same easy confidence in his own abilities. First as a pilot, then later when he's mastered the Jedi skillset, that too. (E.g. his sheer poise when dealing with Jabba at the start of RotJ.)

And of course Rey has it, which is arguably a point in the "totally a Skywalker" column.

Kylo doesn't have that, and that's really interesting. It humanises him as a villain and also introduces a wild element to the villains' plans. Vader calculated when it was strategically beneficial to kill people and when to let them live (e.g. the trap in ESB.) Kylo as he is now probably can't do the same. He could end up on the wrong side of the First Order *as well as* the Resistance if he lashes out at the wrong moment and ruins one of Snoke's plans.

(And if he ends up completely on his own, being hunted by both sides - then what?)

#31 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 05:42 PM:

I probably won't see the movie. The first movie lost me at "Kessel run in 12 parsecs" because at 12-years-old I knew what a parsec was...

All that being said... another Death Star? Haven't they figured out that those really don't work? I'd like the villain of the next movie to be an economist. She says, "you know, we could build 8000 Star Destroyers for the cost of one Death Star, and there's that stealth research we abandoned back in the day... it was actually getting somewhere, so why don't we build a fleet of 8000 invisible Star Destroyers and just pound our enemies into space-dust?"

#32 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 07:20 PM:

I saw it today and I really enjoyed it. It felt a lot like Star Wars, and the references to the original trilogy struck me as enough without going overboard.

I liked how they knew that no one was going to out-Vader Vader, so they made Kylo Ren be a wannabe with conflicted emotions. That made for a much better character.

Still, I don't quite understand how the Republic goes to being a Resistance on a single planet with a handful of single-person fighters. I mean, sure, I know that the Rebel Alliance winning at the end of RotJ doesn't make the whole Galaxy free and belong to the Republic again, and that there are going to be pockets of Imperial remnants, but I didn't understand the political situation here at all. Fortunately, as weird as it is to say, that wasn't the main point of the movie, but I certainly would have appreciated a better understanding of the situation. I appreciate some of the hypotheses here, but I wish it were part of the text of the movie.

Rikibeth @ 9:

A German friend of mine was bothered a bit by the Nazi imagery, since we already knew they were supposed to be bad guys, and it seemed rather on the nose to go there. My feeling is that, yes, it was a bit over the top, and I'm not sure they needed to explicitly go to that well either, but if the Empire fanboys out there (and there are some) still don't get it after this, there's no hope for them.

#33 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 08:24 PM:

I'm grateful for people who had seen the movie for holding back on Twitter, and for threads like this one.

I was going to wait to see the film with my sister's family on Christmas, but I knew that it would be too long for major reveals to contained, so I saw it today. I'll happily see it again with family.

Yeah, I was kind of put off by the whole Death Star Redux thing. I guess they needed to have something for Poe to do.

Over all, very pleased, but right now I'm really, terribly bummed by Han Solo. I pretty much knew what was going to happen as soon as he stepped onto the catwalk, but was really hoping they wouldn't go there.

Harrison Ford's performance was splendid. He brought that character back to life again; I was afraid he would "phone it in," but really, he rocked. Old Han was fiesty but definitely showing his age, wiser but in no way reformed.

And now . . . gone. Not even pulling a sparkly blue Obi-Wan. Honestly feeling a little griefy about this.

I hope the next movies give the new cast plenty of room to shine.

(The sour dweebs who object to the casting . . . jeez, get over it.)

#34 ::: Matthew Ernest ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2015, 11:10 PM:

"The first movie lost me at "Kessel run in 12 parsecs" because at 12-years-old I knew what a parsec was..."

Notwithstanding George's effort to redefine this claim after the fact, the reasonable explanation for for first move was that Han Solo was a scoundrel trying to BS a couple of hayseeds. However, the new movie doubles down...

"another Death Star? Haven't they figured out that those really don't work?"

Part of the point of a Death Star is that it's not just a destructive weapon, it is also a terror weapon. Something so over the top says "you can never outgun the Empire so don't even try". The First Order is concerned with looking small after they lost the Empire and the address this by building even bigger than the Empire.

#35 ::: kevinjy ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 03:35 AM:

Re: the Republic/Resistance quandary – General Hux actually spells the situation out pretty clearly (albeit most of the way through the movie):

Today is the end of the Republic. The end of a regime that acquiesces to disorder. At this very moment in a system far from here, the New Republic lies to the galaxy while secretly supporting the treachery of the rogues of the Resistance.
So the Republic and the Resistance are separate entities. Apparently, the Resistance are partisans fighting in territory not controlled by the Republic, and they at least notionally have their own command structure, but are supported and bankrolled by the Republic. This would seem to only make sense if there wasn't a state of open war between the Republic and the First Order before the events of the movie, which is odd, but could be explained.

#36 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 06:02 AM:

I went with Omega (SO) to see the 10AM showing on Thursday. She went in ambivalent, I went in hopeful, and we both bounced out ecstatic two and a bit hours later. To quote Omega, "It was like being ten years old again!".

And it was. We have the same adventure, excitement, wonderful cimetography, wild coincidences, ocasional slightly clunky dialogue and/or cheesy acting (Domhnall Gleeson came THIS CLOSE to channelling Kenneth Williams at the Not The Nuremberg Rally Honest Guv moment) and handvavium science. What we also have is a more than competent script and an extremely talented cast diverse in many ways apart from their ability to act, and who for the most part give it their all, all the time, newcomers and old guard alike. I think Harrison Ford gave his best performance as Han Solo ever (how much of this was he knew this was the swansong he'd craved for 'Return of the Jedi' I don't know, but it's surely a factor), and both John Boyega and Daisy Ridley shone.

What I've also found fascinating is how most folks I know who've seen TFA have been very careful when they speak about it in public in case they reveal something. Given we have the capability to tell the world OMFG DARTH VADER IS LUKE SKYWALKERS DAD WTF ELEVENTY, that pleases me a lot. I just hope that after I've gone to see it again in a week os so I'll have more people to discuss it with.

#37 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 09:16 AM:

@29 Leah Miller

Headcannon accepted.

#38 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 11:07 AM:

Given Anakin, Luke, and now Kylo Ren, I found myself wondering if perhaps petulance is a genetic trait in the SW universe.

As a parent (and when did I ever imagine that parenthood would play into my reading of a SW movie?) I found the scene on the bridge absolutely compelling. My plot brain was telling Han to run, but my parent brain was acknowledging that you give your kid every chance to come home again. (Plus, Leia had charged Han to bring him home, and...)

#39 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 11:39 AM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 24 - re: cyclic medieval romances

Nice point about the romances (and there are several of them) in which successive generations recapitulate the same adventure arc.

IF (and that's a big "if") the new SW series is consciously playing off that tradition (not impossible, the original was consciously playing off of Campbell), then Rey *must* be a scion of the Skywalker clan. Because the medieval romances were all about genealogy and lineage. Often in a very awkward cobbled-together way.

BTW, the part I loved most about this movie was they way in which Rey was firmly established at the center of this story arc's "hero's journey". It is not possible to de-center her with doing fatal damage to the fabric of the symbolic structure. (Not that the toy companies aren't trying….)

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 12:14 PM:

I certainly didn't have any trouble following Rey and seeing her as the focus of the story from the start. I'm not sure what more the scriptwriters could have done to telegraph that sooner, barring putting neon arrows over her head.

I found Finn pretty irritating. I thought the scriptwriters indulged his weaknesses a hell of a lot.

Also, where did he pick up the "must help the woman" impulses? His repeated habit of grabbing Rey and hauling her around as though she were incompetent and incapable is certainly part of our world. But there were stormtroopers with female voices; he had to be fighting and working as an equal with them since he was too small to remember his own name. So why all of a sudden does he feel that Rey needs his (repeatedly incompetent) guidance?

If the romance story follows the older arcs, she's being set up to choose between Finn and Poe. Honestly, I'd rather the two of them followed their letterman's jacket bromance and left her to make (or not make) her choice in a way that won't define her as a character the way men's (and Hutt's) reactions to Leia defined her. The way Anakin defined Amadala as soon as they became involved.

I may be a little cranky. But having so much go right really made me kind of stroppy about how it's probably all going to go wrong as the series progresses.

#41 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 12:43 PM:

The referentiality grated a bit.

So much of it was a reference back to the first movie, a rehash. (did anybody notice how much of the background dialogue was straight-up repeating background dialogue from Episode IV? Stormtroopers really are boring, got it)

They handled the bad guys well, though, in that their referentiality felt intentional. They WANTED to be Darth Vader. They WANTED to be the Emperor. They WANTED to be taken as seriously as the Empire used to be.

The Resistance? Mmm, not so much.

The all too convenient finding of the Falcon? Ick.

And the space-compressing superweapon reduced the scale of everything. It needed to have a reference to launching the weapons into hyperspace. It needed a way to make it clear it would take minutes or days to hit the target once fired. I mean, the Starkiller base and the ability to strike anywhere from one spot does magnificently raise the stakes, but it's like the magic transwarp teleporter from the new Star Trek; unless you contextualize it, you break the settings. And it did, in that moment. Suddenly we're all in one single system, instead of leaping from system to system. Suddenly it's all local.

BOO.

Re: Finn, Rey, stupid chauvinism and indulgent screenmaking, I felt like the first time he rushed to her aid was the perfect note. Up till that point he had been not much more than a coward. Having him see one person attacked by two larger people and moving to intervene made him seem decent in a way that the character needed. Having his help be totally unnecessary was also perfect storytelling.

Then the filmmakers undercut that basic storytelling several times in ways that were just a little weird.

I think the idea that Finn keeps trying to help and subsequently punches far, far above his weight class and gets into trouble that Rey needs to rescue him from makes a very good story beat that makes the ending feel right. That he would try to stand up against Kylo Ren with a lightsaber he can barely use and get cut to pieces because of it.

I think if they strip out all possible romance between these two characters it will be the most right possible feeling.

#42 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 01:46 PM:

KeithS @32

One of the unrecoverable sins of the prequel trilogy is that they made intergalactic trade and politics seem boring, when that stuff is fascinating if used correctly. More of the drama in Game of Thrones comes from long-term economic and political planning than dudes fighting with swords or warships, and swords/warships are most relevant in how they disrupt or enhance day-to-day economic function in a given area.

I think prequel paranoia is why we got almost zero insight into the non-military aspects of the greater political situation. After being bored to tears by the pointless nonsensical trade negotiation and confusing separatist war, everyone was convinced that politics was the problem not... you know... everything about the writing in those movies.

abi @40

Deadra mentions one of the weird worldbuilding problems of the Star Wars universe in her post at #14: nobody is ever shown reading or otherwise enjoying any narrative entertainment. It's all live music, holochess, or bloodsports. What does a Stormtrooper watch or read on his off shift? It's possible Finn picked up some ideas about how the world works from whatever fiction he consumed, but again in Star Wars we've got nothing to build on. Imperial and new Order command both seemed to be overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white, so it's possible that whatever media the empire produces or sanctions is less progressive.

I think Finn and Poe have the closest thing to romantic chemistry we've seen on screen so far. I'd love it if they ended up romantically involved, but I suspect Disney and various international film markets (China and Russia, specifically) might limit the screenwriters' ability to do that. If the love triangle ended up being Finn choosing between Poe and Rey, that could be interesting... but at the same time I think Finn and Rey work much better as platonic friends.

As for Rey's romantic prospects, I don't know. Luke didn't really have any in the end, and that worked out fine. There's also room in Movie Two for a Lando Equivalent (my personal preference: some kind of ambassador/politician/space dandy/bounty hunter who works for Lando. Yes that might be a connection too far. Shut up, I just really like Calrissian and feel like he comes from a social and political world we don't get to see often enough in Star Wars. Also, I want someone to have a really ostentatious star yacht.) I hesitate to raise the possibility of Kylo as a romantic partner for Rey because of the things I said upthread about women expecting to save or forgive angsty asshole dudes, but if they somehow managed to write it in a way that defied those tropes, it could possibly work. While I wouldn't exactly say they had chemistry, the actors were fun to watch together.

I'm of the opinion that romance in long form fiction should be guided by the onscreen chemistry between actors. In that vein, if your narrative hinges on a couple being a couple, screentest the HELL out of different actor configurations. They apparently did that for the US version of the Office, and it shows. Maybe they're waiting to see how the series develops before doubling down on anything.

#43 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 01:55 PM:

Re: Finn being able to wield a lightsaber "okay".

When he is recognized by a Stormtrooper in the Cantina Battle, said Stormtrooper yells "Traitor!", throws down their blaster, and deploys an electrified club. (Presumably they are under orders to try and capture him so they can figure out what went wrong with his conditioning, otherwise just shoot him and be done with it.) This suggests all Stormtroopers get some Melee weapon/crowd control training for when you want to administer a beatdown vs just killing everyone. That was my "on the drive home" take on why Finn was able to wield the saber at least semi-competently.

#44 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 02:01 PM:

@cajunfj40 - that sequence also shows us Finn getting kicked around while using the saber, which I think is important in that it shows him NOT being proficient on his first use. He's clumsy and unsubtle and almost gets killed. It draws a clear parallel between himself and Rey, whose first time wielding it is able to tap into her latent powers and use the Force to fight a powerful trained opponent.

And it shows him getting his feet under him with the saber, so he's not a first-time novice facing Kylo Ren--he's a second-time novice. TOTALLY different.

#45 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 02:23 PM:

Howard Bannister @44:
What I meant was, he used it like a weapon, though clumsily. More like a club - like that electrified riot club. No heft to the saber, though, so it didn't work the way he thought at first. Maybe someone who knows melee weapons/swords better can say how far off base I am?

Rey "poked" with the saber a lot - just like with her staff. You could tell she missed the length and ability to get leverage with two hands apart. Probably thrown off by the lack of heft, too.

I agree on first vs second time user!

#46 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 02:37 PM:

Leah Miller @ 42:

Yes, very much agreed on the prequels making trade and politics boring and nonsensical, especially since that was supposed to be the driving force behind the situation in those stories. As always, The Clone Wars TV show saves the day there and actually fleshes out what was supposed to be going on.

On-screen chemistry (or lack thereof) is why so many romances of the week in TNG or DS9 fell flat. I was very impressed with how well everyone seemed to interact in the movie. I think that the domestic market alone (or as perceived by Hollywood executives) is enough to put the kibosh on any romantic interest between Finn and Poe, but there definitely seemed like there was something there. I've also already seen fanart of a happy Rey/Finn/Poe triad, so there's that. I'm going to stay out of the shipping side of things beyond merely hoping that the studio doesn't slip up and do something stupid with Rey.

#47 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 02:40 PM:

I wasn't crazy about it.

The first chunk was "they aren't doing anything obviously wrong, but I'm just not connecting". I was at the point where when I got queasy at the first swooping around ship fight, I felt like "at least I'm a little involved". (I saw the movie in 2D, and my reaction seems to be very unusual. I came out of the movie slightly queasy and headachey, and that's never happened with any other movie.)

None of the acting was *bad*, but I wasn't really engaged until Harrison Ford showed up. I never thought his Han Solo in the first movies was all that, but I believed in the older Han Solo.

Most of the CGI was gorgeous, and I'm planning to look up the effects, since I gather they didn't use as much CGI as most sf movies.

Something that I can't blame on the movie is that Carrie Fisher looked like two or three other people I know, and I kept getting distracted by that. I've seen a complaint about her lower face not having much mobility-- possibly cosmetic surgery. Damned if I know.

I did get moderately involved, but I've lost track of a good bit of the story, so I'm not clear about which bits did it. I'm suspecting some depression at my end, since the negative memories are more vivid than the positive ones. Another possibility is that what I liked was good guys fighting bad guys and winning, and since I'm not a huge fan of SW, it dissolved into a sort of Star Wars soup.

One of the problems was the bad science-- it takes minutes for light to get from a star to a planet. And shouldn't Ben have had helmet hair?

I didn't connect with Rey, and I'm not sure why. Too perfect? This isn't crucial, but one of the good things about the first trilogy was that Luke's, Obi-Wan's, and Han's costumes made sense as clothing. Long flappy pieces of fabric are dangerous if you're living an active life.

One of the reasons I went to the movie (aside from being able to take part in the conversation) was listening to this, a bass medley of themes from the first movie, and I really liked it. I still cared. Unless I missed something, the music in TFA was undistinguished. When I mentioned this to people, they said "John Williams!", but they didn't mention anything in particular that they liked.

Oh, well. Chewbacca did look better than I remembered, and I assume it was a costume (CGI) which was better suited to close-ups.

#48 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 02:41 PM:

Just got back from seeing it and loved it.

As far as the Jedi and the Force becoming a myth after 30 years, I could see that happening. It's been established that planets in the galaxy can be relative backwaters. And it doesn't look like interstellar communication is all that common. There's no real evidence of a Galactic Wide Web.

Remember when Obi-Wan mentioned the Force to Luke the first time? Luke said, "What's that?" So even then, it obviously wasn't well known.

Even in the prequel days, how many Jedi were there? A few thousand? So I buy that it could fade away, become a legend.

#49 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 03:42 PM:

I'm thinking the planet-killing death ray is a Hollywoodized version of a Nicoll-Dyson Laser, deadly across interstellar distances, powered by the output of an entire star.

Aquila writes in #15:

I had not imagined a worse tragedy than Alderaan and found watching that weapon work very difficult. I was reading it as its making 5 suns go nova and destroy the planetary systems around them, but maybe it was just shooting one planet directly? This film, even more than the other Star Wars, seemed to be very sure that distance was instantaneously traversed by both ships and communications and even light, so it's hard to know what you are seeing.

We are asked to believe that (1) the beam arrives at its target world(s) within seconds or minutes after firing, and also that (2) the victims can see it coming in their sky.

The first suggests that it travels faster than light, the second suggests that it's slower. Neither one is consistent with an N-D Laser, which would arrive at (to use a handy portmanteau George Lucas made popular) lightspeed. Nor, I feel, would either Nicoll or Dyson have any truck with FTL.

Howard Bannister is right in #41: the odd behavior of the devastating bolts needed some justification, which was either not explained in the screenplay, or missed by both Howard and me.

Perhaps the bolts travel extremely fast, and then slow down just before they reach their targets?

#50 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 04:27 PM:

Also, the fact that the bolts are then visible in the sky whereever Finn is at is a problem.

I have seen suggested that this bolt is meant for intimidation, so obviously they are not just sending the power of the death star at other worlds but projecting the force as much as possible, making it visible to other star systems in a way that, say, the destruction of Alderaan was not.

This is silly, but is less system-compressing than a bunch of different worlds meant to be lightyears away being instantly visible wherever Finn is. That would put him in the same system as the seat of the Republic, at the very least. It's silly. He's hanging out with outcasts on the edges of civilization!!!

The whole world feels more compressed than Star Wars usually is. Hyperspeed jumps are too quick to get them places. Transit time is reduced. Han gets there too quickly to find his ship.

#51 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 04:44 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @ 49 and Howard Bannister @ 50:

As another SF writer said: "Space is big. Really big." Abrams has consistently shown in other venues that everything is closer than the chemist's, and it's on display here too. I'm more willing to give it a pass here because of how well the rest of the story was executed, but I hope the subsequent movies make the Galaxy seem bigger again.

#52 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 05:17 PM:

a bunch of different worlds meant to be lightyears away being instantly visible wherever Finn is

They *could* have made this work by making the planet-destruction something he saw in a vision; but it's clearly visible to everyone.

#53 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 06:37 PM:

RE: irritating love triangles…

FWIW, the last rumor I heard was that there was a casting call out for two new female characters in the next episode, one to be a love interest for Finn. I’d give that bit a 50/50 chance of being right.

My belief is that if they are copying the relationships of the first trilogy, then Ren is left single – she’s the Jedi, not the Princess.

Also, I saw a gif-set from an interview that the three newbies did, in which Oscar Isaac claimed (possibly facetiously, but why the hell not) that he was playing the scenes between Poe and Finn as romantic. I’m not holding my breath for that eventual outcome, but I certainly appreciate that the actors seem to have the same head-canon as the fans at this point. Also, Poe wasn’t supposed to survive that crash in the original script, but Oscar Isaac was so likeable they wrote him back in at the end.

I thought Finn’s hand-holding was either lazy writing, or possibly because he was scared and needed to hold someone’s hand. Either that, or new head canon is that Stormtroopers are instructed to always hold hands when retreating in haste. Just because I like the visual.

#54 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 06:40 PM:

And of course, by "Ren", I meant Rey. Although Ren isn't the princess either.

#55 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 07:43 PM:

So was anyone else thinking during Han Solo's confrontation with his son, "Hey, dude - don't stand so close to the megalomaniac psychopath with the light saber. Yeah, back up a few steps."

#56 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 08:00 PM:

So, my guess as to what Luke was thinking when Rey handed the light saber to him: "If I had just gone into Tosche Station thirty years ago, none to this would have happened."

#57 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 08:09 PM:

> My belief is that if they are copying the relationships of the first trilogy, then Ren is left single – she’s the Jedi, not the Princess.

So this leads to a romance between Finn and Poe, right?

#58 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 09:25 PM:

I loved the original Star Wara movie, and thoroughly enjoyed this one, but they are both nonsense. The technology and economy don't make sense. Light sabers that bounce off each other but cut through things? Temporarily turning the sun dark to send a bolt of energy to another planet? A scavenger/junk dealer having a fast, interstellar ship sitting around unused for years, with plenty of fuel on board? Has Luke been sitting on a rock eating lichen for decades? The whole thing with humans piloting ships and firing weapons with our pathetic reaction time has always been silly.

I loved Rey. I loved seeing Han and Leia. The scene on the bridge is wonderful, even though I was thinking "why does this structure have an enormous empy hole down the center, with the bridge in Moria across it?" The saber duel in the snowy forest is beautiful. I loved seeing women throughout society -- the Black Sidekick didn't even die! I wholeheartedly endorse a Finn - Poe romance.


#59 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 09:58 PM:

Abi #40: Also, where did he pick up the "must help the woman" impulses?... So why all of a sudden does he feel that Rey needs his (repeatedly incompetent) guidance?

One possible way to headcanon this (and I'm explicitly saying I don't think it was intended, but I do think it works) is to see Finn as having a "must help non-Stormtroopers" impulse. Remember that we basically see his first day out of a unit where he was raised from childhood and (presumably) knew no other people. He was presumably taught that others were helpless scum (to use SW's favorite disparagement). Having decided (for reasons still unclear but which I hope Episode VIII might get into) to go rogue, he mentally revised that that non-troopers were helpless *good* people. He tried to help Poe; he went into the village and met Rey. They were, more or less, literally the first people he ever met (say, people with names). So he had no idea what they could do. After a few tries with Rey, he learned. All things considered, pretty quick learning.

#60 ::: keith K ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2015, 11:37 PM:

Can I just say how much I liked the lightsaber duels in this movie? They felt raw and visceral in a way that I haven’t haven’t felt in a long time in one of these movies.

I actually really liked that everyone involved was kind of bad at it (granted, not as bad someone truly picking one up for the first time. I’d probably cut off my own hand within ten seconds if I got a hold of one). Kylo Ren’s style consists of taking these big swings like the thing is a heavy broadsword. He’s badly injured and working through the pain with the regular beating on his abdomen.

Finn’s body language is all fear. He looks scared. He knows he’s outclassed. He picks up the lightsaber only because Rey won’t, but it’s not right for him. My wife (Caroline @ 5 )pointed out to me that he is a crack shot with a blaster. The saber isn’t meant for him. On a side note, this makes him the only stormtrooper in the galaxy with any aim, which may be the real reason he doesn’t fit in.

The whole fight feels desperate. It’s clunky and really feels like it has weight. The OT duels all had a great deal of emotional weight, without necessarily having great choreography. The Prequel duels were all smooth choreography with none of the drama. Abrams had the sense to amp up the drama with intentionally awkward fight choreography.

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:53 AM:

Stephen Frug @59:

No, that doesn't work for me. Perhaps I'm too much in our context to be able to retcon it away.

But in this context, in the headspace of the viewer, the interchange where she calls it out explicitly does do one thing. It tells me this is a safe movie, more Fury Road than Avengers series. It tells me that the writers are aware of that dynamic, understand what it does to female characters, and choose not to use it. It means I can relax and watch Rae, knowing that what happens to her will be (in story terms) fair. She won't have her agency invisibly stolen because only male characters get to have real choices and be real heroes. She's less likely to be Trinity, there to support the Really Important Character who may be completely gormless but is Important because he (probably) has a dick! It's even possible (as happened) that there won't be rape jokes and misogynist belittling that she has to suck up from friends and foes alike!

It tells me that maybe this movie is for my half of the audience too.

#62 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 08:46 AM:

abi: a message reinforced by HER taking HIS hand.

#63 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 09:45 AM:

janetl @ 58:

The last scene was shot at Skellig Michael. If medieval Irish monks could find food and live there, I bet a Jedi could too.

#64 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 10:43 AM:

Vox has an explanation of the difference between the Republic and the Resistance that matches what kevinjy@35 says.

Over time, at least some part of the former Empire becomes the First Order, which the Republic decides it wants to topple. Republic stateswoman Leia Organa establishes the Resistance inside First Order borders, which operates as a nominally independent insurgent group rather than an official branch of the Republic military. The Republic is supporting the insurgency — specifically, General Hux suggests in the film, with money and weapons. However, there's no in-text evidence that uniformed Republic military forces are directly engaging the First Order.

#65 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 12:17 PM:

I've seen the movie once, and am going to do so again this evening.

I realized after seeing it that my strongest immediate reaction was relief, both that it wasn't terrible, and that I no longer had to worry about spoilers. I'm not sure why I was getting so hung up about spoilers this time; I think I mostly just picked up the general spoiler anxiety in the air. (Elsewhere I've seen the complaint that the spoiler aversion has been, for the most part, so strong that it's hard to find a normal review of the movie.)

During the film, though, and before and after the relief, I really enjoyed myself. I loved all the direct callbacks to the original Star Wars, including the attack on the Death Planet. I loved, loved, loved, Rey and Finn encountering the Falcon's operational…quirks. None of this really kicked me out of the film. I recognized them, and cheered for them, and went with it. It was obvious, and I didn't care. (We'll see if that feeling holds up tonight, but I think it will.) Like others, I saw the original Star Wars at a particularly impressionable age (the golden age of science fiction, in this case, is 10), and even if it wasn't my long-term favorite it stood on its own.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film again soon, and two things I particularly want to get another look at are Rey's vision, and the interactions in the Han/Kylo Ren scene.

I was mostly able to put aside issues like making sense of the politics until later.

DJ Macdonald@4: The planet's resemblance to Tatooine

Oddly, this one thing briefly knocked me out of the film: Jakku looked so much like Tatooine that I got distracted thinking, "Wait, they can't have filmed in Tunisia this time, can they?"

Deadra@7: My thinking on "how do they forget?" is that, despite J. J. Abrams' issues with astronomical distances, the galaxy is big enough that it's easy for almost everyone to recognize the big power structures without actually believing any of the more farfetched details.

Howard Bannister@41: And the space-compressing superweapon reduced the scale of everything.

Speaking of Abrams' problems with scale. It probably wasn't how he thought about it, but I couldn't help seeing the depiction of the weapon's use as a nice big "screw you" from Abrams to anyone who complained about his handling of interplanetary distances in Star Trek.

Leah Miller@29: Yes, that fits perfectly! Thank you!

abi@40: If the romance story follows the older arcs, she's being set up to choose between Finn and Poe.

Or, heaven forfend, Ben. I'd really be happy if they didn't go to any of those places, but I don't have a lot of hope.

nerdycellist@53: Either that, or new head canon is that Stormtroopers are instructed to always hold hands when retreating in haste. Just because I like the visual.

I'm on board for the preschool approach to stormtrooper training: "Remember, always hold your buddy's hand when retreating from the playground!"

abi@61: That's what it does for me, and I assume that's part of why it's in there, along with Finn's great double-take when he first comes to her rescue. They get to use the interaction both for immediate humor and to set the ground rules for Finn and Rey's interaction. However, the jokey Watsonian explanation I came up with was similar to Stephen Frug's: Finn is trying to be "normal" by imitating the non-troopers he's encountered, who would mostly have been clutching each other, running in panic. (I know the action on Jakku was supposed to be new to him, but perhaps it's only his first massacre, not his first planetary action?)

Singing Wren@10: "What happens next?"

I'm a bit nervous about this. I'm not at all confident of what will come next once they stop echoing the original film.

#66 ::: LadyKay ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 12:40 PM:

Rey and Poe don't have any scenes together, right?

I'm thinking that the reason Rey has that flapping fabric is to pull over her nose and mouth when a dust storm occurs. There might be less flappy ways to tie it, but she doesn't seem to care.

Ren/Ben seems so young here, it's hard to believe that Leia and Han are his parents.

The scene when Han and Chewie board the Falcon and are immediately found by the two warring groups is absolutely ridiculous. My spouse was trying to tell me that the groups were boarding from spaceships, which is still ridiculous--we know that ships have sensors to detect other ships. The scene with Rey and Finn crawling under the grid--is that a call-back to Aliens?

#67 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 12:42 PM:

I agree with Dotless i #66: Abi's explanation (#61) is the correct, Doyleist explanation. It's the reason why it's in the movie; it's the reason why I, like Abi & I presume many others, are glad it was in the movie. I was trying for a Watsonian explanation, a different matter. (Given that I liked it non a Doyleist level, I'm motivated to come up with a workable Watsonian explanation.) Sorry it didn't work for you, Abi. Honestly I'm not sure it worked for me either. But it was the best I thought of.

#68 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 12:50 PM:

oops, above, read 65, not 66.

Rereading Leah Miller #29: it's so good, I think someone should send it to J J Abrams. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll use it.

#69 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 01:17 PM:

kevinjy @ 35; Seth Gordon @ 64:

The General's insistence that the Republic and the Resistance are the same thing made me fairly sure that they aren't. My guess is that we will find out that the Resistance has a much more fraught relationship with the Republic than he implies--particularly if, as io9 says, the Republic took in multiple Imperial defectors.

My totally wild surmise is that the next film will be all about the profound sketchiness that is the New Republic and its creeping imperialism.

On Parentage:

My devout hope is that Finn is Luke's child, and Rey remains a completely random Force Sensitive.

#70 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 01:36 PM:

dotless ı @65:

Hey, if you're going back, can you quickly check one thing for me? What's the collar/neckline on the grey vest that Rey wears in the last scene of the film? My memory is that it stands up, but does it have rounded corners or sharp ones?

I was thinking it would be kind of fun to make to wear to work. No one much would get it, but I would enjoy having it in my wardrobe.

#71 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 01:54 PM:

I'm really hoping that Rey isn't Luke's daughter, because I don't want the Force to be this bloodline thing that always runs in families. I want her to be muggleborn.

#72 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 01:55 PM:

Anyone else notice that there's an instance of one of the good guys using torture? At least it didn't work to get information, though so far as I know, it was totally without consequences of any kind.

Gur ebobg hfrq ryrpgevpvgl ba Svaa.

#73 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:00 PM:

abi@70: In the scene on the island? I'll try to keep my eyes open for it (and will ask Amazing Spouse to do the same, to increase the chances that at least one of us remembers at that point in the film).

#74 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:02 PM:

The daily dot has a few things from the novelization that shed light on some of the stuff we've been discussion here.

http://www.dailydot.com/geek/star-wars-force-awakens-novelization-highlights/

The details that seemed actually interesting to me were in the bit about the size of the Resistance and Leia having an envoy to the Republic, and the Republic having a treaty with the First Order.

Also, Kylo Ren saying 'it IS you' when Rey uses the force.

Which...... Kinda makes lorax's fear @71 seem more likely.

#75 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 05:19 PM:

A few other possible interpretations to the "It is you" line.

1) Rey is the awakening Kylo felt in the force.

2) Rey is one of the kids from the Jedi academy, one he didn't know the ultimate fate of. She was 6 when he was 15, or whatever.

The fact that the Extended Universe got tossed out is good, otherwise everything would come pre-spoiled, but it makes backstory guesswork interesting - there are a bunch of things we know were once at least canonically possible, or how they were once shaped, but they definitely won't be exactly the same shape, or even similar.

How big was the Jedi Academy? How many kids were in training, and at what ages? Were any of them Related to Folks?

One thing that gives me some hope: if Luke had a kid, Leia would probably know about it. Also presumably they would have set that kid up with some kind of parents or guardians. Leia is in tight with a bunch of noble/royal/senatorial families - and if not that, then Luke knows the importance of at least having some vaguely parental figures around. They've also got Lando, who has connections to highly-placed families coming out of his ears.

So here's a possibility: at the time of Kylo's fall, the Jedi Academy hosts about ten students: four or five teenagers and a some kids. Luke's oldest and most trustworthy student is under standing orders: if anything bad goes down, gather up the kids and get them to safety.

Whatever sets Kylo's downfall off happens (My theory: he gets angry and accidentally kills a sparring partner with a lightsaber, his sparring partner's friend attacks him in retribution and he kills THAT guy, and we're off to the races. In the old continuity people were constantly accidentally chopping people's limbs off and such during lightsaber fights). Luke feels a disturbance and goes to see what's happening with Kylo while his oldest apprentice goes to get the kids offworld. She takes a ship and drops the kids at a few different locations, intending to come back for them as soon as it's safe. At some point in this trip, she gets taken out by Kylo. Luke knows she's dead but doesn't know the fate of the kids, so there are a bunch of minimally trained kids who have the barest memories of some kind of school.

That makes the most sense based on the way Leia talked about the Jedi Academy, but for the purpose of film simplicity it may have been a smaller group: just a handful of teens (all dead now due to Kylo) and Rey.

I mean the alternative is that the person who took Rey offworld and hid her is Luke's reformed-dark-side wife, Mara Jade. If so, there are a lot of age-appropriate actors who could play a greying badass lady with ambiguous morals. Hellen Mirren for Mara Jade 2016!

If she is Luke's kid, her mom had better be alive and have force powers. If Luke had a kid with a rando who died offscreen, I will riot. At least we know JJ likes fakeouts, so any clues may be red herrings.

#76 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 05:49 PM:

I take comfort in knowing that we have not yet seen Indiana Jones die. Indeed, it is canonical that he lives to be quite old.

#77 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 06:48 PM:

It was good enough that it felt short (at one point, I checked my watch, to see how close I was to my guess of "about 1h20m has passed", we were at about 1h56m at that point, so "quite far off").

All in all, I was not disappointed. This may actually be the first J J Abrams production I haven't taken a dislike to (yes, I was considering not watching this, because Abrams, but in the end the lure of Star Wars won).

Nancy Lebovitz @ #72:

BB-8 spark-hurting Finn in the market? I didn't get a feeling that BB-8 was even trying to do anything but hurt Finn. That is, it was pure intent to hurt, not an attempt at extracting information.

#78 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 09:55 PM:

Leah Miller @ 75: "2) Rey is one of the kids from the Jedi academy, one he didn't know the ultimate fate of."

I like it! Head canon accepted.

#79 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 10:58 PM:

I just got back from seeing it. It was mostly good, but some things did stand out as could-be-done-better.

I really, really, wish they had foreshadowed R2's awakening, perhaps by having him react silently to Rey's awakening force when they first encounter (his blue light briefly glow, but no one notices except the camera, when she walks past him, or something like that). As it is, it felt very deus ex droid, and tacked on at the end.

I felt old-Leah and old-Han worked well. I'm glad the original characters were more than mere continuity cameos. Luke is clearly going to play a major role in the future episodes, probably by being Rey's Obiwan, and Leah is still important and there.

I like a lot of what I've read in the previous 78 posts in this thread. I'll think more and write more later.

#80 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 11:39 PM:

In the second teaser trailer, we heard Luke saying, "The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. And you have that power too."

So if he wasn't talking to Rey, who was he talking to?

#81 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 11:49 PM:

Just back from seeing it a second time. We both thought it held up very well. More thoughts tomorrow, but for tonight:

abi@70: The collar stands up, but I didn't see a seam between the collar and the body of the vest. The corners are square. The front of the collar seems continuous with the opening of the vest, and we didn't see any fastenings on the vest. Awesome Spouse says to add, if you don't already have it, that there's a scallop pattern in the shoulder pads that looks quilted with five roughly equal segments coming together at the armpit, front and back; and there are princess seams on the back. We may try emailing you a (very rough) sketch tomorrow if we can make it look at all like what we saw.

#82 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 01:54 AM:

Steve C @80
Perhaps in the trailer Luke was talking to his nephew, Kylo/Ben?

#83 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 02:56 AM:

dotless ı @81:

Thank you - I hadn't remembered that there was no seam for the collar. So it's basically a funnel neck.

I did a LOT of Googling and found an image of a toy with Rey in that, which gives what will no doubt become the canonical name of the outfit: the Resistance Outfit. The garment in the toy is wrong -- it has a waist seam -- but using the term got me this image. It looks like the edges of the outfit might be felted or otherwise very gently treated.

I suspect the shoulder pads are trapunto, given how the stuffing lies.

I would be hugely grateful for a second perspective on the shape of the princess seams in the back. I know the seam allowances are topstitched; it's a lovely effect.

I'm now thinking through the various bodice blocks I have lying around to see what I can cobble together. I may have to get some grey wool...

#84 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 09:34 AM:

There's probably a standard answer for this, but weren't the First Order ship bays open to space? And yet the storm troopers (whose uniforms definitely weren't space suits) were walking around in the bays.

#85 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 09:50 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 84:

Standard Star Wars handwavium (if I recall correctly) is that ship and shuttle bays have magnetic shields that somehow manage to keep the atmosphere in but let ships pass through.

Costume-wise, I really need to sit down and make the Jedi costume I keep talking about. I also keep thinking I want to make a costume of one of my Bothans from the old Star Wars Galaxies days, but I can never get over the fact that I'd make for the Galaxy's tallest Bothan. (Ex-?)canonically the tallest run to about 1.5 m and I'm more than a little bit taller.

#87 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 11:46 AM:

Did you see the handy chart going around on Twitter?

Rey and Furiosa: table of comparison

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 01:35 PM:

Jason @86:

Yes! That's really useful, particularly for the shape of the back seams. (And the confirmation that there's no center back seam)

I keep thinking about how to shape the back and front pieces to make the funnel neck stand up right. Fortunately, I have a LOT of muslin around...

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 02:59 PM:

Leah Miller @29: Great comment—almost like a whole 'nother movie.

he's going to figure it out himself

I would love to see this movie....

#90 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 03:56 PM:

Any thoughts about Finn being older than Rey and Ben? I'm vaguely wondering about the emotional effect of them being in different cohorts.

#91 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 04:57 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @47: I've seen a complaint about her lower face not having much mobility-- possibly cosmetic surgery.

Thank you. That was bothering me, too. That's the next diversity frontier: Letting us old ladies be old, in all our jowly glory.

#92 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 07:22 PM:

So, coming up on 36 hours after having left the theatre.

"VII was eerily similar to IV, but writ larger"

I thought Rey was a brilliant character. Somewhat lacking in knowledge of the world at large, but if she's mostly been fending for herself, scavenging assorted Neat Stuff out of crashed ships, that's entirely understandable.

Finn is both brilliant and annoying, but certainly sets things up for one of the possible redemption arcs (the other being Leia's and Han's kid).

Supreme Leader Snoke made me giggle slightly. "Snok" being Swedish slang for "nose" (as well as being a type of snake).

I was expecting the betrayal on the bridge, but I was hoping that there would be a twist.

The First Order have the same lack of sensible Secret base Interior Design as the Empire did. If you have suspended gangways in a fighting vehicle, you really want to have railings on it. They seemed to have done this on the long rickety bridge where the betrayal happened, but not on the multiple smaller ones being one level higher than the corridor(s) everyone was running around in.

Sure, if your fighting vehicle is actually built out of a planet, I guess small things hitting it won't be too much of a source of vibrations, but, you know, I'd still prefer them.

Leia and Han were brilliant. Maz's was brilliant (including the people sending off furtive information packages to the Resistance as well as The First Order).

#93 ::: Eli ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 10:47 PM:

Rikibeth @13: "A protocol droid would understand how humans recognize faces - a colored arm is CLOTHING, compared to the rest!"

C3PO has always been awfully passive-aggressive (maybe an occupational hazard of having had to translate for a lot of hostile people?)— a lot of what he says has less to do with logic, and more to do with dropping hints about how unacceptable or hopeless the situation is. I thought the point of the red arm thing was just that he doesn't like the red arm, has probably been complaining about it ever since someone installed it, and thinks it looks so wrong on him that by all rights it should make him unrecognizable.


Leah @29: That was all extremely thoughtful and well put. And I think Adam Driver is a great choice of actor to play someone like that.

#94 ::: Karl ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 11:31 PM:

Just got home from seeing it again; we're clearly meant to think that Rey is Luke's kid, but it seems just vague enough to be misdirection. I think she's related to Palpatine; it fits the "force-sensitives run in families" narrative and gives her a really good reason to keep quiet about it. (And makes for a nice but less obvious narrative symmetry.)

#95 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 11:50 PM:

I'm in the "hoping Rey isn't related to the Skywalkers" camp, if only because I want her and Ben to get together and raise a half-dozen little jedisith...flashforward to a cozy domestic scene in a well kept spacious family room. There are two crossed lightsabers over the fireplace. Mom and dad are playing a go-like game with black and white stones. Two of the older kids are having a mock lightsaber battle in another part of the room. But those can't be real lightsabers because the beam from one passes without harm through a piece of sculpture, and when the teenager with the red saber misses a block, they say "Ow! You win. Now it's my turn to be the Light Side." And their sabers switch colors as they prepare for the next round. One of the younger children interrupts the meta-Go game to ask "Dad? How come you always play black?" ...

#96 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2015, 11:58 PM:

dajt, while the picture is adorable and very much in keeping with the sorts of things that happened in my old RPG campaign, I have to say: not Rey, no, no, no.

#97 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 12:08 AM:

I am thinking Luke's kid, because that's just how these things seem to work, and also his whole family seems to think that dumping small children on desert planets is a valuable form of character building. But I'd be very happy to be proven wrong. (C'mon, Obi Wan's granddaughter!)

Kylo Ren worked for me as a villain, absolutely. He was a Reddit comment section with a lightsaber and those people scare me. Might as well call him Darth Gator. Whiny man-children with anger management issues have proven to be regrettably dangerous. You can hold them in contempt, but you also make sure you aren't alone in the room with them. So...yeah, I thought some of it was laughably emo, but I also think he'd be very dangerous.

I also think--and this may be my own headcanon, but I'll float it--Han Solo planned to try to kill him if he couldn't bring him back. He says at one point to Finn "We won't leave without her," and my hindbrain went "He means they won't leave, full stop." He gave it a try because of Leia, and perhaps paternal affection, but he also made sure Chewie had the detonator. That was a man who shot first.

(Alternate theory: He strongly suspected it was going to be a suicide mission, but since the weapon was pointed at Leia and the Resistance, he planned to end it any way he could.)

I enjoyed it. But I've realized watching it that my primary unit of Star Wars was always the games. The points that worked for me were the echoes of Dark Forces and KotoR, not the echoes of the movies so much.

#98 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 01:45 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @90:
Any thoughts about Finn being older than Rey and Ben? I'm vaguely wondering about the emotional effect of them being in different cohorts.

I didn't get any sense that he was significantly different in age. (For what it's worth, the actors playing Finn and Rey are the same age; the actor playing Ben is about ten years older.)

#99 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 02:08 AM:

Heather Rose Jones @39:
IF (and that's a big "if") the new SW series is consciously playing off that tradition (not impossible, the original was consciously playing off of Campbell)

I've seen arguments to the effect that "consciously playing off of Campbell" is a kind of after-the-fact retcon. I.e., Lucas originally talked about classic space-opera serials (as well as Battle of Britain movies and Kurosawa) as influences, and it was only after Joseph Campbell started citing Star Wars as a modern example of his hodgepodge-y, all-myths-are-the-same-myth theories that Lucas started saying it was all about emulating myth. (Because the eternal truths of mythology are a bit classier as a source of inspiration than Flash Gordon serials.)

#100 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 04:30 AM:

#98 ::: Peter

Finn looked about five years older to me-- just not as fresh-faced-- but that could have been individual variation or acting-- it's not as though being a storm trooper should be expected to be good for people.

Was there any explanation for why the First Order put up with Ben's destructiveness?

#101 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 04:33 AM:

UrsulaV @97:

He was a Reddit comment section with a lightsaber and those people scare me. Might as well call him Darth Gator. Whiny man-children with anger management issues have proven to be regrettably dangerous. You can hold them in contempt, but you also make sure you aren't alone in the room with them.

YES THIS THIS THIS.

#102 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 09:39 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 100:
Was there any explanation for why the First Order put up with Ben's destructiveness?

My guess would be that he's obviously Supreme Leader Gollum's Snoke's special pet, so if smashes up a room now and then, they overlook it.

(He's not as bad as Vader, who had a habit of killing high-ranking officers whenever they annoyed him...)

#103 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 09:41 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz@100

Among other things, Ben is the Supreme Leader's protege.

#104 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 10:07 AM:

UrsulaV @ 97:

Yes. Yes, that's the perfect analogy for Kylo Ren. And I think you're right about Han's motivations, too. He would have taken a (claiming-to-be-)redeemed Ben back, but he wasn't planning on that being the outcome.

Nancy Lebovitz @ 100:

There's a certain mindset that says that competition encourages people to strive for greatness, because they want to outdo each other/maximize profits/be the first to publish/whatever, and that cooperation is for indecisive losers. (Feel free to draw any parallels you like with businesses and politics in the real world.) This seems like a win/win situation for Snoke: he encourages enmity among his people so that they will one-up each other in terms of ruthlessness, and he gets to sow chaos and discord, which Dark-siders do for fun. They put up with Kylo Ren, and Kylo Ren puts up with them, because that's what Snoke wants.

That a combination of cooperation and limited competition will produce better results because of lack of time and effort wasted on duplicate work, throwing stumbling blocks in the way of one's enemies, and dodging one's enemies' stumbling blocks is lost on people who think that there have to be absolute winners and losers.

#105 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 10:12 AM:

"Kylo Ren Saber Tantrum" is totally my next band name!

Seeing the film on Christmas evening with my sister's family. My older niece is the media-savvy hip-geek of the family, and has been watching the older movies with my sister and her dad.

#106 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 12:58 PM:

Han calls him "Ben". He seems to have decided his name is "Kylo". ("Ren" apparently is a title or group affiliation?) Do we go with his birth name, or the name he picked for himself? On the one hand it seems disrespectful to use a name that the person doesn't want anymore; on the other, the reason he doesn't want it is, um, iffy.

(I can't believe I'm getting weird about chosen names for a fictional character. I think it's the same impulse that makes me unhappy about formerly-Skye's decision to use her birth name on Agents of SHIELD.)

#107 ::: Jon Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 03:09 PM:

Generally kinda liked it. Very much liked Han's death scene, and the final caress of Ben's face as he fell. (All-the-more because I watched it with my own typically-rebellious teen son Ben.) And yes Rei was wonderful. Well scripted and well acted.

Was anyone else surprised/disturbed at how casually everyone took Han's death. That was my biggest beef. Leia has a tiny sad. Wait, we might've found Luke? Yay, no more sad!" Okay, so they've been estranged. How about f-ing Chewbacca. His partner and constant companion over the last four decades just bought it. He goes berserk for a scene, then he's over it. Off with Rei to go find Luke.

Picky stuff, but how did a galactic map lead Rei to the right planet, let alone the right continent, let alone up the stairs to the lookout where Luke was currently doing some dramatic brooding?

#108 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 03:12 PM:

Carrie S. @ 106

I can't believe I'm getting weird about chosen names for a fictional character.

Not at all. We rehearse in fiction new ideas for life. If we can't respect the choices of fictional characters when it has no impact on us at all, what will our reflexes be with regard to the choices of the people around us?

#109 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 03:31 PM:

... it seems disrespectful to use a name that the person doesn't want anymore...

Given that we see him casually order the slaughter of an entire village -- and that he's complicit with a regime that things nothing of destroying entire planets -- I confess that I'm not terribly inclined to accord him much respect.

#110 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 03:43 PM:

For those who haven't seen it yet:
Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account

#111 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 09:07 PM:

[Saw it yesterday with my sister. (Yes, we live near each other but traveled 800 miles to visit family and go to a movie together. Geek-siblings and enabling parents FTW!) Liked it a lot.]

Do we know who the old guy was in the village, the one who gave Poe the partial map? He said he knew Kylo Ren before he was calling himself by that name. (I forget the exact quote, but that was the gist of it.) He must be someone connected to Luke/Han and Leia/the Rebellion--but who?

#112 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 09:16 PM:

I saw it today, and I was pretty pleased. I have thoughts but they are disjointed.

The movie had moments where the action slowed down, but not very many of them! Probably the bare minimum of how much breathe-and-take-stock time a movie can have and still be legible. (I'm sure everyone involved has lots of practice at skirting that minimum.)

I'm used to silly space-geography on screen. I wish the graphics person who designed the "two pieces of a map" image had come up with something better, though. Not convincing as a puzzle at all.

I am glad that they trust the audience enough to give us a Force duel which is entirely closeups of two faces and a few subtle audio effects. (The interrogation scene between Rey and Ren.) The actors carried it off very intelligibly.

(Spelling is "Rey" according to IMDB.)

I like that Leia is now canonically Force-sensitive. I totally buy that she's never taken up Jedi training; she's been running the Galaxy single-handed (she would tell you) since she was a teenager. But she's got a connection.

I did not recognize Andy Serkis and I feel stupid about that. (I know, I know.) "Who is that short actor with the Scottish accent?" is another question that I should really have been able to answer for myself.

I'd say "Supreme Leader Snoke" is a stupid name, but stupid names are the single most consistent thing about the SW universe.

Stupid names and Imperial architecture / ship construction! It's such a keynote of the films (and TV shows). I love that.

Star Wars never counts the bodies, but this had more bite than I expected. Ep4 showed lots of stormtroopers dying; Ep7 showed stormtroopers dying after establishing that there are human faces under the helmets. Ep4 blew up Alderaan; Ep7 put a camera on Not-Alderaan and showed civilians watching the sky fall.

I like that we have the roles of Luke and Leia and Han and Vader, but they're not simply mapped. They're remixed. I disagree with nerdycellist's comment that "Rey is the Jedi, not the Princess". Rey is the Jedi, the Princess, the Poor Farmboy, and the Hotshot Pilot. With a whiff of the materialist who wants nothing to do with mystical mumbo-jumbo! Finn is the Lost Boy and the Rogue on the Run, with a sliver of Anakin-rejecting-Palpatine. Kylo Ren is the Orphan, the Dark Lord, and the kid shouting "No! It's not possible!" at his father.

(Chewie is still Chewie. Can't change that.)

That's all to say that I'm not predicting who will wind up romanced. I'm not putting money down on Rey getting a sweetheart, but I don't see it written in stone that she's a hermit either.

More on Rey: she certainly mirrors Leia's no-holds-barred confidence and momentum. (But coming from a different background, which makes her a different character, of course.) I see her as not distinguishing Light Side from Dark Side yet, though. I sense that anger comes naturally to her. (But not impatience, so she's not Anakin either.) In that last fight with Ren, she rejected the idea of training with him but she didn't commit to the Light.

She will come to a point of self-doubt in one of the following movies, and it will be scary to watch because she's never dealt with it before.

#113 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 09:21 PM:

"Do we know who the old guy was in the village, the one who gave Poe the partial map?"

IMDB says "Lor San Tekka". A quick scan around indicates that he hasn't appeared in any previous SW stories.

#114 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 12:46 AM:

I liked it, after finally seeing it tonight. But the one point where I laughed out loud was at the robot leaving the cantina just before Our Heroes walked in.

It was a clear (to me, anyway) visual reference to the robots in LAPUTA (AKA CASTLE IN THE SKY) by Miyazaki. Not exactly the same, but visually very close. And that made me laugh.

Really good pacing, really good SW feels. I think Kasdan has a lot to be proud of in this one (and I think he had more effect than is obvious).

#115 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 10:26 AM:

I saw it this week, with a handful of people, in a 2D theatre; the long lines were for IMAX and 3D shows.

After my speaking bitterness upon recently seeing Star Trek Into Darkness, I realized that I had to let go of my disappointment at Abrams' using that franchise for practice (and, for possibly dealing with his obligations with Paramount, before moving on). Star Wars, obviously, is His Speed; Star Trek has plenty of action/destruction components, but there was at least competent lip service on trying not to live the impulsive, warring lives of Jedis or Sith. That's gone, now.

At least with his home fandom, Abrams got how This Has Happened Before, And Will Happen Again -- and that's what we expect. No need for an alternate universe take, since new characters can be made to tread the older paths. Both old and new elements were delightful.

I cheered once Rey held her own against Kylo's force tactics. If a kid has survived at least ten years on her own, unmolested and unbroken, on a hostile world, her sense of self would allow her to use every mental resource to prevent anyone fucking with her. If that's when her midichloridians kick in, so be it -- this is a universe where miracles happen, if the stars are right and the capricious Force wills it.

I also shrieked when Han bought it. Once he handed the detonator to Chewie, I knew that either Han or Kylo would die -- Snoke would be damned if anyone let his prize pup leave the Starkiller alive, or let him reunite with his family. Now, those are stakes.

Beyond all of this, it's startling to feel onesself in the midst of a cultural groundswell. Being a non-SW fan, watching the full industry mobilize for this premiere, is decentering. It reminds one that along with military armaments, Hollywood's one of our prime export industries.

Parallel to this is the fan cultural push to codify the Force as religious practice. That's why it feels icky for gals to have to choose which side of the Force they're on, to buy cosmetics. Lightsiders, as we've seen, tend to go for the natural look (exempting the pageantry of the first trilogy). Only naughty gals paint their faces, right? And, yellow eyeshadow, really? So many issues....

#116 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 10:45 AM:

Peter @102: if smashes up a room now and then, they overlook it.

It's probably a line-item in the budget for his Dark-side training. "Over-reaction to anger, manifesting as temper-tantrum: check."

~~

~ Two indications that I've been watching too much Netflix: I kept subliminally reaching for the progress bar at the bottom of the screen to see how much movie was left, and then remembering: it's a theater; I can't do that.

Reading Mary Aileen's @111, thinking "old guy in the village?", having the impulse to pull it up and rewatch that scene (which I don't remember), and realizing I can't, because theater. :-\

~ During the scene where Rey is scavenging the imperial cruiser, I was thinking, "Why didn't the village grow up around/inside of that? Dude: off-the-rack shelter!"

~ Can't say why (other than dramatic necessity and also Obi-Wan's death in Ep 4), but from the cantina scene, I found myself thinking "he's gonna die," every time Han was on screen, so I kinda sighed when he died on the bridge. The fact that he fell into the abyss (and his last-minute reappearance in Ep 4) makes me suspicious: is he Really Truly Dead?

#117 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 10:50 AM:

Also: I've been grinding my teeth and trying unsuccessfully to ignore the advertising/merchandising blitz. Being as I don't Do Shopping, cgeye's note above suggests I don't appreciate how much of it I've missed. The one positive note: it seems to have, momentarily at least, somewhat drowned out the Christmas/Holidays blitz, for which I concede I am grateful.

#118 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 01:02 PM:

Andrew Plotkin (113): Thanks. I should have thought to check IMDB myself.
---------
I didn't see Han's death coming (although I should have, given all the other parallels that I did see), but when Kylo Ren said that he wasn't sure he could do what he knew he had to and Han said "whatever you need" (I forget the exact wording), I was thinking "No, no! Don't promise that until you know what it is!"

#119 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 02:43 PM:

Possibly I am just really slow on the uptake, but is the consensus that Finn just isn't force sensitive at all? My belief, on leaving the theater, was that while Rey was a Jedi knight for sure, Finn was less "not Jedi" than he was "bad at lightsaber." But everyone else seems pretty sure that there can only be one Jedi. (Isn't that the other franchise though?)

The Finn-as-still-possibly-a-Jedi theory is based on a) his strongly negative reaction to the genocide, as heightened awareness of emotion is classic Jedi trait, plus Kylo Ren's suspicious glance; b) the improbably successful escape despite lack of training on board the Falcon; c) the comparison with New Hope Luke, whose only Force-related exploit was (maybe) making an unusually difficult shot--i.e. the argument that Rey's Jedi mind trick and force pull right out the gate is the exception, not the rule.

The arguments against are a) it hardly takes Jedi sensitivity to object to slaughtering innocents; b) it was Rey's piloting more than Finn's gunning that saved the day; and c) he hasn't actually exhibited any Jedi powers. Which are persuasive.

I mostly hope he is Jedi because every Jedi/Sith relationship we've seen in the films is either adversarial or hierarchal, and I would like to see what a peer relationship looks like--particularly if their affinities are different (knight versus consul, if you will). Am I just deluding myself?

#120 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 05:32 PM:

Saw it for the third time today. I think I may have reached the number of times I need to see it in the theater. I now need many, many stills to perfect Rey's Jakku costume, as I've been waiting to wear it for 39 years.

abi, I think what you want to make the vest collar stand up is hair canvas interfacing.

#121 ::: Paul Weimer ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 06:37 PM:

Saw it for the third time today. Still liking it, a hell of a lot.

Been thinking a lot about Rey and who she is...I see a lot of theories upsteam of here, so I suppose it would be coals to Newcastle at this point to put in mine. I do wonder about Rey's "vision" scene when she touches Luke's Saber...some things are in the past, one fight with Ren occurs...but there are things that don't occur in TFA. When will they?

#122 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 07:09 PM:

Paul @121:

My interpretation of the vision Rey saw was flashbacks to violent emotions imprinted on the light saber. They are the saber's memories, not hers. Of course, I've only seen the scene once, so I may have missed things.

If that's the case, then I suspect we'll only see them in flashbacks -- Luke explaining the fall of the new Jedi Academy to Rey -- or not at all.

It may be, that upon rewatching that scene, it'll be clear there's more to it than I thought, of course.

#123 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 08:42 PM:

Buddha Buck (122): The problem with the flashback-only theory is that one of the visions was of the* fight in the snow-covered forest.

*Possibly it was a different fight in a different forest, as we didn't see who the combatants were, but that seems to be a bit of a stretch.

#124 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2015, 07:14 PM:

Buddha Buck @ 122: "My interpretation of the vision Rey saw was flashbacks to violent emotions imprinted on the light saber. They are the saber's memories, not hers."

Along with what Mary Aileen said, there's also that if this is Luke's lightsaber that he lost on Bespin, then it wouldn't have been at the massacre at the Jedi academy--it was at Maz's. If the glimpse of Kylo Ren and crew slaughtering people was a memory rather than a vision, it must have been Rey's.

#125 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2015, 07:34 PM:

Peter Erwin: Given that we see him casually order the slaughter of an entire village...I confess that I'm not terribly inclined to accord him much respect.

We don't have to like him to be polite to him, and caring what names people use for themselves is part of politeness. One still uses 'vous' with one's enemy.

On the other hand, using his birth name might be a reminder of what it's like to not be evil, which might help. So it's complex.

#126 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2015, 10:43 PM:

Well. That was definitely a Star Wars movie, for better and for worse. Disjointed thoughts follow.

Abrams has even less of a sense of scale than Lucas. He's better with characters.

Some things, such as the Republic depending on the Resistance rather than fielding their own huge fleets of warships, are actually understandable if we assume that the Rebels, while fairly good at rebelling, were utterly incompetent at nation-building.

And it looks like the First Order has maintained the Empire's old Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, but Finn missed several of the classes there.

#127 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2015, 11:51 PM:

Went for a second viewing tonight, as a reward for getting my chapter written before 6pm. I was paying more attention to musical cues this time. For what it's worth, when Rey calls the lightsaber to her in the forest battle, she gets Luke's theme in its wistful/simple form (as opposed to the driving/action-scene version). Now, we already know that she's the Luke-analog in this cycle, so that doesn't necessarily give us any information we didn't already know. But interesting to note, in case there's another layer.

#128 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 07:43 PM:

So, finally saw it and read through this thread:

I thought Mez said nearly outright that Rey was Luke's child -- or at least, that the lightsaber had belonged to her father and grandfather? I pretty much assumed that Luke's next words will be to the effect of "keep the lightsaber, you've earned it". Her quick mastery of the Force (without training) was jarring, most blatantly, when she controlled the guard: My immediate reaction there was "whoa, asking for way too much at once, there!", and I expected a critical-failure to ensue, not "works on the second try". Two separate commands, then a third -- all directly counter to the guard's loyalties, training and orders... that's hella far beyond Obi-Wan Kenobi's subtle "these aren't the droids you're looking for". And what would that guard be saying or doing afterwards?

I didn't catch the explanation of Finn's origin, but I found his use of a lightsaber jarring simply because it did imply he's Force-positive, and that seemed out of the blue. (Narrative parsimony and the lineage theme does offer that there was at least one black human on the Jedi Council, who might well have left a family behind.) I note that the Black Guy still (almost) Died -- I immediately suspected that his survival will be determined by success or failure of the actor's contract negotiations.

Kylo/Ben was left for dead on a planet which shortly exploded. His survival seems to me only slightly more likely than Han's. Definitely a more interesting antagonist than Vader, but it's not clear where his character could have gone afterwards.

I did note that yeah, Star Wars still has No Sense of Scale (every planet is one place!). They did explicitly say that the Starkiller beams themselves were FTL. I missed the issue of the beams and blasts being immediately visible from other star systems, but I'd still be willing to let that slide in the name of poetic license.

R2-D2's awakening (and possession of a galactic map) also seemed unwarranted, but reading above, I apparently missed a clue when Rey passed by.

#129 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 08:02 PM:

Also:
* Yeah, even if Rey is confirmed as Luke's daughter, her mother is a missing character.

* Finn/Poe as they stand are adequately covered by "bromance".

* BB-robot zapping Finn didn't look like torture to me, it looked like a "you asshole!" from an effectively mute, poorly informed, and (fortunately) non-martial robot.

#130 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 08:08 PM:

And one final note about the movie: As far as I'm concerned, the 3-D sucked pointy rocks.

#131 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 08:48 PM:

Dave @128:

I don't think you missed a clue when Rey passed. I think you are reading my comment where I said I wish there had been such a clue.

Others have noted that Finn is not the only non-Force user we've seen use a lightsaber -- Han used one to cut open the Taun-taun in ESB (which was written by the same screenwriter as TFA). And his use was not very skilled. He didn't injure himself, but he didn't hold up well, either. His blaster skills matched what Ben said about stormtroopers in NewHope -- skilled and accurate.

Rey used the lightsaber initially more like a staff, with lots of thrusting. Given that we know she's a skilled staff-fighter, it makes sense.

#132 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 10:22 PM:

Buddha Buck #131: Good point about Han using the lightsaber. I'll note that whatever old Ben¹ said, the usual blaster skills of the stormtroopers named a trope: Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. (As that page notes, they did get a few hits in this one, but still...). Of course, once Finn becomes a protagonist rather than a stormtrooper, his aim improves a lot.

¹ One reason to refer to Han's son as Kylo Ren is to disambiguate him from Obi-Wan Kenobi.

#133 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 10:24 PM:

I was looking into Rey’s visions while researching different theories about her, and I ended up with some new ideas about the destruction of the Jedi Academy.

In the Lightsaber vision, we see Kylo standing on a battlefield in the rain, surrounded by other people in masks with various weapons. It made me think of the other bit of info we get, in a throwaway line from Snoke. He refers to Kylo being the master of the "Knights of Ren". We also know Kylo is the reason the Jedi academy fell apart. A lot of people assumed he went striding through the school, cutting down everyone in his path, including children, just like Anakin did. But there's no reason for us to assume that other than... well... that Anakin did it, and the school doesn’t exist anymore. (Interestingly, the guy I was arguing with when I discovered this insisted there was footage in the vision of Kylo killing other studients and... well... there isn't. There's a group shot on the battlefield and possible premonitions of the snowy fight and that's it. Just shows how the human brain will try to complete a familiar shape.)

So how else could he have destroyed the school? What if it was by recruiting a bunch of Luke's students to defect and go swanning around in capes and masks with him? "Knight" is a title exclusively associated with the Jedi in this universe, as far as I can tell. Yet in the vision, only Kylo has a lightsaber, and it's his signature red one. That would not have been the saber he got if he was training with Luke. Everything else in original analysis still fits: at the academy he has anger issues, and all that. The difference is that Luke's smarter than Jedi trainers have been in literally every other incarnation and he does not give lightsabers to children. So in this theoretical backstory, Snoke doesn't come by and say "you're destined for the Dark side, you should kill them," he says "You have strength that comes from the Dark Side. Take this sword and lead them into battle."

And if Luke is trying hard to be a safe, responsible Jedi master in a non-crisis situation, he’s going to be going slow – keeping his students away from real combat. These kids would be restless: they’ve heard the stories about Luke and Vader and the fight on Bespin and they want to have cool lasersword adventures. The idea of taking these new powers for a supercharged joy ride would be pretty irresistible, if we’ve learned anything from every superhero movie ever made. I don’t think Kylo converted everyone at the Academy to his cool helmet club, but it’s possible he got a good portion of Luke’s students to go be Knights with him. In response, the remaining light side students might try to either defeat them or bring them back to the Academy, with disastrous results. The specifics are impossible to pin down yet, but I hope the creators have realized how hollow “oh, today is my dark side day, time to murder everyone” was in the prequels.

Tertiary third-degree guesswork: Abrams and some other people involved with this movie are known to be fans of the Knights of the Old Republic video game, which features some of the most interesting and nuanced writing on temptation to the Dark Side. In the game, you're uncovering the history of a Jedi known as Revan whose Dark Side story is fascinating. KotOR is set long ago in Star Wars history, thousands of years before the original trilogy. The Jedi order is just as hidebound and slow to act as ever, when Revan learns that the Mandalorian army is currently carrying out a genocide. He can't get the council to intervene fast enough, so he raises his own crew of Jedi to fight. They're successful, but the horrific war crimes Revan has witnessed fill him with rage against the Mandalorians. He decides that they're far too dangerous to exist, and vows to wipe their violent culture from the galaxy. The irony is beautiful and deliberate.

KotOR is a PC game from a decade ago. While it’s still playable, it’s somewhat creaky and old-fashioned. Those who played it when it was current revere it as one of the greatest Star Wars stories, but that story is now locked inside a shell that does not age as well as film. Using Revan’s story to inspire Kylo’s would be yet another way to repackage a beloved older story for a new generation, something the films have shown a strong interest in doing. So what if it turns out that Kylo first took up the red saber against some threat that he thought Luke wasn’t being pro-active enough in facing?

I can tell you one thing: when I was fifteen, if I’d had to choose between two teachers – one who was going to let me have a laser sword and be the leader of an order of badass superpowered knights, and one who wanted me to stay home and meditate - I might have picked the one offering the laser sword and the chance to be a hero. I mean, if I had seen the Star Wars movies I obviously wouldn’t. But divorced of that context, if one person said "you’ll never be successful unless you eliminate your anger” and another said “your emotions are fine, they make you stronger - here take this sword,” it’d be awfully tempting to listen to the second guy.

There are a lot of people who didn't read Kylo Ren in the same way I did. They saw him as somebody who wants to be dark side purely out of dark side fanboyism, and I have to admit that's a perfectly valid interpretation of everything we've been presented. They see Han's murder as the capstone on his journey into evil, the point of no return, the end of his internal conflict. It may well be - at the end of the movie he's on his way back to Snoke to complete his training, which sounds both ominous and final.

I don't know why I care so much about figuring him out. When I was talking about nuance and possible redemption, a friend asked me "what exactly is there in him worth saving?" and that gave me pause. I've got another post about that brewing somewhere, about why I care. Potential redemption aside, I want his descent to the dark side to be interesting because the dark side has always been better when it is a legitimate temptation. There was nothing in it that ever truly seemed to tempt Luke, and Anakin simply fell prey to a transparent manipulation of his generalized lust for greater power and control. I want a dark side story that makes you ask yourself "Ok, can I really say that I would not have done the same?" and I think Kylo Ren represents a great opportunity to give us that.

#134 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 10:45 PM:

@David Harmon, regarding stormtrooper accuracy, Finn is a very good shot... when he's not wearing his helmet. It seems not unreasonable to me that stormtrooper helmets might impair accuracy in shooting. They don't look like they have very good eyeholes.

#135 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:07 PM:

Cassy B #134: Fair enough, and on further reading I've discovered this analysis of the ISMA which cites their helmet as one of the issues.

#136 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:10 PM:

Regarding Stormtrooper accuracy, I'm in the camp that the instances where we saw Stormtroopers exhibit poor marksmanship were cases where they were ordered to.

The main place where we run into lots of stormtroopers doing poorly in battle are when Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewy are trying to escape from the Death Star. They can't hit the quartet worth a damn. And then Tarkin and Vader have a conversation about hiding a tracker on the Millenium Falcon to lead them to the rebel base. They were let go, and were lead to believe they escaped luckily.

They killed the rebel soldiers at the beginning of the movie fine, they killed the rebel soldiers in the attack on Hoth fine.

#137 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:10 PM:

Apparently the novelization has some bonus backstory for Finn that didn't quite make it into the release version.

It establishes that Finn is a very good shot but he has instincts towards helping weaker team members and not killing innocents, and those instincts are the only reason he wasn't enrolled in officer training. He's apparently been warned about not following orders to shoot people before, and part of why he runs when he does is that he knows Phasma is probably going to do something about it this time.

Which makes me wonder how much of stormtrooper "accuracy" is due to the fact that a lot of these guys just don't have their hearts in it. We don't know what the Stormtrooper ratio is from the clone wars to the Force Awakens days - what percentage are clones, volunteers, or conscripts like Finn.

#138 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:13 PM:

David Harmon, Cassy B, members of the 501st re-enactors have such limited visibility in their armor that they need non-costumed guides. The helmet eyeholes are placed well above actual eye height! I'm sure the Doylist reason was to make the suits look more menacing through their size, implying larger occupants, but I'll be damned if I can come up with a Watsonian explanation for it.

#139 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:47 PM:

I think Leah Miller should write all of the rest of the movies.

#140 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2015, 11:59 PM:

Leah Miller @133: "you’ll never be successful unless you eliminate your anger"

And what is up with that, anyway? As anyone who follows the DFD thread knows, "eliminating your anger" is A Bad Idea, and imprecations thereunto more often than not are attempts by abusers to make their victims more pliable.

Tl;dr ranty threadjack redacted.

#141 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2015, 05:13 AM:

Jacque, don't get me started on the anger thing.

Whoops, too late.

The Star Wars universe is weird. Its scale doesn't work and its economy is frankly bizarre and the lives of nameless people are treated as part of the background. Some of those things are never going to change, they can't change if Star Wars is to remain Star Wars.

But the fundamental binary understanding of the force as dark side and light side is wonky and weird and nonsensical on a whole 'nother level. It clearly doesn't make sense even from the perspective of the people involved with it - in the old EU, Luke removed the ban on Jedi romance. Later, he even started learning Dark Side powers himself to become a true force master. He turned evil for a while as a result, but he got better. All of that is no longer canon now, but my point is that the reductive "control your emotions if you want to remain light side" is based on... well... on a young man reading some cool stuff about warrior monks in different cultures and deciding to put that in his screenplay.

But in the world, even monks adapt their beliefs to fit the culture and economic situation of their area. There's a really interesting historical thing where Chinese Buddhist monks were typically celibate, but the concept of family and legacy were so ingrained in Japanese culture that many temples in Japan belong to hereditary families of monks. Also, being a monk isn't for everyone. It's not the universal solution to your problems. Most people can't hack a life of meditation and abnegation. Heck, the Japanese slang term for someone who doesn't finish things they start is mikka bouzu - the three day monk.

So the Star Wars universe ended up with a culture where everybody born with superpowers has to become a weird monk, regardless of their temperament or aptitude for that kind of meditation. That leads to some weird counter-intuitive attitudes towards emotion and anger and way too many failure modes for Jedi training.

Which is why whenever I've played a Star Wars roleplaying game as a force sensitive, I've come up with a personal internal philosophy that keeps me from going dark side. It has never been the standard Jedi one, because that one doesn't seem to work very well.

The first character I've played several incarnations of is aware of the existence of both the Jedi and the Sith. She knows that the Sith are all about betrayal and competition... murdering your fellows to prove who is stronger, working to become powerful enough to one day destroy your teacher, training an apprentice and just waiting for them to become strong enough to kill you. So she decided to fight against the dark side not because she was inherently a good person, but because the Sith way of doing things is so inefficient, unreasonable, and unpleasant. When she feels a dark impulse, her first reaction is "no, that's what those bastards want me to do." She directs her anger and hatred towards concepts and occasionally organizations, but not towards individual people. As a result she's managed to reduce most anger and hatred to mild irritation and weariness - which is not ideal, but it doesn't lead her to strangling anyone. She truly shines when she finds things to believe in and fight for, rather than merely oppose - but she has also learned that you can most effectively oppose if you do not give in to rage.

I have a second template for a character who is largely ignorant of force traditions, only receiving the barest hints of instruction. Instead, she observes human nature and uses that to create her own path. She realizes that sad and angry people who act solely on those feelings tend to make choices that keep them sad and angry. So she decided that the part of her that feels negative emotions wouldn't make the decisions, and the rest of her would sit back and try to figure out a course of action would reduce how often she felt sad or angry in the future. When she sees a friend who is about to die and there's nothing she can do, she'll feel sorrow. But even as she's standing there with tears running down her face, she won't throw people's lives away when a cause is truly lost. She'll risk her own life if there's a chance, but if there's no hope she'll feel the sadness without letting it consume or drive her. She doesn't have control over her emotions - her emotions rage through her like a forest fire. She has control over her actions.

That first tactic is more realistic, I think. The second is more admirable... after I came up with it as a roleplaying gimmick, I tried to live it. It's not easy, but I think it may be possible.

Put either of these girls in a room with Kylo Ren for an hour and they'd figure out if there was any hope for him. They'd volunteer for it, too... one because she doesn't want anyone else to fall for the philosophical pyramid scheme that is the Sith lifestyle, and the other because helping people make more productive life choices is sort of her whole deal.

Which kind of illustrates the one major character problem The Force Awakens had: the "when there are enough women" problem. Rey was phenomenal and got a full arc and development. Leia was awesome and Maz was great but Han, Chewie, Finn, Poe, and Kylo all got significantly more to do. Even Hux got more screentime than Phasma.

After Fury Road, there was a good essay going around about how a lot of the commonly perceived problems with female characters exist because the single female in a movie is expected to be all things to all people. When there are enough women, some can be strong and some can be weak. Some can be tough, some can be compassionate. Most of them can reject the patriarchal bullshit as fundamentally unhealthy, but if one of them shows compassion towards a guy who needs help it doesn't send the message that women are obligated to do so.

Rey is a great protagonist, but one cool woman isn't enough. Young men in the movie get Finn, Poe, Kylo, and Hux. Young women get only Rey, and maybe Jessika Pava, the female asian fighter pilot who gets like four lines. She's not even named in the movie, but I've seen dozens of people grab on to the idea of her, just to have a girl like them who is around and matters.

So I'm hoping the next movie has more women, some of whom are force-users, even if they aren't Jedi. Like dajt @ 95, the soft part of my heart would like to see a happy ending for Kylo Ren, but I echo Rikibeth's instinct that it's not a job for Rey. It is potentially a job for a strong, compassionate force-sensitive person, and right now women who fit that description are thin on the ground. (Note that I'm not suggesting unilateral emotional rescue is should be the sole factor in Kylo's hypothetical redemption, just that genuine compassion and human connection are one possible way for him to stabilize long term.) Rey has to embody everybody's hopes and dreams, and she can't do it all by her lonesome.

I think there are ways to introduce cool force users without taking things away from Rey as the hero of the piece. I'm hoping that the "awakening" doesn't refer solely to Rey... perhaps Luke found the Jedi temple, and did something there that sent a ping out to all force-potentials, giving them the opportunity to awaken to the force. Rey should still be the coolest and most powerful, the first. She needs to end this trilogy as strong and unbowed and important as Luke was at the end of his - but I don't think she needs to end this trilogy as the only young Jedi, alone.

(Also, a small concession to the Rey and Kylo shippers: Luke's much-beloved EU wife Mara Jade was kinda similar to Kylo Ren, a stylish ex-Sith with a fanart-come-to-life costume and a purple lightsaber. That kind of relationship can be written well, but you have to be very careful.)

So to recap, the Jedi have an approach to anger that seems generally unhealthy or at least not universally applicable. Fans of Star Wars have been strongly in favor of people who blend light and dark side abilities for years, but those characters do have a tendency to feel kind of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too. They usually don't provide any kind of alternate framework for self-control with respect to the force, but are instead treated as exceptional edge-cases who are just badass enough to keep themselves in check. Fair enough, but it doesn't actually serve the story very well. When Star Wars is good, it's about drawing on the guidance of mentors but ultimately discovering what works for you and choosing it for yourself.

That's one of the big fan questions: are they going to address the elephant in the room, the fact that the whole Sith and Jedi setup is fundamentally broken on a number of levels? That's what I'd like to see: a lot of new force-using characters with new approaches to balancing dark and light, emotion and self-control.

And maybe a bunch of them could be ladies.

I don't dare actually hope for that, but a girl can dream.

#142 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2015, 08:47 AM:

I'd love to see the ideas that Leah proposes explored in SW Rebels, other video productions, or the new wave of books or comics. These smaller venues often seem to have more freedom when it comes to exploring ideas for making the background make sense.

#143 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2015, 11:51 AM:

Leah Miller @141: a young man reading some cool stuff about warrior monks

Also, it's firmly rooted in a WWII- and Eisenhower-era patriarchy understanding of emotion and manhood. "Men don't feel," essentially. From that perspective, it's actually kind of enlightened, if you squint real hard, because the only emotion allowed men in traditional patriarchy is anger. Actually, as I say this, it's an early Boomer generation counter-culture "enlightening" of WWII/E patriarchy, as it acknowledges the role of anger in much of that era's catastrophic dysfunction. Anger is "bad" because it leads to "war" and "abuse" :: Dark Side. Therefore, eliminate "anger," and you eliminate darkness :: Light Side.

Sadly, it fails utterly to recognize that anger is a secondary emotion, arising out of fear, frustration, and/or pain. True "enlightenment" has to integrate those emotions and deal with them. Just "eliminating" (suppressing) them not only doesn't work (for very good, adaptive reasons), it's actively pathological.

Also, this is the same generational attitude toward emotion that produced Roddenberry's Vulcan culture, with its similar misunderstanding of the purpose and function of emotion.

murdering your fellows to prove who is stronger, working to become powerful enough to one day destroy your teacher, training an apprentice and just waiting for them to become strong enough to kill you.

Heh. Klingons. See also, the "mirror" Trek universe. Also: this approach is innevitably going produce a bizarrely conflicted attitude towards one's protégés. "I've taught you everything you know. But I haven't taught you everything I know."

She directs her anger and hatred towards concepts and occasionally organizations

Fiddling with ideas here: Were it me, the direction I'd play it would be: "What wound is this anger covering? How do I heal the wound?" E.g., so-and-so makes me angry: what pain or fear am I feeling? How do I heal the pain? How do I reassure the fear?"

That way, my reaction becomes internally directed; I'm adjusting my ability to respond, and therefore I loose emotional vulnerability to the person. (Not unlike how I try to approach things IRL :-> )

She truly shines when she finds things to believe in and fight for

Again, not unlike RL. :-)

She doesn't have control over her emotions - her emotions rage through her like a forest fire. She has control over her actions.

This is not unlike how I try to run my life. :-)

the whole Sith and Jedi setup is fundamentally broken

That's a fascinating question, and I am sadly going to bet "no," because the binary Force and everything that goes along with it is so quintessentially mid-20th Century American. See also Patriarchal. I will be pleasantly surprised should I be proven wrong. (After all, it was George "Mad Max" Miller who brought us Furiosa, et al. I don't, at this point, have as much faith in JJ Abrams, though.)

Stefan Jones: Like I said, "Leah Miller! Leah Miller...!" :-)

#144 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 12:41 AM:

In no particular order:

Yeah, lack of scale awareness is bad. So is lack of economic/political awareness. I could have wished for more of either.

Finn is awesome in many ways (notably, a non-brainwashed stormtrooper. Also notice, he's in _sanitation_ -- the First Order is obviously short of troops or they wouldn't be reassigning janitors to death squads.)

Dark Side "encourage rivalries between your followers" was spot on.

Agree that R2 waking up at the "right moment" just isn't adequately explained.

I've always thought that the Jedi were already well on their way to decline and myth long before Palpatine's time. (One academy -- in thousands of worlds! Very few people -- very few _planets_ -- ever _see_ a Jedi. It's not like they were galactic celebrities even before Palpatine started discrediting and destroying them.

Would very much like to see Rey again.

#145 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 12:43 AM:

David Harmon @ 128:

I note that the Black Guy still (almost) Died -- I immediately suspected that his survival will be determined by success or failure of the actor's contract negotiations.

John Boyega was one of the first four confirmed returning cast members...

#146 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 10:52 AM:

I have some half-baked thoughts on the name issue that might or might not amount to anything.

On the one hand, yes, people should absolutely be called what they want to be called. However, from a family standpoint, this can be difficult. My sister decided to change her name in her late teens, but I still slip up and call her by her old name, because that's what I grew up with. Habit. From a Star Wars point of view, Han and Leia named their child Ben, and that's the name Han grew up calling him. Of course, here he's not slipping up, he's doing it deliberately to remind him of who he used to be.

At first glance, Star Wars seems to have this view that only someone's original name is their true name, and that anything else is a cover over the original person. That's not supported if you look closer, however. Obi-Wan kinda-sorta changes his name to Ben, and everyone seems perfectly happy to call him that. In the old EU, Luke and Mara named their child Ben after him, which supports that, and in the new continuity, it seems that Ben Solo was named after him, which also supports that. Also, after learning that she and Luke are brothers, Leia doesn't start calling herself Leia Skywalker (or Leia Amidala).

What seems to have happened in Vader's case is that he was corrupted and given a new name by Palpatine. This reflects the Dark Side layer that went on over Anakin Skywalker, and that eventually came off again with the help of Luke.[1] From the movie, we don't know if Kylo/Ben chose his new name or was given it, or whether he was corrupted by Snoke or went Dark Side independently, and I haven't read any of the new books to see if they cover it. In other aspects, though, it seems that it's following the same idea that, if corrupted from being a more-or-less good person, a person's new name is part of an evil persona pulled on over the original person, and that the original, good person is still somewhere on the inside like a creamy center. This is in contrast to someone like Palpatine, or, presumably, Snoke who were always conniving and evil, and sought out the Dark Side so that they could be even better at being conniving and evil.

In summary, I can see how Han calling Kylo Ben can be troublesome, and Star Wars is certainly not where I go to get my morals, but within the context of Star Wars and the way it seems to work, it seems acceptable. That's at least how I rationalize it to myself.

[1] For all that Star Wars is a story about Light and Dark without many shades of gray in between, I find the notion of corruption being a pall over a good person that can eventually be cast off, or even a tight, constricting net that can eventually be broken through and discarded, to be a fascinating one, but problematic in its own way. To put it another way, I find Vader's redemption and return to being Anakin Skywalker satisfying from a narrative point of view, but I wouldn't be able to forgive or trust him in real life. And if Han had brought Ben back home, I don't see that people could ever quite trust him again either.

#147 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 11:32 AM:

Any thoughts about Luke wearing gray?

#148 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 11:43 AM:

My own wild theory is that if Luke could see the awakening coming, he could have left R2-D2 on a timer, as it were--waiting for just the right moment. Artoo is a known destiny-magnet, and Luke gave him instructions to shut down just to keep him out of trouble. Left active, who knows where he might have been by the time TFA rolls around?

#149 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 06:07 PM:

KeithS #146: Obi-wan is a title, the guy's name was Ben Kenobi. And the idea of Han's son being redeemable may owe less to world mechanics than to parental hopes. Note that Vader's redemption led directly to "Redemption Equals Death", and even so, his directors-edit appearance among the Force ghosts did not fit with prior canon.

#150 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 06:27 PM:

David Harmon @ 149:
Obi-wan is a title, the guy's name was Ben Kenobi

I thought "Ben" was more of an alias he adopted when he settled into semi-obscurity on Tatooine.

#151 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2015, 11:09 PM:

"I haven't gone by the name of Obi-Wan since... oh, before you were born."

(Little fuzzy on the timeline there, but we'll let it pass.)

#152 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 01:43 AM:

He was also a bit fuzzy on how well Owen Lars knew Anakin Skywalker. Something along the lines of, "Your uncle thought he should stay here, not go off on some damn-fool idealistic crusade."

#153 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 10:45 AM:

Found this last night: the cast singing a theme medley a capella. It's hilarious.

#154 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 01:34 PM:

Quill @153: Thank you!

#155 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 01:59 PM:

Quill: THAT'S AWESOME.

#156 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 04:12 PM:

@Leah Miller - KOTOR shoutout!

(I should note that it has been ported to the iPad. It's not mindblowing or anything, but the plot is still fantastic.)

(Let's just not talk about the ending to the second one.)

Not to put too fine a point upon it, but I think the Bioware writers circa KOTOR1 were A) better than Lucas at writing people and B) had a whole lot more time for development. You can pack a lot of nuance into a twenty or thirty hour game than you can into a two hour movie. But they were also just...better writers.

The problem is that the Jedi are unrealistic and weird, and the Sith, even in KOTOR1, are apocalypticaly stupid. You go to the Sith Academy Korriban, and nobody's having FUN. It's all just anger and sulking and backstabbing and single beds.

Now, I have many personal flaws, but if I were a Sith, I wouldn't be hanging out on a windswept planet trying to stab my fellows in the back in hopes that Darth Sempai would notice me. I'd be reclining on my overstuffed mattress eating potato chips and engaging in Force Persuade Foot Rub. My sins are mostly petty, and I would be a very petty Sith.

And we never get to see that! Everybody's just so damn mad all the time. And I realize the mechanisms of games are that you have to have enemies to fight, and lightsaber battles are more exciting in movies than Jedi wearily rubbing their foreheads about how I'm getting crumbs in the mattress, and that we did get Jabba the Hutt, but otherwise it's like you only get one deadly sin in the Star Wars universe, and it's Wrath. Nobody gets to be Force Sensitive unless they have major anger issues that they can either overcome or fail to overcome.

Where are my Sith, damnit?! Where are the lazy, gluttonous ones?

...Imma go start a Sith Academy. We will descend on restaurants and Force Persuade the waitstaff to give us free food. Our motto will be "Through Passion, I gain Foot Rubs and Free Sushi." And then we will all go and take a nap. And no one will have to stab anyone in the back, because naps are totally unlimited. Naps are not a zero-sum resource.

Occasionally we will raid other planets for their sushi and comfy pillows. And video games.

...okay, this is a terrible movie, I see why no one did it. BUT STILL.

#157 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 04:18 PM:

Occasionally we will raid other planets for their sushi and comfy pillows. And video games.

Wait, isn't that a science fiction convention...?

#158 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 09:04 PM:

UrsulaV: Nice point there touching Wrath. And since I have little innate inclination towards Wrath myself (my personal weak point among the deadlies is Sloth) I've always found those "choose your side" ads a bit strange...I can't see why anyone would ever choose the Dark.

#159 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 09:30 PM:

I understand entirely why someone would choose the Dark Side in isolation. There's something appealing about putting all of your hatred into your fist. Getting power by giving into my darker emotions? I can see the attraction there.

But it doesn't work. The reason (well, okay at least one of the reasons) I don't give into my darker emotions in real life is that it's a) exhausting, b) counter-productive and c) leads into a spiral of doom when relating to other people. Joining the Dark Side has all of these disads plus the bonus of everyone on your side trying to kill you in a power play.

Not that the Light Side is any better, mind you. You may have my anger and my hatred when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers. I will be good, but I will be good on my own terms. Sometimes those terms involve realizing that I hate someone and that's okay.

#160 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2015, 11:36 PM:

Speaking of KOTOR II, it got a patch on Steam back in July, that includes ports to Mac and Linux. (Yes, it got a major patch over decade after intitial release! How awesome is that?) Also, much of its missing story has been restored over the years by the amazing fan-run
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod team.


#161 ::: MaxL ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 07:32 AM:

My sins are mostly petty, and I would be a very petty Sith.

My favorite dark side moment in...KOTOR2, I think it was, came when you run across a group of rando mercenaries in the middle of some plains. And one of them is aggro and obnoxious, and you can use the force to warp his mind and make him terrified of ever touching a blaster again. Which, uh, yikes.

#162 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 07:45 AM:

UrsulaV: ...Imma go start a Sith Academy. We will descend on restaurants and Force Persuade the waitstaff to give us free food.

The villain in Jessica Jones beat you to it.

#163 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 02:57 PM:

Just got back from my first viewing, and loved it! Squee'd with delight at the end, especially the setting they chose.

I think the use of elements from the first films worked and I hope Maz made it out of the destruction (I lost track of her). Carrie Fisher looks GOOD.

And Harrison Ford FINALLY got that death scene he wanted.

#164 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 05:21 PM:

UrsulaV, Imma sign up for your Sith Academy. Do you offer financial aid packages for the tuition? Or is it promissory & once we're skilled we can Force Persuade the banks to give it to you directly?

(Currently, my best friend is claiming to Force Persuade me to go down to the Tedeschi's to get her a root beer, because she's in her pajamas. The fact that I'm also in my pajamas is why Force Persuade is coming into play.)

#165 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 09:41 PM:

Saw it for the first time and loved it - although I did have to remind myself periodically "this is Star Wars, the physics isn't supposed to make sense".

When Kylo Ren took his mask off for the first time, my first reaction was "Severus SNAPE?" (Probably because the hair looked similar.)

Did I miss something, or did Mark Hamill just get top billing for a completely non-speaking role?

And, speaking of billing, I love Daniel Craig's uncredited role as "Stormtrooper JB-007"

#166 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2015, 11:32 PM:

Edmund Schweppe @165: You were not the only one who thought "Snape". Nor "Voldemort", with regard to the Big Bad.

Just saw it Wednesday, and some disjointed thoughts:

Except for the Death Star on Steroids, I can live with the call-backs and similarities to earlier stories, because it looks like history repeats/is cyclical is a big theme here.

I don't see how BB-8 moves more than a meter on sand or loam without it clogging his motive system. (Superior tech, sure. But it would need venting somehow.)

BOY, is Kylo Ren his grandfather's grandchild, with the temper and the lack of control. That falls well into the clear theme of family and inheritance that has run through this universe since Day 1.

Love the 21st Century filmmaking: women with agency, and men apparently flirting with each other, among many modernities. I may have to prioritize this film over _The Martian_ for a Hugo vote, despite that I think the latter is a better film, to negate some Puppy votes. (Related: Amusing tweet from a Red Piller about TFA, plus discussion, over at Balloon Juice.)

I'm a bit sad for my friends who seem only to have seen the similarities of this film with prior ones in the series. They don't seem to get that this is a remix, not a remake, and that sometimes it's necessary to start from a similar place to get somewhere totally different.

But mostly, looking forward to the remainder of the trilogy, a feeling I never had with the prequels. There's a lot of promise here, and it would be great to see it fulfilled.

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 07:53 AM:

Bruce Adelsohn #166: I don't see how BB-8 moves more than a meter on sand or loam without it clogging his motive system.

I was assuming that BB-8's two parts are bound by the moral equivalent¹ of a magnetic coupling, so that debris can simply pass between them and then be shrugged off. Similarly, the ball's motion seems analogous to a gyroscope-stabilized drive, that is, rotating against an internal, attitude-stablized point.

The interesting thing is I'm pretty sure we could build something like that now, modulo more realistic limitations; it wouldn't be nearly as robust, would use inordinate amounts of energy, and would at least have trouble with ferrous debris. Also, putting other mechanically-functional devices (thumbs up!) on that sphere would be problematic.

¹ ... since in-universe, antigravity suspension is not only routine, but cheap enough for tractor-analogs.

#168 ::: MaxL ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 08:07 AM:

BB-8 was mostly practical effects. The stuff where it was launching grappling hooks to move around not so much, but the ball rolling on sand? Yeah, it actually did that. So it's safe to say it could indeed move a meter without grinding to a halt!

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 08:10 AM:

David Harmon @167:
tractor-analogs

If you're referring to Rey's vehicle at the start, my daughter pegged it as a bakfiets. I think it's more of a regular Dutch bike with panniers and a back rack, but I can go either way there.

#170 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 08:26 AM:

abi #169: Still a low-end utility vehicle.

#171 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 08:47 AM:

David @170:

Yes. Just even lower-end than a tractor. Your point is even more true.

#172 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 11:09 AM:

David Harman @167 and following (including abi): Thanks. That makes sense, exegetically.

#173 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 12:19 PM:

There are toy BB-8's in existence now; a friend of mine has one. The "head" just sits on top of the main part (with wheels (like mouse wheels? they spin in any direction) underneath so that the head can move to stay on top). When BB-8 got picked up by its head, it broke my suspension of disbelief for a brief moment: "You can't pick the whole thing up by the head! The parts aren't attached!"

#174 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 01:23 PM:

UrsulaV @97: his whole family seems to think that dumping small children on desert planets is a valuable form of character building

I’ve concluded that Force abilities don’t develop properly if the person is exposed to too much humidity in childhood. This explains why Anakin, Luke, and Rey all grew up on desert planets, and why Yoda, not wanting to be bothered, retired to a swamp world. The Jedi Temple on Coruscant probably had a lot of dehumidifiers.

#175 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 01:53 PM:

MaxL @161

>> ... make him terrified of ever touching a blaster again.

Reminds me of Cheradenine Zakalwe's problem with chairs.

#176 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 02:05 PM:

Re Kylo Ren's name: the way I always thought of the Sith name thing, and the way I handled it back when I wrote Star Wars fanfic, was that the name change was a stage-name almost. Now, the comparison it makes me think of is to pagan 'Craft names' - they have spiritual significance to their owner but show huge variety in how people actually use them. (Not myself pagan; basing this on what I've seen of other people.) Some people end up universally known by them, some basically never get used, some are used only in specific contexts.

Darth Sidious uses his Sith name consistently in the prequels when doing Sith things, but switches to using his given name for all purposes once he's Emperor. Darth Tyrannus (Dooku) uses his Sith name rarely if at all - can't remember if it ever gets said onscreen. Darth Vader never uses anything else. Darth Maul ditto IIRC.

Palpatine would likely not have cared if Vader had continued to go by Anakin in public life; it might even have had political benefits. Vader chose to make Sith his primary identity, though, and buried his old name. Similarly, it could potentially be a big PR coup for the First Order to have Ben Solo, son of General Leia Organa and bona fide descendant of Vader, publicly on their side. But Kylo's more concerned with aping Vader* than with actually being part of/supporting the First Order, so.

I am currently calling Kylo Kylo as that's the name he's presented to us with. We'll see if that changes.

*related to UrsulaV's comment above, I suspect that Kylo is exactly the sort of entitled jackass to refuse to use someone else's chosen name (you know he'd follow Phasma in calling Finn by his serial number) but simultaneously insist that everyone has to respect his own name change, because shut up that's why.

#177 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 02:45 PM:

Avram (174): A plausible theory, but it might not be the humidity. Perhaps the Force, like hot peppers, becomes stronger if it has insufficient water and is heat stressed while growing.

#178 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 04:48 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @176:

I like your name theory, and I'll fill in my feelings as well.

Regarding Sidious/Palpatine, I'm not sure if it is every publically acknowledged that they are the same person, that Palpatine is a Sith, or that the Emperor is Vader's mentor in the force. Certainly, in New Hope, some of the Empire's military commanders are openly critical of the Force, which seems unlikely if the Emperor is a known master of the Force. I haven't seen Episode III, so I don't know if the connection between Sidious and Palpatine is recognized, or only known to a select few. I think it's very likely that Sidious worked very hard to keep his Sith affiliation a secret. After all, Sheev Palpatine, from Naboo, is the one who was elected Senator, managed various crises successfully, became Supreme Chancellor, and claimed the title of Emperor.

Anakin Skywalker, as far as Vader is concerned, is dead, and died when he fell into the vat after the fight with Kenobi. Vader lost everything -- his kids, his wife, his Jedi ties, his history -- and had no reason or desire to continue it. It was a clean break. He is (in his mind) not both Anakin and Vader, he is purely Vader. There is no need, or purpose, to use his old name. There is no power there. Of course, meeting his son, finding out his family is alive and force-strong, weakens the strength of that death and helps lead to his redemption. If someone said "Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker", the general reaction would be "Who is Skywalker?". Few people knew of a minor new Jedi-in-training before he became Vader.

Dokuu/Tyranus, like Palpatine, had power as Dokuu that would be threatened if his dual role was revealed. So he kept the two roles separate. Given that Dokuu and Palpatine managed the political side of the fall of the republic and the rise of the empire, while Sidious and Tyranus managed creating the crises that Dokuu and Palpatine "solved", it's likely (in my opinion) that they had been working as a pair for quite some time and hatched the plan together (or Palpatine brought on Dokuu as someone with similar views/ambitions to help bring about Palpatine's goals).

All of them had good reasons for treating their Sith name separate from their non-Sith name.

With Kylo Ren, I suspect his case is both a matter of grandfather-worship and a break-with-the-past. It's likely that he chooses to think of "Anakin" as someone who died when his mother was born, and models himself after Vader, who made the name-break from the past. It ties in with him killing Han, as that also initiates a clean break from the past -- Kylo Ren, leader of the Knights of Ren and master of the Dark Side, killed the hero Han Solo, not Ben Solo killing his Father. We shall see how well that works out for him.

I also suspect that few know of the relationship between Luke, Leia, and Vader. Ren knows, because it's family history, but there's no reason who Poe would know, or Hux. I don't see a strong reason for Leia to publicize her familial relationship with the right-hand terror of the former Emperor. Kylo Ren can think of himself, and publicize himself, as "Vader's grandson" without having to think of himself publicly as "Senator/General Organa's son".

#179 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 05:16 PM:

David Harmon @:167 I'm pretty sure we could build something like that now

Mary Aileen @173: "You can't pick the whole thing up by the head! The parts aren't attached!"

a) sufficiently strong magnet or b) some sort of stress-activated interlock?

#180 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 06:01 PM:

Jacque (179): Yes, either of those explanations would work. Or magic (excuse me, "the Force"), that would work, too. But it took me a moment to get over seeing my friend pick the head right off her toy one.

#181 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 07:46 PM:

Went this evening. I wanted to tell the waiting line as we left "THERE'S NOTHING AFTER THE CREDITS! YOU CAN JUST LEAVE!"

I thought the Maz CG character was well-done, and I could relate to her as an actor instead of a talking prop. Whenever I saw an alien face from the original feature, it pulled me back out of the credibility it had established, and I was back in the original Disnelyland when everything was made from plywood. I still like the original STAR WARS, but mixing it with this just reduces the fizz here.

The last swordfight (yeah, yeah, lightsabers, okay) showed some actual credible fighting — trying to stab a foe, and not just the two of them saying let's clang our swords together up here, and down here, and up here, and down here… over and over. Like somebody wanted to win. That was good.

I chuckled at some bit between Han and Chewie. Maybe the part where Han said he was cold, too.

The rest of the time, I was just watching, thinking it wasn't bad. Oh, I liked the "used car" look of the flyer early on. A lot of the textures of props in the movie just looked like they'd been carefully rubbed down with shoe polish so that they were darker in the cracks. Movie aging. But the red thing that Rei was flying at the start was fine in my book.

Just wanted to say those things while they're fresh in my mind. I'll read other comments now.

#182 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2016, 08:33 PM:

Oh, I also thought it was amusing that Harrison Ford was running along a tunnel-like corridor to escape a great big rolling thing.

Oh, and I'll believe Han is dead when Han tells me that himself. Maybe Leia wasn't as upset because she knows things because of her Forceful nature. I was half surprised when he died, because I wasn't certain they were going to do it. And I'm still not, because we're in what may as well be the Marvel universe, where an editor could say, "We shot him, decapitated him, blasted him to atoms, dissected the atoms and removed the charge, sent them to different galaxies, and went back in time and murdered all his ancestors. I was wondering whether we were going to kill him off." And the answer would be, "Nah, let's just leave it hanging like that." We probably all believe Kylo Ren is coming back, though his body was lying on a crumbling precipice on a planet that exploded a minute later.

The size of space bothered me a little. The Resistance was hiding on a planet in visual range of all five Republic planets?

#183 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 01:33 AM:

I've been expecting Han Solo to come back as a ghost.

#184 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 08:53 AM:

Star Wars and Middle Earth, two stories alike in entropy-- they aren't actually connected in a single work of fiction, I just couldn't resist the reference.

Meanwhile, in the real world things are slowly getting better. Maybe it's good to not be dependent on eucastrophe.

#185 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 10:01 AM:

First, Mary Aileen@177: Stealing that.

Saw it again last night. Thoughts from that:

* The "So lonely!" headcanon (from Leah Miller@29) works, but Darth Snooki also said "bring her to me."

* Kylo Ren lashes out and destroys equipment; Darth Vader lashed out and killed subordinates. I think that's a little bit of light side mixed in - he's pushing for anger and not getting as much as he'd like.

* My wife points out the total lack of helmet hair, esp. on Kylo Ren.

* And STILL the TIE fighter holding two people bothers me.

#186 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 10:19 AM:

And I so, so, so want Rey to be just another kid out of the middle of the desert who is CRAZY STRONG IN THE FORCE.

Because I'm very American about some things and I don't want to be ruled by people who are genetically superior by virtue of divine right.

#187 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 01:54 PM:

Last scene reminds me that ever since the second movie, Luke Skywalker has been Hand Solo.

#188 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 07:22 PM:

There is that one scene where Ren uses Force Pull on that one subordinate. We don't see whether the subordinate lives or dies.

#189 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 08:58 PM:

Kip W @181: I wanted to tell the waiting line as we left "THERE'S NOTHING AFTER THE CREDITS! YOU CAN JUST LEAVE!"

Yes, but there are those of us for whom sitting through the credits is a Thing. Fewer tiles lost on ablation, and all that.

#190 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2016, 09:08 PM:

Jacque (189): I liked that one of the final credits was a Thank You to the families of the cast and crew for being so patient while the movie was filming. It was worth sitting through all of the credits for that alone.

#191 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2016, 01:01 AM:

Buddha Buck @178

I've only seen the prequels a couple times, and not exhaustively watched Clone Wars, but re: Palpatine & Dooku, *did Dooku know that Sidious = Palpatine*?

In other words, is Dooku *sincere* in his beef with the Republic and his desire to support the Separatist cause? Did he only turn to the Dark Side out of need? And even if his identity as a Sith is actively in some way, does he have any idea that his Sith Master is *also* the leader of the Republic?

Is Dooku, for all that he's a powerful Sith Lord, also just another unknowing pawn in Palpatine's schemes?

That Episode III starts with Dooku / Darth Tyrannus *kidnapping* Chancellor Palpatine (who then arranges to have him killed before he can talk) seems to support the idea that he didn't.


Kip W @ 182

The visibility of the Starkiller Beam and its effect bugged me, too. So in my headcanon, the *actual* beam fires through hyper-space, but creates a sort of "hyperspace resonance" where there's some optical-range bleed off from hyperspace into normal space that makes its effects visible near-instantaneously.

#192 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2016, 05:43 AM:

Buddha Buck @178: all good points. The only one I'd mildly disagree with is

"If someone said "Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker", the general reaction would be "Who is Skywalker?". Few people knew of a minor new Jedi-in-training before he became Vader."

I'd tend to assume that at the time of RotS, the Jedi Council and maybe a few other senior Jedi are - if not public figures - at least familiar to the Coruscant-based political class, given the part the Jedi seem to play in both diplomacy and the war effort. There must have been Senate debates and committee meetings and so forth to negotiate the details there.

Assuming that context, it seems likely that people in power do know who Anakin is, partly *because* he's only junior but Palpatine knows and meets with him personally. Then Palpatine promotes Anakin to the Jedi Council over the objections of the Councillors themselves. The surviving Senate, at least, should have taken note of that.

Also, I concur with your reasoning about Palpatine wanting to maintain a continuity of name as Senator/Chancellor/Emperor. I do wonder how that jibes with the Totally Legitimate Emperor's new right-hand man having a recognisable Sith title - recognisable to anyone who's heard it before, at least. Did Palpatine make sure to kill off everyone who'd ever had dealings with or knew about the Sith? (Were ancient history departments across the galaxy purged?)

#193 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2016, 11:41 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @100: The same ages look different on faces of different racial markers.

This is why white people often say that Black or Asian women "age better" or "look so young" well past middle age: because we're not trained from childhood to see the markers of age that are common on those sorts of faces. They do have clear age tells if you know the landscape, they're just different age tells than white faces tend to get. The lack of familiar markers (of age or of youth -- you said "less fresh-faced," and some of that is complexion and some of it is where we keep our body fat between about puberty and mid-twenties) skew cross-racial perceptions of facial age.

Jon Marcus @107 said: Picky stuff, but how did a galactic map lead Rei to the right planet, let alone the right continent, let alone up the stairs to the lookout where Luke was currently doing some dramatic brooding?

I'm pretty sure Luke's planet is the one Rey thinks of when she goes to the happy place that Kylo Ren saw in her mind during the interrogation -- a tiny island in an ocean. I think it's a destiny-related Force vision, since if Luke were hiding out on the planet that HE USED FOR HIS JEDI ACADEMY (that she remembers from early childhood), I think people would have found him by now. So once they get to roughly the right spot (and there might well be "LAND HERE" marked on one spot of the planet on the map; I presume it has fractal zoom capabilities), she follows her memories/visions.

Mary Aileen @111 said: Do we know who the old guy was in the village, the one who gave Poe the partial map? He said he knew Kylo Ren before he was calling himself by that name. (I forget the exact quote, but that was the gist of it.) He must be someone connected to Luke/Han and Leia/the Rebellion--but who?

He was played by Max von Sydow. IMDB says his character name was Lor San Tekka. It also says he's playing him again in Episode VIII (filming now), so either flashbacks or he lived? Scrolling back, he was in both Quo Vadis? (as the Apostle Peter) and Dune (Liet Kynes), but I don't see him with a role in any of the original trilogy. Presumably he's some kind of olde timey Resistance fighter from back when they were Rebels.

Tom Whitmore @114 spotted a Laputa visual reference. I saw a lot of references to a WHOLE LOT of filmed SF that's come out since the original trilogy. Presumably Reddit will produce a canonical list of easter-eggs at some point.

Edmund Schweppe @165 admired Daniel Craig's character-name being "Stormtrooper JB-007". He had lines, actually -- he was the trooper who told Rey he'd TIGHTEN her restraints. :->

#194 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2016, 11:44 PM:

Separating my own thoughts from my responses because reasons:

✪ A lot of people in this thread have referenced Mara Jade. I like her all right, but the thing that makes me wish she was canonical in these movies is because her storyline was so wrapped up with the planet whose ecosystem included at least two species of Force-sensitive animals (one of whom made bubbles of no-Force, Force vacuum, as it were, around itself to defend from the other, which was a predator that used Force-sense to find life to hunt its prey). That was such a cool idea.

✪ I think it's clear from the movie that they're setting up Finn as Force-sensitive. There are too many perfect parallels between him and Rey when they're both in-over-their-head-and-suddenly-learning-skills-well. If she's got some previous training at Luke's academy in childhood, that explains why she progresses better and further; he's been a stormtrooper since toddlerhood, judging by the photo Phasma was looking at on his record.

✪ In re Abrams and lens flare, I think this movie showed an evolution of his aesthetic. I think it's not that he adores lens flare qua lens flare, but that he likes his CGI to look like really showy virtuosic in-camera effects. I saw a lot of examples of those in this movie, especially the heat haze as we watched ships silhouetted against the red, low sun, and the shot where all the X-Wings are coming in over the lake. One interesting difference between TFA and the prequel trilogy is that, when he makes a gorgeous "ripped from the concept art" shot, he doesn't linger over it -- he moves on, trusting that you saw it and admired it, but not delaying the film to go OH HAI THARE ISNT MAH MOVIE PRETTAH HERE LOOK AT HOW PRETTAH! The prequels did that all the time. I enjoyed it, at the time, because I liked looking, but it also really handicapped them in terms of ability to fit in plot. Of course, there are signs that they were doing it to stretch the runtime to make UP for the lack of plot, so, well, chickens and eggs. I definitely am looking forward to when TFA's been thoroughly screenshotted, because some of those shots I remember will make glorious desktop wallpapers.

✪ In re the Kylo Tantrums That Smash Equipment: it wasn't just the audience who expected the subordinate to die when we get the first one. You can see on his face the subordinate in question completely expects it too. Great acting there.

#195 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 12:20 AM:

Somebody posted how BB-8 really works.

I was also hearing the references to Snokes as "Snape", and hadn't been really clear which bad guy it referred to, so it was a bit confusing when Kylo Ren pulled off his Dark Helmet to reveal a Snape-like goth haircut.

It would be somewhat lame if Rey turns out to be Luke's daughter, though it would at least cut down on the likelihood of a Rey-Kylo love affair in Movie 8 or 9 ("He's my cousin!" "Yeah, I know, but that was a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away".) Or Palpatine's grand-niece or whatever. It would explain her getting visions when first using his light-saber, though.

Finn did say he'd been taken from his family as an infant, never knew any life but the Storm Troopers, so it's unlikely he had Secret Jedi Light-Saber Training, as opposed to just regular storm trooper training in all sorts of weapons. And I was really annoyed by the line that his job had been "in sanitation" - it seemed like they were suddenly demoting him to a stereotyped comic black sidekick when he'd been allowed to be a real character, and it doesn't make sense that they'd use someone who'd been raised from birth with expensive storm trooper training to do that.

#196 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 12:28 AM:

Oh, also - finally saw the movie :-) It was ok, but it didn't grab me the way the original series did, nor did it annoy me the way "Episode 1: The JarJar Awakes" did.

And UrsulaV, Sith Academy isn't the place for us - clearly Jabba's the guy with the tasty snacks, constant entertainment, foot-rubs, and a preference for Sloth and Gluttony over Wrath and stabbyness.

#197 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 09:26 AM:

Bill Stewart (195): When Finn said he'd been in "sanitation" on the base, I was expecting them to crawl in through the drains* or something.

*quick flash-memory of Miles V's forensic plumbing adventures, there

#198 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 09:28 AM:

Jon Marcus #107: Was anyone else surprised/disturbed at how casually everyone took Han's death. That was my biggest beef. Leia has a tiny sad. Wait, we might've found Luke? Yay, no more sad!" Okay, so they've been estranged. How about f-ing Chewbacca. His partner and constant companion over the last four decades just bought it. He goes berserk for a scene, then he's over it.

Leia is at war, and probably had a pretty good idea already that Han might not be coming back again. Chewie had more immediate issues, like got getting blown up with the planet. Also both of those have been living dangerous lives for a long time, and we don't see how they might grieve in private.

how did a galactic map lead Rei to the right planet, let alone the right continent, let alone up the stairs to the lookout where Luke was currently doing some dramatic brooding?

Star wars trope: Every planet is only one place. The desert planet we see at first looks like an exception, but the village gets destroyed, and BB-8 has no problem reaching the scavenger camp in a trackless desert.

Elliott Mason #193: This is why white people often say that Black or Asian women "age better" or "look so young" well past middle age

Actually, I've heard that in at least one case (Japanese), even the natives have trouble judging the ages of older adults, enough for it to be a plot element in some fairly old stories. However, this was something from a fairly superficial class back in college.

#199 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 09:36 AM:

David Harmon @198: Not according to my Japanese friends. There are noticeable age tells, just not in the places we're trained to look for them. For just one example, many white women get crow's-feet and mouth-adjacent wrinkles in our late 30s, early 40s. Japanese women tend not to, but DO get a lot jowlier.

#200 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 10:45 AM:

David Harmon @198: Leia is at war, and probably had a pretty good idea already that Han might not be coming back again.

I seem to recall a cut to Leia's reaction when Han is stabbed; my read is that she knew exactly what happened when it happened, or near enough.

#201 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 04:41 PM:

The more I look at the story, the more convinced I become that The First Order isn't meant to be as effective as the Empire, and that its long-term effectiveness is irrelevant to Snoke's plan.

The Empire was an entrenched militaristic bureaucracy that controlled nearly every aspect of galactic commerce and government. It survived in part due to entropy and the apathy of the general populace. If the Empire had done nothing and the rebels had done nothing, the Empire would have stayed in power indefinitely.

The First Order has to use fewer resources to actually conquer systems that the Empire merely had to hold. All their experienced military commanders are dead. They don't have the old ineffectual Imperial Senate as a smokescreen to provide the illusion of participatory government. They might be able to maintain some territory, but their chances of complete Galactic control on par with the Empire are slim to none.

Hux doesn't know that, though, and neither does Kylo. They think that they can be Tarkin and Vader if they just try hard enough. They think they can win, and are willing to do as much damage as they possibly can to ensure that victory. As a result they are much, much more dangerous to the average galactic resident than the Empire ever was. The old Empire was full of practical oligarchs... even Vader was a functional diplomat, one with enough cachet that Lando actually thought he'd uphold his end of a given deal. Nobody's ever going to make a deal with Kylo Ren. That guy is terrible at conversations. So instead of shady deals, you're just going to get fear and chaos.

In the old EU, the remnants of the Imperial armies had Thrawn: a brilliant strategist, notable specifically for the fact that he would argue against the Emperor's plans if he thought they were unwise. In contrast, Hux and Kylo seem to be entirely dependent on Snoke for large-scale decision-making. I can't imagine either of them having the ability for independent, effective long-term military strategy.

Instead, The First Order's nominal leaders believe that they can win purely by showing strength and adhering to their principles, regardless of whether or not they have a solid plan. This echoes some modern political movements in interesting ways - willing to destroy something that kinda works if it's based on a principle they despise, even if they don't have a replacement plan. Of paramount importance is the idea that the other side is wrong and we shall not do the wrong thing. Long term results are irrelevant. These priorities do not lead to effective governance, but they also don't ensure actual defeat. What they do is halt incremental progress, stress and terrorize the populace, and sow discord.

If Snoke's goal were galactic conquest, all this would be bad. If his goal is a divided and weakened galaxy, then everything is going according to plan.

#202 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 06:30 PM:

That was better than I expected.

Bruce@166: Good distinction between remake and re-mix. The parts where the movie fell down for me (most specifically the Death-Star/Starkiller stuff, and the assault on the Starkiller) is where it most worked like a remake, rather than an independent retelling going in different directions. Otherwise, I think it really was effective in expanding on and embroidering on the original.

Leah Miller -- You're marvelous, thank you.

Jon@107 -- I thought Leia's reaction to Han's death was, actually, really effective. She felt it at the time (via the Force), she glommed onto the Force sensitive kid who was there, she hugged her, she mourned. Chewie was sad, too. It worked for me. (But I can accept it didn't for other people.)

Thing that confused me at the time of viewing but which has made sense since then: Emo Kylo Ren has light saber fight with Rey, offers to train her, Rey pauses, thinks, accesses... something..., then refuses. Accesses what?

If I take the premise that she trained with Luke at his academy, then her vision on touching Luke's light saber makes sense as both psychometry, picking up memories of Cloud City off the light saber, and also remembering actual things she once saw/heard. Like Obi-Wan's ghost telling her things while training at the academy. (Certainly, that was Obi-Wan (both actors) saying the "Rey, these are your first steps" bit.)

So maybe she's remembering elements of that, during the fight. Or maybe not; maybe Obi-Wan's line was just metaphorical, and none of her actual memories are in the vision, and maybe she's just deciding Kylo Ren's not someone she wants to learn from. (Can't blame her, really.) Either way, it works for me.

I was complaining about Rey & Finn being able to beat Kylo Ren, who has more training than they do, but it's true a) he seems to rely a lot on the Force and not on physical training, and b) he was quite wounded in several ways, at the time.

I hope hope hope hope hope hope there is no Kylo Ren/Rey/Finn love triangle. I hope very hard. Given the way they approached Rey in this one, there won't be, but I don't trust them until the actual movies come out.

Anyway. Good rollick.

#203 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2016, 11:23 PM:

After a few days to let the film rattle 'round my mind:

The setting of Han's death is bothering me -- the homage to LotR has set me wondering...are they going to pull a Gandalf?

Or am I just being silly?

#204 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2016, 12:57 AM:

Well, there wasn't a body.

I think it'd be better linked to comic book traditions than LOTR, since Han is the most hard-headed non-spiritualist around, but... non-zero chance.

(And Leia's gitchy feeling could be sensing Kylo Ren going completely to the dark side, rather than Han's death.)

#205 ::: Karl ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2016, 01:29 AM:

kate@202: "Accesses what?"
My read was that up until that point, she was trying to beat her opponent to death with a glowy stick and the normalish martial arts skills she acquired on Jakku. He mentions the force and she says to herself "Oh right, I'm supposed to be able to sue that", clears her mind, trusts her feelings, and delivers the beginning of the prelude of the beatdown he so richly deserves (and that she will presumably deliver the final movement of two movies from now.

#206 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2016, 01:34 AM:

Several people have suggested that Rey might have received some early training at (and retained some memories from) Luke's academy.

But there's a point in the movie where she says, "Luke Skywalker? I thought he was just a legend!"

Which I think rather argues against her having any previous acquaintance with him or his academy.

#207 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2016, 11:28 AM:

Jaque @189
Of course, but if one knows in advance that there is no pot of gold at the end, there can be an informed choice to head for the bathroom right off or look at the rainbow longer.

#208 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2016, 12:24 PM:

::giggle::

Evesdropping on coworkers arguing over whether Han Solo is coming back.

#209 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2016, 12:38 PM:

With enough money for the actor and the right cloning tech for the story, anything is possible. :)

#210 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2016, 01:15 PM:

Leah Miller @ #201: Hux doesn't know that, though, and neither does Kylo. They think that they can be Tarkin and Vader if they just try hard enough.

Which reminds me of something: Hux is pretty young to be the General in charge of a massive military force. And I don't remember any of his underlings being noticeably older.

Specifically, Hux is not old enough to actually remember the Empire himself. (Domnhall Gleeson was born the year ROTJ came out.)

So, if my memory isn't letting me down, the army of the First Order is a bunch of young people taking cues from something none of them are old enough to have personally been a part of. Which is ... interesting.

#211 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 06:34 AM:

Paul A @ #210:

My reading of that is that they're the young, angry children of people who REALLY liked being part of the Empire and have banded together to bring back The Good Old Times, For People Like Us.

The fact that there's insanely many of them, I chalk up to "Star Wars".

#212 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 06:53 AM:

210/211:

Re the First Order mostly being too young to remember the Empire - there's also the phenomenon where people a generation removed from $bad_thing don't quite grok why everyone was quite so scared of it ... surely it can't have been as awful as people talked about ... maybe its awfulness should be reconsidered? ... and even if it really was that awful it could never happen at that scale again today because of (better medicine|better tech|we're smarter than our parents).

Therefore, as institutional memory fades, the importance of the actions that would prevent the thing arising also start to fade.

I'm mainly thinking in terms of communicable diseases here so far as real-world examples go, but I know it applies to other situations as well.

#213 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 10:58 AM:

Jacque #189, Kip #207:

I make a habit out of sitting all the way through the credits. It's impossible to read them carefully, but I like to let them wash over me, and learn a little bit about how a production was organized.

So about five years ago, I was visiting an old college friend. Her son works on visual effects and there are posters of his movies hanging in her rec room.

I realized I had a new reason to stay for all the credits.

Someday, you may be sitting across a kitchen table from the mother of one of those people listed in the credits. And you will be able to say honestly, "Yes, I always read the credits."

Do it for the mothers.

#214 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 11:04 AM:

I did notice that TFA's credits scrolled REALLY fast compared to how I'm used to. Even the single-column stuff (like the actors who played the main, cited roles with lines) went so fast I couldn't keep up.

I read quickly, and usually I can quick-scan at the same speed as, or a little faster than, the final scroll, but this time I only caught three of the cast before it was offscreen. And I hadn't a hope in hell of even getting much of a sense of the technical credits.

I guess they're aiming them at the DVD viewers who can freezeframe. I gotta wonder if it harms the studio any to just allow an extra 30-120 seconds for the whole crawl, slow it down a little, and let people in the theater honor the people who did the work?

#215 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 11:44 AM:

Elliott Mason @ #214:

In this day and age, with digital film distribution and all that, probably not.

In the hallowed days of ages past, when "actual physical film" was the distribution medium of choice, maybe. For reasons I shall describe below.

You see, film's distributed in small-ish bundles, usually called "acts" in the trade. Each act is roughly 7-15 minutes of film and are sent in "film boxes", each of which can take (from memory) four acts. You can tweak the act length somewhat, but "roughly 15" is pushing how much you can show on a normal "non-platter" projector and 7 is pushing the lower margin for how fast you can unmount the previous and mount the next act of the film on the projector that just went idle in a dual-projector setup.

The cost and convenience of shipping and showing your film is somewhat correlated with how many of those boxes you need to ship and if you're already at maximum act length, the extra minute or two for the credits MAY just push you into "new act" or (even worse) "new film box". Which influences the distribution cost, the convenience, the mount of chances of monumental mistakes and so on.

#216 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 12:26 PM:

Apropos of nothing in particular, I just found out what happens when you type "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away" into the Google search box.

I giggled.

#217 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 01:19 PM:

Finally saw this. (My wife and I do not like crowds.) My first comment: Rey presenting the lightsaber is unnecessary as the color shows it's the one he lost on Bespin; first scene of #8 is him taking out his own. My wife's first comment (after quoting Fisher on actors aging): ~"But they should shoot whoever did her makeup; a general doesn't have time to put on (let alone maintain) pancake, mascara, and false eyelashes." (Even I noticed the eyelashes, but didn't think about the difference among political, PR, and fighting generals (thank you, Bester) -- Leia is still the last, cf Aquila@15.)

My next query was how a random (senior?) officer could find/fetch Kylo Ren from the chaos of planet breaking up; do key items of his gear have tracers? (Adds an aspect to the comments about Snokes treating him as a useful tool despite tantrums; maybe there were other times when Ren went off-the-res and needed to be retrieved?)

I disagree that Rey isn't sexualized -- are hotpants under a tit-hammock tunic with peekaboo leggings plausible garb for a scavenger? (Nancy@47 notes the leggings; I'd have thought that any needed support would work better \under/ the outer garment.) She needs coverage in that sun, but more movement than she'd get wearing Obi-Wan's djellaba -- but why doesn't she just wear trousers?

Interesting bit of topical retcon they did to fit Fin in -- Storm Troopers are now child conscripts rather than clones! (No, it's not racist to argue that the Storm Troopers of parts 3-6 are white under the armor; look at the average ]human[ complexion in those movies.)

Leah @ 23: that's a fascinating construction; ISTM that it holds together. (My first question on the New Order was where they got the money for something at least 64x the mass of the Death Star (if they had that much backing, why was the loss in #6 seen as critical?), but this farfaraway galaxy seems disjoint.)

Jim@26 / Rob@28: if ability to use the Force(*) is genetic (as suggested in several movies) and recessive (because otherwise everybody would have it), seeing it pop up randomly is not surprising -- in fact it must have been doing so for some time since Jedi aren't supposed to marry. So ISTM that Rey is much more likely to have come from "nowhere" than to be Luke's offspring.
    (*) distinct from being a Jedi, which is the result of training.

Alex R. @ 31: you mean, the way the U.S. military listened to the economists about any of their new toys? (See also Clarke's "Superiority".) And note that the new Death Star doesn't even have to move (the equivalent of a precision transoceanic siege gun) AND can pack and redirect the entire output of a star, and it's going to look irretrievably sexy to the power-is-all types who run the New Order.

Stephen@59: Fin's conversion doesn't have to wait; it's backed up in #7. His first combat is shooting helpless villagers instead of putting down dangerous terrorist anarchists.

UrsulaV@97: not that I was planning to Reddit, but it's nice knowing I don't have to think about it.

Chris@126: Abrams has even less of a sense of scale than Lucas. Galactic scale, perhaps; IMO the opening shot of #4 is a brilliant establishment of the scale of ships, and Abrams acknowledged that by having a Star Destroyer show up as a virtual eclipse.

various, re comments on Rey's fighting style: maybe she understood that the point is mightier than the edge? (cf many, going back at least to part 2 of the Harold Shea stories.)

Leah @ 141: an interesting analysis. I was never convinced by the way "control your anger" (parts 4-6) mutated into "abandon all emotions" in 2-3, but the structure of 1-3 was so manipulative/predestined (as opposed to plausible) that I didn't pay much attention to it. (And I come at this as someone who learned to control a temper problem through being given responsibility for things a tantrum would have blown up, which is more subtlety than I think the filmed SW universe is capable of.)

Jacque @ 143: the binary Force and everything that goes along with it is so quintessentially mid-20th Century American. That makes an appalling amount of sense, especially considering that American Graffiti was a hymn to that period.

Tony @ 144: I couldn't figure Finn's alleged job either; I expect it was put in for comic reference. But it could be that the New Order's economy can't support a huge force of pure fighters, and requires all of them to have some maintenance duty as well. That only works if the maintenance is very repetitive -- otherwise a battle can cost you critical knowledge -- but many commenters have noted that Lucasfilms tends to go "Ooh! Shiny!" instead of building plausible ]societies[.

Kip @ 181: let's clang our swords together up here, and down here, and... A combat choreographer who demo'd at an early Arisia said that is called Flynning.


#218 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 02:00 PM:

CHip@217 Storm Troopers are now child conscripts rather than clones

I don't think it's supposed to be a retcon. It's a change in procedure. At some point they switched from clones to conscripts.

#219 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 02:28 PM:

CHip@217:

I don't think it's uncommon for military personnel on large installations to have multiple jobs.

A US Navy destroyer has a crew complement of 300+ sailors, not because that many are needed to run a ship that size (The Maersk Triple E cargo ships are 2.5 times as long, 20 times the displacement, and are crewed by about 20), but because sometimes, in combat, they need that many (counting potential casualties, as well). The rest of the time, the 300 crew have to do something to keep them busy.

So I don't find it unbelievable that Finn would have spent his time on the StarKiller training, sanitation, and occasional escort/guard duty for high mucketymucks on missions.

#220 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 02:32 PM:

CHip @117: You're behind the times, fashionwise. Rey's outfit is, among people her age in American cities, considered entirely modest. It threw me, too, but the children and adolescents at my daughter's school find "going to school wearing just a pair of matte uniform-colored leggings as pants" completely unexceptional and nothing to do with being revealing or sexy.

The "yoga pants are slutty" battle was mostly fought five years ago, and lost by the "modesty means outlines must be masked" crew. Now modesty means "skin is covered by at least one layer of opaque fabric and outlines are irrelevant".

It's very strange to me.

But right now, in the minds of most of the sub-45 viewers of this movie, Rey's outfit is completely modest, verging on neutral or frumpy. It's functional superhero clothing, not a titty suit.

#221 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 03:04 PM:

CHip, those are not even roughly hot pants; they're closer to "plus fours", being slightly past knee-length. Nor is her shirt a tit-hammock, as it has cap sleeves and the neckline doesn't even reveal cleavage. She's basically wearing a moderately-tight jumpsuit with extra floaty panels over it, with mid-high boots and wrappings on her lower arms.

I suppose it's sexy if a visible waistline and bare calves and biceps do it for you? I mean, you can tell she's a woman, but it's considerably less revealing than, say, Natasha's Black Widow suit.

#222 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 03:28 PM:

For what it's worth, I'm 62, and I saw Rey's clothes as impractical rather than revealing.

I recently saw a piece twitting the older TFA characters (except Leia) for not changing their outfits in 25 years. Thank God I'm not a normal person.

#223 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 08:20 PM:

Carrie @ 221: I would have sworn the panels revealed something almost elastically close-fitting (itself implausible in a scavenger/subsistence culture) and ending barely below the hip/thigh boundary, nowhere near plus-four length. The top layer above the waist certainly looked like it was (a) supportive and (b) cut away (and pleated) wrt the underlayer in a way that seemed intended to draw the eye rather than be practical. YMMV.

Elliott @ 222: I don't think I'm behind the times; a full-length close-fitting monolayer is different from an eyecatcher.

However, everyone's mileage may vary. I would really like to hear what the costume designer thought they were doing, but I doubt any public comment will be accurate.

#224 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 09:29 PM:

#223 ::: CHip

"I would have sworn the panels revealed something almost elastically close-fitting (itself implausible in a scavenger/subsistence culture)"

I think some scraps of high tech-- like the insta-fresh bread-- are extremely plausible in a scavenger/subsistence culture which is scavenging high space ships.

#225 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 10:38 PM:

I would have sworn the panels revealed something almost elastically close-fitting (itself implausible in a scavenger/subsistence culture) and ending barely below the hip/thigh boundary, nowhere near plus-four length.

Not according to the image search I did to make sure my memory was not faulty. :) The pants are knee-length and seem to be buttoned, and while the shirt part is crinkly (and nearly the same color as the panels, if not necessarily the same fabric), it's not skin-tight. The neckline's a bit higher than the one on the tank top I'm currently wearing, in fact, though it also has a slit that goes down a bit lower. But it's not in any way a boobtastic top.

The impression that she's wearing her support garment on the outside may come from the cross-chest strap of her bag.

#226 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2016, 10:45 PM:

Carrie S. #225: Looking at that picture, a better "wardrobe quibble" occurs to me: She's not showing much skin, but both her calves and her face are fully exposed, and she lives on a desert planet. Why is this pale-skinned woman neither burned nor browned in those areas?

#227 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 12:14 AM:

More Rey costume shot visual reference/mind refreshers:

In the desert, with blousy lower pants
Running away from an explosion in town
Getting off her (floating thumb drive) speederbike
As close as we get to a cheesecake/pinup shot, in desert town

I'm not finding a lot of good shots of her end-of-movie outfit, the one with the quilted shoulder bits and the stand up collar.

#228 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 01:21 AM:

This discussion has got me going back to look at Luke's desert outfit in Ep4. (On a different planet, to be sure!)

Her floaty cross-sash panels (which I can't see any practical use for) have exactly the same line as Luke's tunic, while being a completely different garment. And Luke wears spiral-wrapped leggings (not always clear, but I think always there) in the same style as Rey's arm...ings.

This makes for nice visual callbacks, if not particularly good worldbuilding logic.

As for covering up, I think both movies demonstrate that Force-users are immune to sunburn. :) As well as dry skin.

#229 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 01:57 AM:

This will amuse you all, I think. It starts with 'The Empire Strikes Back' and a curious looking piece of equipment:

save the datacore

#230 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 02:30 AM:

#226 ::: David Harmon

Intuitive use of the force. Genetic engineering.

Were there any other implausibly pale people in the crowd scenes?

#231 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 02:55 AM:

It seems like cheating to bring up actual science in Star Wars, but we have no idea what the UV output of Jakku’s star is. Or whether the human-looking species we see has the same skin response to UV light.

#232 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 03:54 AM:

There is nothing in the original trilogy to suggest that storm troopers are clones. The fact that Lucas later edited the audio to give them NZ accents to sound cloney suggests that even Lucas didn't think they were clones back in the 70s.

#233 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 08:15 AM:

Why is this pale-skinned woman neither burned nor browned in those areas?

Hi-tech sunblock? :)

I had the same thought in the theater: "Why doesn't she cover her arms all the way up, she's gonna get burned."

#234 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 09:22 AM:

"Why is this pale-skinned woman neither burned nor browned in those areas?"

Same reason people in movies set somewhere it's cold often don't seem to be breathing?

#235 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 10:10 AM:

Found via Kate Elliott's Twitter, a link to an interview with the TFA costume designer that specifically talks about Rey's costume.

It also includes several photos of her costume right at the start which I was having trouble remembering - when she's out scavenging with the speeder-bike, she has her head, hands, and arms covered, then she takes off some of the protective gear when she gets home and goes into the village.

Re leggings: like Elliott @220, I see a lot of kids (my Brownie pack and the Guides & Rainbows who share the hall, so between them they cover a 5-14 age range) happily whizzing round in leggings because they're comfy, stand up to vigorous activity better than woven trousers do, and - though I doubt the kids think about this bit - last for longer on growing children thanks to the stretch.

I think of leggings-as-trousers as kid clothes more than anything else, and when I spot adults in them (or wear them myself) I would usually assume it's for the same reasons - for comfort, to do sport, and because it's easy to buy ones that fit.

Going back to TFA, if you're getting all your clothes scavenged or refashioned from scavenged stuff the range is likely to be pretty hit-and-miss; I'd think stretchy or baggy clothes will be the ones widely traded/swapped, as they're likely to be more useful to more people.

#236 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 01:32 PM:

Perhaps we'll see Han as a spirit (because bla bla Force bla), and he can have a final conversation with Leia, and she can say, "You were supposed to bring him home. YOU HAD ONE JOB…"

#237 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 03:10 PM:

CHip @217: A combat choreographer who demo'd at an early Arisia said that is called Flynning.

Any chance that choreographer was Teel James Glenn?

Elliott Mason @220: The "yoga pants are slutty" battle was mostly fought five years ago

Huh. I first encountered that on The Daily Show a few weeks ago. "Get yourselves back to the Victorian Age where you belong!" was my chief thought.

Rey's outfit is completely modest, verging on neutral or frumpy.

It certainly parsed that way to me. What did give me hives was the flowy-dangly overtunic. I'd want something far more form-fitting if I was going to be climbing around in derelict spacecraft. My ancient and tattered caftan catches on doorknobs and guinea pig cages with irritating frequency, and it's not anything like as all-over-the-place.

CHip @223: something almost elastically close-fitting (itself implausible in a scavenger/subsistence culture)

Nu, are not t-shirts/sweats nearly ubiquitous in Earth culture? Is this not because they are dirt-cheap to produce in quantity? Cheap, easy-to-use knitting machines are totally a thing.

#238 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 04:32 PM:

I was half expecting Han Solo to say "Strike me down and I'll ... oh, forget it", and pull out a blaster, set to "stun" if that doesn't violate a Star Trek trademark, and shoot Emo Kylo Ren.

#239 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 05:05 PM:

Saw this on my FB feed this morning:

friendly reminder that leia has lost her adoptive parents, entire planet, father, husband, son and has been abandoned by her brother and yet has never been tempted by the dark side even once.

take notes skywalker boys ya’ll weak as shit


#240 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2016, 09:55 PM:

Bill Stewart @238, the opening scene of the original Star Wars has Leia being knocked out by a stormtrooper’s blaster set to stun.

#241 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 09:29 AM:

What kind of got me about Rey's scavenging is that she's in a settlement on a planet where it seems like the only means of support is scavenging off this wreckage, and she's all alone in pretty much every shot. Hey, good thing nobody else in the place had the same idea she did!

#242 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 09:29 AM:

It's somewhat odd (as someone who's played Star Wars RPGs, this is relevant to my interests) that blasters are set to stun the first time you see them and this technology is never demonstrated again.

My particular handwave was that you need to stun someone at least twice to have a good chance of it working (thus both troopers) and in a firefight that's an unacceptable risk, but there's a lot of possible handwaves: low rate of fire, short range, special equipment required, whatever.

#243 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 10:34 AM:

None of the other times you see blasters used are in situations where the combatants would really want to stun rather than kill, IMO.

#244 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 10:59 AM:

Speaking of Rey's costume -- I chuckled in the opening scene, when she removes protective layers around her face before sliding down a sand bank. I also concur with the people who think it's on the modest end of the spectrum. I didn't think that it, or her hairstyle, made a lick of sense in terms of being practical or easy to maintain.

I really enjoyed this conversation between parody Twitter accounts.

#245 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 01:12 PM:

Niall @ 232: I thought that Troopers==clones was established in II or III; by "first trilogy" do you mean IV-VI?

Jacque: It might have been TJG, but memory from 25 years ago is vague. wrt clothing, can you produce (or preserve) a cheap, easy-to-use knitting machine in a scavenger culture? I've never looked at one in detail but have the impression that they're rather complicated and not very fault-tolerant due to having to sync large numbers of parts; as a sometime gearhead I'd love to see details of how they work.

All who posted photo links showing plus-four--style garb: I'm remembering rear shots (which I suppose could show stretched cloth) rather than frontal; I would expect that Continuity didn't fail that badly on length, so I'll chalk it up to broken memory. (I was an adult when the first movie came out -- saw it six times, including when the 70mm 6-channel copy arrived -- but never got into that fandom.) The pictures do seem to show the flappy outer leggings as extensions of the bloused X-top, which makes me wonder even more what they were supposed to be; I've read that traditional Scots garb is long/bulky enough to rewrap as a sleeping container, but that's all one piece where this looks like two with split ends.

#246 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 04:34 PM:

Thanks to everyone here who has expressed appreciation for my posts. This is officially my favorite place to talk about Star Wars, and has given me a good outlet for my current obsession.

I started an unposted draft here a few days ago that grew into something weird (and too long for this format) based on several arguments I had during the interm. I'm still deciding whether or not to release it into the wild, watch this space for news. >_>

In the meantime, random responses to more awesome discussion.

On Blasters

I was also going to bring up the stun setting the beginning of A New Hope. The fact that everyone seems to forget it going forward is a constant source of frustration and amusement.

One of my handwavey explanations is that Stormtrooper armor DOES protect from stun blasts, but not from fully-powered blaster shots. When they use the stun setting on Leia, she's in her thin white dress. It's possible stun settings don't work very well on people who are armored or even heavily clothed. Also, when it's used on Leia it's a fairly short-range shot, so it could be that stun-level charges dissipate too quickly at distance.

Honestly, on that railingless bridge a stun blaster might not have helped, as anyone who was stunned would have likely toppled to their probable death anyway. Which might have been why Kylo chose it for his confrontation: no room for compromises, no way out.

On Rey, Clothing, and practicality

I was going to bring up the UV thing Avram did @231, with the same "science in Star Wars" caveat. There are a bunch of things that could change the level of UV radiation that reaches a planet's surface.

As someone who has fought and climbed in a large number of outfits, yoga pants and a belted tunic are much easier to move in than most other outfits we've seen in Star Wars. The trail-y bits are mostly there to look cool, I think, but fashion is a thing even in poor subsistence societies. I have to rewatch the film to check when they're visible, but I thought of another sci-fi option that would make sense, given much of the rest of her outfit. We have bandages that stick to themselves but not to skin or anything else... what if the wrapped cloth is a more advanced version of that? When unwrapped it's free floating, but a little pressure can be used to temporarily attach it to other pieces of the same cloth, creating modular outfit configurations. That would also explain how her armwraps stay put. As someone who has tried to make bandage-y armwraps for an unrelated costume, it's not easy.

On Salvage, Economics, and things making sense

As for the availability of knitting machines... this may be a scavenging economy, but what is being scavenged is high technology. Granted, it is high technology in the Star Wars sense - who knows what things are going to be cool and advanced and which things are strangely primitive. Star Wars science does consistently present a technological world with shockingly interchangeable parts. Some starship parts can be at least temporarily replaced with swoop parts - like repairing an airplane with parts from a motorcycle junkyard. So when your hypothetical knitting machine breaks down, it can be repaired with pieces from (say) a starship docking mechanism or a warehouse droid.

Star Wars tech is weird and completely unlike tech in any other major SF universe I can think of. Kirk had the equivalent of a cell phone, Luke didn't (at least in A New Hope). The Enterprise had encryption and special frequencies for distinct types of communications, while such things are not a fixture in Star Wars. When you start trying to get into that world's headspace from a hardSF or modern IT perspective, things get weird quick. My first Sci-fi RPG was Shadowrun, which is relatively savvy about computing. I have a bunch of standard security habits for sci-fi settings as a result: install safeguard tracking devices on any vehicles that might get stolen that activate if you don't enter a certain password every X hours. Encrypt your communications whenever possible. Set up failsafes and shortcuts to speedily and silently call for help and ping your GPS for your allies, that kind of thing. So when I was playing the Star Wars RPG I asked about doing any or all of these things, and most of them were not available off-the-shelf in the universe. You'd have to be an talented engineer skilled hacking existing tech for unintended use if you wanted to do any of those basic tech safety things. The best I could manage as someone with moderate computer use skills was to set up a beacon that would automatically tell me if anyone other than me tried to drive my ship. I can get better security for my car NOW.

So yeah, trying to make the economics or ecology of any Star Wars movie work is really a fool's errand. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and one of the things that makes Star Wars so weird and wonderful and difficult to replicate is that so much of it was obviously thrown together without considering the implications. Compare that to Star Trek where the politics and economics are deeply considered and very important, to the point where there's almost less room to noodle around the edges.

This is a difficulty I have in my own writing, if I'm honest - I'm bad at setting up terrible, broken systems. Like, the Jedi and the Sith are completely dysfunctional and much of their philosophy and teachings barely make sense, but that leaves it to us to puzzle out how things really work, what the true intentions are. I think Lucas intended the Jedi in the prequels to be imperfect, but I'm not sure if he meant to portray them as such a horrendously flawed organization. They make so many mistakes and their central philosophy is based on ideas that are fundamentally unsustainabe.

Whether on purpose or by accident, this has created a thing of beauty, a world where the divide between good and evil is unclear, and even those who teach the one true way are usually powerless to prevent good people from going bad. How successful the films are as art (rather than as a mere commercial enterprise) will depend on how well the new creators exploit and explore this ambiguity.

I was having a conversation with a friend who works in sci-fi media, and we came to the agreement that the fundamental iconic elements of Star Wars are Lightsabers and the Force. Every other Star Wars thing can be lifted easily for other SF media and nobody would bat an eyelash, but give someone a glowing sword in space and everyone knows what's up. That's because a glowing sword in space is a symbol, not a practical thing in a universe with ubiquitous guns.

The force is another oddity. Other sci-fi properties have stolen the psychic powers and telekinetics, but never the ties to traditional daoist philosophy. It's such a great weird metaphor that is perfect for fueling a comprehensive suite of mental and physical abilities, but the ideologies surrounding it are so off-kilter that it's impossible to just lift it wholesale and plop it down into your own world. I honestly can't think of a single other magic/mystic system in a major property that is as difficult to file the serial numbers off of. Contrast that to the technology, philosophy, and politics of Star Trek, which have been endlessly remixed and echoed.

If you create something that makes sense in the science fiction and fantasy community, it will get stolen and and riffed on for the rest of all time. It can be transposed into a hundred different worlds with a mere chord shift. But laser swords in space are so ridiculous that they require a telekinetic and clairvoyant tradition to be even remotely functional.

That was really George Lucas's strength, the thing that made him an incredible creator: he put the cool things in with enough support structures to make them appear to work for as long as we were in the cinema, and didn't think about all the obsessively practical and sensible detail work that goes into a lot of Scifi. Before TFA, I would have listed that as one of the weaknesses of Star Wars. Now I consider it a major strength.

That said, once you have the nonsensical "rule of cool" iconic structures in place, you can (and should) start to consider the implications of everything you've set up. The prequels made no real attempt to do that - they were concerned about the fiddly mechanics rather than the symbolic implications, and Star Wars will always fall apart in response to that hard SF scrutiny. On the other hand, Star Wars shines in the face of philosophical deconstruction. I think it's possible that the franchise's new custodians are aware of this, especially in the wake of modern commentary and criticism on the subject. I think a nuanced and evolving view of the force that changes in response to social and psychological movements is critical to the franchise's artistic relevance going forward.

Whether or not the series stays intellectually and culturally fulfilling, lightsabers will always be cool. Back when I considered myself irrevocably on the Trek side of the Trek/Wars divide, I still loved lightsabers. I've owned no fewer than four sabers of different levels of quality and design, and I'm sure I'll acquire more going forward. They're an elegant metaphor, and one that instantly captures the imagination. Kylo Ren's lightsaber is made from a cracked crystal pouring out massive amounts of power - the vents on the side prevent the stress from tearing the crystal apart - it's a deeply flawed modern variation on an ancient design. I've witnessed HUNDREDS of kids on tumblr learning how symbolism works for the first time based on the parallels between Kylo Ren's lightsaber and his own personality, and it is beautiful and humbling.

Star Wars is about exploring mythic human themes though the metaphors of laser swords and heavily-modified psychic space taoism.

Everything else is furniture and scenery.

#247 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 04:54 PM:

(Hey, Leah Miller, you mentioned "Bucky feels" upthread, can I ping you elsenet about that?)

#248 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 05:08 PM:

Does it make sense (even if science is thematically inappropriate) for a shirt-sleeves planet to have a lot less UV getting to the surface?

#249 ::: Andrew L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 05:17 PM:

Sandy B. @ 242, blasters being set to stun is also mentioned at the end of ESB, when Vader (IIRC) is giving orders for the anticipated boarding of the Falcon. (Foiled by the hyperdrive finally getting re-enabled, of course.)

#250 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2016, 07:06 PM:

Leah Miller @246: one of the things that makes Star Wars so weird and wonderful and difficult to replicate is that so much of it was obviously thrown together without considering the implications. Compare that to Star Trek where the politics and economics are deeply considered and very important, to the point where there's almost less room to noodle around the edges.

Funny you should bring that up. I’ve always liked classic Star Trek better than Next Gen or any of the later shows, and while part of that is that you never really get over the stuff you imprint on when you’re eight years old, another part is the sheer creative energy of the original show, which comes in part from the fact that they were making it all up as they went along. It’s halfway through the first season before the Federation is mentioned; up till that point, Kirk & crew seem to be working for a “United Earth Space Probe Agency.” McCoy even makes an offhand reference in one early ep to Vulcan having been conquered!

A lot of my favorite fictional franchises are the same way— a bunch of cool stuff bodged together, and then some after-the-fact scaffolding to make things appear to make sense.

#251 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 05:00 AM:

CHip @ 245: Clone troopers == clones is established in II and III for the Republic, and on day one of the empire.

Storm troopers, 20 years later at the time of IV, nope. There was nothing in IV to VI to suggest that the storm troopers were clones when those movies were made.

It doesn't make sense that the wars back in the day, 20 years earlier, would be called the Clone Wars if the current military are still clones. It would be like folks in the US calling some war in the 90s "The US forces war".

You'd only call them "The Clone Wars" if the use of clones was somehow a marker.

I think it is obvious from Ben's dialogue in Ep IV that the Jedi were fighting against the clones in the original plan.

#252 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 06:21 AM:

Every other Star Wars thing can be lifted easily for other SF media and nobody would bat an eyelash, but give someone a glowing sword in space and everyone knows what's up.
I've seen lightsabers lifted more often in anime -- most notably the prominent giant robot series Mobile Suit Gundam, where a "beam saber" has usually been one of the main bits of weaponry through multiple iterations of the series. (Extensions of the concept like beam tridents, javelins, staffs and naginatas also show up very early on). Considering the first Gundam series aired in 1979, it's pretty evident where it came from, but it does seem to have become a symbol in its own right.

#253 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 02:43 PM:

In #248 Nancy Lebovitz writes:

Does it make sense (even if science is thematically inappropriate) for a shirt-sleeves planet to have a lot less UV getting to the surface?

Yes. If the planet is circling a cooler star than the Sun, presumably closer than Earth is to the Sun, the star's spectrum will have relatively less energy in short-wavelength blue/purple/ultraviolet wavelengths than in green/yellow/orange/red wavelengths.

I think the UV content could be much lower, with an environment otherwise similar to Earth. Probably sunburn would still be possible, but only with a longer period of exposure. (And what if the planet's days are short?)

The landscape would appear a bit yellower or oranger than if illuminated by our Sun, but not necessarily by much; one's eyes would quickly adapt to accept this as normal. A cinematographer might notice. They're always worrying about "color temperature" and such.

(Finn is portrayed using Poe's borrowed jacket-- one of the few items of costuming commented upon in dialogue-- as a hood, in relentless desert sunlight. He could be worried about sunburn. Or he could simply want shade.)

#254 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 03:29 PM:

Another possibility other than "The sun produces less UV" is that the atmosphere could absorb a lot more UV than ours. Here is the Earth's atmosphere with all sorts of notches where something in the atmosphere absorbs part of the extraterrestrial spectrum. I'm sure there are real things [more ozone] or Star Wars Science things that could prevent sunburn.

#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 05:53 PM:

CHip @245: can you produce (or preserve) a cheap, easy-to-use knitting machine in a scavenger culture?

Scavenger culture implies a high degree of mechanical aptitude, to my way of thinking. (Also remembering my dad, who was an inveterate scavenger/tinkerer/maker.)

If they can keep something like a land-speeder working, I'm confident a knitting machine would be no challenge at all. Hell, you can buy simple ones for a small child if you're willing to shell out $5 for a hunk of plastic. Moving parts aren't even a requirement.

I've never looked at one in detail but have the impression that they're rather complicated and not very fault-tolerant due to having to sync large numbers of parts; as a sometime gearhead I'd love to see details of how they work.

I don't think they're necessarily any more exotic than a typewriter. There may be more moving parts, but I think there's a fairly limited number of kinds of parts. I haven't found a really good exploded diagram, but Google shows examples of a number of different types. Interestingly, it looks like circular knitting machines (i.e., generates a tube) are simpler than flat.

#256 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 06:59 PM:

255
And they can do knitting frames, which have no moving parts. (They were used for production knitting before machines.)

#258 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 09:31 PM:

@257, I managed it, too, but I saw it only a week after it opened so it wasn't quite so hard for me. On the other hand, I beat Andy Ihnatko; I managed not to watch Any Trailer At All before I saw it. Sometimes this involved closing my eyes and putting my fingers in my ears and chanting "la-la-la" during commercial breaks, mind you....

#259 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2016, 11:19 PM:

Hee hee. Me too.

#260 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2016, 07:07 PM:

So I was having a conversation with a friend about Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which are by far my two favorite movies this year. My friend said that TFA was derivative, I said that its derivativeness meant that the next two movies could break with traditional Star Wars formats entirely. The next Star Wars could be a race/chase movie, like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World or Fury Road.

We also talked about the "Enough Women" problem and Rey - she gets shipped with ANYONE who anyone finds attractive, because she's the main significant female presence. I pointed out that a chase movie is the perfect format through which to introduce several new female characters and give them enough personality to bring them into the public imagination - again, as Fury Road did.

My friend didn't see how that was possible. So I started making some notes to explain what I meant.

Long story short, I accidentally wrote what I'd call a "narrative rough" for a hypothetical Episode VIII. It's a prose summary of the A-plot with notes on the B-plot, character arcs and bits, and a few scraps of dialogue when necessary. It currently exists as an 8 page word document.

It's the kind of thing I'd whip up for an informal pitch meeting for a game or interactive fiction piece I'm working on. I've also used similar structures as an exercise in game writing courses - pick a game you like, and outline the plot/character beats you'd propose if you were hired to work on the sequel.

I don't write fanfiction for personal and professional spoons-conservation reasons - if I'm going to be putting out wordcount, it's going to be something I'm getting paid for or that I own. That said, I've been writing a lot of ghost/NDA stuff that I can't share lately, and this gave me the opportunity to play around with a favorite format and prove a point. While this isn't what most people would conventionally think of as a fic, it's close enough that I ordinarily wouldn't post it online.

This is all to say: if anyone here is interested in seeing my informal narrative outline for a theoretical Star Wars sequel, you can email me and I'll send it along. My email is phyghenytrrxtvey (rot13) at gmail. You can also @ me on twitter, where I'm CulturalGeek

Feel free to contact me in either of those ways for other reasons, too. Just mention that you're a Making Light person.

(This means you Carrie S @247, if you're still interested)

#261 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2016, 07:19 PM:

I've been thinking about knitting machines. I admittedly know very, very little about knitting/weaving/other fabric-creation techniques, so I'll defer to folks with more knowledge than I have with regards to the plausibility of knitting machines.

With that said, even the best knitting machine presumably needs something to knit. Did anyone else spot anything that would qualify? The animals I saw seemed to have pachyderm-ish hides rather than hair or fur, and I didn't spot any plants.

#262 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 04:34 AM:

@261, knitting supplies on Jakku: recycled synthetic fibre, I'd imagine. You can knit almost anything that can be rendered into yarn/thread, including plastic - a lot of modern woolly-looking garments are actually acrylic (which is a godsend for folks allergic to wool, and also a lot easier to wash.)

That amount of crashed Imperial materiel would have come with a lot of uniformed bodies, and from what we see of the uniforms both in the original trilogy and in TFA, plastic-based fibre appears to feature heavily in the design. Finn's underlayer in TFA looks similar to some kinds of athletic fabric - neoprene or supplex - which would make sense; some kind of synthetic wicking fabric would be exactly what you want under that much body armour.

You could possibly either shred or melt garments that weren't usable as you found them, and re-spin the substance into new thread/yarn. Reusing garment plastic is difficult and complicated with modern technology and therefore not often done, but it is possible (googling found this post from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia.)

#263 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 08:50 AM:

The recycled-fiber idea seems plausible. Rey's Rebel-pilot dolly is made from reclaimed scraps of uniform. (And I want one.)

#264 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 09:54 PM:

Leah Miller: I sent you mail the other night re Ep 8 and Bucky but it's just occurred to me that it might have gotten spam-trapped? wrnargrsbk, gmail.

#265 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 03:45 AM:

Knitting machines on Jakku: salvage a protocol droid.

#266 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:44 PM:

It's a bit of a coincidence that while we are having this conversation on how a scavenger culture would have woven and knit clothing with no plants or sheep that Make Magazine posted a story featuring two how-to videos for making string out of PET (soda) bottles. Both diy devices work by cutting the bottle into a long string. The Make Magazine story is titled How To Make String from Plastic Bottles

I also have friends who crochet using plastic bags cut into strips to make her "yarn".

Given the existence of the prepackaged food packs being traded for scavenged junk, I suspect that the encampment that Rey was living and working out of was not fully cut off from the rest of civilization, and trade was going on.

I've seen speculation that Rey was essentially a slave to Unkar Plutt, but I don't necessarily see that. She was willing to haggle over the value of her scavenging, had considerable freedom of movement, and refused to hand over BB-8 when offered a large amount for him. That doesn't sound like slavery to me. I see it reasonable that Plutt wasn't the only trader in the encampment, but the only one we needed to interact with. Clothing is a basic need that someone will produce and sell.

#267 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2016, 08:09 PM:

Buddha Buck: I've seen speculation that Rey was essentially a slave to Unkar Plutt, but I don't necessarily see that.

Me, either. What I could see (for speculation purposes, at least) is a kind of de facto indentured servitude--sort of like "I owe my soul to the company store." That might explain both her relative freedom of movement and the fact that she kept coming back to him: she's "running a tab," so to speak, perhaps from childhood, and has to keep bringing him things or the overall debt will come due. Or something like that.

It would be an interesting set-up, though I don't know that it's necessary--it would stress just how isolated and on her own she is, and how committed she is to staying on Jakku. She might be able to leave, but if she cut loose, she could never come back . . .

#268 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 02:06 AM:

Buddha Buck@122 said "My interpretation of the vision Rey saw was flashbacks to violent emotions imprinted on the light saber. They are the saber's memories, not hers."

But isn't the screaming child herself? Admittedly I'm going on her hairstyle, but I've seen "same hairstyle from five to twenty-five" used as an identity marker in films before.

#269 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 04:04 AM:

Helen S @248

I'm not sure about the saber myself, but there are versions of that theory that still work. Whoever left Rey on Jakku might have had the saber when they did it.

So who left Rey on Jakku? Did Luke go back to Bespin to look for his saber? Or was it... someone else?

I'm kinda hoping that one of Luke's older apprentices survived and helped get a bunch of the younger apprentices hidden away on various worlds after the Academy fell apart.

#270 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 05:40 AM:

Mary Frances @ #268:

My take on it is that Unkar Plutt pretty much runs the store and if you want food, you buy it at Unkar's. And if you don't, you starve.

I don't really see the need to postulate a debt that we have never seen allusions to (although that does not preclude its existence), just sheer "I want food to eat".

If you have a stranglehold on the food, you pretty much have people on a very short leash.

#271 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 09:29 AM:

I agree that Unkar Plutt ran the only store in town. When Rey found a good source of mysterious things, he dropped the price from half a unit each to half a unit for however many she had on the table (four?).

If there was a competitor, she'd go there.

(I also have a theory that "a unit" is about what a person is expected to eat in a day. Skinny scavengers eat less, of course.)

#272 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 12:45 PM:

Ingvar M @ 270: Eh. I don't insist on it--I was just responding to the "Rey was Plutt's slave" possibility. But "this store is the only available source of food" or "the only store in town" (Sandy B. @ 271) is pretty much the definition of a "company store," isn't it? So I guess what I'm saying is that Rey returning to Unkar Plutt's makes sense without any really complex explanation--it just seems to fit the milieu being created, for me.

My personal theory/hope about the flashback and Rey's origins is that we're all getting faked out--set up for a reveal/reversal that's the equivalent (emotionally speaking) of Vader being Luke's father, or Luke and Leia being siblings--no way that A New Hope set up either of those, exactly . . . and yet it did, while at the same time leading us to deduce Other Things. (Seriously. Did anyone believe that Luke and Leia were NOT going to end up a Romantic Couple after just the first movie? Or that Vader was anything more than Obi-Wan Kenobi's traitorous student and a potential Antagonist/Bad Example for Luke?) So whatever all these tiny hints lead up to, it may be something that none of us have even considered, yet.

#273 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 04:23 PM:

No, I didn't believe that Luke and Leia were going to be a couple when I saw the first Star Wars. The writer(s) tipped their hand on a future romance with the scene between Luke and Han after they've escaped the Death Star:

Luke Skywalker: So, what do you think of her, Han?
Han Solo: I'm tryin' not to, kid.
Luke Skywalker: Good.
Han Solo: [baiting him] Still, she's got a lot of spirit. I don't know, whaddya think? You think a princess and a guy like me...
Luke Skywalker: [quickly] No.

#274 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 06:00 PM:

You were one of the few who read the scene accurately, then--at least, according to my entirely anecdotal and not at all authoritative experience! Most people I knew at the time (me included) took it as establishing a "buddy" relationship between Han and Luke, and that Han couldn't really have been serious about "a princess and a guy like me," that he really was just "baiting" naive Young Luke. Then Empire came out, and the same people started freaking about "romantic triangle, wah!" (I didn't freak out about it, but I didn't disagree with the interpretation, either. I just thought the drama wasn't quite that heavy.)

Thing is, when I say the first movie "set us up," I don't mean it lied to us--the clues to what was really going on were right there, for people to notice. They were also obscured (I think deliberately, though I may be giving both Lucas and Co. too much credit) by the narrative structure of a thousand thousand action adventure-romance plots gone before, in my opinion. What I see happening with (some of) the reaction to TFA is: people are fixating so much on how similar it is to ANH that they aren't paying attention to the ways in which it's different . . . which makes me wonder if we aren't being set up again.

Actually, it makes me hope that we are being set up again, to tell you the truth. The reversals of expectations were one of the coolest things about the first trilogy, in my opinion. And, for the first time in a long time, it really has me looking forward to the sequel . . .

#275 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 08:16 AM:

Mary Frances: So, "Rey... I am not your father". ;-)

Bonus points for added context, like if she's asking him if she should date so-and-so, or the like.

#276 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 11:42 AM:

WRT scavenger culture and fiber products: 3-D Printers Can Now Make Hair.

#277 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 01:53 PM:

David Harmon @275: So, "Rey . . . I am not your father."

Yup. Or something. She still could be Kylo Ren's kid sister, magically "hidden" even from her own parents' memories, or something. Hey, Rey-Ren? That's the same kind of clue that Luke-Leia was, twin names if ever I heard them. (Yes, I know his real name is Ben, and Ren is some sort of group title--it could be a sneaky deception.) It does strike me as kind of obvious, though--more likely a red herring than a real plot-twist, and I'll be a bit disappointed if that's what happens. Or maybe she and Finn are siblings or half-siblings? Also obvious, in that it would parallel the original trilogy, but we haven't a clue where Young Finn came from or why he was able to defect; maybe he was an infant from Luke's Jedi school, brought to the First Order by Kylo Ren! ;)

I just think we're being set up somehow. My more "serious" suspicions have to do with Luke's role in all this. For a while there, I was sure he was Snoke . . . and I'm still not sure he isn't, last scene or no last scene. (The beard would argue against it, mind.) Why is he hiding? It's not really the same thing as Obi-Wan Kenobi, on Tatooine--we found out fairly quickly why Obi-Wan was on Tatooine, and anyway, Leia seemed to know where he was, more or less. But Luke is lost.

That's one of the subtle "differences" I was talking about, the ones I think we're being encouraged to overlook in the rush of sentiment generated by the movie's similarities to ANH. But we shall see . . .

#278 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 03:16 PM:

Mary Frances, I had an unfair advantage going in. I'd been attending the local film collectors monthly meetings for a couple of years by the time Star Wars reached the theaters. So discussing films and paying attention to possible clues had pretty well set in by the time I saw it.

The only problem with this mind-set is that it can disrupt my enjoyment of the film. On the other hand, with films like the first Pirates of the Caribbean, I can watch multiple times, marveling over how well the pieces fit. And I've lost count of the times I've watched the original Star Wars trilogy.

Being a filker, my favorite thing about films are the soundtracks. I once told a friend I was glad I hadn't heard any of PotC: At World's End soundtrack before seeing the film, because it would have given away a key to a relationship if I had...

#279 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 04:25 PM:

Lori Coulson @278: Yay! Someone else who loves movie soundtracks! We are a rare and special bunch.

I don't have a good enough ear to catch the musical cues from the first run-through--or especially from listening to the soundtrack ahead of time; that's impressive--but I agree that the music can be a major clue to relationships and possible future plot twists. Or just clues, period. I was watching Wrath of Khan the other day, for the first time in literally decades, when I realized: James Horner (I think I have the composer right?) must have been channeling Erich Korngold when he wrote that. It kind of surprised me that I hadn't caught it even in the theater way back when, but it suddenly seemed awfully appropriate . . .

#280 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 05:29 PM:

In re connections and meaning between Kylo Ren and Finn -- Kylo noticed Finn having moral qualms (or whatever) in the village; in fact, the film pauses for a moment to show us carefully that he does.

Then on the ship, Kylo knows Finn's number and that he's "the trooper from the village".

To me, either Kylo is a very involved, caring manager who knows all his underlings' names and pays attention to their job performance (unlikely, IMO) or he had some pre-existing reason to care about Trooper FN-2187.

Could be he knows something about his family background, pre-stealing, but my preferred current headcanon (because it supports other things I prefer to believe are going on) is that he'd noticed the first signs of Force sensitivity around him during routine training interactions and had been keeping an eye on him.

Kylo Ren desperately wants an apprentice -- possibly, he desperately wants human connection of any kind, and master/apprentice is the only one he can articulate to himself. He felt "an Awakening" during the whole massive escape sequence, which we can all agree was Rey, probably.

But (this is my headcanon again, but supported by screen cites) Rey and Finn are paralleled strongly in the visual storytelling and the writing throughout the whole escape. They both pick up physical/intuition/dexterity tasks blindingly fast, going from 'novice' to 'great competence' in the span of a single scene. I think he's likely Force-sensitive, possibly capable of a Jedi awakening, though he may well not be far enough along personally to 'break' that loose yet.

If Rey is a hidden pupil from the lost Jedi academy, then she's BEEN trained before -- and as Avatar Roku will tell you, skills are easier to learn the second time.

Finn might also be an academy refugee, though the photo Phasma had on his personnel jacket was VERY young, far younger than Abandoned!Rey in the saber flashback, like toddler-aged. Too young for any real training, at least.

Note: I don't count him leveling up from 'sort of ok' to 'fairly decent' with lightsaber in his two fights as the kind of quick-learning that could ONLY be Force-sensitivity; presumably his first fight he's treating this new weapon as being like a weapon he's trained with all his life, then gradually adjusting to the things about it that fight differently than his ingrained skill says it should.

#281 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 06:38 PM:

Mary Frances @ #277:

It's mentioned at one point in the film that Luke didn't just run away, he went in search of the fabled First Temple of the Jedi, or something like that, presumably in the hope of finding an instruction manual that would tell him where he went wrong with Ben and how to fix it.

#282 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 06:45 PM:

Paul A.: It's mentioned at one point in the film that Luke didn't just run away, he went in search of the fabled First Temple of the Jedi

Is it? Must have missed that--or was it in the crawl? In any case, it doesn't change my basic point: his situation and motives were very different from Kenobi's. (And he doesn't seem in any hurry to get back, if he has found that First Temple! Or to travel around looking for it, if he hasn't.) In any case, he's still lost--at least as far as the galaxy is concerned--and I still suspect/hope that we are all going to be surprised when we find out why.

Elliott Mason: I like that head-canon! It does seem that there is probably something "different" about Finn. I mean, aside from the standard "he's one of the good guys, so of course he's Special." Maybe stormtrooper desertion is a common and long-standing problem in the Empire, but it doesn't seem all that likely, to me.

#283 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 10:42 PM:

Mary Frances @279 -- have you listened closely to Joe Hisaishi's soundtracks? Not just for Miyazaki's films -- he's my current absolute fave soundtrack composer. But I digress....

#284 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 01:17 PM:

Mary Frances -- yes, Horner is definitely channeling Korngold, and it seems to me that Williams often channels Bernard Herrmann. Did you know there's an extended version of the Wrath of Khan soundtrack that includes the bagpipe/funeral track? (It didn't make it to the original album.)

My weird soundtrack talent: If I've seen the film and the score is memorable, I can "see" in my mind's eye the film sequence of the particular cut played for me.

#285 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 01:29 PM:

284
You too?

#286 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 01:35 PM:

Should we port the soundtrack discussion to the Open Thread, where people who aren't reading this Spoiler thread can see it?

#287 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 01:40 PM:

Mary Frances -- that's a good idea!

PJ Evans: Wow, someone else who does?!

#288 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 03:39 PM:

So this is one of those moments like when I realized there are people who never get earworms because they can't hear music in their heads. I guess it makes sense that there are people who can hear "dun dun dun dun-DA-dun dun-DA-dun" and not picture the Star Destroyer? But it wouldn't have occurred to me.

I wonder what neurological quirk I lack that some large number of other people would go, "Wait, can't everyone do that?" about.

#289 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 04:29 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 283: No, I'm not familiar with Hisaichi. That name goes on the list. Thanks!

Lori Coulson: Yes, I knew about the extended Wrath of Khan soundtrack. Still can't figure out why that sequence didn't make it to the original album, to tell you the truth. (By the way, it was Mary Aileen, not me, who suggested moving this discussion over to the open thread. Good idea, though. I'll go check out the open thread as soon as I've finished this comment.)

Carrie S. @ 288: My problem with that particular theme is that it has become a staple of college bands at football games. So now when I hear it, I get this confused melange of storm troopers, Vader, and the defense lining up for a sack . . . ;)

#290 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 04:34 PM:

Carrie @288:

I'm more likely to picture the title crawl than the Star Destroyer, as that's not the motif that goes with the Empire or Star Destroyers.

When I hear the Imperial March I'm likely to envision the scene in Jedi where the Emperor arrives, surrounded by an honor guard, or a similar one in ESB with Vader.

#291 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 05:00 PM:

Carrie @288, Me@290:

Ha! I misread your "dun dun dun dun-DA-dun..." as "dun-dun-dun dun, da, dun-dun-dun-DUN, da, dun-dun-dun-DUN, da, da-dun-da-dum", and thus completely miscued the visuals.

#292 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 09:40 PM:

I don't think anyone has commented on how Rey seems to consciously calm herself before first activating the light saber in the snow battle. It's a moderately long close-up and I thought rather nicely done.

#293 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 10:45 PM:

I have just now read this whole thread after finally seeing it while it was still in the theaters. It was worth the $15 tickets to see the effects in Imax 3D, but I'll wait for the DVD to see it again.

Thanks to so many of you for emphasizing how it is a remix rather than a remake of A New Hope, with twists on the themes rather than merely repeating them.

I'm glad to see others had the same thoughts about the Finn/Poe relationship. Abi put it best with "letter jacket bromance". It's there under the surface but nothing will come of it in canon. You'll have to read the fanfics.

I must be older than a lot of you. When Kylo took off his mask, I didn't think of Snape. I thought of a young John Travolta.

Finn working in sanitation might not make sense logistically, but he would certainly know how to shut down all the trash compactors, so I took that as another shout-out to the original trilogy.

Han Solo might not return like Gandalf. He could return like Spock.

I was getting ready to ask what was the name of the Hitler Youth character. But I detoured to read Emo Kylo Ren's Twitter, and at one point he says that Hux wants him to watch the films of Leni Riefenstahl. So that answered that question.

Leah Miller, where do I contribute to your Kickstarter to develop all those ideas into story treatments and screenplays?

Rey is awesome of course, and I'm glad to see that this episode's Luke analog is not whiny. No matter how practical or not you think her costume is, I expect it to be quite popular next Halloween.

#294 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 11:08 AM:

OOoooo...a Kickstarter...! I'd sign up.

#295 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:22 PM:

Interesting Metafilter thread on Kylo, Rey and the market for toys. Some posters remark (and this is kind of obvious once it's pointed out) that Kylo, by killing Han Solo, crossed a line and for many kids ceased being a cool villain whom you might want an action figure of.

I was surprised by Han's death but had been a little disappointed with Ford's performance: I got the impression, probably unfairly, that he was phoning it in just a little bit. I hope that any resurrection in future films is handled well enough not to harm the storytelling arc: I think Doctor Who has been rather badly damaged in the last few series by rendering popular characters immune to non-reversible forms of death.

#296 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:41 PM:

One for US readers: I'd heard enough John Boyega interviews (with his straightforward modern London voice) to be startled by his American accent in the film—it sounded perfectly OK to me, but what does it sound like to US filmgoers?

(Worrying about the accents of people inexplicably speaking English in a galaxy far, far away is a path to madness, of course. Lots of planets have a North, etc.)

One detail I loved was that interfaces such as the X-wing targeting computers were the same as those in the original trilogy. Clearly no-one tries to 'improve' perfectly usable system in the SW universe. Interesting that although the set designers used no Roman alphabetical characters or any other Earth language scripts, we did see Arabic numerals in computer displays (as we did in the original trilogy), which I suppose are so universal that we don't register them as part of our specific cultural history.

#297 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:48 PM:

Steve with a book (296): Boyega's accent sounded fine to this American. That is, it didn't register at all one way or another.

#298 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 02:07 PM:

Steve with a book @296: Given that I'd never heard John Boyega speak outside of the movie, I thought he was an American actor until later. Which demonstrates the depth and versatility of British voice-training yet again, I'd say . . .

#299 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 08:26 PM:

It's been a weird week. Glad to see this thread is still alive and get back to the comfort of Star Wars. So many cool things to talk about, I'm probably going to have to make several posts while I catch up.

On the love triangle and Han's narrative arc

I'm young enough that I remember the original trilogy as a unit, so I probably didn't experience the love triangle suspense thing - I'm honestly not conscious of when or how I watched Star Wars for the first time. Still, I remember it being obvious that Leia and Han would end up together, for different reasons than what people have already outlined here.

Han is in trouble when we meet him. Sure he has his ship and his best friend but other than that his life sucks and is basically empty. I never got the feeling that Han was a suave charmer with a string of girlfriends, and I honestly think that idea comes from people conflating Han and Indiana Jones. (Here's a great tumblr post about the difference between the fan conception of Han Solo and the reality.) Han starts the trilogy as a cynical loner whose life has fallen apart, and part of his journey is realizing his current lifestyle isn't actually making him happy and that he needs to change. Sure Han risks his life to come back and save everyone, but what was his life going to be like if he didn't do that? It was going to continue to be a dumpster fire of almost getting killed by crime lords (which is what it went back to after his marriage fell apart). Some bounty hunter would have eventually caught up to him and he wouldn't have had a princess and a wizard both trying to save him. Risking his life was the price of a life worth having.

If Han were a redeemed villain or even the inveterate womanizer fandom sometimes assumes him to be, then the romance could theoretically go either way (minus the sibling reveal). For a villain, realizing you're not entitled to (or narratively deserving of) everything you want is sometimes the final piece of development, and the womanizer not getting the girl is a classic trope. But Han isn't either of those things: he's one of us, one of the heroes, and he desperately wants human connection that he doesn't quite think he deserves. That's the key - Han always questions his worthiness, so it would be tragic if it turned out he was right all along... he isn't good enough.

The scene in A New Hope where he asks Luke if a princess could ever go for a guy like him is deliberately ambiguous, because Han is keeping it that way. He's telling the truth when he says he's been trying not to think about it; thinking about it hurts since he legitimately thinks it's unlikely happen. Seeming to care about anything would destroy his cool guy persona, which is the lynchpin of his identity at that point. So he's teasing Luke while simultaneously engaging with his own desires in the only way he can - through sarcasm and plausible deniability.

Remember, Han doesn't even believe Leia would pick him after she's already explicitly confessed her love during the carbonite scene. He assumes she got over him the second he was out of the picture, because she'd obviously choose the cool space wizard over him. Han does not think he gets to have nice things beyond the safe shell of his default smuggler's life, and fighting for those nice things would force him to admit he cares, that his default life isn't really enough. Once he admits how badly he wants things outside of that life, there's no going back to the holding pattern of being a cool-guy scoundrel. That's why he ran off when things got tough with Leia after Ben fell to the dark side. If he tried to stay and work through it and failed, that would be an admission that he wasn't the guy who always lucks and charms his way through. He covers for his loss by sliding back into his default life hustling with Chewie, and since he didn't fight for it and lose he can pretend that he simply chose to leave. If he admitted to everyone and himself that he cared enough to fight, he wouldn't be able to take up his mantle of "guy who doesn't really care" again.

He did care, of course. That's why he has to confirm with Leia that their time together wasn't all bad, that he provided real value, that he deserved the happiness he had back then, even if he couldn't bring himself to fight for it.

That's also why confronting Kylo Ren on the bridge is the perfect culmination of his narrative arc. This is the first time he fights for something that he will probably lose. In the rest of the story, when he thinks he might lose something important he tries to emotionally distance himself from it, give himself plausible deniability about whether or not he really cares. This is the first time he explicitly cares and reveals that he cares even in the face of uncertainty and risk.

Which is why Kylo Ren had to kill him. Because Han's emotional arc has been about not risking emotional engagement in a scenario where you think you're going to lose. His story needed to end with a scenario where he made a choice to try and fail rather than avoid and survive. If he succeeded or even survived it'd undercut the whole lesson.

Harrison Ford knew this. That's why he wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. Han needs to care about something so much that he's willing to visibly try and visibly fail, shattering his illusion of an unflappable scoundrel living a charmed life - because for once, the thing he cares about is more important than his illusions.

#300 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2016, 09:24 AM:

People may also be conflating Han and Lando (whose womanizing and suavitude is fairly clearly telegraphed, however mixed up it is with horrifyingly racist black-lothario 1970s stereotypes).

One of my favorite fanworks ever is a little YouTube video that purports to be the trailer for a Blaxploitation film retelling the story with Lando as the main character: Blackstar Warrior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NATeU-r0GDU

#301 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2016, 10:48 AM:

Carrie @288: I can't hear the Imperial March without singing (at the appropriate point) "Spoon full of sugar helps the MEDICINE go down..."

Do we have any reason to think Finn is either a Calrissian or a Windu, or, rather, given the family theme here, do we have a reason to prefer one theory that he's a son of one family over the other?

#302 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2016, 12:56 PM:

Allen @ 293: Rey is already popular; I danced with one at Arisia's "Renaissance" Ball. (Especially fitting the costume because she had not just the build but the unobtrusive strength you'd expect of a scavenger survivor.)

Steve w/ @ 295: How to differentiate between phoning-in and extending the cynical world-weary persona by a generation of wear? Leia's a general; Han is still grifting for a living (cf Leah@299's wonderful discussion).

#303 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2016, 04:05 PM:

Mary Aileen@297, Mary Frances@298—thanks for the confirmation. Being able to do accents well has always seemed to be to be one of the most miraculous actor skills (and I suppose 'generic acceptable American' mustt be quite widely-taught in British voice training).

I though Boyega's few minutes of what I suppose you have to call mime at the start—displaying indecision and physical anguish at the massacre while Stormtrooper-masked—were great too.

CHip@302: yes, I see what you mean (and Leah Miller@299, that was really insightful). Perhaps my opinion of Ford's performance was skewed by my sulkiness at the end credits: slightly ridiculous that Ford, rather than Ridley, got top billing. He's the biggest star in the film but she's the star of the film.

#304 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2016, 08:34 PM:

Steve@303: I got the impression from a couple of visits soaking in London theater that accents are part of the basic toolkit of the British actor (as they are not of the US actor, cf local comments about lousy local accents in films set in Boston). wrt credits, I'd be more sympathetic if Hamill hadn't gotten top billing for one wordless stare; maybe somebody wanted to reprise the old credits, or maybe it was the only way to get the two men back on the soundstage?

#305 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2016, 11:59 PM:

CHip @ 304: I can't remember which spoiler thread I was reading, except that I'm pretty sure it wasn't this one, but someone in the industry commented that billing is often a matter of negotiation--that, in fact, a higher billing can mean a lower salary, for example, or some other concession. In this case, I suspect it means that they wanted Hamill to sign on for at least one more movie, or something like that. (Though I gather that Luke did have a somewhat larger role in the original script, too . . . ) For Ford, it may well have been one of the things that got him back on the soundstage, or something like that--the commenter's point (as I remember) was simply that judging the role by the billing is often really, really tricky unless you know the details of the various contracts.

#306 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2016, 06:58 AM:

CHip@304: There's probably also more opportunity on average for British actors to hear American accents in media intended primarily for American consumption than the other way round.

#307 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2016, 12:36 PM:

There was a time not so long ago that Brits would reliably mangle American accents. There was a miniseries production of Dracula (ca '70s-'80s) wherein the actor playing [Quincey Morris?] was, even to my uneducated ear, terrible. "Dude! Western, Southern, Northeastern—pick one and stick with it!"

Nowadays, it's mind-boggling what they can get away with.

#308 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2016, 11:08 PM:

Jacque @ 307

It still happens that some UK actors do bad American accents. We like Midsommer Murders, an ITV police procedural in a fictional county of England that makes Cabot Cove looks safe ;-) When they need an American character, some of the accents are old-style bad.

On the other end of the spectrum, Alan Cumming, who does the current opening voice for Masterpiece, is pitch-perfect as Eli Gold in The Good Wife. I'm not the best at placing American accents, but Eli is clearly from Chicago (where the series is set), to my ear. Cumming is from Dumfries, Scotland, not far from my home town.

#309 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2016, 12:26 AM:

I was boggled when I learned Kevin McKidd is a Scot....

Fascinatingly, it seems there are as many Scottish accents as there are everything else. McKidd sounds completely different than Robert Carlyle, who sounds completely different than David Tennant. Yet they're all recognizably Scottish....

#310 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2016, 09:33 AM:

It's always seemed to me that a British actor doing an American accent for a primarily British audience is just as likely to do a bad job as is an American actor doing a British accent for a primarily American audience. But we're more aware of Americans doing bad British accents because (1) things made primarily for the American audience get seen more widely in Britain than things made primarily for the British audience get seen in the States, and (2) there's also a significant body of British actors who do American accents for an American audience, who have to be better at it because they have to meet a higher standard, whereas there are far fewer American actors doing British accents for the British audience.

#311 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2016, 10:50 AM:

I remember appreciating James Marsters (an American actor) playing a British character (Spike), who was called upon to pretend he was from the US, and thus had a bad American accent to match.

#312 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2016, 10:59 AM:

It was so weird watching Marsters on the commentary tracks/behind the scenes featurettes talking in HIS OWN ACCENT, because I had so many hours watching him "do" Spike. Rather how some people feel about Hugh Laurie if they knew him first from "House," I imagine.

#313 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2016, 11:03 AM:

Getting back to spoilers for TFA, there's now a new facetious Twitter account, along the same lines as Emo Kylo Ren and Lonely Luke Skywalker: Dad Joke Han Solo.

Some examples to give the flavor of the thing:

* Why am I trying to make my son laugh? For siths and giggles! Seriously though please help me connect with him through #humor #comedy
* Me: I think Supreme Leader Snoke is fake / Ben: That theory was disproven / Me: Who are you SUPREME LEADER SNOPES? / I just learned about Snopes
* How come LANDo Calrissian lives in the SKY and Luke SKYwalker lives on the LAND!? #howaboutthat #makesyouthink

And, horrifyingly:

Me: What do you call a pro-tea-col droid?
Ben: No
Me: Artoo Teabrew!
Ben:
Me: What does Artoo Teabrew serve?
Ben: Stop
Me: LUKE CHAIWALKER!

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