HomeMoviesThe Force Awakens - Why It's Not As Good as You Think

The Force Awakens – Why It’s Not As Good as You Think


Now, The Force Awakens is a movie in a franchise, and that means it isn’t meant to entirely stand on its own. It’s free to use the building blocks provided by the previous movies as part of its construction. And the most significant block it utilizes is Han Solo, the fan-favorite smuggler from the original trilogy. He serves as the Obi-Wan in this movie, mentoring our heroes and facing down the villain before tragically meeting his end. On its own, this is a fine decision. It reinforces much of the cyclical nature of the franchise and helps root our interest in the drama by using a character we already know and love. But the thought process behind Han’s inclusion seems to have ended there. For most of the movie his character coasts on the good will of the original trilogy, not bothering to develop his relationships or justify the attachment other characters have to him. For a character like, say, Leia or C-3PO, this is honestly a completely acceptable approach. They’re present for the events and have some influence on the plot, but they’re not important characters in the way that Rey and Finn are, so simply utilizing the existing character is a good way to add some depth to an otherwise sparse role. But this is not true of Han. He is deeply integrated into the movie’s main character relationships, so more effort is needed to justify this connection.


It must be said that the relationship between Luke and Obi-Wan, which the Han-Rey relationship is meant to mirror, is somewhat sparse in terms of meaningful interaction. But it makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity. The first time the two really talk to each other, Obi-Wan becomes the first person to tell Luke what his father was really like, giving him a connection to his past and a new ideal to live up to. Later, Obi-Wan explains the philosophical underpinnings of the Force and gives Luke the training he needs to start down the path of becoming a Jedi knight. Sure, in the end Luke only knew him for a couple days and they didn’t really talk that much, but these are pretty big things that have a meaningful effect on Luke and the person he becomes. Watching the movie, you completely understand why Luke feels such an attachment to him. The same cannot be said for Han and Rey.

When Finn and Rey first meet Han, they express a kind of incredulous adoration: this is Han Solo, the legendary galactic hero! This is pretty obviously meant to mirror our own feelings about Han, which is fine enough. But this adoration never fades and remains the entire underpinning of their relationship, despite how little he does to earn it. In the entire time we see Rey and Han interact, what does he actually do that would inspire the love and respect we are meant to believe that she has for him? Bungle his way through a hostile encounter with some gangs? Fail to compliment her on fixing the ship? Having him screw up and be unfriendly isn’t a problem, mind you. Conflict between characters is key! The problem is that the movie doesn’t treat this as a conflict. As soon as they get to Maz Kanata’s, the movie just pretends they had the kind of bonding that Luke and Obi-Wan did despite never showing it. The anti-social recluse offers a job to a person he barely knows and showed little regard for until this moment, and she is delighted that her hero who has done nothing for her and shown her nothing but indifference would make the offer. Considering what we later learn about Rey’s past, one could possibly justify her reaction based on her desire for family (although this certainly doesn’t paint a flattering picture of Rey), but I can think of no such justification for Han’s complete reversal. Our own love for Han and (assumed) love for Rey cannot by itself justify their love for each other.

This isn’t just a minor problem, either. The relationship between Rey and Han (and to a lesser extent, Finn and Han) is the entire crux of the movie’s climax. The pain and loss of Han’s death is meant to fuel their actions in their flight from Starkiller base and their confrontation with Kylo Ren. But that pain and loss doesn’t feel right, because they haven’t laid any of the groundwork for these characters to have those feelings. The only people in that scene having any grounded character reactions are Kylo Ren (sort of, I’ll get to that in a minute) and Chewbacca. And yes, we love Han from previous movies and are sad to see him go, but our sadness doesn’t automatically justify the characters being sad. This is something A New Hope understood when it came to its equivalent scene. When Vader kills Obi-Wan, the only character to have an intense emotional reaction to it is Luke. Sure, Han and Leia and the others are probably sad that he died, but the movie knows that the only really developed and meaningful character relationship Obi-Wan had was with Luke, so he’s the one who actually expresses that grief. That makes the scene all the more powerful because Luke isn’t just mirroring our own reaction, he’s suffering from a real loss that deeply affects his character. By not developing the same key relationship in its own plot, The Force Awakens makes its entire finale ring false.

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Chris Diggins
Chris Digginshttps://alittleperspective.substack.com
"Lord" Chris Diggins, "Grand Prognosticator of ThePopBreak.com" is a staff writer and incorrigible layabout for The Pop Break. He usually reviews TV and movies, although he sometimes writes ludicrously long pieces of critical analysis and badgers the editors to publish it. He cannot be stopped.


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