Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens finally came out a couple weeks ago, and I’ve seen it twice since then. The honeymoon phase is over, I’ve heard a lot of praise and a fair share of criticism, and with that I’d like to run down some things I’d like to see from the next installment in this new trilogy. Some of these things I’m eagerly anticipating, while others are more in response to criticisms I have after digesting the content more thoroughly.
Since this film was quite prominently a “soft reboot” of A New Hope, it stands to reason that what follows will be a similar chapter to The Empire Strikes Back — a darker story where our heroes are pushed to the brink. I find the situation The Force Awakens has set up for to be particularly intriguing. While I understand the potential loss of tension caused by Kylo Ren’s defeat at the hands of Rey, the context for this defeat was sound and perfectly justified in my eyes. All that matters to me is that they do not waste what they have laid a foundation for.
Kylo Ren is a petulant and wrathful — some might say bratty — villain with a formidable level of force ability: he was, after all, able to keep himself going despite taking a direct shot from Chewbacca’s bowcaster. His outbursts over things not going his way were substantial, so I can only imagine how he will handle the humiliation he suffered at the hands of Rey and Finn, especially considering how he may be treated as a result. Had he been a stoic, imposing presence like Darth Vader his defeat would have been disappointing. In this context, I am eager to see how he handles this defeat. I want to see him grow into the villain he so desperately wants to be. I want to see him do his worst, and I want to see how he handles that.
While we didn’t get much from this character, she really stuck out to me both visually and the on screen presence she did manage to provide — though scarce. She has suffered humiliation too, and assuming she survived her off-screen disposal into a trash compactor, I hope we see more of her as an enforcer for the First Order. We need someone calm, collected, and menacing to contrast Kylo Ren, and I would like that to be her. I’m especially interested in them crafting a formidable villain that doesn’t use the force to subdue their enemies.
Drawn out, political banter has been a bit of a bane for this series in the past, but the political climate of the galaxy was particularly unclear in this film. Is the First Order a rogue organization, or does it still control some of the Empire’s territories? They’re definitely operating outside of the New Republic, but they also have access to a lot of resources. Also, why is there a Resistance if the New Republic is actively against them? They should just be the New Republican Army, right? Do they have a treaty of some kind that the Resistance is going around for the greater good?
These questions and more did not have a clear answer, and while it did not take me out of the experience too severely it is something I hope they will clarify. In the original trilogy the political situation was crystal clear, in the prequels it was deeply convoluted, and so far in The Force Awakens it has been rather vague. Hopefully the fallout of the events in this film will shed light on where things stood if discussed in Episode VIII.
A small thing, but it took me a while to realize that the blue lightsaber acquired by Rey on Takodana was last seen in the clutches of Luke’s severed hand, falling from the Cloud City on the planet Bespin, a gas giant. In the subsequent film, Luke has a new, green lightsaber. I would really like to know how it went from Bespin to Maz Kanata’s possession, tucked away in her basement.
“There has been an awakening…”
These are the word uttered by Supreme Leader Snoke, presumably regarding the force. That is the only reference to this apparent awakening in the entire film. According to Maz Kanata, the force — specifically the light side — is ever present. So, I have no idea what an awakening of the force means, nor do I know what bearing this had on the plot. There are some occurrences I suspect are related — Kylo Ren feeling a “pull” toward the light side, Rey’s force sensitivity, maybe even Finn disconnection from a lifetime of Stormtrooper mental conditioning — but there’s nothing concrete, other than Snoke’s one remark. I want to know what the hell it means that the force has awakened. It implies a substantial change in the metaphysical landscape of this universe, so I want to know just how things are going to change.
Lastly, I want the series to take risks. I understand the reasoning behind playing it safe with The Force Awakens. A lot of the fanbase had to be won back, and that may not have been easy to do with something relatively unfamiliar. Having just beaten the box office records of Titanic and Jurassic World, I’d say the franchise has garnered a lot of good will with this film, which I feel would allow them to make riskier and divergent narrative choices with the following movies. If they continue to rehash the original trilogy, in the same way that this hits a lot of the same beats as A New Hope, I will be disappointed to say the least. While the expanded universe may not be canon any longer, there is no doubt a wealth of obscure characters, places, and story lines that could be adapted.