This post will be talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In particular, plot points involving the characters from the previous Star Wars movies.
As the title suggests, this post is the sixth of a series of posts, dealing with a specific source of criticism of the movie.The full explanation can be found here.
Tell it to Kanjiklub!
As I explained previously, I’m planning on talking about various elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by examining the 40 allegedly unforgivable plot holes that Professor Seth Abramson recently published on the Huffington Post. Although it might seem as if I’m just a fanboy defending a movie I like (which is partly true) I’m also hoping to explain some insights into the characters/elements that seem to have been wildly misunderstood by some. (By some, I mean Professor Seth Abramson.)
Previously, I talked about 30 of his plot holes that variously dealt with Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, or the First Order. The remaining 10 of his plot holes dealt mostly with the older characters from the franchise (mostly), so I’ll list them here and examine their validity. If this doesn’t interest you, skip down a ways to where I give my thoughts on my childhood heroes from a Galaxy Far Far Away.
2. The wily Han Solo loses track of his most prized possession, the Millennium Falcon, for more than a dozen years. He has no idea where it is — in the entire Galaxy. When you lose something in your house, that’s bad; when you lose something on your planet, you kiss it goodbye but pray for a miracle; when you lose something in the entire Galaxy, you just get on with your life. And yet, less than a minute after Rey begins piloting the Millennium Falcon, Han looks out the window of his freighter and says, “Oh, there it is.”
I think Professor Abramson raises a decent point, but the movie does at least address the issue somewhat.
Han Solo tells Rey that they’ll need to get BB-8 onto a clean ship, and explains that if he could locate the Millennium Falcon with his scanners, the First Order could as well. (Which also explains why Solo doesn’t fly BB-8 immediately to the Resistance base system, but goes to Takodana instead.)
Han has some kind of standing search in place for the Millennium Falcon. I assume it’s looking for some sign of the Falcon’s drive while in space (or whatever, I don’t care) but since it’s been grounded on Jakku, it’s been off his radar. Literally.
But it’s still convenient that Solo found the Falcon minutes after it broke orbit from Jakku. If the ship had made a jump into hyperspace, or some sense of time passing had been communicated to us, it would have made the ship’s discovery more likely, and acceptable. (There was a cut away from Rey and Finn, which maybe we could torturously imagine was a long stretch of time, but no, it was during the emergency repairs, which doesn’t suggest much time could have passed.)
The Star Wars movies are occasionally fast and loose on time and distances (like the Falcon escaping from the Empire near Hoth, and them getting to Bespin in a timeframe that didn’t include centuries) but it’s hard to believe that the Falcon isn’t still right near Jakku. It would be too coincidental for Han to be near Jakku, find the Falcon, and then be surprised that the ship had been on Jakku (as if Jakku was some remote location and not right next door.)
I’ll allow this plot hole.
15. Let’s be clear: Han’s son joins the First Order, and Luke’s attempts to train new Jedis goes horribly wrong, and both men respond to these setbacks by, well, abandoning the Resistance to be utterly slaughtered by the First Order. Luke chills on an island, and Han on a smuggler’s freighter, while untold thousands or millions of innocents are killed by the Order. Can we even comprehend how pissed Leia would be at both of them, and how cowardly Leia (at least the Leia we see in the first three films) would consider them both? And yet she seems only mildly peeved at Luke, and, despite Han implying otherwise, is almost entirely happy to see him when he turns up at the Resistance stronghold.
Well, I’m not happy with the premise, which I believe to be faulty. I have no evidence that Han or even Luke were part of the Resistance, or even if there was a Resistance being used as a proxy force at the time. But let’s pretend Abramson meant to say something less specific (and therefore probably more accurate) that Han left Leia, and Luke went off to some kind of exile.
My gut feeling was that Han and Leia’s split happened before Ben Solo joined the Dark Side. Leia tells Han that she should have never sent their son off to train with Luke. “That’s when I lost you both.” My feeling was that Han wasn’t too keen on his son going off to be a Jedi. He probably had his own opinion but was overruled. Which caused a rift.
Then Ben was lost to them, and that really caused a rift. Look, I’m just guessing, but it seems consistent to me. Especially because Leia seemed regretful for her role. I think there’s a lot of emotional dynamics going on, and our theories need to conform to the performances and what’s said. If the performances and implied facts are at odds with our expectations, maybe our expectations are at fault.
Leia might think Luke’s a coward for going off on his exile. Kind of as cowardly as Ben Kenobi and Yoda, two notorious Jedi cowards who went into impotent exile.
I suspect we’ll get some answers, it wasn’t JJ’s job to supply them.
18. How pissy is it of Luke to (a) abandon the Resistance, and then (b) leave an obnoxiously coy trail of bread-crumbs to sort of (but not really) help people find him (at some unspecified time)? Why did he leave multiple maps out there in the ether, anyway, given that him having done so allows the First Order to find one of them?
Well, I don’t think Luke was abandoning the Resistance, but it’s a question to be answered, of why it’s so important he be away at the first Jedi temple, and not found by the First Order. I can speculate… but I don’t see the need.
And he didn’t leave multiple maps. The
Empire First Order’s information came from their own research into the Empire’s archives (probably based on the fragments of myth about the first Jedi Temple.) They needed the final piece, that apparently Max Von Sydow somehow managed to cobble together.
Are pieces of maps like this typical MacGuffins? Sure. That doesn’t make it an unforgivable plot point. It’s a lot more cogent than say, the Rube Goldberg trail of clues in the third Indiana Jones movie.
19. Why wasn’t the Resistance able to access R2D2’s data archives at any point over the course of the many years Luke was gone? Why did they, instead, simply prop him up in a corner, when they had to know that he knew Luke’s whereabouts — as he always has in the past?
I don’t know, R2-D2 is the expert at hiding information. Especially about not telling Luke that Darth Vader is his father (which he knew) or that the little green guy was Jedi Master Yoda (which he knew.) C3PO was scheduled for memory erasure at the end of Revenge of the Sith, but not R2 for some reason. Unless I’m remembering this all wrong. Someone re-watch the movie and tell me. I can’t bear to.
They either asked him, “Hey, Artoo, where’s Luke?” and he said “Booop” and they took him at his word. And then he powered down. Or they underestimated what he might know. Is it a plot hole? I don’t know.
It’s more of a weirdness that he conveniently woke up with the missing piece. I’ve heard people say that he was in low powermode, number crunching and coming up with the map, but I’d have a hard time accepting that. I’ve thought that maybe Rey’s arrival triggered him to activation mode, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable with a droid having some kind of awareness of the Force.
I want to give Abramson some kind of credit for this, at least. But R2-D2 is so cute! It’s hard for me to not accept whatever he does. Boop!
20. When the Resistance finally figures out where Luke is, after looking for him for many years, why do they send only Chewbacca and a random girl who Leia just met to collect him?
Rey is clearly significant to Leia. When the Falcon returned to Resistance HQ after the Starkiller Base was destroyed, Leia is there to greet her. It’s a touching moment, and one of importance. Leia sends Rey and Chewbacca on their way, and there’s a ceremonial air to it. Leia’s wardrobe and hairstyle reflects a certain stoic pomp.
Rey is being sent, I assume, because she’s the one that has the best chance to find Luke. Maz Kanata has made it clear to Rey that the girl has a connection to Luke Skywalker.
This doesn’t seem wildly far-fetched, for this girl that clearly has some kind of connection to Leia and Luke, to be sent as the Skywalker ambassador.
I respect that it might seem unlikely to Abramson, I just don’t want to award him a point, because I don’t think that rates as unforgivable.
24. Rey says that the Millennium Falcon is “garbage” and hasn’t been flown in many, many years. Indeed, it’s such junk, in her view, that she won’t even board it when she’s about to be ripped to pieces by twenty Tie Fighters. Then she gets on board and it basically flies perfectly. So much so that it’s not at all clear why no one has been flying it, let alone why its owner (Unkar Plutt) hasn’t tried to sell it at any point over the past dozen years — despite the fact that Plutt appears to live in a hovel.
We have to accept that nearly everyone in the Star Wars universe thinks the Millennium Falcon looks like crap. This isn’t a “no one speaks Wookiee” faux-knowledge that Abramson previously asserted. Both princesses and paupers (that would be Leia and Luke) have either called the ship a hunk of junk or questioned its space-worthiness – on first sight. We know the ship is awesome though.
Of course it flies perfectly. That’s what it does! (Unless there’s a plot reason for the hyperdrive to be faulty. Which there wasn’t.)
By the way, there were 2 TIE Fighters, not twenty. But who’s counting? (I was. The professor wasn’t.)
I don’t know why Unkar Plutt hadn’t sold it. He’d been doing a lot of work on the Millennium Falcon, based on all of Rey’s comments. Which implied that she’d been on the ship enough, working with Plutt (and arguing with him about compressors on the hyperdrive) to be familiar with it. But she still thought it was junk because a feature of the Falcon is that it just looks like junk. (I think it looks beautiful, myself.)
Bottom line: It’s the Millennium Falcon, and it’s a legendary ship. All arguments involving it are essentially invalid.
26. Maz Kanata is a friend to the Resistance. So why is she hiding Luke’s light saber from them? Wouldn’t she give them anything she could to help them find Luke, and doesn’t it in fact turn out (as anyone could have supposed) that Luke’s light saber is indeed helpful in tracking the last Jedi down?
Did the lightsaber help them find Luke? I don’t recall that. BB-8 and R2-D2’s tandem map fragments, which apparently were lightsaber independent, were responsible.
So Maz giving the lightsaber to the Resistance wouldn’t have helped them. But Maz might have had some reason to keep it until someone came along that she was meant to give it to. Which was Rey. (Rey refused it, but Maz gave Finn the instructions to get it to her.)
Maz is Force-sensitive, which allows for a certain amount of slack when it comes to things like this.
34. How do the Rathtars on Han’s freighter get loose? If he’s just keeping them loose in the hanger, why don’t they kill him when he’s walking through the freighter toward the Millennium Falcon, or at any other time? And if he’s got them chained up, how do they escape?
Rey frees them inadvertently when trying to lock the gangs behind doors. It’s pretty obvious in the movie. Was Abramson in the bathroom or checking Facebook at that time? I watched every second of the movie. All three times.
35. Why do the Rathtars immediately kill every human they encounter — except Finn, who is randomly dragged off just long enough to be rescued?
I saw a Rathtar eat a guy when Han threw him into the monsters maw. I also saw them hurl guys around, and also drag some guys off. It was lucky for Finn that he wasn’t eaten immediately, but also not necessarily a plot hole.
40. Is there any other film franchise in the history of cinema that would be permitted, by its fans and by critics, to recycle so many plot points? Luke destroys a Death Star; Lando destroys a bigger Death Star; Poe destroys the biggest Death Star. Anakin kills (the Jedi’s) Younglings; Kylo Ren kills (Luke’s) Younglings. Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie end up in a trash compactor; Captain Phasma ends up in a trash compacter. Poe and Finn steal a ship they’re not supposed to steal from a hanger; a young Anakin steals a ship he’s not supposed to steal from a hanger. Luke watches Obi-Wan die; Rey watches Han Solo die. The Emperor and Snoke both appear (at first) exclusively via holograms. The Millennium Falcon negotiates tight spaces at top speeds in every film. There’s a den of iniquity on Tatooine, and a visually identical one on Takodana (Maz Kanata’s home). Rey climbs dangerously on the interior of a Death Star, as did Luke. Han gets shown up (as to military and technical smarts) first by Leia, then many years later by Rey. Obi-Wan disappears where no one can find him but Luke, then Luke disappears where no one can find him but Rey. Kylo Ren and Darth Vader use the Force for an interrogation. The First Order’s General Hux is the same Nazi-with-a-British-accent as every Empire officer or petty official before him. Rey falls in love (we think) with a young scamp, as did Padme. The Resistance headquarters seems to be the same movie set as the Rebel headquarters from decades earlier. Poe is a crack shot, like Luke. BB-8 is the new R2D2. Kylo Ren is related to Han, just as Darth Vader was related to Luke.
Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. I think it’s an interesting discussion to talk about the movie’s echoes of the original Star Wars, with elements from Empire and Jedi. Although Professor Abramson should have stopped after his first sentence. Many of the elements that he’s then singling out as unforgivable offenses are tropes we’d expect to find in Star Wars films.
- Like the Millennium Falcon being an agile ship.
- Like Resistance pilots being skilled.
- Like the Imperial bad guys being Nazi Brits.
Those elements are logically consistent in the franchise.
Many are action movie tropes.
- People see loved ones die.
- People are interrogated.
- People steal vehicles.
Others are hooks into the oft-talked about Hero’s Journey Archetype from Joseph Campbell that so heavily influenced the original Star Wars. In fairness to Professor Abramson, he does bring that up:
Yes, yes, we all know the old refrain “history repeats itself,” and we know too that soap operas (space or otherwise) recreate the basic mythic plotlines long ago identified by Joseph Campbell
And he continues the statement, getting to a fine point for discussion:
but was it really impossible for one of the most expensive, carefully planned, and universally invested-in movies in cinema history to not retread images, plotlines, characters, and tropes from not one but two preceding trilogies under the same title?
Abramson makes some bold statements. Was The Force Awakens the most expensive, carefully planned, and universally invested-in movies in cinema history? I mean, it cost money, and planning when into it, and investment (which might mean emotional investment) but I’d need to see some hard numbers and details to accept that the movie was The Exemplar in those categories.
I’ve also heard that the movie was a rush job. It seems like it sped up into production in a short amount of time. So let’s not pretend that it’s the result of George RR Martin writing the script over a series of decades or something.
But the movie’s plot is derivative of the earlier films, and that’s either going to be a delight or a disappointment. (I shouldn’t be so binary. Everyone will have varying levels of those emotions, they’re not mutually exclusive.)
I’ll cede this point to the professor, since I’m going to talk more about the echoes of the earlier films in my wrap up post when I talk about things I didn’t like.
Spoiler alert… I was delighted and not disappointed, and I’ll be happy to explain why at the proper time.
My thoughts on Rebels and Smugglers
Back in 1977 with the release of Star Wars (later entitled A New Hope – to my chagrin) I was introduced to a princess in rebellion, a young mystical knight-in-training, and a handsome scoundrel. Their adventures were told through two good movies and one mediocre one, and with the end of Return of the Jedi, people had questions.
(My question is still why did the Stormtroopers on Endor didn’t shoot those Ewok? Why surrender and most likely be eaten by them?)
What’s would be the next step in the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han? At the time, Lucas had been talking about two more trilogies, one in the past, and one to carry on the adventures.
But really, we all knew what the future held. Han and Leia would have some Force-sensitive babies, and Luke would train them. There were still a lot of Empire goons around, and so they’d be a problem. Possibly some new weird Dark Side threat would show up.
No movies were being made, so books were written. Han and Leia had some Force-sensitive babies. Luke trained them. Admiral Thrawn, an Empire goon, was around, causing problems. I think there were weird Dark Side threats. (Extended Universe readers, feel free to call me out if I’m wrong.)
There were benefits in setting The Force Awakens 30 years or thereabouts after Return of the Jedi. We got to skip past the part of the story we knew already. In the past, Han and Leia had had a child (at least one), Luke trained him. (Which apparently didn’t stick.) The Empire influence, the Dark Side threat, we didn’t necessarily need to see that play out to get to First Order and Snoke.
But the position and dramatic situation of the original characters was surprising. The opening crawl of the movie intrigued me with Luke Skywalker missing and everyone trying desperately to find him. I was not expecting this huge rift between Han and Leia. And it’s a complicated one.
Leia deeply regrets her role in her son turning to the Dark Side, which drove Han away, for complicated reasons. (At least in my speculation.)
Han suggests that Leia doesn’t want to see him, not because he’s done anything wrong, but because he reminds her too much of Ben. Even though Leia contradicts that statement later, I think it’s true. Han has tried to comfort her in the past, and been rebuffed. That’s why there’s a distance, literally, between them.
When Han goes off to help destroy the Starkiller Base, Leia gives him a mission. “If you see our son, bring him home.” Han is being tasked not just to save Ben, but to save Leia. She needs to have Ben back so she can try to fix what she broke. It haunts her.
It’s why Han risked his life in confronting Kylo Ren. Everyone and everything Han valued depended on it.
Luke’s situation, of course is a mystery. Why did he put himself into exile? Why does Snoke fear him so much? Why is Leia depending on finding him so much? What does she expect him to do? (Since Snoke is so terrified, Leia is probably on to something.)
What happened at Jedi Hogwarts? We haven’t gotten a definitive account, all we have are our assumptions. Was Ben Solo responsible for the massacre?
Or was Luke Skywalker?
Maybe there’s a reason he put himself out in the middle of nowhere.
Han Solo is now dead, and it’s anyone’s guess if
Princess General Leia and Luke Skywalker will still be around when the credits of Episode IX hit. My guess is no.
(Chewbacca will still be around. I like that Wookiee.)
Next up: my last post in this series, where I talk about my problems with The Force Awakens. (I’m allowed to find problems…)
Comments are welcome. Super welcome!
Most images from The Force Awakens, obviously. Rathtar artwork is production artwork for the movie. Shot of Han, Leia, and Luke is from Return of the Jedi. Smug Chewbacca is from the original Star Wars movie.
I make no claims to the images, but some claims to the text. So there. Except for the plot hole quotes that Seth Abramson had in his HuffPo article. Obviously I make no claims to that text, and encourage you to read his entire work there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved