I don’t have a problem with Han’s death in The Force Awakens. I’ll just get that unexpected story element out of the way first.
I will say here that the marketing team did a fantastic job with the trailers. While watching the trailers, ASM and I would sit on Skype and throw out plot theories, trying to piece together how we felt the story would go, and in most cases we were completely wrong. It was interesting that some scenes in the trailers never made it into the movie. But, ya, Han..
Don’t get me wrong, I never expected a main character to be killed off in the first of the new episodes however it didn’t really strike me as an injustice at the time nor after. Feelings of sadness for Han Solo started before that, when he showed up on the screen near the beginning of the movie. He said his now famous line from the trailer and that was cool and then the audience had to watch him run from trouble like the Han of old, but instead he was just an old Han. At that time we all realized that we, like Han, were a lot older than we were in the 70s.
There is no way someone with the character of Han Solo can keep up his recklessness well into old age. His daring exploits and shenanigans were due to catch up with him some time. He avoided getting assassinated by Greedo, made it out of the Death Star alive, escaped Jabba’s palace, and helped defeat the Emperor. The guy must have nine lives. And despite getting the reward for returning Princess Leia and playing a part in bringing down the Empire he still didn’t clean up his act and was doing at 72 what he was doing in his 20s, getting into trouble. You can’t get lucky forever.
I actually find it compelling that Han died doing something so un-Han-like. Rather than run, like he always had, even from the mother of his child, he stayed to confront his son whom he had already declared gone forever. Most likely he stayed for Leia and not himself. In that moment he was the most unselfish he’s ever been. Han wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
It was more sad for me to watch Chewie grieve. To be honest, I expected more grieving from the big wookie but perhaps Chewbacca, like myself, kind of saw this coming. You can’t fly around the galaxy together, smuggling and swindling people for forty years and not expect something bad to happen at some point. Chewie seemed to take it stride. Much better than some of my fellow theater-goers.
Since I first saw the movie most of my friends and co-workers have as well and naturally the discussion amongst this large group of nerds has since revolved around Star Wars. Many of them bring up what they think are serious flaws in the movie but I don’t share their feelings.
For example, I’ve heard many times the complaint that someone who didn’t even know the Force existed could defeat Kylo Ren, the guy with the training. It’s actually not all that impossible. This is actually something I can relate to very much and have witnessed quite often in my years of training martial arts here in Japan. Just because you are training in something, doesn’t mean you will become good at it. You need a good teacher and a natural ability. Even if you have a good teacher, but not natural capacity to understand what is being shown to you, you won’t reach the level of your teacher. You’ll do fine against people with less experience than you, but you won’t reach the top levels.
Being a Skywalker, he had the genes to use the Force and we see him do so to good effect against weaker people. It wasn’t until he ran into Rey that he came up against someone capable of matching him. From what we know of Kylo Ren, he received his training straight from Luke. However, Luke’s training was quite rushed and he never received the kind of instruction his father, Anakin had. Heck, even Anakin hadn’t passed the trials before all the craziness went down in Episode III. If you look at the Skywalker line, they are a string of incomplete, somewhat unbalanced individuals. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rey, the girl we watched beat down two dudes at the same time earlier in the film, could hold her own against a wounded Kylo at the end.
‘But why did Kylo have a mask on?! He didn’t need one’, said a co-worker during a recent lunch break.
‘To feel closer to the only person he identifies with, his grandfather Darth Vader’, was my matter-of-fact answer.
I really liked the character of Kylo Ren in this film. We’ve already experienced a plot twist like no other some 35 years ago in Empire Strikes Back. There will never be another shock like the one we felt when Vader revealed himself to be Luke’s father. Rather than try to do the same thing, which everyone can admit would have failed horribly, they went the opposite way and revealed early on who Kylo Ren is. So rather than wonder where he came from, over the next two films we will get to see if he can actually be saved. Something Leia, and Han to some extent, must have believed.
There is no false impression of Kylo’s character. We know he is a troubled young man, something we didn’t know about Vader until near the end of Empire. We have to wonder what upbringing he had, with a mother and uncle who never knew their own father or mother. If Kylo had pressed Leia enough she would not have been able to fill in any semblance of a family genealogy seeing as Anakin had no father at all. (gag) How messed up is all that? Hey, Kylo. Your mother’s mom is dead, your grandfather was one of the most feared people in the galaxy, and your great-grandfather didn’t exist. Heavy stuff.
Going into the theater the thing I wanted most was to feel like I felt as a child and J.J. Abrams did it! This was a Star Wars movie and while, yes, there was a lot of fan-service in the film it is what was needed in my opinion. Many of us older viewers did want to see more of the same. One of the hardest parts of watching the prequels was that, in many ways, they didn’t match up with the originals. Where Episode IV was ground-breaking with George Lucas able to create realistic space scenes using practical effects, Episode I was almost ground-breaking in the opposite way, George Lucas managing to make scenes less realistic with an overuse of CG. The inconsistency between the galaxy in Episodes I, II, and III and the one 30 years later in IV, V, and VI was tough to comprehend. Maybe everything was really better ‘back in the day’? Back in my day… R2-D2 could fly!
The VII galaxy, I’m so glad to report, is back to that of the originals and this made me realize something; The galaxy is a pretty crappy place to be. The Empire has taken the power from the Republic. Those people on the fringes have to eke out an existence moisture-farming. Slavery exists. The First Order keeps its numbers by stealing babies. The only people who seem to have some semblance of freedom are the ones on the fringes of society, the gangsters and smugglers.
Still, that’s the galaxy I grew up in and it’s great to be back!
It was great to be back in that Star Wars warmth. I made sure I picked up the Star Wars Memorial Pamphlet that they were selling to anyone who had a ticket for the opening weekend (some theatres only for select show times) and I had my Force Awakens cup (I chose Kylo).
I’ll see this movie again and again and pray that the Blu Ray is released soon so I don’t bankrupt myself paying the exorbitant movie ticket prices here in Japan.
I’m ten years old again and I have no problem with that.