DG Roundtable: The Force Awakens Superb Yet Too Familiar

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

avishwanath (Arjun Vishwanath ‘16, Opinions Editor) [12:05 PMHi everyone! Welcome back from winter break. We decided to have our first roundtable on the biggest news of winter break – the new Star Wars movie! We have Allison Hrabar ’16, Eduard Saakashvili ’17, Abhinav Tiku ’18, and Kyung Min ’18 joining us today. NOTE: This article will contain spoiler alerts from The Force Awakens.

avishwanath [12:14 PM] One of the most obvious aspects of the movie to me as I watched it is that it seemed to replay many of the same arcs that existed in Episode 4. The droid escape in the beginning of Episode 7 is the same start from Episode 4,  Rey’s upbringing in the movie clearly parallels Luke’s, and the good guys are facing up against the Starkiller Base (aka Death Star 3.0) which they ultimately destroy at the end of the movie (meaning construction on Starkiller Base 2.0 should commence in the next episode if we are truly following the same arc). So I have two questions for you all: 1) Do you think that these parallels in Episode 4 are a good thing for the franchise to keep some continuity or should they have branched out more plot-wise? And 2) Do you think that we should expect Episodes 8 and 9 to follow a similar trajectory to Episodes 5 and 6 or will things diverge from here?

eduard (Eduard Saakashvili ’17, Assistant News Editor) [5:43 PM On your first question, they should definitely have branched out plot-wise, but what they did was allegedly intentional. I mean, “StarKiller Base” literally sounds like something a Star Wars parody film would have come up with, and I can’t imagine that JJ & Co. were only so derivative because they lacked creativity. Personally, while I found the third-act parallels jarring, I really enjoyed the character development and jaunty pacing of the film’s first half. Granted, Star Wars isn’t Star Wars just for its interesting characters, but you could maybe argue that what makes Star Wars be Star Wars is its character arcs. And the arcs look pretty promising.

kmin18 (Kyung Min ’18, Video Editor) [8:08 PMI agree with Eduard about the plot. There are frankly too many similarities between The New Hope and The Force Awakens to the point of being obvious, but in a way it serves to familiarize the viewers with the Star Wars universe after many years of absence. Additionally, Rey’s upbringing is very similar to Anakin’s: abandoned in a desert planet (Tatooine/Jakku), under some sort of authority of an alien (Watto/Unkar Plutt), and later found by a protagonist force (Jedi/Finn and later the Resistance). Of course, StarKiller Base is basically the Death Star on steroids (Oh, the Empire destroyed Alderaan with the Death Star? Well, let’s get the base to destroy a whole system!). Other than that though, I think Kylo/Snoke relationship is interesting and I’m itching to find out more. Concerning the second question, I seriously hope 8 and 9 takes a different approach with the new trilogy, and I really do think they will. While most of the film was a fan-service and served to familiarize the viewer with the new Star Wars by introducing a whole lot of characters and bringing back old ones (but not for long, in the case of Han), the epilogue of Rey going out to find Luke is a startling departure from the traditional Star Wars repertoire.

atiku1 (Abhinav Tiku ’18, Assistant Multimedia Editor) [8:58 PM] Generally speaking, the worst criticism I can give this film is that it is the best piece of cinematic fan fiction in history – which makes sense considering the interests that Disney has for the franchise and their choice of fanboy JJ. I thought the pacing was excellent – it acquired that fast pace adventure spirit that made the first film so fun (episode 4 is my fav) and contained a story that stole the best moments from the other films, sometimes putting a twist on them like Kylo killing his father while Luke didn’t. All in all, I wish they took more risks aesthetically and story wise, (I coulda done without Death Star 3.0) but this film succeeded in getting me psyched for episode 8. Thoughts?

kmin18 [9:22 PM] I thought it was a good return for the franchise. Some of my main qualms about the film are with the pacing, actually.

allisonhrabar (Allison Hrabar ’16, Co-Editor-In-Chief) [9:22 PM] I am a bit of a Star Wars novice (I saw the original for the first time freshman year) but I really loved this one

allisonhrabar [9:26 PM] So, now that we’ve sort of sounded off: it seems like people’s main qualms is that it’s too much like A New Hope. Do you wish they’d done something more?

atiku1 [9:27 PM] All the characters were superbly written and well acted. Also last general thing – this is the funniest Star Wars movie despite the fact they stab Han Solo through the chest

[9:30 PM] After the first viewing, I thought they copied way too much. After the second and third viewings, I still think they copied too much but I could understand the rationale behind it.

atiku1 [9:32 PM] I’ve never really liked JJ as a director, though I admired some of the choices he made. I think he is a master of rebooting franchises and catching and capitalizing on cinematic nostalgia – you can see it in his other films as well.

atiku1 [9:36 PM] I think Star Wars, though structured in a classic mythological journey, relies on and depends on characters – this film understood that and passed the torch on.

[9:39Also, Kylo is a dick to expensive space computers – I mean all his grandfather needed to do was choke a guy with his fist. I got serious chills when Vader’s skull appeared on screen and Kylo was basically praying to it. The scene was tied with Han reappearing and Luke reappearing for me.

eduard [9:40 PM] I agree with Allison about the little touches, though I preferred those that weren’t as script-directed, like Rey shouting “Finn!” when Finn gets taken by a monster. On the page, it would’ve been a throwaway line, but Daisy Ridley breathes more life and energy into it than could be found in most of the Original Trilogy’s performances and line readings. I liked the holding hand bit as well, though the “full-circle” payoff where Rey takes Finn’s hand was a little too perfunctory: maybe the execution was clunky there.

kmin18 [9:41 PM] I agree. The characters are quite interesting (especially Rey and Finn). It was an interesting choice to have Kylo take his helmet off though. For me, all the mystery and intimidation associated with Kylo was gone as soon as I saw his face. I guess that was done to humanize Kylo as an internally conflicted character.

eduard [9:42 PM] I liked seeing Kylo’s face, though maybe they should have waited until the Han Solo bridge scene since the interrogation scene didn’t seem to carry enough dramatic weight to justify this unmasking. Maybe it goes to show that Kylo will really use any excuse to get out of his mask.

atiku1 [9:45 PM] I think it was a great part upon reflection after I had an underwhelming reaction in the theatre.  It shows that he’s a peacock – he’s trying to live up to the legacy of his grandfather who was the greatest Sith of all time until he got strapped in a black suit and even then was a complete badass. He doesn’t know who he is and that uncertainty leads him to dark places.

kmin18 [9:50 PM] What did y’all think about the pacing?

atiku1 [9:52 PM] I think it was mostly spot on – it slowed down for a bit in Maz Kanata’s casino cantina for a whole bunch of nostalgia exposition, but I didn’t mind that.

kmin18 [9:56 PM] I was taken aback by how quickly everything moved. Especially after significant moments such as StarKiller Base’s first weapon fire and death of Han. It was like “millions of people just died! Let’s move on. Han just died! Let’s move on and stuff”.

atiku1 [10:11 PM]  Given how the film started with an energetic pace, I think it kind of backed itself into a hole because it had a standard to live up to: in particular, the thrilling ride from action set piece to action set piece we’ve come to expect from blockbusters. That left little time for reflection because we had to move the plot along and try to tell the story through character action.

allisonhrabar [10:15 PM] So, there was a lot riding on this film as a reboot, are you guys excited for episodes 8 and 9? What are you hoping they change and/or keep?

kmin18 [10:15 PM] Well, I guess I’m excited to see how 8 and 9 improve, haha.

[10:16] I really hope they develop the characters and carve out a new Star Wars look and mythology

atiku1 [10:17 PM] I agree Kyungchan. I’m definitely excited for 8 and looking forward to 9 — now they’ve established the new trilogy, I think they’ll be more imaginative with the story and universe, which is the heart of the Star Wars phenomenon.

[10:17] Also, who wants this in episode 8 or 9: the Knights of Ren surround a hooded Luke, their old master. They ignite their sabers with successive flashes of red. Luke raises his head, a flash of green, his light saber flies into his hand and just wastes them all!

Image courtesy of www.screencursh.com 

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