Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter One: Introducing Luke Skywalker as This Movie’s Maguffin (Or: Let’s Meet Some New Players in an Old Galaxy)

15minuteKylo2

00:00:00 – 00:15:00

I am thrilled to be moving on, finally, to the current Star Wars era of movies. I guess I did that already, sort of, with Rogue One: a Star Wars story, but that was a standalone, without an opening crawl or traditional Star Wars screen wipes. I liked the movie, but now, with The Force Awakens, we’re back on a genuine continuation of the classic trilogy with many familiar characters.

This is not a huge memory lane trip for me. 2015 was only three years ago. I had already left my retailing management career of nearly three decades and had begun working at the U.S. Post Office. Seems like just yesterday. Because yesterday I was still a postal clerk.

I did watch this movie the first time at the theater, with a huge tub of buttered popcorn and a 55-gallon drum of Coca-Cola, which has been my tradition for every Star Wars movie except Rogue One and now, so far, Solo, which I may wait to watch at home. I’m not going to bury the lead here: I loved this movie. It hit all the right notes for me as an OG Star Wars fan, and came the closest of all the movies to duplicating the feeling I had when I watched the original movie way back in 1977.

Sure, J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, and everyone else involved in making this movie, masterfully manipulated my emotions and intentionally evoked memories of the original movie. I realize that, and I don’t care. I left the theater that day exhilarated at this exciting new chapter in the Star Wars saga. I didn’t care that George Lucas was no longer at the reins. After the prequels, it was kind of a relief.

I’m not going to bash George Lucas here, though. He created this intellectual property and has earned his millions upon millions. It was time to hand his baby off to another generation, and the success of this movie is the proof of that.

After the new Lucasfilm logo that doesn’t turn to gold, we get the familiar blue letters:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Cue the John Williams score and our opening crawl.

Luke Skywalker has vanished.

In his absence, the sinister

FIRST ORDER has risen from

the ashes of the Empire

and will not rest until

Skywalker, the last Jedi,

has been destroyed.

With the support of the

REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa

leads a brave RESISTANCE.

She is desperate to find her

brother Luke and gain his

help in restoring peace

and justice to the galaxy.

Leia has sent her most daring

pilot on a secret mission

to Jakku, where an old ally

has discovered a clue to

Luke’s whereabouts . . . .

We do the patented Star Wars pan-down and see what appears to be a blue planet and its moon against the field of stars. Already, I was confused. The opening crawl mentions the planet Jakku, which we find out in a later scene is a desert planet like Tatooine, and it looks different in the establishing shot right before Rey makes her first appearance. In other words, it looks like a brown desert planet. Not blue at all.

As usual, the source for most of my Star Wars information is Wookieepedia (starwars.wikia.com), as well as the movie script at IMSDb (imsdb.com). The ‘pedia cleared up my confusion about this opening shot. It wasn’t a blue planet and a moon. We were looking at two of Jakku’s moons. All of this action takes place in different locations on Jakku.

A huge STAR DESTROYER (I want to call it an Imperial Star Destroyer, but the Empire is over, isn’t it?) comes into view and blocks out the moons. This ship is huge. Four transport ships depart from the destroyer and head for the planet below. As they are moving away from the two objects I mistook as planet and moon earlier, this should have been a clue.

Next, we get a shot of STORMTROOPERS inside one of the transports. This seems like a unique shot in the Star Wars movies. I was initially confused by the inclusion of this image. First, I didn’t realize that the stormtroopers were a part of the FIRST ORDER mentioned in the opening crawl, rather than the Empire. And, second, I didn’t realize we were setting up a stormtrooper character who would become important to the story.

Down on Jakku, we get our first look at the droid BB-8. He’s round and orange-and-white, kind of a motorized soccer ball. I’m not exactly sure how his head stays in place, but it does, and I accept that as fact. I will begrudgingly admit that this droid for the current generation is cute. But, he’s no R2-D2. I remain loyal to the original cute droid.

BB-8 seems to be aware of the oncoming transport ships, and rolls toward the village to raise alarms.

New character POE DAMERON is in the village talking to the Exorcist. Seriously, Max von Sydow is playing the village elder who passes along a secret map to locate Luke Skywalker to Poe, who is wearing pilot garb. When Poe refers to Leia as “the General,” the village elder says, “To me, she’s royalty.” A welcome admission that Leia is now a Disney Princess.

After BB-8 arrives to tell them about the landing soldiers, Poe and BB-8 head for their X-wing fighter. The stormtroopers land and a battle with the villagers ensues. This is a brutal attack, and these stormtroopers seem much more formidable than anything we saw in the original trilogy. Poe and BB-8 get into the X-wing, even taking a few stormtroopers out with the fighter’s guns, but the ship is knocked out of commission by stormtrooper blaster fire.

Here’s our next callback to the original Star Wars movie. Poe gives the secret information to a droid, this time BB-8 instead of Artoo, to get away from the movie villains, which is the First Order and others to be named later. Poe sends the astromech droid away while he continues to try to be a hero. He tells the droid that he’ll come back for him.

While the battle rages on, we’ve seemed to single out one stormtrooper in particular. He goes to help one of his comrades who’s been hit, and the downed stormtrooper leaves a bloody handprint on this one’s helmet. We aren’t given his name yet, but after he was marked I thought of him as Wilson. Still do, kind of.

Then a huge Bad Guy shuttle lands and we get our first look at KYLO REN. He wears a full-faced mask and a hooded cloak. He’s not quite as imposing as Darth Vader for some reason, even before we hear his voice. But, he does have a wicked lightsaber. It makes me think of a steampunk lightsaber. While red, as a Sith Lord’s lightsaber would be, it is loud and crackling and smoking, and has perpendicular smaller laser blades at the hilt like a crosspiece. It is simultaneously less impressive, yet somehow scarier, than the lightsabers we’ve become accustomed to by now. If a lightsaber is a reflection of its bearer, then there is something seriously wrong with Kylo Ren. Something wild and untamed.  As we will soon see is true.

Kylo confronts the Exorcist, looking for the map to Skywalker. The village elder says that Kylo did not rise from the Dark Side and cannot deny the truth that is his family. Hey, clues about parentage. Another Star Wars trope. Kylo counters this by killing the elder with his wicked lightsaber.

Poe fires his blaster at Kylo Ren, and the bad guy uses the Force to freeze the blaster bolt in midair, something we’ve never seen before. Kylo Ren must be extremely strong in the Force. Kylo, using his Force powers, determines that the old man gave the map to Poe. Now Poe Dameron is a captive of the First Order, much in the same way that Princess Leia was captured by the Empire.

CAPTAIN PHASMA is on screen next in her chrome stormtrooper armor. She is the leader of the stormtrooper landing force. She asks Kylo Ren for direction, and he orders her to kill all of the villagers. Without question, Phasma gives the order to her troops, who all begin firing upon the helpless villagers. Except for Wilson, of course. He’s going through something. That’s obvious now.

Obvious to Kylo Ren as well, it seems. He pauses and stares at Wilson for a long moment before continuing on his way.

After the stormtroopers blow up Poe’s X-wing, we head back to the huge Star Destroyer. Poe is escorted from one of the transports. He’s probably not in for a good time.

Bloody Handprint Stormtrooper takes off his helmet. It’s apparent that he’s having a moment of crisis. It’s also obvious that the First Order isn’t using clones as stormtroopers. This is our first black stormtrooper, as far as I know. Captain Phasma approaches him and says, “FN-2187. Submit your blaster for inspection.” I guess she noticed that he wasn’t firing on the villagers as well.

FN-2187. A designation for Wilson, not a name. This will be important later.

Phasma orders FN-2187 to report to her division at once. Things aren’t looking any better for our new stormtrooper pal than they are for Poe Dameron.

We’re not through getting our main characters on stage yet, though. There’s one more.

In her initial appearance on-screen, her features concealed by her mummy-like scavenger garb, this new character looks more like a Tusken Raider than a human. But, when she uncovers her face, we see that this character is a young female. This is REY, the character we’ll be spending most of our time with during this movie. I would call her this movie’s Luke Skywalker if Luke Skywalker wasn’t already in it.  Sort of.  

Rey is scavenging parts from inside a large structure that we later see is a crashed Star Destroyer. Presumably, this is wreckage leftover from the battles that took place around the time of the Battle of Endor.

Rey loads her scavenged parts onto a chunky, motorcycle-like landspeeder and takes them to the Niima Outpost, which is, in some ways, our Mos Eisley stand-in. Or maybe Mos Espa. A large alien creature offers her a “one-quarter portion” in exchange for the salvage.

After a sunset wideshot reminiscent of Tatooine from the first movie, we switch scenes to Rey’s shelter. We find out that her payment at the outpost was actually food, including some sort of loaf that rises after she adds water. Rey barters scavenged parts of old technology in order to feed herself. She’s tracking something, days passed probably, by scratching lines into the wall of her shelter. We see that she lives in humble quarters, which includes what appears to be a homemade doll. She apparently lives alone.

Rey sits outside her shelter and eats her meal. She puts on an old Rebel pilot’s helmet, just goofing around, further demonstrating—like our glimpse of the doll—that she is still young. As the camera pulls back, we see that her shelter is a downed AT-AT. I really like the used, lived-in feel of the world, very much like the original trilogy. And, I like the thought of all the wreckage of the war with the Empire being left scattered throughout the galaxy to rust or be scavenged. It also makes for impressive visuals.

As this chapter of the Awakens Edition of the 15-Minute Force comes to a close, Rey has been alerted by the frantic bleeps and whistles that probably are coming from our new hero droid, BB-8. I believe it is time for a couple of our storylines to begin to converge.

Until next time . . . Remember: The First Order Rose from the Dark Side . . . You Did Not . . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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