By now, pretty much everyone I know has finally made the trek out to a theater and sat through the 2 hours and 16 glorious minutes that is Star War: The Force Awakens. Most more than once. Twice. Three times. What can I say, my sister and I take after our dad–and he saw the original in theaters 17 times. (We’re getting there.)
We can talk about Rey and her spectacular advent all day. We can talk about the fact that once again Star Wars films are in theaters, and fans are hailing Episode VII as an extension of the original trilogy, encapsulating the feel and excitement of the original without skipping a beat.
And I am excited. So. Very. Excited.
But I also have So. Many. Questions.
Deep fan interaction with a text, show, or any form of media is a sign that they’re really into it. After all, why spend your time formulating theories, postulating, and challenging the plot holes if you didn’t like something? Fans engage because they care. Because they’re invested. It’s what led Sherlockians to inspect the most minute details after the great Reichenbach, desperately trying to piece it together and make sense of it. It’s why there’s outrage when plot points are sloppily explained or glazed over.
And I know, we’re only a third of the way into this series, we can only make guesses and presumptions about what our heroes are in for and what sorts of trials they’ll face before the tale is through. It’s impossible not, to, though. It’s a problem of our instant gratification culture, I guess, if you want to blame something. I chalk it up to natural human curiosity and interest in egaging the mind. Because there are questions.
But first….the obligatory warning
There are the obvious ones. Who are Rey’s parents? Who left her on Jakku? What the hell, Kylo? Who is this new Supreme Leader Snoke? Seriously, Kylo, the fuck, man? What has Luke been doing?? Did he just go chill on his Jedi Temple Island and hope things would blow over? How did Maz end up with Luke’s lightsaber? Will the Jedi ever catch a break?
Here’s another obvious one, but it leads to some of my biggest questions:
What’s up with Finn? Where did this kid come from?
One of the more interesting world building details revealed in Episode VII is the idea that the current stormtroopers are not willing recruits but brainwashed legions stolen from their families as youngsters and strictly raised for the First Order.
It’s safe to assume that a portion of these families willingly handed over children. If the First Order was paying, I’ve no doubt many sold them in order to survive. Perhaps some of the soldiers would come out of their strict reeducation and still sign on under the Dark Side. There would be plenty. There are also likely many whom did not wish to give their child up to the First Order. Where are these families? Presumably they’re in desolate, distant areas and possess limited options for reaching out, but surely reports of stolen children have been pouring in across the galaxy? Did the Senate know? Does the Resistance?
They obviously know after meeting Finn. So, how will the resistance react to the knowledge and living proof that the enemies they’ve been brutally shooting down might be engaging them against their will? What of the families whose children have been taken? Are we all just going to shrug and say “Eh, who cares? We got an informant, cool. Just keep shooting ’em.”
But Finn can’t be the only one who disagrees. I’d wager there’s something special link to the Force that made him less susceptible to their special brand of education, thus granting him the rare state of breaking the illusion and turning tail, but I am doubtful he is the only one who isn’t happy fighting for the Dark Side.
As it stands, the First Order stormtrooper battalion is largely comprised of individuals who do not have agency over their actions.
And it’s important that we address that at some point. This is a big deal. This is kind of a game-changer. Suddenly we have a series of moral questions that need to be examined and dealt with, and my biggest fear is that we’re simply not going to get that. It was a way for them to move the plot forward and introduce some insider knowledge and a cool new character. And Finn’s great. But I’d like to see the films deal with the implications.
It’s a convenient plot device, to be sure, but you’ve opened that can of worms, Star Wars.
Why was Finn even on that mission to Jakku?
The mission to Jakku was quite possibly the most important mission the First Order could embark on, short of their eventual departure to Luke’s hiding spot. This is it. The final piece. The last little bit of knowledge required before they had what they’d been seeking for years.
By my count, roughly 80-100 stormtroopers were deployed as part of the strike squad sent forth to secure this information, and I think that’s being generous. Considering how many troopers we see later in the film, it’s not a significant chunk. There would have to be at least 100 battle-seasoned, elite stormtroopers who could be shipped out for this essential mission. They’re going for the gold here. They’re out to get the literal last piece of the puzzle in order to finally end the Jedi Order for good.
I can’t believe that the First Order had no other choice than to send a total newbie, and even if their forces were stretched thin, this retrieval mission was clearly the top priority. Both Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren himself put in an eager appearance. But they send a fresh-faced sanitation worker down to the surface to subdue the population and secure the piece? I could accept that the quip about Finn’s position on Star Killer Base being in the sanitation department was simply a throw away line, a joke made solely for the chuckle but not relevant to the plot in any way. However, we are told explicitly that it is Finn’s first real battle. That’s where it loses me.
It’s really, truly not the time to test out a new group of troopers.
And after reading Finn’s prequel in the companion piece, “Before the Awakening”, I’m even more confused about just how the hell Finn ended up down there. The short story establishes Finn as a loyal, task-oriented cadet who is extremely good at being a stormtrooper but also remains an outsider. He is an excellent marksman and follows orders perfectly, leading the other 3 cadets in his team to victory. The simulations he and his fire-team spend their days practicing in are highly successful under his leadership. We get confirmation that he is directly under Phasma’s teaching, explaining her involvement in his training and his awareness of her, but we also learn that she harbors doubt about his ability to achieve the perfect ruthlessness and unshakable loyalty to the cause. You see, FN-2187’s too loyal to his fire-team. He constantly protects and helps the weakest member of his team, and that’s not a good quality in a stormtrooper. He’s got this humanity that’s just really problematic. Phasma muses over her doubts and discusses them with Hux and even has conversations with FN-2187. And yet.
A whirlwind trip to the mining colony and the order to shoot a group of worn-down miners to death is all it takes to welcome his fire-team into the real stormtrooper ranks. But FN-2187 doesn’t shoot. Can’t bring himself to do it. He’s having doubts. Phasma notices.
“Perhaps when someone was shooting back at him, he would understand what it meant to be a real stormtrooper, what it meant to serve the First Order, body and soul.”
Phasma is aware they’re going to Jakku. To assault a village. Of civilians. Yes, armed civilians who would indeed shoot back, but if you’re faced with a stormtrooper whose sense of mercy is too strong for him to shoot at simulation enemies, it’s not particularly motivating to have him invade someone’s home and then kill them all.
She muses that it’s one last chance to decide his fate. To be loyal to the First Order or not. So, what’s your game Captain Phasma? And why would she be so soft on FN-2187? Yeah, soft. She later gives in extremely easily to his demand that she lower the shields. What’s going on there?
But really, the bigger question here is why was it even an option to send the newbies in the first place??? How did the higher-ups okay Phasma’s decision to send his unseasoned team on the highest profile mission the Dark Side could embark upon?
These are a few of the questions I’ll continue to ponder as I return time and time again to the theaters. Despite these questions, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an absolutely amazing and thorough continuation of the Star Wars saga. I know I’m not alone in eagerly awaiting the next films in the series, happily devouring and engaging in theories for future events.
What were some of the questions this film brought up for you? Any theories to address the things I’m wondering about? Share them in the comments!