Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spoilery Spoiling post in which I spoil Star Wars: The Force Awakens, spoilers

Did I mention that there will be spoilers, because there totally will be.  In a week or a month or whatever this will seem like overkill, but right now a lot of people are avoiding any news.

So, first off, I liked it.  Though it should be noted that people who are simultaneously human, female, and non-white continue to be very hard to find in Hollywood in general and in space in particular.

As near as I can tell if you want a woman of color in space in a movie you have to either have your inner Trekkie crushed to see new-Uhura or suffer through the black guy dying first and "I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I--Urk" to see Zoe.

That aside, so far aside that we totally ignore diversity or lack thereof for this paragraph, I found myself thinking that, while I did like the movie, I would have rather watched Han, Chewie, and Rey (female lead) saying, "Fuck the galaxy," and having wonderful criminal adventures together on the Falcon.

So, questions:

1 Why the hell do you think finding Luke is going to accomplish shit?  He ran away and never came back.  Everyone good and bad is assuming that finding a map to Luke will accomplish something but Luke is in SELF IMPOSED exile so severe he didn't even bring R2 with him.  Luke always brings R2 with him.  Unless you've got really fucking good reason to believe that the reason he didn't come back was that he was stranded, this is not the savior you're looking for.  Move along.

2 Why wasn't Leia trained?  Yes, she has work to do as an important leader person, but fucking designated survivor rule.  And she's already Jedi approved.

Yoda seemed convinced that if Luke went to Bespin and died/turned to the dark side Leia would be a good potential replacement (and apparently was convinced that if Luke walked into the trap it would give Leia the chance to get out regardless of what fate Luke met.)

3 They should never have transferred Fin out of sanitation.  There's no evidence that he disliked his work in sanitation, but one mission killing innocent people without decent cause and he's trying to jump ship.  This implies that their brainwashing isn't nearly as effective as they think.  I was expecting him to at least try to sway the other stormtroopers by pointing out that you don't have to do this, you can totally get out, and if it weren't for these jerks repeatedly pulling him back in he'd be beyond the bad guys' reach by now.  Why did he just remorselessly shoot the people who were just like him instead?

But rewind a bit they had the black guy be a storm trooper.  Let's think about that for a bit.  It's never been any secret that the Empire is composed of space Nazis and the name stormtrooper is a part of that.  It doesn't hearken back to the WWI units of the same name, it's all Nazi all the time.

So lets talk about the Nazi stormtroopers from which the Star Wars ones take their name.  Stormtroopers were early adopters of the whole Nazi thing to the point that other Nazi organizations looked up to them.  This was especially true in the SS who modeled their rank structure on stormtroopers and eventually took over all of the stormtrooper duties when the stormtroopers became defunct.

So when we're thinking Final Solution we're thinking SS and the SS are thinking, "Damn we wish, were stormtroopers.  We stole their ranks and their duties, but we never did get the name.  It would be so awesome if we get the name."

And this is one of those wonderful places where connotation and denotation meet and say, "That's what the word unambiguously means."

So, naturally, the black guy is a stormtrooper.  The black guy.  Our only example of a black guy.  It would have been fairly easy to have the role stormtrooper plays in the story taken by the hotshot pilot instead, and then the black guy (why was there only one?) could be in that role instead of the, "We specifically named them after white supremacist fuckheads who genocidal white supremacists want to be like," role.

4 The map: what the fuck?

The map is in two pieces, one of which is had by everyone in the galaxy except for the ones who are trying to find Luke and contains the entire fucking galaxy except for one section.

The other contains the vital endpoint and a really fucking huge section of the galaxy, the galaxy our heroes repeatedly go from one end of to the other, which is completely uncharted because WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

When Han said that the area on the map piece that is the plot device in the movie was uncharted I assumed that it was small.  Then we see how big a swath of the galaxy it takes up and . . . did they just fail to notice that one quadrant of their galaxy existed?

Hell, if they did then they could have said, "Well it's got to be in the uncharted section so we'll just go around there at random until we find some of the stuff on the map," and it would have worked.  The map fragment covered to large of an area for it not to work fairly quickly.

5 Is light-saber fencing an important of storm-trooper training.  Did Fin pick it up in his time at sanitation?  Or does the bad guy just really, really suck?  I was kind of annoyed (read: very fucking perturbed) that Fin didn't give Rey the lightsaber a lot sooner because, "Give the obvious fucking Jedi to-be who can apparently pull knowledge straight out of the force the god damned lightsaber already."

Fin has difficulty picking up the art of shooting shit when it's not that different from his training in shooting shit, Rey is already god damned fantastic with melee weapons (see: her and her staff) and is able to pick up, "I know how to fly a space ship," faster than Neo learned Kung Fu.  Fin should have given her the lightsaber the moment they met up with each other again.  Hell, the only reason he was carrying the lightsaber in the first place was to deliver it to her.

6 Um, about that lightsaber. . . part of me really, really wants to know if wise old alien woman with coke bottle glasses also has Luke's severed hand.  A bigger question, though, is why she didn't give some sort of explanation to the others about why Rey should be given the lightsaber.  It would have taken one line:

"I've been keeping that saber here for over three decades, waiting for it to call out to someone.  Until today no one heard a whisper, it shouted to Rey."

Ok, I used two sentences, but you get the idea.

7 People are really annoyed with the saber with the cross guard, I'm honestly not sure why.  Granted the guy who wields it can't sword-fight for shit, but if a blow were going to cut off one of the secondary sabers then with a normal saber said blow would cut off the user's arm so it's still providing more protection (where the blades of the secondary sabers are) than a normal one.  granted it would be easy to make a design without that flaw, but someone would have to hit it just right to exploit that flaw which is a lot better than, "Anywhere between the wrist and ... the entire rest of the body," we see in traditional sabers.

8 Why is our not-Sith antagonist so really, really under-trained?  Is there some rule that you have to get your ass kicked in a light-saber duel before the evil boss will teach you the fun stuff?

9 R2 woke up when he did why?

10 Han seriously didn't see the double-cross coming?  It wasn't even a double-cross, it was exactly what you'd expect.  A single cross?

Granted being completely vulnerable might be a necessary part of trying to get bad kid to turn good kid since you can't really do the whole spiel if you're trying to kill him, but surprise was totally uncalled for.

11 Did the force wake up?  Someone said, "There's been an awakening," in a pseudo title-drop but nothing in the movie really seemed to imply that.  There's one force powerful person who starts doing forcey force related stuff.  Hardly a sign that an omnipresent thing that flows from, through, and around every living thing in the entire galaxy (and possibly universe) has ended it's nap.

If the omnipresent super-powerful thing is waking up should the results be more omni and less isolated?

12 Bad guy can stop a single blaster bolt in mid air and can block shit with his saber.  Why is no one trying some laser Gatling gun on him?  Or, you know, orbital bombardment.

13 In a movie that played up the space Nazi angle so god damned much that they almost "Sieg Heil"ed and they did implement what they thought was a final solution (even if it was far less surgical in its killing than the actual final solution) why the fuck was the only black guy starting out on the Nazi side?  Yes, I know this was three too, but seriously, they really pulled out the stops on Nazi-esque imagery with, in particular, an evil rally of evil that was clearly meant to evoke, "Nazis!" in the mind of the viewer.

14 Han never tried out Chewie's crossbow before?  Seriously?  If nothing else you'd think the fact that it's a damned energy crossbow would evoke some interest given that that makes no sense and thus has high novelty factor.

15 How the fuck is Luke a threat or a hope?  The resistance doesn't seem to have an army of, "We'd be Jedi if we just had a teacher," lying about the place.  Ignore the points I raised in one about Luke being in self imposed exile and thus apparently not wanting to be found.  Say that he really wanted to return but his ship was broken and the map thing makes sense, which it doesn't.

All of the motivation and finding related plotholes disappear.

Even then, what difference does he make?  Everyone's all about saying he's game changer who will, depending on your point of view, bring salvation or destruction because as the last air-bender Jedi he can resurrect the order.  But how?

Unless Korra throws a wrench into the way things are that actually awakens the force so that Jedi start popping up all over the place, what's Luke going to do?

There don't seem to be any would-be Jedi waiting to be trained, thus there's no way that a teacher could resurrect the order.  Instead Rey is the only one we see and she only showed up after competing attempts to find Luke ended up thrusting her into the middle of things.

But ... without her, and neither side knew about her, there's nothing much Luke can do and thus nothing much to suggest that either side should have finding him be a priority.

16 Where the hell did the god damned map that drives the entire plot of the movie come from?  No one knows where he went because he just disappeared but there happens to be a two piece map that shows his entire journey from start to finish that both the new empire and R2 have the vast majority of and a random other person has the missing piece of?

It would have made a lot more sense if the Millennium Falcon had been the macguffin.  Luke's whereabouts were transmitted to the Falcon, which was planned, and automatically stored in its databanks but the ship had been stolen so many times that no one knew where it was anymore.  (Seriously, the people who stole it the final time had no idea it even was the Falcon.)

17 There was more but I should have been to bed hours ago and all of the more has leaked out of my tired brain.

"It was remarkably non-terrible for something involving JJ Abrams."
- Lonespark


  1. Really freaking long reply, Part One:

    What, no complaint about the completely nonsensical superweapon? Even by Star Wars standards, firing across the galaxy is pretty WTF.

    1) & 15) Regarding Luke... hasn't that always been a problem? The idea that a Jedi would make all the difference in a galactic conflict? Dark Siders may be hard to kill, but I'm pretty sure you're right and orbital bombardment would do it, or any other hard to avoid massive destruction. (Let's just say the Emperor was doomed as long as the rebellion got the shields down in Return of the Jedi.)

    2) Leia could - for whatever reason - have opted not to become a Jedi. But that should've been in the movie, if that's the case.

    3) & 13) "I was expecting him to at least try to sway the other stormtroopers by pointing out that you don't have to do this, you can totally get out" This is a very good point and one I did wonder about a bit myself. Shouldn't he at least have been conflicted about shooting at people he'd been working alongside an hour ago??? The problem with him being black didn't occur to me, though.* (Though your suggestion of swapping the pilot and stormtrooper roles doesn't really fix the problem, since then the Latino is the stormtrooper...)

    4) & 16) Having the map macguffin be the Falcon would've made ever so much more sense, yes!

    5) I'm still not sure whether Finn's lightsaber fights were supposed to hint that he is also Force Sensitive, if not to Rey's degree. But that does not explain why he didn't immediately give her the lightsaber after they hugged.

    6) Very good point. That was sort of implied, but would've been better stated. (And how in frick did she get that lightsaber in the first place??????)

    8) & 12) Perhaps our emo villain had mostly been trained in Force Use and not lightsaber fighting? Weird supreme commander guy didn't look physically up to teaching fencing, and we don't know how far he'd gotten in his Jedi training before he randomly decided "Eh, I'd rather be evil." But, again, if that's supposed to be the case, it hasn't been made clear.

    9) It was dramatically appropriate. (I got nothin'.)

    1. So, by the way:

      Really freaking long reply, Part One:

      I like really freaking long replies. You said a lot of good stuff.

  2. Part Two:

    10) I'm pretty sure the sensible way to bring your gone-evil son back to his mom is through use of stun settings. His death was waaaaaay telegraphed, since clearly the villain wasn't going to go "Oh, yes, you're right," and quit. (And there's the problem of having the original trilogy's most cynical character die from not being cynical. That's got it's own sort of unfortunate implications.)

    11) No freaking clue. The only way the title could possibly have made sense is if more and more people were turning up Force Sensitive. (Which could get you whole platoons of quitting stormtroopers...)

    14) Yeah...that didn't make a hell of a lot of sense. Would've been better to save that cute idea for the upcoming Han Solo movie. (And I'm 99% sure he'd used it in the old EU. Maybe as early as some of the earliest original spin offs.)

    Motivations do not seem to be JJ Abrams' strong suit. To your list of questions, I'd add:

    - And why, exactly, did emo villain decide to be a villain? What would lead him to idolize Darth Vader, while being raised in a dawing Republic by two of its heroes and then trained by a third?

    - Why did Luke think that fucking off to the middle of nowhere would help anything? Is it just the Jedi way to run away and hide when things go wrong? (If he'd gone looking for something specific to fix whatever went wrong with emo villain, that would've been better. And tie nicely in with your coordinates sent to the Falcon idea.)

    On the up side, they did do a much better job of having the background characters not be all white guys. That is a step in the right direction as far as diversity goes. (As is having the main trio not be all white.) They could - and should - keep adding diversity, of course, but I'll take some diversity (and no gratuitous sexism) over a lot of the recent movies out there.

    But I'm also willing to forgive a lot of incoherence because I do like our new heroic trio. Which is not to say that it wouldn't have been better if someone other than JJ Abrams had been in charge.

    1. 10) I'm pretty sure the sensible way to bring your gone-evil son back to his mom is through use of stun settings. His death was waaaaaay telegraphed, since clearly the villain wasn't going to go "Oh, yes, you're right," and quit. (And there's the problem of having the original trilogy's most cynical character die from not being cynical. That's got it's own sort of unfortunate implications.)

      Yeah. This. I did intially think Han might kill him, or get Chewie to kill him, especially if he was all, "Redemptions?!? FUCK NO!!!" Not a good message, but worth considering? Probably wouldn't work, may have been tried, etc.

      I would imagine Han would have grown less cynical in some ways over the years... Luke, and Leia and the Rebels tho Luke seems the most idealistic of the bunch, rub off on him some even in the original trilogy...

      Of course that would followed by reverting to being cynical and bitter again before TFA starts...

      I would be totally there for a Leia vs. Ren showdown. "I brought you into this galaxy and I can damn well take you out!" or whatever. Probably not appropriate to the characters or the 'verse, but it's a kind of storyline I like...

    2. I'm just not sure "become less cynical, die for it" is a terribly good message, even if it isn't an intended one.

      Though you bring up a good point about Leia. Do we get a clear explanation of why she doesn't go with them? Because she's a resistance leader? That sure as hell didn't stop her when she was a rebellion leader.

  3. (Side note: now I feel conflicted about having a non-white good Imperial in my fan fic. :\ On the one hand, I don't actually have any white heroes. On the other hand, you make a good point about unfortunate implications.)

  4. Great, you've watched it, now I can comment here without being afraid to spoil you. My largest problem with the movie is actually related to something you describe in your post about the Expanded Universe ( ).

    Starkiller Base is unnecessary.

    The main plotline works just as well without it, Han+Chewie+Finn already have motivation enough to get to the First Order headquarters. If there was no Starkiller Base, the First Order would be no threat to the new Republic. Instead it becomes a local group of Empire-admirers who want to resurrect the glories of the past. They are only a threat to people in the territory they control. The resistance is also a local group and Leia is there because of her sons role in the First Order (she says as much in the movie, I think).

    Now, this wouldn't be the completely different stories about the sustained good time, but it would be characters dealing with the shadows of a past galactic threat instead of a few galactic threat emerging.

    And in the movie itself the superweapon seems really tacked on. Unlike both Death Stars it appears rather late and is not tied that much into the rest of the plot. I wouldn't be surprised if one could easily edit it out without the movie loosing much.

    Two other things that somewhat bugged me:

    Script revisions

    Maybe Starkiller Base was actually tacked on. I've heard that the script went through significant changes early on. First Micheal Arndt wrote one, but JJ said that the original crew didn't have a large enough role. So they replaced Arndt with Kasdan. I suspect Starkiller Base was added relatively late to play it even safer than they already did with copying another thing from Episode IV.

    But the biggest artifact of the old script is probably the title. The Awakening of the Force, whatever it was supposed to be, has been removed. That's the only way I can explain it, because as you said the Force doesn't awaken in this movie (Rey awakens to the Force).

    I'd really like to see the original drafts, they might have made for an even better movie.

    Missing scenes

    I feel like some rather important scenes from the first and second act have been cut. (Finns change of heart and more Maz Kanata.) Hopefully, they'll be in the extended version.

    Those were my problems with the movie, overall I liked it better than the prequels and less than the originals. I especially liked how they did Kylo Ren. (He seems quite controversial in the fandom, because for many he isn't "badass" like darksiders are apparently supposed to be.) The three new hero's are great as well, but I would have liked to see more of them.

    I might be able to answer three of your questions. Or maybe handwave is a better term:

    5 Is light-saber fencing an important of storm-trooper training.

    We see one stormtrooper fighting against Finn with this energy staff thingy. Maybe they learn that to defend themselves somewhat against Jedi. (But why, if there are no Jedi around?) Skills with the energy staff could have helped Finn to use the light saber to some degree.

    7 People are really annoyed with the saber with the cross guard, I'm honestly not sure why.

    Well, Star Wars is more about aesthetics than logic when it comes to the design. (Most ship designs don't make much sense, but look fitting.) And for some (including me) the crossguard doesn't fit the lightsaber look. YMMV on this.

    14 Han never tried out Chewie's crossbow before? Seriously?

    I didn't get that impression, to be honest. Didn't Han say something like "I love this thing" after firing it, implying that he had fired it before and just wanted to do it again because it's fun? I watched it in German, though, so maybe in English it's clear that he didn't fire it before.

  5. If stormtroopers have the potential to make moral decisions, change sides, etc.…

    …then perhaps it's not great to be gleeful about the mass slaughter of stormtroopers.

  6. I'm not finding where your comments about the black Space Nazi went, but anyway... Finn's also a slave, which is stereotypical and problematic, and makes him such. a. woobie. (and maybe cinnamon roll, if I understand that term correctly?)

    There should definitely be more stuff with First Order defectors, to show different sides of the morality of that, and the ways people deal with having been a number and a weapon...

    1. On the one hand, at least this time around it's the villains with the slave army. On the other hand, we don't seem to be addressing that at all. :\