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ROUND TABLE: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

C.T. Phipps: Well, we’ve all had a few months to see the release of THE FORCE AWAKENS in theaters and some of us have seen it twice. So, what did we think of it? I have already posted my own review here (non-spoiler: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2015/12/star-wars-force-awakens-non-spoiler.html spoiler: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2015/12/star-wars-force-awakens-spoiler-review.html ) but realized there’s a lot of issues I’d like to talk at length about. It seemed like it would be a good idea to do that with someone who had an equal amount of love for the Star Wars universe, though, and there was no better person for that than James Schmidt.

It should come as no surprise that this round-table discussion will contain spoilers for the movie so if you haven’t seen it yet, then you should probably avoid this until you have. I intend to hold nothing back, how about you, James?

James Schmidt: As a 43 year old life long fan I was very excited to say the least! I loved being able to take my son to see a Star Wars movie when he is about the same age as I was when I saw the first movie. The experience was very magical! I guess you can keep reading if you want to find out if it lived up to my high expectations! Lets get this discussion started!

  1. So, overall, what did you think of the movie?

C.T. Phipps: I feel kind of like I’m riding the wave here by saying, “Better than the Prequels, not as good as the Original Trilogy.” The thing is, when I sat down for The Phantom Menace, I was blown away and convinced it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’ve since come down to have a much-much harsher opinion on it but I don’t think I’ll have a similar opinion on The Force Awakens. I was so drugged up from seeing Star Wars again on the big screen, I was blinded to TPM’s flaws but went in with a cautious but critical eye to the movie.

For me, I think J.J. Abrams gave fans more or less the movie they were wanting and expecting rather than trying too hard to event the wheel. There’s a lot of imagination in this movie but it’s not the visual tour de force (no pun intended) of the Prequels either. They revert to a lot of staples in the film: Galactic Empire (now the First Order), the Rebellion (The Resistance), the Republic (New Republic), and so on. Even all of the characters are largely just archetypes for the ones they’re replacing.

Despite this, I’m going to give high praise to the film for being a lot more emotionally grounded and affecting than the entirety of the Prequels failed to be and even more so than the Original Trilogy in some places. I understood who Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe, and even General Hux all were. I liked them all and wanted them to succeed or was interested in their journey. There were some missteps in the film like the fact they blew up the capital of the galaxy, which isn’t Coruscant anymore I found out, yet don’t take a moment to really comment on that. Alderaan at least got Obi-Wan clutching his chest and reacting to its destruction’s horror.

So, yeah, I give the movie a 9/10 or a 9.5/10 with it not the classics of old but still pretty awesome.

James Schmidt: I would have to agree with you, better than the Prequels for sure, not as good as the Original Trilogy. I really liked the movie, not loved. It was very good, very entertaining, but just seemed to lack something. I think for me it was the characters, no one really I cared about to be honest. Nothing in the movie made me excited to learn more about any of them. I hope Kylo Ren goes bat shit crazy and gets his evil on in the next movie or I am going to lose interest real quick. This movie is full of holes and didn’t make any sense sometimes but i still thought it overcame these flaws.

Overall I would say the movie is a 8/10. Very entertaining!

  1. So, what did you think of the movie’s main characters?

C.T. Phipps: I have to say that Rey is this generation of boy’s (and some girl’s) fictional crush. She’s an awesome character and I absolutely loved her to death. Does it make sense she’s able to do the mind-trick and is able to defeat even a weakened Kylo Ren? No, not really, but it never made sense to me Luke Skywalker could defeat Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi either. Maybe Anakin’s Force Ghost was whispering into her dreams through his lightsaber. I dunno, don’t really care. I got a flashback to Monkey Island when they went to rescue her from the First Order only to rescue herself.

I’m not exactly sold on John Boyega’s Finn, which is weird because I love his performance. The problem is the poor stormtrooper gets his ass kicked from left to right throughout the movie. I think his greatest moment was getting to stand up against Kylo Ren but I was hoping for a little more badassery from him.

Poe didn’t have much screen time but I enjoyed his time on screen as well. Oddly enough, I really liked the fact Poe kept trying to be the wise-cracking hero and flying ace only for Kylo Ren to simply smack him around until he couldn’t wisecrack anymore. It avoided all of the Marvelisms that I was expecting and helped show Kylo Ren’s badassery.

Really, though, the biggest most important character to the movie is Han Solo. When Harrison Ford walks into the Millennium Falcon, he’s Old Han Solo, not Old Harrison Ford. His performance is miles better than his Old Indiana Jones one in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Daisey Ridley and John Boyega can’t really compete with Harrison Ford’s screen presence at the top of his game but they compliment well–and, well, that won’t be a problem next episode.

James Schmidt: Well, as I said earlier I was very disappointed with just about all of the characters. Rey was ok, nothing about her screams “I must know more!” kinda boring actually. Finn is a waste of space, I have no idea why this character is even in the movie. His character has no real value. Poe was ok I guess, didn’t really have a opinion either way. Maybe he will be more of a main character moving forward. BB-8 was less annoying than I thought it would be.

Kylo Ren I am still waiting to see if he is the badass we had glimpses of or the whinny wuss. Lets hope he is badass or this next movie will be a flop!

It was nice to see the original characters, I hope they stick around in the background throughout the next movies, helping the new characters along. It might save this new trilogy.

  1. So, what did you think of the movie’s villains?

C.T. Phipps: I’ve joined the First Order (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2016/01/are-first-order-actually-good-guys.html). Seriously, I love these guys. The whole idea of the Galactic Empire going back to the ass-end of the galaxy and become this North Korea-esque state living in its own bubble of reality was very well done. One of the stand-out moments of the movie was the Triumph of the Will-esque speech by General Hux.

I also like the fact the First Order feels very different from the Empire in a way which felt organic. These aren’t just the old men ruling over their military oligarchy but true believers who were born, raised, and will die on Imperial oatmeal. Someone described the First Order to me as basically what happens when all of the Hitler Youth are left in secret schools to grow up into a kind of Nazi Taliban and that’s not really that far off. Weirdly, though, they’re a lot more loyal and friendly to each other than the Empire ever was which creates a kind of weird dichtonomy I liked. I mean, the First Order is INCENSED at Finn’s betrayal because it’s a personal affront akin to a family member trying to kill you.

I also love to hate Kylo Ren. They were never going to match the iconic villainous portrayal of Darth Vader so why not create a character whose chief thing is he’ll never be as iconic a villain as Darth Vader? I know there’s plenty of people who hate the fact Han and Leia’s kid has become a monster but I think it worked for me. I don’t think it would have worked for me if they tried to justify it but here it seems like Kylo Ren grew up the privileged and beloved son of people who cherished him as well as gave him access to all the knowledge about the Force he could want. You know, exactly the opposite of the ex-slave Jedi stepchild Anakin and he still turned out bad. Kylo Ren is Draco Malfoy thinking he’s Harry Potter.

James Schmidt: I really liked the First Order. Same and different from the Empire. Still have all the cool uniforms and weapons. These are the only characters I want to know more about. Will Kylo Ren actually be badass? Who is Snoke, and where does he fit into all that has been happening? I want to know about the Knights of Ren. I want to hear more speeches by General Hux! Plus troopers were always my favorite!

  1. What was your reaction to Han Solo’s death?

C.T. Phipps: I think it was handled about as well as they could have possibly handled it. I knew Han Solo was going to die but while some people wanted him to die behind the Millennium Falcon, I think this works much better. He dies a Jedi’s death better than most Jedi. He tried to bring back his son to the Light, even knowing it was probably not going to work, and did his best to live up to his promise to Leia. I think Han knew his son was too far gone but he wouldn’t be Han Solo if he didn’t try and he loved his wife too much to go against her will. It was easily the most affecting moment of the movie and I don’t think it was done cheaply or poorly. I was, honestly, less enthused about the fact he’d gone back to smuggling. The least he could have been was a legitimate shipping magnate! But yes, it’s a moment which makes me genuinely question whether Kylo Ren is redeemable now.

James Schmidt: Oh rejoice, Han Solo is finally gone and more importantly Harrison “only around for a paycheck” Ford is gone! Good riddance! Yes, I never liked Solo, get over it. I do think it was a good “hopefully” turning point in Kylo Ren’s development as a villain.  I can only hope! Overall done well, very predictable, but well done.

  1. Anything you would have liked for them to have done differently?

C.T. Phipps: I never thought I would say this but this is a movie which could have used a Senate scene and some more politics. I was able to follow the whole Resistance, First Order, New Republic thing but just barely.

I think having a moment where Leia speaks about who they are and what their goal is to Rey or a scene on Hosnian Prime (a.k.a. Not Coruscant) would have been good to get a sense of the stakes. I also think the Starkiller was insufficiently distinguished from the Death Star. They could have done a number of things to liven that up.

  1. Have the Rebel attack fail
    2. Have it be a big cannon rather than a big laser
    3. Have it revealed the Empire has several in the works and the Rebels destroying it is a meaningless gesture.
    4. Just ditching it for the First Order attacking the Resistance Base would keep the stakes roughly the same.

I also don’t think anything was really added by Supreme Leader Snoke who just feels like Mini-Palpatine. Is he a former student of Luke’s? Some random Darksider? The Wizard of Oz? We really needed more input on him.

James Schmidt: Wow, I don’t think there is enough space here. Not really. I would like things to have been explained better.

How is Rey able to do all this stuff with no apparent training? Why is Finn even in this movie? Why make Kylo Ren so emo? Starkiller base, really haven’t seen that before, twice even? Maybe someone can eventually come up with a “good guy” Star Wars character that is not so boring? I hope we can learn more in the coming films. Maybe there will be an extended cut movie that can explain all the holes in this movie. I feel like I am being to negative. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie, but it could have been so much more.

  1. What are you hoping for from Episode VIII?

C.T. Phipps: Rey revealed as Luke’s daughter with some father-daughter bonding time. The First Order conquering the galaxy. Snoke information. Oh and maybe a flash-back to Han Solo and Leia’s younger days with Kylo Ren.

James Schmidt: The biggest thing I am hoping for, as I have stated above is Kylo Ren going to become the great villain? This story certainly needs that.

Other items: Will Luke actually be in the movie with speaking lines? Please explain things in the next movie, it might be less entertaining but maybe it will make more sense. I want to know more about Snoke, the Knight’s of Ren, and the First Order needs to be bigger and badder (with no Death Star/Starkiller base!) really, three goddamn times! Honestly there just has to be a film with Stormtroopers and I will watch it.

On behalf of C.T. Phipps and myself I just want to say thanks for reading!

Check out all of C.T. Phipps great projects over on his site:

http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

On a last note I want to Thank C.T. Phipps for his patience. We had this planned to post a month or more ago and then my life got turned upside down. I lost my Mom in early January to her battle with leukemia and found out my Dad’s cancer seems to have returned. My blog and I have been on auto pilot since then. I wanted to make sure this got posted, C.T. did a great job of putting this together. Better late than never! Thanks again!

James – MightyThorJRS

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About the author:

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C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on “The United Federation of Charles” (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).

He’s recently released the novels “The Rules of Supervillainy” and “Esoterrorism.” His third novel, “Wraith Knight” is expected to release in January of 2016.

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