Sunday, April 10, 2016

Is 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' about running away?

Symbolic of the diehard "Star Wars" fan that I am, I've watched the "Rogue One" trailer multiple times. And I wrote a review.

Two days before that, I bought "The Force Awakens" on Blu-ray — the day it was released.

Having watched the seventh "Star Wars" film for the fourth time (three times in the theater, baby! and once [so far] this weekend), I had a sudden realization: "The Force Awakens" is about the main characters running away — from various circumstances into new ones.

So get ready for a spoiler-ific review (yet another!) of director J.J. Abrams' delightful film.

Finn runs from the oppression of the First Order.

By the time he encounters Rey on Jakku, he's on a journey to ensure Poe Dameron's droid BB-8 makes its way to the Resistance with the very important information it contains.

Shortly after Han Solo introduces Finn to Maz Kanata, the former Stormtrooper is ready to run from his present situation. He doesn't see there's any way the First Order isn't hunting them and seeks a way off Takodana.

But when Kylo Ren kidnaps Rey, Finn is determined to save his new friend.

Rey does her share of running too.

She and Finn literally run from Stormtroopers and TIE Fighters who are looking for Finn on Jakku.

The gritty, brave and gutsy Rey isn't one who is afraid of a fight but after a disturbing Force vision after touching Luke Skywalker's original lightsaber (which initially belonged to his father), she flees Maz Kanata's palace — only to be pursued deeper into the woods by Kylo Ren. (Why exactly is he obsessed with the young woman? I suspect it has to do with who Rey is and what her parentage is — and whose Ren's parents are, if you catch my drift.) 

Then once Rey instinctually uses the Force to escape being Ren's captive, she's running away from Stormtroopers on Starkiller Base (just as Obi-Wan Kenobi did on the first Death Star in "Episode IV - A New Hope"). In this op-ed, I detail why "The Force Awakens" is more than just an homage to the original "Star Wars" film. 

On a less literal note, Kylo Ren runs away from his heritage.

As Ben Solo, he betrayed Skywalker with a coup at the new Jedi Academy — by murdering other apprentices. Solo names himself, or is named, Kylo Ren, follows the Dark Side of the Force as a Darth Vader-esque Knight of Ren.

Needless to say, Solo/Ren turns his back on his family.

Yet he's obsessed with his grandfather's ugly reign as Darth Vader, promising he'll "finish what you started." (What that is will be explored in the rest of the trilogy, no doubt.) Kylo Ren commits the worst of atrocities [major spoiler alert!] by murdering his father, Han Solo, in cold blood. [end spoiler]

Yet I suspect Ren isn't as committed to the Dark Side as he wants to be and/or wants us to believe. By committing patricide, Ren wants his father to believe he wants "to be free of this pain" — an insinuation he's struggling for redemption — when in fact he's struggling with the Light Side of the Force.

Kylo Ren's pain isn't about struggling over the decision to kill his father, which I indeed believe he was just before he ignited his lightsaber; his pain is dealing with being half-trained in the Dark Side and the pull back to the Light Side. This tension should be one of the major plot points in the rest of trilogy.

Han Solo, after his son was christened Kylo Ren, also ran away from his family by returning to the smuggling business.

By the time Solo is reunited with his beloved Millennium Falcon and meets Rey and Finn, he's back with the Resistance and before leading a mission to invade Starkiller Base, he attempts to reconnect with General Leia Organa. Leia forces Han to confront his own fears and talks him into attempting to bring their son back to the Light Side.

And of course, Skywalker runs away — the very premise of "The Force Awakens." After all, the First Order has been pursuing "the last Jedi" after he went into hiding following Ben Solo's betrayal. (That's very out of character BTW for Skywalker; he dove straight into confronting Vader despite being in the middle of his training with Yoda in "The Empire Strikes Back.")

The burning question in the closing minutes of "The Force Awakens" is will Skywalker accept his lightsaber from Rey?

Because by doing so, he no longer can separate himself from the universe (as circumstances dictated his two Jedi Masters, Kenobi and Yoda, did). Skywalker's fate and road to redemption is addressing his own failure, Ben Solo's fall to the Dark Side, and training Rey.

Of course, Skywalker will accept Rey's invitation (so much is said without any words spoken by either actor). He's Luke Skywalker, the key to bringing balance to the Force and peace in the universe.

And similarly, Rey is the Skywalker/"New Hope" figure of this new trilogy (even if she's not related to Luke). She's the raw Jedi talent on whose shoulders that balance will be found — the savior-figure who must learn the ways of the Force from Skywalker and then redeem Kylo Ren/Ben Solo.

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