*WARNING: IN READING THIS REVIEW, YOU WILL BE EXPOSED TO MAJOR SPOILERS – BASICALLY, THE ENTIRE MOVIE* If you have not yet seen the film, and do not wish it to be spoiled for you STOP READING NOW.
Episode VII functions in many ways as a reset / relaunch and continuation of the original trilogy (Episodes IV – VI). A young dreamer on a desert planet, a conflicted hero who starts out looking out only for himself, a droid wandering through the desert on a mission, a planet-like battlestation, an evil empire, a wise old man who sacrifices himself to a mistake of his past, a weirdly-colored short alien creature with secret wisdom, space battles and starfighters.
Almost as importantly, in many ways, this film largely ignores the prequels (Episodes I – III) as if they’d never existed, and focuses entirely on the events and characters of the original trilogy.
The opening crawl sets the scene. Luke Skywalker has disappeared, the
Rebel Alliance Resistance led by Princess General Leia Organa has been searching for him in their effort to defeat the threat of the Empire First Order. No explanation why the Rebellion has morphed into the Resistance.
The film opens with the First Order approaching planet Jakku where Poe Dameron, the best starfighter pilot of the Resistance, is on a secret mission from General Leia Organa to get a map to Luke Skywalker’s hidden location.
After getting the map from his contact, Poe flees from the desert village when the First Order attacks, led by
Darth Vader Kylo Ren wiping out the villagers. One of the stormtroopers, following the death of a comrade, hesitates to kill people, as if traumatized. Meanwhile, Poe gives the map (in the form of a spacey-wacey flash drive) to his X-wing’s small, round droid, BB-8. A droid who can apparently roll directly on sand, which because of the way he rotates, basically reaches every part of his body, but never impedes or affects his movements. Seriously.
Poe is captured and taken to Kylo Ren’s ship for interrogation. Ren uses the Force to probe Dameron’s mind and learns that BB-8 has the map. Ren sends stormtroopers to the planet to recover the droid.
Back on planet Jakku, we’re introduced to Rey, who lives in the desert, a world where a major conflict between the Rebellion and Empire took place, as there are wrecked Star Destroyers, X-Wings and debris all over the desert. Rey lives in a fallen AT-AT walker, and earns a living by scavenging valuable pieces and parts from the debris.
Back to the space above Jakku, and the stormtrooper who had a breakdown on the planet below, FN-2187 (a knowing reference to the cell number that holds Princess Leia captive in Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope), decides he wants out of the First Order. He is confronted by the chrome-armor wearing Captain Phasma, who then delivers 2 lines, and WHOSE CHARACTER IS NEVER DEVELOPED OR EXPLORED AT ALL LATER – a major flaw in the film. He sets Dameron free so Poe can fly them to freedom, piloting a TIE fighter. Dameron says the name FN-2187 is unwieldy, so he gives his rescuer the name “Finn.”
Shot down by the Star Destroyer crashes on the planet below. Finn gains consciousness in the wreckage of the TIE. There’s no sign of Dameron, so he hickes through the desert until he arrives at an outpost and runs into Rey (who found BB-8 earlier).
Chased by stormtroopers, Rey and Finn escape in the Millennium Falcon (a moment which received the most enthusiastic applause at the premier I attended), which inexplicably is in the middle of the desert, covered with a tattered tarp.
After a truly thrilling escape from the TIE fighters chasing them, the Falcon is captured by a large ship, which brings the freighter aboard. Finn, Rey and BB-8 hide below the deck of ship, under the same deck plating that once hid Obi-Wan, Luke and crew.
The Falcon’s hatch is opened from outside by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who have been running a freighter / smuggling operation with a new ship. After finding Rey and Finn, Solo explains that the Falcon was stolen from him. After a brief visit / shootout with two rival gangs and an escape from vicious monsters, the group escapes the larger ship aboard the Falcon. When he’s told BB-8 holds a map to Luke, Solo decides to take Rey and Finn to planet Takodana to visit little orange pirate Maz Kanata, where they can get a “clean”, non-fugitive ship to get the message back to the Resistance.
Kylo Ren speaks with Darth Vader’s half-incinerated / melted helmet, calling him “grandfather.” Kylo Ren and General Hux have a holo-conference call with Supreme Leader Snoke (easily the stupidest name for a bad guy ever.) They are to retrieve the droid with the information.
Meeting with Maz, the group discusses events, and Finn decides to leave the group behind, and finds someone who can get him as far away from the First Order as possible. Rey is drawn to the lower level of Maz’s cantina, where she finds Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber; the one Luke lost at Bespin, when Darth Vader cut his hand off. Touching the lightsaber, Rey experiences visions of the past and future: a crying little girl, scenes of warfare, and a fight with Kylo Ren in a snowy forest. Maz finds her and tells her to take the lightsaber, but Rey wants nothing to do with it and runs away. Maz gives the lightsaber to Han and Chewbacca instead. NO EXPLANATION WHATSOEVER for why / how Maz has the saber.
In the forest outside the cantina, Rey looks up to see arriving First Order fleet, which launches a devastating attack on the cantina. The Resistance fighters arrive as well, led by the inexplicably returned Poe Dameron. Kylo Ren finds Rey in the forest, and using the force, sees in her mind that she has seen the map to Luke’s location. He takes her to his ship.
During the fight, the heroes look up in the sky to see blazing trails of fire shooting through space, past the planet. The First Order has fired its massive, planet-sized (makes the Death Star look like a marble by comparison) super weapon; the Starkiller Base.
The base sucks energy from a nearby star, and concentrating it, shoots it through the opposite side of the planet and out into space, like the most horrible searchlight ever. The beams seen earlier travel the vast distance through space and hit other other planets allied with the Republic, destroying them.
Han, Chewie, Finn and the remaining Resistance starfighters fly back to meet with the resistance, and are met by General Leia Organa upon landing. Finn is reunited with Poe Dameron, who somehow survived the TIE crash. C-3PO shows up with a red arm. Han tells Leia “I saw our son,” referring to Kylo.
After the resistance learns that the First Order is targeting their planet next, and reviews the data on the Starkiller Base, Finn tells them where the weak spot is to destroy the weapon. As they prepare to leave on their mission, Leia tells Han to bring their son home (Dammit, Leia).
Han, Chewie & Finn arrive at Starkiller Base. They search for Rey, who has used a Jedi mind trick to escape her cell. Supreme Leader Snoke has another holo-conference call with Ren & Hux. Hux points out that Ren decided not to find the droid on Takodana when he thought he could get the information from Rey, who resisted his mind probe.
Finn & crew capture Captain Phasma and force her to lower the planetary shields. She makes stupid remarks about “you’ll never get away with this,” and is promptly forgotten, never to reappear in any meaningful way. What a waste of a character. WHY THE HELL DO YOU HAVE HER FRONT AND CENTER OF THE POSTER?
Poe Dameron and the fighter pilots begin making attack runs on the regulator / discombobulator whatever the hell the name of the critical “must-never-be-destroyed-component-of-this-planet-sized-weapon-or-the-whole-thing-will-blow” thing is. They do some damage, but not enough.
Inside, Han, Chewie and Finn have found Rey. They begin setting explosives inside the superstructure of the important place. Han sees Kylo Ren and confronts him, telling him to come home. Ren mouths some whiny, teenager bitching about feelings, then KILLS HIS FATHER, HAN SOLO with a lightsaber to the chest.
The group of heroes flees into the forest outside, with Kylo in hot pursuit. Finn confronts him with The Sacred Lightsaber, but falls in battle, badly wounded. The explosives begin destroying the planet from inside out, and the ground begins splitting. Rey uses the Force to call the lightsaber to herself, fights Kylo to a draw, nearly defeating him. A chasm forms between them and Rey flees to the Millennium Falcon, and Chewie flies away from the planet before it explodes.
Back at the resistance base, Rey and Leia have a tender moment of shared grief, and Rey sees that Finn gets medical care. R2D2, who had been dormant earlier, suddenly wakes up, and uses his display to complete the other half of the map held by BB-8. Rey now knows where to find Luke Skywalker.
She and Chewie take off in the Falcon to a distant, remote island on a distant, remote planet. Clibming steps to the top of an Incan / Buddhist / Tibetan mountain retreat, she encounters a shrouded figure with his back turned. She reaches into her bag and pulls out The Sacred Lightsaber and holds it out as the figure slowly turns and reveals LUKE SKYWALKER – WITH A BEARD. Who then says…. nothing. End.
Overall, a great movie, a fantastically worthy addition to the Star Wars canon – with some critical flaws. Here’s hoping they address these plot holes and flaws before Episode VIII. I would say that in the past, many of these issues would have been addressed in the Expanded Universe, but the idiots at Disney basically decided that the time and money MILLIONS of fans had invested in the stories were not worth honoring, so we’ve yet to see what will happen.