The Horror Honeys: Star Wars VII: The Fandom Awakens

Star Wars VII: The Fandom Awakens

Fan-made Episode VII Poster by Armedia Design
A Head Honey New Release Review by Kat

Star Wars: Episode VII
The Force Awakens (2015)

For over a year now, anywhere Disney's tentacles reach have felt the subtle (well, subtle for Disney anyway) touch of the Force. Teasers, trailers, "leaked" images of the iconic opening crawl, behind the scenes photos, makeup test photos... children's Halloween costumes (seriously, why the fuck doesn't Poe Dameron/Finn's jacket come in adult size?!?), coffee creamers (seriously?) and more useless junk than you can shake a gaffi stick at (with or without accompanying Tusken Raider noises). I've been avoiding ALL trailers (international or otherwise) aside from the theatricals which I sat through with excitement every single time. 

Now that the time is finally here... the awakening has begun, and I'm so goddamn happy about it. Brace yourself, this is going to be a BIG review.


Also – Beware of some serious nerd-face after the jump. I’m also not sorry about that.

IMDb has literally zero information on a plot, so I'm going to go ahead and fix that right now.

The story: In the breakdown of the Empire, a new power has risen from the ashes with the taint of the Dark Side - and the funding of Dubai hotel magnate. The Republic remains and supports the Resistance, who are still made up of the rag-tag bunch of gold-hearted freedom fighters we grew to love and cheer for in the original films – they still have second hand X-Wings too. No longer made up of highly trained, pre-programmed clones, the army of The First Order "forcibly recruits" children and trains them from a young age to be stone cold killers. Rebelling against his training on his first mission, trooper FN-2187 can't bring himself to follow orders and his one focus becomes escape from The First Order. On his desperate quest for freedom FN-2187 is renamed Finn by Resistance pilot Poe Dameron who is on a mission of his own for General Leia Organa. The past and present collide as The First Order struggle to achieve complete control of the galaxy. The Force is out of balance and it’s up to a new generation of heroes to set it right.

Now that I’ve gotten the meat out of the way, it’s time for the fun part. Judgement.

The First Order: If you know anything about history, the The First Order is the Empire on a 1932-era Germany budget, complete with stylish soldiers, fancy weaponry, incredible shock and awe campaigns and enough firepower to blast a hole through the very fabric holding the galaxy together. The snake that is The First Order is run by two heads, each vying for control. The Military – Controlled by the iron fist of General Hux (a spectacularly cast Domhnal Gleeson) and his enforcer Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie - so shiny, so chrome!), who carry out the commands of the Supreme Commander (a strange hologram, aka Andy Serkis) in the strictest manner possible. Military solutions for a military state. They’re efficient, well trained, and ruthless.

Giving Captain Needa & Moff Tarkin realness in a sassy ginger package...
The Force: The First Order has the Dark Side in its corner. The Supreme Leader is a powerful Sith, but thirty years after the fall of the Empire, that word is never uttered. Maybe JJ was tired of hearing it from all of the prequels – but Kylo Ren with his red laser sword (I’ll get to this) is a Sith, and he’s more conflicted than Anakin in the beginning of Episode III (I’ll get to that too).

What’s familiar: That’s no moon... that’s the Starkiller (Nerd note: Disney is on point with their history and there are loving McQuarrie references scattered throughout the film and other properties Disney has touched – see Rebels if you’re curious.). It’s a fucking planet that is also a weapon, a super long range weapon powered by literally killing a star to create its destructive power.

The Resistance: Led by General Organa (Carrie Fisher, OBVS), the Resistance is the military arm of the Republic who are still fighting for balance in the galaxy against the forces of The First Order. Although they don’t seem to have a *clear* mission, The Resistance opposes the totalitarian regime planned by The First Order, and do everything in their power to foil their expensive looking plans. I am actually genuinely concerned with what the Resistance is doing... because when it comes down to durasteel tacks, the catalyst for the action of the film begins with sending the best pilot they have (Poe Dameron – a sadly beardless Oscar Isaac) on a *personal errand* for General Organa. Conveniently, this personal errand also coincides with some random ass plan that the First Order is also obsessed with.

Once again, the fate of a whackload of people is being protected by an
easily recognizable (and adorable) droid that needs to be rescued a lot & is bad at stairs.
Love you, BB-8!
What's familiar: There are many familiar faces within the Resistance, there’s even a new Porkins (but he survives this one) and I’m guessing we’ll find out how old Nien Nunb is at some point. Dude has survived a long time for the sake of some ‘interesting’ Sallustan prosthetic work. Also, as previously mentioned, the Resistance seems to have the same funding it did in the original series, but the individual paint jobs on the X-Wings and usage of original droids and materials are a nice touch.

Oh wait... What’s that oh so important personal errand, you ask? As though JJ is already planning his next Star Trek sequel, the entire point of Star Wars VII is finding Luke Skywalker. Years ago, the only Jedi in the galaxy ran away from his responsibilities like any good Skywalker would after things went sour with his only student. Talk about sensitive.

As only Disney can, the two opposing factions are painted with the broad brush of good versus evil. Powered by the Dark Side, The First Order is all about evil, they kill indiscriminately, lust for power and act without remorse. In short, they’re awesome. The Rebellion is powered by reason, balance and obviously roll with the Light Side. However, with Luke Skywalker missing, The Rebellion is down a spiritual figurehead, leaving them vulnerable.

Operating between these two powers are the Rebels. Allied with neither the light nor the dark, the Rebels are out for themselves... at least in the beginning they are. Freed from his military slavery, Finn (a fantastically relatable John Boyega) is desperate for an escape from the terror of his life within The First Order, and he’ll do anything to get as far away as possible. Rey (a STUNNINGLY incredible Daisy Ridley) has her own deal, and her stakes in the game are really focused on taking her back to the sandbox we first met her on – however, our girl has a heart bigger than the Millennium Falcon and her focus changes as the film progresses. Han Solo is the same scruffy looking nerf-herder he always has been – only this time he’s a curmudgeonly grump too. As per usual, Han has his own agenda wrapped up within the greater scheme of things, and a huge amount of his screen time is spent reminding you just how scoundrel-ish he still is - I’m also not complaining.

Main Characters:

Han Solo – The smuggler has aged, but he’s still as rascally as ever. Han and Leia have separated (hello, she’s General Organa... not General Solo) but they try to keep things civil for the sake of their children. Han gallivants around the galaxy borrowing money where he shouldn’t and running afoul of baddies right and left. Some people never learn. Absentee father and a smuggler’s equivalent of a deadbeat dad, Han is the perfect example of what happens when you never grow up and face the life you’ve chosen for yourself. It’s always easier to run away, isn’t it? Sorry Chewy... you don’t actually get a character arc, but it’s because you’re a Wookie (is that racist?).

Luke Skywalker – Everyone needs to calm their tits about Mark Hamil not being in anything to do with the film, promo-wise. He’s in it for five minutes, and that’s being generous. Plus, for a voiceover actor with a resume that’s longer than the lineup for the midnight showing for this film, to have him not speak any lines is almost an insult. Do we get more in Star Wars VIII? Let’s fucking hope so.

Rey - There are female characters in sci-fi films, and then you have Ripley, Starbuck, Leia Organa and Rey. If ever there was a character that personified the empty vessel, whatever their arc, it doesn’t compare to Rey. Strong, vulnerable, powerful, brave, honest and open, Rey personifies everything that women in sci-fi should be and I loved the fact that any attempt to turn her into a love interest or a victim was overpowered and pushed aside in meaningful ways that didn’t feel forced or pandering. Her journey took twists and turns that I could never have expected, and her story isn’t over, not by a long shot, and I can’t wait for more. I love you, Rey... where were you when I was ten? Nerdface: I’m pretty certain (96%) that Rey is a Skywalker. The Force is strong in my family...

Finn – Oh Finn. Another empty vessel, Finn is full of doubt, fear, and desperation and his story carries the audience through every single emotion without stumbling over the Disney-isms I was worried would appear. Finn is deeply flawed, and wears it not as a badge of honor, but as a man who wants to do better – better for himself, and better for his friends. Of course, we learn some Disney lessons along the way, but like Rey’s sass, these lessons feel organic and heartfelt instead of phony and stapled to the character. There is no one in this movie I want to be friends with more than Finn.

"No, we'll take a ship that's NOT a pile of junk! I mean..."
Poe Dameron – We only meet Poe on the surface of the film’s action as he skims along the spine of the storyline, but he’s worth mentioning for a few reasons. An ace pilot, Dameron is the new Biggs Darklighter, and he’s a badass as well as a fearless rogue – the excitement on his face when he’s piloting that Tie Fighter is the best ever. Poe Dameron is everything I ever wanted Han Solo to be, but wrapped in a more parent-friendly package. Even though you want to marry Han, you should really take Poe home to meet mom instead, is what I’m saying.

Hey boo. Mom wants to know if you're allergic to anything. Dinner's at 6!
Captain Phasma - Phasma, girl, I’ve been waiting for you for SO long. However, I’d be LYING if I didn’t say how disappointed I am in the build-up of this character who ended up being stuffed down a garbage chute seemingly without a fight. Phasma has been touted as the worst of the First Order bunch, but I didn’t see that in SWVII. By Disney terms, yes, she was awful... but we’ve seen worse. I can only hope that Phasma’s true colors come out in one of the subsequent sequels, because I am UNSATISFIED.

Kylo Ren – Hoo boy. Continuing the great tradition of the films that came before it, Kylo Ren is no empty cup. There’s no room for anything but the Dark Side in there with his daddy issues. Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo) has to be the only character in Star Wars VII that disappointed me. At the risk of sounding ageist, I was disappointed when his unmasking came and a fresh faced Sci-Fi Snape (Yes, I’m aware that Adam Driver is the same age as my younger brother, but he looks 19) appeared on the screen. However... that definitely explains his temper tantrums wherein he destroyed expensive looking space computers with his laser sword. Unlike Vader, (Ren’s grandfather, whom he desperately tries to emulate at every turn – and I say desperately in the truest sense of that word.) Kylo Ren is rash, undisciplined, and conflicted, and while this would normally be the makings of a great Sith Lord, his vacillation is tiresome and makes you long for the days when Darth Tyranus was the power behind the Imperial throne.

It's really time to get rid of that, yo...
Wait, how did you get that anyway?
Actually... I don't want to know.
The Disney-est moment of all is the biggest spoiler of the film, and I won’t give that away. But, suffice to say, the completely metaphorical and literal Light Side vs Dark Side sledgehammer delivery made what could have been an epically poignant moment into one of the most predictable events of the film, which is not what these characters deserved.  #DaddyIssuesSmash

Now, before you leap all over me for pointing out a bunch of nit-picky nonsense... these are legitimate points. Plot and characters are as important as the ‘splosions and Tie Fighter fly-by noises and pew pew pew laser cannons, people.

What I loved:  

The desperately covetous look on Kylo Ren’s face when Finn snapped that blue lightsaber on.
There is NOTHING that can compare with the hum and crackle of a light saber, and the reason I call Kylo Ren’s weapon a laser sword... is because it IS a sword. It’s a broadsword that harnesses and focuses energy. I need to look deeper into the construction of the weapon, because the blade is rough and unfocused, much like Ren himself, and I want to know why. The weapon of the Jedi was an almost forgotten technology when Luke Skywalker was a young man; his saber was made by his father (Ren’s grandfather) when he was a young Padawan on the verge of the Trials. His saber is clean, with a focused crystal and a sharply defined blade edge. A weapon of finesse. Ren’s weapon is the product of an unfocused mind, and his grandfather’s saber is a stark reminder of something he will never attain.

The moment those X-Wings skimmed the water...
I won’t even lie and say that I kept my cool during the flight scenes. Being able to FINALLY see what the starships (fighters and freighters alike) could really do when given the proper VFX technology. We’ve had the specs and descriptions from the books for years, but to finally be able to see it on screen was breathtaking. I will never look at the Falcon the same way again (damn those original evasive maneuvers).

Maz Kanata’s cantina:
Given the dubious role of becoming the “new Yoda,” Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata is nothing like Yoda, and that’s the best thing ever. JJ truly took some of the most enduring images from the original films and inserted them in such a way as to make them seamlessly new and fresh, while retaining their original appeal and nostalgia factor. Did I love the original Cantina scene? Of course I did... did I like this better? Hell yes. Maz Kanata herself is a delightful addition to the canon cast – ancient wisdom imparted by women is different than ancient wisdom imparted by men, and the feel of Kanata’s lessons are gentle and encouraging even when delivering painful truths. I don’t know that the same can be said for Master Yoda’s teachings which were undeniably soaked with disappointment, and admonishment. I want Maz Kanata’s cantina to be my new hangout.

Give me that jacket!
How UN-Disney it really was:
Star Wars VII was dark, dirty and nothing like I was expecting. Just like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron in their own ways were dark and vicious, so too with Star Wars VII. I don’t know if I was expecting to see bloodless kills, see some crazy "don't you love these silly droids? How about some Bantha poodo?" or experience some heart-warming lessons and then perhaps build a SnowWookie, but Disney surprised me with its apparent hands-off approach to the material. Perhaps on subsequent viewings, I’ll find more of their mousey fingerprints, but my first impression is of a genuine attempt to make their additions to the canon valuable ones that appeal to a broad range of fans, and not just the little ones who will live to see the end of the movie cycle. It’s nice to not be forgotten for once.

The times I felt some feels:

  • When the first bars of that theme music ripped through the theatre.
  • When Han stepped into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and gave that signature smirk.
  • When I got out of my seat to tell some old bastard to stop taking pictures with the flash on and filming the movie on his iPhone.
  • Rey and Leia’s heartfelt embrace that was more reminiscent of relatives than strangers who had barely met. Leia’s force sensitive... don’t discount that.
  • The look on Rey’s face as she held Anakin Skywalker’s saber out to Luke in the final moments of the film. That emotional rage, people... you’re killin’ me!

As an undeniably passionate Star Wars fan, yes, I did have some issues with Star Wars VII, but overall, they were small issues, and SWVII  ranks in the higher end of the sequel offerings thus far (plus, I didn't see ONE lens flare... so take THAT all the JJ Abrams nay-sayers who were baiting me when his role was announced - you know who are you are!). I will definitely be seeing SWVII over and over and over again just to make sure that I’ve seen everything properly... and then I’ll be buying it on blu-ray and watching it once a day every day after Mad Max: Fury Road until the next film comes out.

Head Honey Verdict: 4.5 understandably disgruntled Stormtroopers out of 5  

For those interested, this is my OFFICIAL Star Wars film ranking list (best to worst - all have their merits and demerits):

  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • A New Hope
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network Series 2003 - 2005)
  • Return of the Jedi 
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network Series 2008-2015)
  • Attack of the Clones (2002 Episode II)
  • The Clone Wars (2008)  
  • The Phantom Menace  

Want to talk Star Wars
Find me on Twitter: @horrorhoneys