Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Seven: The Battle of the Thermal Oscillator Begins! (Or: The Dramatic Chronometer Counts Down)

15minutePhasma

01:30:01 – 01:45:00

As we ended our last chapter of the Awakens Edition of the 15-Minute Force, Rey and Kylo Ren had both just learned that Rey is, indeed, strong in the Force. Kylo, who apparently inherited all of his whiny-ass emo genes from Annakin Skywalker (the Hayden Christensen version, not David Prowse or James Earl Jones, of course), goes running to Supreme Leader Snoke to tell on her.

Also, the ginger Nazi, General Hux, attempts to curry favor with Snoke by telling the Supreme Leader that he’s traced the Resistance base to the Ileenium System. This sets the dramatic chronometer to ticking again. The Resistance’s goal is clear. They want to disable or destroy Starkiller Base, rescuing Rey while doing so (which is Finn’s primary motivation), before the First Order is able to destroy the Resistance, once and for all.

In my opinion, we’re still firmly in Act Two of this movie, which began when Rey, Finn and BB-8 escaped from Jakku in the Millennium Falcon, and probably reached its midpoint at Maz Kanata’s castle. The act divisions aren’t as clear-cut in this movie as they were in A New Hope. The Rathtar sequence was a fun reintroduction of Han Solo and Chewbacca to the franchise, and it is Han who brings our new heroes to Maz’s place. The First Order’s invasion of Takodana, the destruction of Maz’s castle, and Rey’s capture by Kylo Ren make a dramatic midpoint. The question that remains in my mind is where exactly does Act Three begin?

As I’ve said before, the tradition holds that the final act begins with a huge briefing scene with holograms, PowerPoint displays, and lots of lights and animation. And, yes, that scene’s coming up. I’m just not convinced that’s where Act Three begins, because there’s another HUGE MOMENT coming up (you know the one I’m talking about) that really sets off the final sequence of movie events. I’m beginning to suspect that this is where Act Two truly transitions into Three.

Let’s go through it together, shall we? We’ll see what you think.

We return to Rey in her obligatory torture cell, where she and Kylo just had their shared epiphany. She flexes her mental Force muscles and attempts to use the Jedi Mind Trick on her guard. She fails twice but succeeds the third time. She gets the guard to unlock her restraints and to drop his blaster as he leaves the room so that she has a weapon.

Kylo returns to the chamber, sees that Rey has escaped, and throws another violent hissy-fit. You know he wouldn’t hesitate to murder an entire village of Tusken Raiders, including women and children. I’d bet he also really, really hates sand.

In the next sequence, we witness General Hux beginning to charge the massive weapon that is Starkiller Base. This is accomplished by drawing power directly from the sun.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for . . .the BIG RESISTANCE BRIEFING SCENE.

As Starkiller Base is charging up, the Resistance All-Stars are discussing it. The First Order has somehow created a “hyper lightspeed weapon” inside the planet itself. Not merely a laser cannon. And Starkiller Base isn’t just another Death Star, as Poe demonstrates using computer-generated images of his own. The Death Star is but a satellite when compared to the size of Starkiller Base.

So, just because this movie is structured almost identically to A New Hope, it’s simply not the same, you see? Starkiller Base is much bigger, and its dials go up to eleven.

Finn, who has the inside scoop as a former Stormtrooper, tells everyone that the weapon uses the power of the sun. As the weapon is charged, the sun is drained until it disappears. Leia confirms that the First Order is charging Starkiller Base now, as they are meeting, and that their system is the next target.

Han wants to know how they can blow it up. There’s always a way to do that. He’s right, you know. That’s known as the Galen Erso Effect.

This leads to talk about a thermal oscillator in Precinct 47. I’ll spare you all the mind-fogging technobabble. Here’s the gist of the conversation: Disable the shields (as per usual), blow up this oscillating thingamabob before D’Qar is blown up (this is key), and then Starkiller Base will implode spectacularly, probably with a cool Praxis ring effect.

An A-Team-like montage of Resistance Base preparations follows. And this is where we should transition into Act Three. But, I don’t think we do. It doesn’t feel right.

Han and Leia have a tender goodbye scene. Leia says, “If you see our son again, bring him home.” Their son is a huge douchebag, but what can you do? Family is family.

We cut back to Starkiller Base, where we get to watch Rey using her newly discovered powers to avoid getting captured.

The Millennium Falcon comes in over Starkiller Base low and hot, plowing through snow-covered forests, and then crashes. This is how Han, Chewie and Finn infiltrate the enemy base. Subtle and low-key.

Cut to: Kylo Ren, ordering the Stormtroopers to put every hangar on lock-down, because Rey is going to attempt to steal a ship. Duh. But, Kylo stops, mid-sentence. His Spidey senses are tingling.

Han Solo,” he says. Why not “Dad” or “Father”? Disrespectful punk wannabe Sith gutter trash. You’re supposed to hate the villain, right?

As Han, Finn and Chewie begin making their way to some conveniently placed flooding tunnels to gain access to the base, Finn reveals that he worked in Sanitation when he was based here. When Han asks him how he knows how to disable the shields if he worked in Sanitation, Finn admits that he doesn’t. He’s just there to rescue Rey. Han is frustrated by this new development. Finn lies a lot, it seems. You can take the man out of the Stormtrooper, but you can’t take the Stormtrooper out of the man.

Finn says they’ll figure it out. They’ll just use the Force or something.

Back to give General Hux a bit more screen time. A First Order officer announces that the weapon will be charged in fifteen minutes. That means D’Qar gets destroyed in fifteen minutes. The chronometer is ticking loudly now.

Han, Finn and Chewie infiltrate the base. Finn says he has an idea about the shields. This idea turns out to be to take Captain Phasma as a hostage. Just when I thought introducing a chrome-plated female Stormtrooper captain was just an excuse to sell more toys, Phasma proves to be integral to the plot. Finn takes a moment to gloat in the presence of his former commander, letting her know that he is no longer FN-2187.

We’re back with Rey, who is making like Spider-Man down a sheer wall (hey, this is my second Spider-Man reference in this chapter) into that other time-honored Star Wars trope—the dizzyingly bottomless chasm. Our scavenger girl is both skilled and resourceful. She finds a service hatch and climbs inside.

In a control room of some sort, Finn orders Captain Phasma to lower the shields. I know she’s being threatened with blasters, but it seems to me like Phasma buckles a little too easily. A hardass First Order officer should be willing to die before doing something like lowering the shields to allow the Resistance the opportunity to blow up the entire base. Something smells a little off with this to me. Is Phasma secretly a Resistance symathizer? Finn couldn’t have been the only Stormtrooper who had doubts about his mission.

Since the Resistance becomes aware that the shields are down, the Battle of the Thermal Oscillator can begin. As Poe Dameron leads the attack on the huge important target thing, Han and Finn begin to make preparations to locate Rey. You would have thought they would have asked Captain Phasma where Rey was being held before chucking her down a garbage chute, but what can you do? The plans are unnecessary, however, because Han spots Rey scaling one of those sheer walls. They are quickly reunited with Rey. She hugs Finn affectionately.

Han says, “Escape now. Hug later.”

Some exciting battle footage follows. The Resistance force doesn’t seem to be making a dent in the hexagonal thermal oscillator. As they are escaping from the base, Han realizes this and says they can’t leave yet. Chewie has a duffel bag full of explosives and they need to use them to help their friends.

Han, Finn, Rey and Chewie go back into the oscillator itself and begin setting charges on the columns.

Darkness is approaching as the sun is nearly drained. Kylo Ren shows up at the oscillator, wearing his mask again, as we reach the 01:45:00 mark and the end of our chapter. It is my proposition that Act Three begins after the next scene, which seems a little late since Chapter Eight will be our last entry for this movie. Will our heroes be successful? Will Starkiller Base be destroyed? I’m not telling.

Until next chapter . . . My Friend Here Has a Bag Full of Explosives. Let’s Use ‘Em! . . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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