Hey there! I know it may seem a little bit late but this article took 4 viewings to complete. Let me start out by saying that this is not so much a review, but more of a companion to the movie and observations that I made as I watched. This article will contain heavy spoilers so I suggest you turn back now if you have not seen the film. In case that wasn’t clear enough, I’m going to make it clear as crystal.
SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
First things first, I loved this film. I loved it. It brought me back to when I was a kid seeing Return of the Jedi and even the times that I saw the much maligned prequels in theaters as a child and teen. I took in the full experience going to the film at 7:00pm opening night (Thursday) and then again, and then again, and then again. That’s right. I’ve seen this movie 4 times and still plan on seeing it at least a time or two more. The beauty of seeing it multiple times is that I noticed things in each viewing that I did not notice before. In this piece I will also point out homages to the original trilogy, as well, for those who may have missed some. So without further adieu, here are my thoughts and observations as we go through the film.
- The opening crawl paints the movie perfectly. Luke is missing. The First Order rose out of the ashes of the Empire. The Resistance is supported by the Republic and is led by General Leia Organa. This crawl was the perfect way to set up this movie.
- The first shot is of the Star Destroyer and the landers carrying troops to go attack the Jakku village. The fact that you really only see the outline and “dark side” of the ship shows that these are the bad guys.
- The first character to speak a line, “This will begin to make things right,” is a character not seen before in other Star Wars movies. Early rumors suggested that this character could be someone we knew from the prequels, or even Boba Fett, but these rumors have proven to be most likely false. This character’s name is Lor San Tekka and all we know is that he knows Leia and knew her when she went by ‘Princess’ instead of ‘General’ and knew Kylo Ren before he turned to the dark side.
- When Poe shoots one of the Stormtroopers, another is seen rushing to the aide of the injured trooper. Obviously, this trooper is Finn. One thing someone asked me is why Poe’s gun causes bleeding as opposed to the usual cauterization of blaster wounds. I have a (not so) simple answer. When you see Poe try to shoot Kylo Ren and Ren stops the shot in mid air, you can see it’s not a usual blaster fire. It’s almost electrical looking and sounding. I think this difference is why Finn’s buddy is bleeding instead of…well…not.
- I also think it’s important to have the blood because it identifies our hero in this scene, as opposed to losing him in the sea of white Stormtroopers.
- My friend Kyle pointed out to me that when BB-8 rolls away from the First Order, an alien appears that might be a nod to the Bad Robot logo that is absent from the beginning of the film. Bad Robot is director JJ Abrams’ production company that worked on The Force Awakens.
- Back on the Star Destroyer, Finn takes his helmet off inside the (almost) empty lander. Phasma is behind him. She asks him to submit his blaster for evaluation, which means that she wants to see why he didn’t fire any bullets when the First Order executed the village and make sure his gun wasn’t malfunctioning. I think it’s important to note that Phasma gives FN-2187 the benefit of the doubt. Earlier rumors suggested that Finn was her prized pupil and someone she thought could rise through the ranks of the First Order.
- In the TIE Fighter, Poe and FN-2187 ask each other their names. Poe tells him that he won’t call him by his serial number. He calls him Finn because of the “FN” in the number. This is reminiscent of the Clone Wars cartoon series where the Clone Troopers would adopt a name usually based on their own serial numbers. For example, one had 5555 in his number so he was known as, “Fives.”
- Finn pleads with Poe to leave the area. You may be thinking that they still have missiles chasing them so they’re SOL no matter what they do. But actually, this TIE Fighter is a Special Forces TIE Fighter and has light speed capabilities, unlike your normal TIE.
- Kylo Ren makes a prequel reference when speaking with Hux about the Stormtroopers. He says that perhaps Supreme Leader Snoke should consider going back to a Clone Army. The Republic used a Clone Army in Epsodes II and III.
- When Finn tells Rey that BB-8 is carrying a map to Luke Skywalker, Rey says something about him being a myth. This is important to note for later.
- When Rey and Finn are running from the TIE Fighters toward the “Quad Jumper” you will see an Archway that looks very unique. This was an original Ralph McQuarrie design that he created for Return of the Jedi for Jabba’s Palace.
- The swinging gun turret that Finn uses is the same one used by Luke in Episode IV.
- The oxygen masks Finn and Rey use are the same ones used in Empire Strikes Back by Leia and Han in the Mynock ‘Cave.’ That’s the, “This is no cave,” scene.
- When Han ‘Introduces’ himself, Finn asks, “The Rebellion General?” Rey responds with, “No! The Smuggler!” These are both accurate as Han was both of these things, established in the Original Trilogy. Rey also proclaims that the Milennium Falcon was the ship that made the Kessel Run in 14 Parsecs. Han shouts, “12!” and scoffs at someone possibly thinking 14 was the number. This is a callback to one of the more quoted lines in Episode IV. Han tells Ben and Luke that it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 Parsecs.
- The Guavian Death Gang are the ones led by the guy with the very thick
IrishScottish Accent. These guys are the guys with the red circles on their faces. These were originally proposed as the design for Kylo Ren, AKA Jedi Killer in pre-production. Obviously they were used for this instead.
- Finn is searching for something to bandage Chewie’s arm up with. When he is searching a bag he finds a white ball and looks at it funny before tossing it aside. This white orb is the one used by Ben to train Luke to use the force. Luke has a helmet on with the blast shield down and is hitting lasers shot from that white ball with his lightsaber.
- When Finn says you’re welcome to Han when Han thanks him for bandaging Chewie, he puts his arms on the Dejarik (Star Wars version of Chess) board. This causes a stop motion sequence mimicking in Episode IV when C3PO and Chewie play the game. Except in this version, the alien that was bodyslammed in the previous game gets his revenge and hits the bigger alien with a club. This sequence was created by the same guy who created the original sequence and it was made using similar techniques.
- When our heroes are walking in the courtyard of Maz Kanata’s castle, the camera pans up to look at a bunch of banners. These banners represent different points in the Star Wars saga. Anakin’s podracing banner can be seen in the top left and the Mandalorian flag can be seen right in the middle.
- The music for the scene in Maz’s castle is obviously reminiscent of the Cantina scene in Episode IV. The music was composed and performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the (probably?) Tony award winner for the musical, Hamilton. The story goes that Miranda saw JJ Abrams at a performance of his show. Usually Miranda performs in his show but he has nights off and that night was one of them. As a huge Star Wars fan, he goes up and tongue-in-cheek asks JJ if he can score the Cantina scene in the movie (probably not even realizing there was one). JJ said yes, to Miranda’s shock and the rest is history.
- In the scene where Kylo Ren is talking to his Grandfather/Vader’s mask, Kylo talks about feeling the call to the light. So inversely from Anakin/Vader, he is dark but feels calls to the light. Anakin was light but felt the call to the dark.
- Here’s where we get to the juicy part; Rey’s vision. There are several voices you’ll hear. One is Luke yelling no. One is Yoda, whose lines are lifted from his explanation of the force to Luke in Episode V. Then, there is Obi-Wan Kenobi, who says, “Rey” (Alec Guiness), and “These are your first steps” (Ewan McGregor). At the beginning of this vision, you see a lit corridor. This corridor is the same corridor Luke and Vader fought in in Cloud City in Episode V. Next we see Luke putting his hand on R2D2. Then we see Kylo Ren slay a Jedi Student of Luke’s. Then we cut to a wide shot of a group of people led by Kylo with a bunch of bodies littered around. These are the Knights of Ren and the bodies are those of Luke’s Jedi Padawans. Then we cut to Jakku and Rey as a child being dropped off on the planet into the hands of Unkar Plutt. Then we hear Alec Guinness say, “Rey!” and we see Rey in the woods that she fights Kylo in. And finally Rey falls back into Maz’s castle and we hear Ewan McGregor whisper, “These are your first steps.” What this means is that she has taken her first steps toward becoming a Jedi.
- Maz then says that the lightsaber belonged to Luke and his father before him and now calls to Rey. I personally think this is the biggest clue that Rey is Luke’s daughter. This has not been confirmed.
- Hux then gives a speech to the fleets of the First Order. He talks about how the Republic has secretly supported the “treacherous” Resistance and that the only way to win this conflict is to destroy the centralized government and destroy the biggest resistance supporters, the Republic. It is important to note than earlier edits of the film have Leia’s emissary, Kor Sella, travel to Hosnian Prime (The Capital of the Republic and target of the Starkiller) and plead the Resistance’s case to the senate. They send her away, not believeing that the First Order could or would possibly try and cross the Republic because they have operated within the law for the most part and kept to their own sector of the galaxy. Kor Sella is the woman the camera focuses on when the Starkiller fires upon the planet. The alien standing to the left of her is the Chancellor of the Republic.
- This is also important. Many people who saw the prequels probably assume that the planet being blown up is Coruscant, the capital of the Republic in the prequels. This is not the case.
- Finn has a lightsaber fight with a Stormtrooper who clearly recognizes him. One important detail is that all Stormtroopers go through melee combat training and even train with lightsabers. That would be why Finn can fend for himself. However, he is clearly not as skilled as this other Stormtrooper.
- Back at the wreckage of Maz’s castle we have a reunion. The one you’ve been waiting 30 years for. That’s right! It’s Threepio and Han Solo. No but seriously you’ll notice and hear Threepio talk about his red arm. We don’t know exactly how he got it, but we know that he apparently doesn’t like to talk about it based on the Visual Dictionary for the movie. He got it from another droid.
- Poe and Finn reunite and seem like long lost friends. I think we’ll see more of this combo in Episode VIII.
- Snoke is not aware of Rey’s strength in the Force. I personally think Kylo Ren is hiding something from the Supreme Leader. I think he is hiding the fact that he knows Rey. He spared her at the Jedi Academy and dumped her on Jakku, unbeknownst to Snoke. This is all my opinion.
- Listen closely to the Stormtrooper that Rey tries to mind control. This Stormtrooper is none other than James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, voice and all. You may have trouble keying in on his voice but listen to when he says, “I will tighten those restraints.” Daniel Craig is doing an American accent. GLORIOUS
- You may wonder why or how Rey knows about the Jedi mind tricks. I would assume having been on a planet where travelers come from all over, she has heard many stories about Jedi and their tricks. She obviously did not believe them before because this is the first time she has tried them on anybody.
- When Finn, Han, and Chewie walk into the base for the first time, take note of how far back the Stormtrooper flies back when Chewie shoots him with the Bowcaster.
- After Phasma lowers the shields for the base, Finn asks what they should do with her. Han asks if they have a trash compactor or a garbage chute. Finn says yes. This is a direct callback to the Death Star sequence in Episode IV where Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewie are all about to get smashed to death in the trash compactor.
- Han yells, “BEN!” at Kylo Ren indicating that Leia and Han named their (most likely) only son after Ben Kenobi, who essentially led them to each other and saved their lives by sacrificing himself. It’s also important that his name is Ben because the man Kylo idolizes killed his namesake, and Kylo plays the Vader role in this scene and movie to Han’s Ben Kenobi.
- The bridge scene truly shows the torment and the anguish Kylo Ren is going through. We saw a little bit of it earlier when he was talking to his Grandfather’s helmet, but we really get to see that Leia’s right. There is light in him still, even if it’s just temporary. Kylo truly considers giving his father the iconic lightsaber. However, when the Sun disappears and darkness covers the sky, Kylo is reminded of the darkness inside of him and the hate. This is when he takes the weapon and kills his father.
- Chewbacca is the maddest he’s ever been in the series. He shoots Kylo in the midsection with his Bowcaster. Remember what it did to that Stormtrooper? Think about getting shot in the side with it. Ouch. Kylo staggers but then sees Finn and Rey escaping off the top of the oscillator after Chewie detonates the bombs.
- You’ll notice that Kylo leaves his mask in the oscillator room. I think he wears the mask because he wants people to think he is damaged like his grandfather when he is actually really just a young guy who has no physical ailments. When he kills his father, his face finally embodies the pain his mask conveys and therefore the mask is moot.
- Finn and Rey escape to the snowy forest. Kylo hurts Rey and knocks her out and then calls Finn a traitor. Finn holds his own with Kylo because Kylo is injured, but Kylo still dominates and toys with Finn as long as possible. As soon as Finn slightly injures Kylo, he ends the fight by slicing Finn up his back and almost killing him.
- Kylo reaches to force pull his grandfather’s lightsaber into his hand. The lightsaber instead goes to Rey, who almost shyly ignites it, knowing what she has to do. When Rey gets the lightsaber, the music cue is the same exact music as when Luke discovers the charred remains of his aunt and uncle and knows that there’s no going back. Rey has that same feeling. (Thanks to @dustinbennett76 for pointing out the music and the relevance)
- It is very important to note that Kylo Ren is not a sith. He is the equivalent of a Padawan. He took shortcuts and did not complete his Jedi training because he lusted for power so much.
- Rey is trying to end this fight quickly because she knows she cannot win a prolonged fight with a more experienced fighter, injured or not. She finally accepts the Force and the light when Kylo tells her he can teach her the ways of the Force. That’s when she finally beats Kylo Ren and maims him before being separated from him as a result of the ground under them quaking.
- R2D2 wakes up when Rey finally gets to the Resistance Base. I think he was programmed to do so when/if she returned, and he was supposed to reveal the location of Luke only to her.
- Luke looks like he is in physical and emotional pain. Just the look from the legendary Jedi to this girl makes me think he knows exactly who she is. My speculation is that we are looking at father and daughter, but that is unsubstantiated.
- Lastly, in the very last shot of the film you can see what looks like a makeshift tombstone. My theory is this: Luke felt the death of his old friend Han Solo through the Force and so he made a makeshift grave for his fallen friend.
Well, there you have it. I hope you get something out of this and perhaps it helps you enjoy your second, third, or even fourth viewing more than your last. Thanks to everyone who discussed this movie with me and helped me formulate these thoughts.