Thursday, January 7, 2016

Not All Victories Last Forever: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

I decided to write my thoughts on TFA.  #TheForceAwakens.  One quick thing before I go deep into it: Rey.  I love stories with strong female characters.  What a fucking awesome way to introduce a new badass!

Also, there might be cursing.  Just so you know.

Star Wars is kinda religion for me.  For me and a close-knit cadre of friends, it formed the core of our identity for awhile.  We didn't dislike Star Trek.  But the Expanded Universe formed this mythological panorama for us.  When they said they'd chosen to abandon the EU as canon, well, I started to refer to myself as "Protestant."

I think I have to retract my opinion.  The hot sloppy doggedness of the new Star Wars changed my mind.  Fuck me.  I didn't expect them to do something Lucas wouldn't do.  Neat.

Ok.  Time to get into this mad ramble then!

The Changes

The thing about The Force Awakens is its unabashed callbacks. This makes it different from the prequels.  George Lucas, naturally, doesn't like that.  His choice to step away from the project is unfortunate on one hand.  But on the other, is an example of a creator enabling others to play in their creation.  Which is strange to have Disney being the enabler.  Very strange indeedy.

The prequels didn't callback to the original trilogy.  At least, not well.  TFA gets away with it by making a obvious choice.  It chooses to treat Star Wars as Myth.  That alone alters the formula.  Yes, it seems to repeat the beats from A New Hope.  Which is the point.

Star Wars is Myth.  Its structure can be an inherent guide.  Characters have filled in key roles.  The Hero.  The Guardian.  The Mentor.  The Trickster.  The Wookiee.  They've crossed the critical junctures, which happen to be the same ones as A New Hope.

Which gets to my favorite point: Rey and Finn.  They both fill the role of new protagonists in this new part of the saga.  Where Luke is the Hero of the last part, these two walk into the role.  Rey herself seems almost "super-jedi" at parts of the movie.  Yet, Luke had minimal training before Yoda.  He could do many of the things Rey did.

Here's the core role: Finn and Rey are the young heroes who learn the legends are true.  Both make the refusal.  Both are offered the chance and refuse.  Anything that feels like repetition, that's because myth is one of those intrinsic human storytelling things.

Comings and Goings

I could go into the music or something else about TFA.  But there is this deeper message in the movie I think my head will prefer to wrap itself around.  The saga welcomes in a new generation.  That's necessary.  The callbacks are needed to remind us what this universe is like.

Hence Han telling us in the trailer "We're Home."

Even though it feels like we've done this story before, The Force Awakens has a darker message in it.  It tells us we can't rely on the victories of the previous generation.  Our heroes will falter or fail to keep the darkness at bay.  That you have to face the darkness in your time.

The First Order has no old people in it.  Looking back at it, you don't see that at first.  But most of the aged at in the Resistance and the Republic.  The First Order are a violent insurgency.  The kind that arises that wants the return of Tyranny.

In Orson Scott Card's novel Empire, one character explains succinctly.  Americans will accept a Rome-style Emperor, if he'd promise to preserve their constitutional rights.  That's the truly frightening thing about the Nazis we forget.  The context.  The meaning of fascism comes from a honest, decent place.  The Dark Side is born from a well-intentioned place.

It's the idea that sometimes you should wrest power because it's necessary.  You should become the monster for the sake of the greater good.  That's one of the themes of Dune.  These are the core issues of Darth Vader as a character (before the Prequels over explained it).  Winning the war didn't fix the galaxy.

The Force Awakens tells us the legends are true.  It seems that the First Order has betrayed the last generation's ideals.  The First Order, these are young people convinced that the galaxy needs strength.  That they need to grasp power.

The warning is pretty simple.  The war doesn't end.  There is always another hideous weapon.  There is always a shadow that needs confronted.  The Force Awakens tells us that each generation should prepare. Always prepare for when their legends become true.

And that's why I loved Episode VII.