I needed the weekend to digest and collect my thoughts. Overall, I think the movie was awesome. Great pacing, fun new characters, and a great mix of OT and new content. I saw it Thursday with the whole family. Nothing quite like the experience of seeing a blockbuster opening weekend with an energized crowd or sharing that experience with your kids.5 Things I really liked...
#1 - The action and humor. Han's "What was the second time?", Rey's "You will free me and exit leaving the door open...and drop your blaster!", Chewie's 'modest' reaction to the nurse's praise, and Finn's "We'll just use the force!" were all funny without going over the top. It reminded me a lot of what Disney has done with the Marvel Movies.
#2 - Great characters with really interesting stories. I really like the dichotomy of where certain characters started the film versus where they ended up: Finn as a Stormtrooper with a conscience, Rey as a loner who's desperate for a family, Ren's dark side trying to fight off inclinations of light. What a difference from the prequels where I really didn't care about anyone except Obi-Wan and Padme.
#3 - Kylo Ren as Ben/Jacen. It's not the EU, but they took the best elements of Jacen and crafted them into Ren. The added force powers of laser bolt freezing and mind reading were great, and I really liked the idea of someone dark being afraid to slip back into the light. That made Han's death so much more meaningful AND sets up the potential for a redemption story. In the OT Luke talks about feeling the good inside Vader, but you don't really see it from Vader until the end, whereas Ben is more clearly struggling with his identity.
#4 - Expanded use of Chewie. The Wookie always seemed like an after thought in the Star Wars sequels. He's just kind of present in Empire and Jedi, but seemed to have a lot more personality in TFA. He had some fun comedic dialogue with Han, perks up at the dejarik board starting up, strokes his ego with the nurse, goes into a rage when Han dies, then mourns the loss of his BFF. All just quick little scenes, but they added a lot of depth to the character IMO.
#5 - The Visuals. From the design of the Stormtroopers to the swirling space battles this movie is non-stop eye candy. Daisy Ridley isn't hard to watch either. I have heard some comlaints about the blasters "throwing" Stormtroopers in the air, but I love that stuff. A massive laser bolt should throw you into next week, versus just causing someone to crumple and fall down. The dialogue was so much better than the prequels, but this is another movie that you could thoroughly love just watching it on mute. 5 Things that kind of bugged me...
#1 - I would have liked to see more of the alien races (Trandoshans, Ithorians, Weequay, Aqualish, Rodians, Quarrens, Twileks) or at least more Wookies, Sullustans, or Mon Calamari. I know everyone wants to do something new and I really liked some of the new aliens we got, but not seeing any of the original species from Jabba's palace or the Cantina or the various prequel Jedi was a disappointment. At least they brought back Nunb and Ackbar - those were two of my favorites from pre-Jedi as mail away figures. I hope they bring some of these more common species back in future movies.
#2 - Finn and Rey's lightsaber mastery. It would have been nice to have them train a little or even mess up at some point with the sabers. I get that they each had some kind of combat/survival training and could probably wield a sword if needed, but given that lightsabers are still fairly uncommon, I wouldn't have expected either to hold up long against Ren without some added training. It would be nice to see a deleted scene with the crew in Hyperspace and either Finn or Rey practicing with the saber.
#3 - As much as I loved the main characters, I wanted more from the bit characters. How about a few seconds showcasing the Guavian Enforcer's skills versus just having them gobbled up? Some kind of dialogue from the Pirates Finn was about to run off with? Maybe a little
push back from the guy who captured BB8 or some smack talk from the thugs attacking Rey to steal BB8? The original did such a good job of bringing ALL the characters to life. It just takes a second to show Jawas checking out Luke's ride, Wuher is a robot-bigot, Fett commands respect, etc. I know they had a lot to cram in, but a few more seconds to bring the extras to life would have been appreciated.
#4 - The action figures versus the movie characters. Why in the world do I have Leia's protocol droid and multiple sizes of Constipated Zuvio, but no Maz or Snoke? I suppose the original figure line had its share of Snaggletooth and Walrus Man instead of Tarken or Owen, but I was a little let down by some of the characters I had hoped to see more of. I didn't even catch Zuvio in the first viewing. And like everyone else, I wish Phasma had been more relevant. I really wanted to see those Snowtroopers in action too.
#5 - Adam Driver. I loved Kylo Ren in his mask almost as much as I hated Driver without it. He seemed like a whiny, ignorant teen. Everything about his look and voice irritated me for some reason. Maybe that's the intent, so you root against him even more, but I just couldn't stand anything about the unmasked Ben for some reason. In fact, I disliked "Ben" even more than finding out the Empire had yet another giant Super Weapon.
Pretty sure he lost his hand in that battle with Rey as well - at least it looked like it was going to go down that way.5 Questions I still want answered...
#1 - How does Poe get off the planet and why would he leave without BB8?. I assume he eventually questioned locals and someone reported seeing BB8 board the Falcon. Locals probably didn't know the ship, but with confirmation that he was off world, Poe would have no choice but to head back to the resistance. Will be nice to see more in the deleted scenes
#2 - Who is the Republic and why are they different from the Resistance? Does the Republic publicly recognize the First Order's sovereignty due to some kind of truce and have to fight them more in secret? I did not want lots of shots of the galactic senate in debate, but it was weird to have the new Republic mentioned without more explanation. I'd compare it to Alderaan being blown up without knowing much about it, but even there we at least knew it was Leia's homeworld. Did they even mention the worlds that were blown up by Starkiller Base?
#3 - What happened to Rey and who is she related to? I think they purposely left this unresolved to gauge fan reaction. Is she unrelated to the original characters? Leia didn't seem to react to Rey like a mom or an aunt, so it's certainly possible. She is clearly waiting for someone though and it would seem equally off if her parents were just some random force-powered people who abandoned her. Sounds like a lot of people think she is Luke's daughter, which would tie in nicely if he thought she were dead at the hands of his pupil and that drove him into isolation. He could have abandoned her as well feeling like he wouldn't make a good father, but not at least bringing her to Leia or asking someone to watch over her is pretty cold. Does Luke blame Han and Leia for Ben's actions? I like the idea that she's the EU version of Jaina and Ren's twin sister. The way she interacts with Han would make a nice moment with her dad before losing him, and a final conflict between brother and sister would set up nicely. I also think its very possible Luke or Han wouldn't know Rey was there's - Vader didn't know Leia was his kid when he was holding her prisoner.
#4 - What in the world happened to Luke and his Jedi? Will they set this up as additional flashbacks or a spin off movie? That's the biggest and most interesting mystery for me coming out of TFA. Clearly Ben betrayed him and Snoke was likely the driver, but I need more details, especially on Snoke. Count me among those who hope he is regular sized and breathed a sigh of relief when I found out he was just a hologram. Totally reminds me of Giant Palpatine Head Hologram from Empire, and fitting for a Sith to want to appear larger and more intimidating than real life. Giants in the SW universe seem wrong, given all the doorways and ships are designed for human-scaled or smaller life forms.
#5 - Everyone wants to know why Maz has Luke's saber, so I'll skip that and ask Why was R2 just sitting around with the map to Luke? What caused him to "wake up?" I wish there was some significant event tied to this, like BB8 showing up with the missing piece or Han's Death, or the presence of Rey or Finn. As it is, it seems like R2 just decided to turn back on for no apparent reason, just in time to keep the plot moving. I hope there's a better answer for this coming in a future film.
The questions and concerns are incredibly minor stacked up to everything I loved about this movie. Can't wait to see it again, and again, and again...