PCP For – ce Awakens

Alex Pezzutto - 1B Nanotechnology
Posted on: January 14, 2017

2016 was a polarizing time. Now, I’m not naming any names, but it’s safe to say a particularly orange-faced man and his numerous shenanigans pretty much owned the year. But amidst the political hysteria, one can find solace in the resurgence of Star Wars (unless if you’re a Trekkie, in which case, go away. We don’t want your kind here). With two new films meeting tremendous success in the box office, Disney has thankfully resuscitated a series many have missed dearly. The first of the two, the Force Awakens, takes place after the events of the original trilogy, where the Empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist, and it’s up the the Rebel Alliance to stop them. On the other hand, the Rouge One takes place in the events before the original trilogy, where the Empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist, and it’s up to the Rebel Alliance to stop them. With such completely different movies, one has to wonder which of the two is better. The metrics I will use to compare the two will be character development, plot development, antagonists, and of course, lightsaber badassery! Warning, there will be spoilers.

The Force Awakens introduces us to Rey and Finn; one a solitary young woman who spends her life scrapping by scavenging ship wreckages from the previous era, and another is a rogue stormtrooper trying to help the Rebels defeat the evil Empire. The two protagonists play off each other very well, holding their own with the charismatic icons Han Solo and Chewbacca. Together the quartet added an enjoyable mix of humour and excitement. On the other hand, Rogue One failed to make me remember any of its characters’ names. I had to Google their names to write this analysis, because, well, referring to the main characters as “the robot”, “the main girl”, “the main guy”, “the asian dude”, and “the asian dude’s friend” wouldn’t be too appropriate. I get it was a hard time for people when the Empire was ruling the galaxy, but watching a bunch of stoic people grit their teeth while shooting their blasters while giving the occasional speech on hope isn’t conducive for creating a memorable cast, and as soon as they all died at the end of the movie, I pretty much shrugged and left my seat. The Force Awakens brings this category home. Now onto the story!

The Force Awakens’ plot-line was a very familiar one. There’s a difference between nostalgia and plagiarism, and The Force Awakens walked a very fine line between the two throughout its duration. A poverty-stricken, Force-endowed protagonist living in a desert abandoned by their parents? Check. An evil Empire terrorizing the galaxy headed by a cryptic old man in a hologram and his apprentice with a cool mask? Check. A massive planet-killing weapon the bad guys use to keep the galaxy subdued? Check. A cute, lovable droid that holds the key to stopping said super-weapon? Check. In fact, a more appropriate name for the movie could’ve been Star Wars: A New Hope with Better CGI and a Fancy Lightsaber. However, the dynamics between Rey, Finn, Han, and Chewy gave a refreshing experience to the relived adventure, and there were events in the movie that few could expect, such as the death of a certain gunslinging smuggler. Unfortunately, Rogue One does suffer from prequel-itis. Viewing the movie felt like going through a mental checklist of events you should’ve predicted from start to finish if you’ve watched the original movies. Our reluctant hero Jyn joins the Rebels, helps them obtain the plans of the Death Star, and sacrifices her life for the cause in the process. It didn’t have me hang off my seat as much as The Force Awakens did, so the Force Awakens wins this category.

The antagonists are also a quintessential aspect of any Star Wars film. If they’re not interesting or imposing, the challenges and tension in the story becomes drastically less gripping. Rogue One’s main villain is Krennic, who fails to meet the previous two criteria in every sense.  He’s a cliched power-hungry, arrogant and ill-tempered general who would be better off being featured as a bad guy in Kim Possible than Star Wars itself. As awesome as Vader’s cameos were in the movie, they weren’t enough to clean my palate of watching that bimbo go on about the Death Star or destroying the Rebels. By contrast, Kylo stole the stage the moment he appeared, killing a man with his freakishly large lightsaber, while being able to freeze a laser bolt in mid-air—now that’s the kind of power you’d expect from an actual villain. Given, it was irritating and disappointing when he took off his mask and started throwing tantrums, but overall, he was far better to stomach than Krennic.

Last but not least, we need to discuss the presence of lightsabers, because what’s a Star Wars movie without lightsabers? The ending of The Force Awakens, features a lightsaber battle between Finn, Ren, and Kylo, and it was very annoying to watch. For one, the fights were very amateur, consisting mainly of slashing and stabbing, instead of the fast-paced flurries and acrobatics you’d expect an actual Jedi to fight with. The Force-users in our galaxy far far away continue to suffer from an unfortunate disease of not using the Force against non-Force sensitive opponents (e.g. every duel with Grevious in the prequels). During the fight, Kylo could’ve just waved his hand and sent Finn flying, but no, he had to engage in a minute-long lightsaber battle that resulted in a singed shoulder. The fight then ends with Rey, the girl who just learned what the Force was 10 minutes ago actual beating a Sith who’s trained under Luke Skywalker for years! I don’t care how injured Kylo was, that should’ve been an easy sweep for him! This is an aspect that Rogue One completely nails at the end of the movie, where us viewers bore witness to some classic Vader carnage. There were Force-chokes, slams, and Vader’s lightsaber must have gone through 20 different people in like 10 seconds. It was wonderful! Rogue One wins this one hands down.

Final verdict: The Force Awakens takes the crown. Sure, lightsaber battles are cool, but like the Phantom Menace proves, you can’t depend on them to carry the movie. That’s not to say that Rogue One was a bad movie—I’d say it was okay, and I don’t regret spending my parents’ money to watch it. But it failed to make me invested in its characters and story as much as The Force Awakens did, which is why it falls short of its predecessor.