Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

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Are There Lesbians? No

What Happens?
Set thirty years after Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker has disappeared after attempts to train a new Jedi goes south (aka “classic Luke”), and literally everyone is trying to find him.

(MINOR SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT)

The story opens on Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who is trying to smuggle a map to Luke’s whereabouts to the Resistance. More importantly at this point we are also introduced to BB-8 who is adorable. The First Order (think The Empire but with even stronger Nazi overtones) find Poe and capture him but first he manages to do a Princess Leia and send BB-8 off with the map but no message that Obi-Wan is his only hope.

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(Mmm, Space Nazis)
It is at this point that we also get to see battle from a Storm Trooper POV – repulsed by his first battle Trooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) removes his helmet in what is actually a pretty pivotal moment for the audience in that “hey, there’s a real person under there”. He later helps Poe escape the First Order and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) torture and in that 5 minutes they become bros and Poe renames FN-2187 “Finn.” They crash-land a stolen TIE-Fighter on the planet Jakku, which is NOT TATTOINE, where it is promptly eaten by the desert. Assuming Poe is dead, Finn wanders the desert to some form of civilisation, when he finally gets there it is love at first sight as he watches from afar as Rey (Daisy Ridley) is threatened by, and then beats up, a bunch of guys trying to take BB-8, who has adopted her.
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(Oh god it’s so round!)

Finn and Rey team up, steal the Millenium Falcon, get kidnapped by Han and Chewbacca, become friends with Han and Chewbacca, get attacked by The First Order again and Rey is captured. A Deus Ex Machina happens and Poe is alive but love is dead because Han and Leia aren’t really together anymore. At this point Starkiller Base which is NOT THE DEATH STAR vaporises more than one planet and everything goes to shit. The Resistance fights back with the tried-but-true tactic of hitting the same spot on the Giant Ball of Death over and over until the whole thing blows up.

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(My tiny, attractive son)

Meanwhile Kylo Ren attempts to torture Rey but discovers she’s stronger in the Force than he is and she escapes and is rescued by Finn, Han and Chewie (although they’re more her means of transport as she was doing just fine without them). Having saved the day, the map to Luke is revealed and Rey tracks him down to a picturesque island with many stone stairs and then he leaves her hanging.

The Verdict:
I love, love, love this movie. It is everything good about the original trio with a few new thing added. While there has been a bit of complaint that The Force Awakens is exactly the same as A New Hope, to me it felt more like homage than an exact replication. While there aren’t any lesbians there are certainly kickass ladies and many POC present (though I suppose less of the latter than one would expect in well… a whole universe). If there is one problem with the female representation in this film is that while there is only the bare blossoming of romance between Finn and Rey (actually built on a relationship of mutual trust) both Rey and, unfortunately, Leia, fall prey to the trope of a woman being borderline obsessed with male familial figures.

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(Nothing like running away from bad guys together to help build a relationship)

Rey, for her part, is self-dependant while she waits for her family to return to her and I feel that she wouldn’t have so obviously been a victim of this trope were it not for a line from Leia where she notes to Rey that the girl thinks of Han as being “the father you never had.” As for Leia herself – she is repeatedly referred to as General, and it is clear that she is leader of the Resistance in how other character speak of her, but in the majority of scenes where she is featured it is only so that she can worry about her son. And that makes me mad. She is a kickass lady who we already know to be kickass and yet it feels like every time she opens her mouth it is to worry about her son or to tell Han to “bring him home”. Yes, it does make sense that she would want this and it shows strong parallels to Luke in that she professes to “know there is still light in him”, but on the whole I feel like maybe it could have been handled better.

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(We could’ve had it aaaaaalllll)

The other representational issue I had didn’t really occur until the credits started rolling and I read that the character Maz (who is vying with Leia for my Second Favourite Lady Character slot) was played by Lupita Nyong’o. The reason for this was that it sparked the memory of a short article I’d read online at some point about how often black people or other POC are likely to voice animated or anthropomorphic characters while white people get to be… well… human. This isn’t to say that Maz wasn’t a brilliant character or anything like that, and it’s absolutely fantastic of course that one of the main characters – Finn – is played by a black man and gets such a complex  storyline, but, having experienced that momentary thought, I felt it was an important one to share.

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(I can’t adequately explain how much of a “holyshit” moment this was)

There is just so much to talk about that was good in this movie though. Character arcs were complex and believable – Rey has more personality and character development in the first ten minutes than Luke has in one movie – and it was absolutely fascinating to see things from a Storm Trooper POV, how they are “created” and what it does to someone to have to experience The First Order at close hand. Particularly, I’m glad that when Finn finally revealed to everyone that he had been a Storm Trooper, they didn’t immediately shun him as a spy or expect him to prove his worth as might happen in other media, simply because… well… he had already proven it.

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As for looks… well… I’m really appreciating the trend that I started to notice in Mad Max: Fury Road where Sci-fi movies are becoming just plain beautiful. There are gorgeous long shots and extensive set pieces – I think my favourite has to be the graveyard of Imperial remnants that Rey builds her life around – scavenging Imperial Star Ships and living in the foot of a fallen AT-AT. The Space dogfights are fun as always and, unlike the first three movies, nothing looks like it was obviously green-screened. Any CGI appears natural to the space and doesn’t immediately have you thinking that it was computer generated.

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Overall, The Force Awakens, is a good return to the feeling of the original Star Wars trilogy. It has moments that are touching, terrifying, and funny in turn (my favourite was the general acceptance of the Storm Troopers that Kylo Ren is a literal 15 year old in a moment that had the whole cinema laughing) and just that one film makes up for almost all the disasters of the prequels. If you’re in doubt that you should go see it I have only one thing to say – it’s fine, there’s no Jar Jar Binks, all is well.

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(This summer, doom is a creepy teenage boy)

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