Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Four: Whoa! How Many Hit Points on Those D&D Demons? (Or: Can’t We Slow Things Down with a Cantina Scene?)

15minuteMaz

00:45:01 – 01:00:00

By the way, Han Solo’s new freighter is named the Eravana. I didn’t mention that before because I don’t recall hearing that during the movie. It was on Wookieepedia, though. Everything is. Those of us who toil in the windowless sweatshop that is the 15-Minute Force studio count on the ‘pedia for all of that minutiae that nerds like us crave.

As Chapter Three concluded, Han was trying to talk his way out of a jam between two different criminal gangs, the Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub. It seems Han had borrowed money from both gangs to get the three Rathtars he’s carrying in his ship’s hold for King Prana. Both gangs feel as though Han has hustled them, which, let’s face it, he has. They want their money. Han, of course, doesn’t have it. Things aren’t looking good for our scruffy-looking nerf herder.

Bala-Tik, the only member of the GDG with a speaking part and without a cool helmet, says that BB-8 (who Han insisted come with him and Chewbacca for, well, reasons . . .) looks like an astromech droid that the First Order is looking for. Bala-Tik adds that the First Order is also looking for two fugitives.

Finn and Rey, who have been crawling around under the deck in something that most certainly isn’t a Jefferies tube, realize that they are in trouble. Rey decides to reset fuses to shut the blast doors in the corridor and trap the two gangs. A good plan, except that it doesn’t work. Instead, Rey accidentally releases the Rathtars.

The Rathtar is described in the script as an enormous, fierce and ravenous land octopus. Which implies that land sharks are also a real possibility.  To me, it looks like a demon in a D&D monster manual. It is big and scary-looking, and the CGI effects are very well done.

Back up top with Han, Chewie and the two criminal gangs, banks of lights begin to go out. Han says, because someone has to, “I got a bad feeling about this . . .”

The Rathtars inadvertently come to Han, Chewie and BB-8’s rescue as they begin taking out the two gangs. Finn is grabbed by a Rathtar tentacle and it looks like he’s a goner. He is saved by the ingenuity of Rey, who tracks him on a bank of video monitors, then closes a blast door that severs the tentacle. Our heroic Star Wars princess doesn’t even take credit for saving Finn. Instead, when she’s reunited with Finn, she calls it lucky. She is a selfless hero. She has spunk. And, unlike Lou Grant, I like spunk.

Chewie’s shoulder is wounded by blaster fire. All of our heroes converge upon the Millennium Falcon. They escape by going to lightspeed from the hangar of the freighter itself, something that neither Han nor Rey was sure was possible until they did it. After their escape, Bala-Tik reports to the First Order that Han Solo has the droid they are looking for, and that he’s aboard the Millennium Falcon.

That Han Solo. He is just incapable of not being in the center of all the action.

We switch gears next and return to that wacky duo Kylo Ren and General Hux, who are standing before a giant hologram of Supreme Leader Snoke, who seems to be this new trilogy’s version of Emperor Palpatine. This holo-conference is being held on Starkiller Base, an entire planet that has been converted into an evil superweapon, which makes it this movie’s version of the Death Star. To complete our parallel construction, Kylo Ren equals Darth Vader, and General Hux is some sort of amalgam of Grand Moff Tarkin, Admiral Piett, and all of those other Imperial officers who were Force-choked by Vader.

The giant proportions of Snoke’s hologram suggests that his ego is even larger than Palpatine’s had been. Snoke looks like a cross between Gollum and the Cryptkeeper from HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. His head looks like it has been cloven by a giant war axe, maybe from a Gamorrean Guard, at some point. He is ugly and menacing and evil-looking, and it seems certain that such a character will one day have a rich and entertaining backstory. Hold that thought.

Hux wants to use Starkiller Base to destroy the government of the New Republic and the Resistance (again, what is the Resistance resisting? The New Republic? That doesn’t make sense—the First Order is the true Resistance). Snoke gives him permission to do so. So, Hux is happy that he gets to blow shit up.

Snoke tells Ren that the astromech carrying the map to Skywalker is now in the Millennium Falcon, along with Kylo Ren’s father, Han Solo. Ren says he has no feelings for his father and, because of Snoke’s training, he will not be seduced by the Light Side of the Force. That Han Solo was Kylo Ren’s father was a BIG REVEAL moment in the movie, but, somehow, not really a surprise. I guess it’s safe to assume that Leia is his Moms.

Enough with the bad guys. Let’s return to our heroes. What has Poe Dameron been up to?

Just kidding. We don’t find out anything about Poe yet. He’s more like the Wedge Antilles of this movie. He shows up during climactic scenes. Hero of the Resistance, my ass.

Instead, we return to Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn and BB-8 on board the Falcon, freshly escaped from a predicament that has as much to do with the overarching story of this movie as the Space Slug and Mynock sequence had to do with its movie.

There’s a funny bit with Finn trying to administer first aid to Chewie. Han and Rey continue to bond over piloting stuff. Maybe he’s explaining the best way to land on a golf course.

Han tells Finn “good job” as things settle down. Finn accidentally turns on the holochess game, another awkward-Finn comic moment. You remember the holochess game from the first movie, of course.

BB-8 shows everyone a holographic image of the map in his memory banks. Han says it’s just a piece; it’s not complete. Han explains that people have been looking for Luke ever since he disappeared. When Rey asks why Luke left, Han explains that Luke was training a new generation of Jedi. One boy, an apprentice, turned against him and destroyed it all, but Luke felt responsible. He walked away from everything.

Finn asks Han if he knows what happened to Luke Skywalker. Han says there were a lot of rumors and stories. Those who knew Luke best think he went looking for the first Jedi Temple.

When Rey asks if the Jedi were real, Han launches into his big speech, which made the trailer:

I used to wonder that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo—Magical power holding together good, evil, the Dark Side and the Light . . . Crazy thing is, it’s true. The Force, the Jedi, all of it. It’s all true.”

Han’s come a long way since he dismissed the Force as a hokey ancient religion. He still values a good blaster at his side, though.

Han tells his passengers that they’re going to see an old friend who will get their droid home. They drop out of hyperspace and prepare to land on Takodana. Rey, who has spent her entire life on a desert planet, marvels that she didn’t know that there was this much green in the whole galaxy. The Millennium Falcon lands near a large castle. This is Maz’s place.

Before they get to the castle, Finn tries to convince Han that he’s a big deal in the Resistance, and he wants to know if there are any conspirators here, First Order sympathizers.

Han says, “Listen, Big Deal, you’ve got another problem. Women always figure out the truth.” Han isn’t as gullible as Rey is. He knows that Finn is lying. Han just doesn’t care.

Han gives Rey a blaster, then offers her a job with him and Chewie. She has impressed Han that much. Rey is flattered, even seems to consider it, but finally says that she has to return to Jakku. She’s already been away too long. That’s a big part of her character motivation: She’s waiting for her parents to return to Jakku to pick her up.

Han reveals that they are here to see Maz Kanata to get BB-8 onto a “clean” ship. The Falcon was too easy to locate on scanners. Maz has run her cantina here for a thousand years, which makes her pretty old.

This movie continues to mash all those old buttons with its callbacks to A New Hope. Maz Kanata’s Cantina is a stand-in for the Mos Eisley Cantina, of course. Another wretched hive of scum and villainy. This one with a quirky proprietor. Maz Kanata is short and wears adjustable goggles. She greets Han warmly and asks about her “boyfriend,” meaning Chewie. She realizes Han has come only because he needs something.

Before we transition from this scene, we see spies from different sides alerting both the Resistance and the First Order that the BB unit everyone is looking for is at Maz Kanata’s castle.

We get a short scene with Kylo Ren monologuing to Darth Vader’s old mask, which is melted and disfigured from Anakin Skywalker’s funeral pyre. This is Kylo’s “Alas, Poor Yorick” moment, in which we discover that his struggle is a temptation to turn to the Light Side. It’s the opposite of Luke Skywalker’s struggle in the original trilogy. Kylo wants his dead grandfather to give him the strength to resist turning away from evil.

When we return to Maz and Han, Maz is saying, “A map to Skywalker himself? You’re right back in the mess.” With this astute observation, we find ourselves at the end of our chapter. As this chapter of the Awakens Edition of the 15-Minute Force comes to a close, we seem to be at the midpoint of the movie, or close to it, which makes this also the midpoint of Act Two. We’ve slowed down the action for a moment to drop some more exposition and highlight a couple of important plot points. And this is where we will begin next time.

Until then . . . It’s True. The Force, The Jedi, All of It. It’s All True . . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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