Saturday, March 5, 2016

STAR WARS: The Franchise Awakens - Back Into the Belly of the Beast

As I’ve said before, most of the third act of EPISODE VII doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the story we have been following up until this point in the movie.

In a Resistance briefing, Poe Dameron reports that recon patrols (performed by Snap Wexley) have allowed them to put together a ridiculously detailed 3-D schematic of Starkiller Base, inside and out. From this they have discovered that the First Order’s superweapon draws power from the sun and is capable of destroying planets.

I know we need the story move forward and I guess we need to give the Resistance something to do that pays homage to the final sequence in EPISODE IV, but the Starkiller plans are almost too easy to obtain. I’m glad obtaining them wasn’t the central plot of this movie because that would have been too similar to EPISODE IV, but they have a working technical schematic of the entire installation because Snap flew by it a few times. I can accept that sensor technology has advanced to the point where this could be possible, but the entire planet is protected by an energy shield. Shouldn’t it also be shielded against sensor sweeps?

But whatever. They have a meeting with a map and a vague mandate to blow something up, so that’s all you need to know going into the third act. Just to throw back to EPISODE VI and give the established characters something to do, Han volunteers to penetrate the planetary shields and disable them from the inside so that Poe’s X-wing squadron can attack a critical weakness in the device that will hopefully disable the weapon or possibly de-stabilize the entire planet, because... science, I guess. Finn, whose sole interest is still to rescue Rey from Kylo Ren, tells them he knows how to disable the shields so that Han will get him there. And just like that, he’s back in the movie too.

This is actually analogous not only to the attempted rescue of Princess Leia in EPISODE IV, but also to earlier drafts of the first script that had Luke and Han traveling to the Imperial capital, the Cloud City of Alderaan, to rescue Deak Starkiller. In the earliest draft of the script, Annikin has to get aboard the Death Star during the finale to save Leia as Luke Skywalker leads a squadron of Wookiee pilots on a final assault of the space station. Structurally, the end of EPISODE VII matches that setup exactly. Except for allowing Wookiees, who in that draft of the script were as primitive as Ewoks, to fly spaceships. That was pretty irresponsible. 

That would be like sending a squadron of these guys to assault the Death Star.

Which would be ridiculous, because everyone knows space chimps are pacifists...

The Starkiller weapon is currently recharging, conveniently leaving them no time to come up with a better plan or even, it would seem, hash out the exact details of this one. Once they have agreed on the most basic principle of what they need to do, Poe slaps his hands together and says “let’s go!” and everyone just runs off to their spaceships without even looking to Leia to see if she, the ranking officer, might have anything to add.

This part of the movie is mired in clumsy setups and coincidences. While at the Resistance base, BB-8 discovers R2-D2 under a tarp. C-3PO tells him R2 has been in low power mode since Luke left. According to reference material, he is covered out of respect to keep him from gathering dust in a corner while he’s in some kind of robot coma, but it seems a little insensitive when you see it in the movie. They don’t have anything else to do with him but stick him in a closet and throw a sheet over him? 

BB-8 suggests that R2 may have the rest of the map to the first Jedi Temple, because – as we learn from the novelization – R2 catalogued a great deal of the Imperial archives on Coruscant before Luke left and he went into standby mode. Threepio says it’s unlikely that R2 has the rest of the map, and I suppose they can’t actually check because R2’s current state prevents it. C-3PO fears that R2 may never be his old self again.

While the audience fears that R2 has been relegated to the role of plot device.

Han and Leia have a rather profound character moment before he heads off to Starkiller Base. They discuss the fate of their son and, consequently, their marriage (if they ever actually were married in the new canon). Han laments that Kylo had too much Vader in him, giving us an idea that Han’s failure as a father may have been a lack of faith in his son when young Ben Solo had the occasional Dark Side moment. Leia reveals her own weakness as a parent, regretting that she sent their son away to be trained as a Jedi. It sounds like Han kind of disengaged because everything was all about Jedi stuff when it came to dealing with their kid’s problems and he was most likely shut out of those decisions on account of having a zero midichlorian count. At the same time it sounds like Leia put too much emphasis on implementing a Jedi solution instead of a parenting solution, so in their own way they both gave up on and abandoned their son. This, more than any other factor, seems to have led him to seek solace in the power he could gain from the Dark Side of the Force.

"Wanna hear some more of my poetry, Grandfather?"

In the novelization Leia also admits to Han that she knew Snoke had his eye on Ben from very early on, suggesting that they knew Snoke in some capacity. Whether they were aware of him as a villain or he started out as an ally, we don’t know, but it doesn’t sound like he’s some mysterious unidentified figure to Han and Leia.

Han’s final fate is sealed in this conversation. Leia tells Han that she still feels their son can be redeemed and urges him to bring Kylo home if he can. Han’s promise to fulfill his duty as a father will have disastrous consequences for him by the end of the film.

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