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In two parts: my thinky thoughts and my flail. I haven't read any other reviews so this is only informed by my long conversation over a post-movie dinner with some of my usual suspects.

With my stand-back-and-try-for-a-tiny-bit-of-objectivity hat, I think this ultimately wasn't a very original movie, and not just in the sense of it being very obviously part of the franchise and doing a lot of things to be as visually similar to the original trilogy as possible. (Visually speaking, btw, I enjoyed it very much - I saw it in 2D. My favourite shot, although it was terribly OTT, was the shot on the bridge of Han and Ben or whatever his Sith name is with the white light coming through. It looked liked Lord of the Rings concept art and I loved it.) But the overarching plot of the movie became evident very quickly.

The same beats were hit. A New Hope has the Death Star; they took the Death Star and made it planet-size. Darth Vader blows up Alderaan; Bill Weasley blows up like seven planets (including, I think, Coruscant?) Obi-Wan dies at the end of A New Hope; Han dies at the end of The Force Awakens. Luke goes off to find Yoda; Rey goes off to find Luke. There was zero suspense in most of the climactic sequences (I had a bit of suspense because I didn't want the sole female X-Wing pilot to die) because you know that Rey is not going to kill Ben, something is going to prevent her from that. So, I mean, this is obviously a deliberate choice to win back the trust lost with The Phantom Menace, but it did make for a movie that felt like very good but not great fanfic: a film that captures and even in a few ways improves upon the originals, without transcending and being terrific in its own right.

Like, the prequel trilogy tries to hit the same beats as the originals (e.g. Qui-Gon instead of Obi-Wan and the identical mentor deaths), and just doesn't do it as well. It is very bad, but it was trying to tell a different story to the originals in the way I don't think The Force Awakens does. I mean, Han even says it: everyone's gone back to doing what they were good at. Leia quit on the New Republic to go lead the Resistance, he went back to smuggling, and our new heroes are a couple of orphans that bump into each other on a desert planet.

I think/hope/wonder if this will change in the second movie, that this movie exists to get people on side, and the second movie will try to take things further. Because this movie isn't adding anything thematic, in my opinion. One thing that might happen that I would like: for this franchise, which is so fundamentally about sons and fathers, to expand its worldview and be, maybe, about sons and mothers? (Or even daughters and mothers. Or both!)

With my more flaily hat on, I did really have a very good movie-viewing experience.
- Rey and Fin are both fantastic, and they had a wonderful chemistry that I really liked. They had a lot of the Leia and Han spark but in a totally different way. I really loved the development of their relationship and of their characters. Fin's story is so good, and I thought the one moment of brilliance in the movie is the moment when you suddenly switch from being in Poe's head to being in Fin's. Really cool and not something we've seen before in this franchise. And a fine bit of acting and directing in terms of the fact that you can't even see Fin's face but you know exactly what he was thinking and feeling the whole time.
- Fin/Poe, obviously. Right? Come on. Ugh.
- REY and being such a badass, omg. Yet this thoroughly good person. I think it would be weirdly cool if she was just some random totally unrelated orphan, but of course SW is far too dynastic for that, she will be some kind of relation - maybe through Padme or someone suggested a possible grandchild of Han and Leia through an older sibling of Ben's (I think the door was open for him to have a sister or sisters, personally).
- A disagreement among friends: I thought Rey had been sold or otherwise deliberately abandoned on Jakku. Others felt her family had been forced to leave her or really had been planning to come back. I look forward to finding this out.
- I don't really enjoy Adam Driver and I was honestly meh on the character but he did have a real Sulky Hayden Christiansen vibe to him, which I enjoyed as a shoutout. It's a lot more bearable in an antagonist rather than a protagonist, too.
- Loved the costumes and the look of the thing, although the Very Obvious Hitler scene was a bit Very Obvious. Clunk, clunk, clunk go the anvils.
- GOD HAN GOD I SAW IT COMING A MILE AWAY BUT FUUUUUUCK OH GOD. the worst bit for me, :(((, is that he and Leia had been APART and they didn't even MAKE OUT before he went away and OH, GOD. oh, god. :((((((((( I will be OK but I'm not OK about it right now.
- Carrie Fisher: fuck you, haters. Still gorgeous. Also, I actually loved her line about them both going back to doing what they were good at. Really unified them as a couple and also in a single brushstroke gave her a lot of adult complexity/flawedness. There was a lot of unhappiness over failure in that line.
- Lupita Nyong'o was amazing (and I loved Mas) but god, wouldn't it have been great to see ACTUAL LUPITA instead of the cgi? yes. it would have. Get on that, sequel, thanks.
- I remember noticing this in JJ Abrams' first Star Trek movie, too: he's about as good as average (i.e., pretty bad) at giving women speaking lines and important roles (although obviously Rey as a protagonist adds a lot from that standpoint, but man, it's still pretty dude-heavy), but I did notice that he made a lot of effort to have plenty of women dressed identically to men and doing exactly the same things as men in his crowd scenes. They weren't 50-50, there weren't necessarily *more* women, but they were just as likely to be fighter pilots or standing around chatting or moving equipment or whatever as dudes were, and I really appreciate that.
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