Since seeing the film last night, there are a few moments from the film that keep coming back to me. Partly because of how well the sequences have been filmed and partly because of what's going on behind the scenes. I've broken down my favourite five moments below.
To be clear, this post is filled with spoilers. If you don't want to have anything spoiled then do not read this article until you've seen the film. It's not small spoilers below, but big, juicy, end-of-film reveals.
If you don't want anything spoiled then don't scroll below the gif of Darth Vader on a hoverboard:
Ren and Rey's Duel
When we finally get a lightsaber duel it makes up for the wait. Ren and Rey don't fight with the flips and finesse of the Jedi in the prequel trilogy, their swings are heavy, clumsy, and brutal. It's the knightly combat of the original films. This is a duel of broadswords not fencing foils.
Adam Driver is excellent in this sequence. The way he beats his blaster wound, stomps and staggers in the snow, he looks almost rabid and inhuman in his rage.
There's a rough violence to the duel, too, something that's not in many of the other Star Wars battles. While no limbs are amputated – and nothing will match the shock and scream when Luke loses his hand in Empire Strikes Back – this fight is not without its gore. Finn's scream when Ren's dagger-like cross guard cuts into his shoulder goes straight my core. It's a horrible moment. There's also Ren's twist and upward slice then carves through the flesh on Finn's back; that's an image that's going to stay with me.
These young characters, who I suspect are being set up to battle throughout the trilogy, are being left scarred by their fights.
The Opening Shot
What a fantastic opening. The way that bright white planet sits in the centre of the screen before being blotted out by the shadow of a Star Destroyer. It's phenomenal. It evokes the opening of A New Hope, which saw a Star Destroyer fill the screen while chasing the rebel ship. Blocking the view of a planet, though, that hints at even greater power in the Empire than before.
Throughout the film I got that sense, that there's a fanaticism to the First Order that wasn't on show in the Empire. Like the shot on Starkiller when the camera looks out over the assembled Stormtroopers and it looks like a shot out of Triumph of the Will. That style of shot has always been in Star Wars films in this instance it seemed colder, larger, and more inhuman.
The Dogfight Over Maz's Outpost
There's some great flight sequences in The Force Awakens, the trench run on Starkiller and the Millennium Falcon's pursuit on Jakku, but it's the sight of the X-Wing's flying low over the lake fronting Maz's outpost that I keep drifting back to. Seeing that old familiar action of the wings cracking open gave me a tingle, then watching them swoop upwards to engage the swarm of First Order TIE fighters.
It's also there where we get a good looking at the new physicality to the dogfighting effects: the X-Wings and TIE fighters don't simply explode, chunks are blasted off them, smoke and flame billow out from the impact and then they tear into pieces wreathed in fire. It looks amazing.
The Torture Scene Between Ren and Rey
Once you get past the similarities between force torture and South Park's psychic battles, this is a really good scene with a great deal going on. When Ren first probes Rey's mind we learn more her loneliness, that she was abandoned by her family. This is the first time we've really seen her weak and afraid, previously any panic was part of an action sequence. But we also see Rey's awareness of the Force awaken. She battles back Ren's probing, which we know must be powerful as he's already got all the information he needs from the resistance fighter Poe. Considering she has no training that just suggests even more about her power.
Rey doesn't just block Ren, she turns the tables on him: probing his mind. She finds such a perfect weakness, something explains much about Ren: he sees himself as living in the shadow of Darth Vader. Ren suddenly seems so much younger and sympathetic, it explains what drives him – his lineage.
The torture over and Ren driven away, we see Rey use her newfound abilities to break out of her constraints. She is no princess needing rescuing she is powerful in her own right – and she did it without the help of an Obi Wan equivalent.
Finally, when Ren returns to see Rey has escaped we get another look at his rage. He tears into that room, out of control. We never saw Darth Vader or the Emperor lose their control like this in the original trilogy.
It is a only a brief cameo but it carries so much weight. Rey is almost certainly Luke's daughter and this meeting, the final shot of the film, is telling of the direction the trilogy is taking. Ren, Leia's son, having abandoned his parents to follow the Supreme Lord Snoke has killed his father, and is growing into his role of the dark Jedi. Rey, having been abandoned by her parents, has now joined Luke to learn the way of the Jedi. The two are mirrors of one another and that sits upon the final shot of the film. The grandchildren of Vader are going to clash again and again over the next two films.
2017 seems like far too long to wait.