Today we’ve got a really interesting guestpost for you guys in which Andy Schroeder, an independent director who has a film coming out on VOD soon, gives an alternative view of The Force Awakens, mapping its plot onto the Star Wars fandom itself and confronting the fandom with some of its own actions. Although I do believe The Force Awakens to be a full on Saga film, this interpretation is a good one to add to the mix. The main reason that I personally enjoyed it lies in the last paragraph, with its eyes firmly fixed on the future, rather than the past, of Star Wars.
Warning! This post might contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet! (Seriously, get on it if you haven’t!) Let us know what you think about the guestpost but first, enjoy!
“The Force Awakens” isn’t a Saga movie, it’s a Message
In 2005 George Lucas finished his Star Wars Saga, successfully completing the story he’d labored to tell us after many years. That was it, final. He made sure to tell everyone that there was no more story left. While his ever evolving saga had sometimes included as many as nine or even twelve films, his plans for the later stories we’re rolled into “Return of the Jedi” years earlier, leaving no “real” story for him after the Ewok celebration on Endor. While many fans could see the broad strokes initially, with time it’s only become more apparent how exacting George was as he intricately weaved story details, character moments and visual cues to become an interlocking cinematic poem that stretched to six movies in just under thirty years.
2005 also saw Lucas start work on “The Clone Wars” television series. A series which (while not necessary to understanding or viewing the films) helped highlight and deepen many of the themes in the films and follow smaller plot threads he was forced to drop from the movies in order to keep them focused. George could have chosen to create “The Further Adventures of Luke Skywalker & Co.” past “Return of the Jedi” for television, but he did not. For him there was nothing more.
Most readers are likely familiar with the Disney sale in 2012 and the sudden announcement of new films based on treatments by Lucas, treatments that he’d developed alongside his plans to retire. Statements made by George in the time around his decision to retire reflect a man who felt unfairly bullied by a segment of Fanboys & girls who were (more than) unhappy with hearing the story he decided to tell in the Prequels. People who, instead of just ignoring the stories they didn’t appreciate, went out of their way to attack Lucas personally.
While the story on how “The Force Awakens” was developed keeps evolving during its publicity tour, Producer Kathleen Kennedy and Director J.J. Abrams always insist that the “spirit” of Lucas’ story is still kept intact in Episode 7. Personally, as I watched TFA, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t so much a “Star Wars Saga” movie, as it was an addendum. Similar to my feelings on the Legends EU stories of the time period. Reflecting on it now I feel (if the spirit of his story ideas are truly in there) that George never meant for Episode 7 to be a continuation of his saga. It’s something different. A message to New Fans and old Fanatics in a movie where the major players are New Fans and old Fanatics.
Luke Skywalker has vanished! This is the very first thing TFA reveals to us. Luke has always been a stand-in for Lucas himself, Harrison Ford makes that comment almost every time I see him interviewed about Star Wars. Lucas has retired from the Star Wars universe to become a recluse, as has his in-universe self. A rogue sect from a generation that grew with Luke’s story has risen and wishes to destroy him.
Kylo Ren, a former apprentice of Luke, is no Sith. Seemingly in his early 30’s, Kylo is an older Sith Fanatic. A Vader Fanboy filled with uncontrollable rage and prone to child-like tantrums. He worships at the alter of Darth Vader’s empty mask much like older Fangirls/boys worshiping the alter of the OT. Refusing to accept the true story of the man inside Vader. He prefers the fantasy of power. He wears a mask himself, but unlike Vader Kylo Ren’s mask is just for show. He fears he’ll never be as “good” as Vader. Certainly he’ll never have Vader’s power, because he fails to accept the truth. That Vader’s power came from the man, not the mask. Just as the power of Vader’s role in the original trilogy stems from choices that he made as Anakin in the prequels. Vader without Anakin is an empty mask, a stock villain.
Rey and Finn (while not children) are younger, much like the audience Lucas targeted for all his Star Wars output. When they meet Han Solo and realize who he is they’re awe-struck (as any of us would be). When Han reveals to them that the stories of the Jedi and the force are all true, they don’t question him. They accept it, as younger fans (unburdened by fan expectations) accept all of Lucas six saga movies without question. Rey and Finn are New Fans.
The First Order itself is a faceless Fanatical group, a purer breed of hate than the Empire, free to unleash their rage anonymously as they hide in their armor (insert internet analogy here). They build a superweapon that removes the light from stars, turning the universe dark, and destroys entire systems. General Hux doesn’t so much give a speech as he does a rage filled rant that’s hard to follow (it wouldn’t be out of place in a YouTube comments section). It’s been a criticism of TFA that it’s unclear what planets are being destroyed or why. I argue here that it is intentional. The First Order can’t accept that the Empire is over and is lashing out indiscriminately, much like Fanboys/girls ranting on and on about the prequels in a theater where families are all just trying to watch Episode 7.
Han Solo isn’t a Luke fan. He isn’t a Luke fanatic. He’s Luke’s peer. He knows the power that Luke holds and what he brings to the world, but he isn’t enraptured by the idea of Luke. He appreciates what his friend became because he knew Luke before his transformation into a Jedi. Much as other filmmakers of Lucas’ generation appreciate what he’s done for the world, but aren’t fans or fanatics of their friend. When Han reaches out to Kylo in an attempt to show him the light, Kylo struggles with the idea but ultimately kills Han. As many Fangirls/boys have turned on peers of Lucas who’ve spoken out on his behalf (Spielberg for instance). But killing Han didn’t help Kylo gain more power as he seemed to think it would, just as many Fanboys/girls don’t seem to feel better after raging at the prequels (perhaps that’s why they won’t let it go… ever.).
At the end of the film our New Fan, Rey, finally reaches Luke/Lucas. She offers him the lightsaber seemingly asking him to come back to a universe that needs him and all he can give us is a look of longing and hurt.
For me the “spirit” at the core of TFA is the message that Lucas longs to continue to play in the universe he created, but feels that it’s a world he can no longer take part in. The movie leaves us with the question of “Will Luke return or won’t he?” But in his eyes we can see that Luke can’t go on forever, as Lucas can’t, and that it’s up to the next generation of New accepting fans to take the lightsaber forward from here and continue his legacy.