And we’re back! get ready for a new year with a whole lot script break downs for you! This week, I want to hone in on a specific genre: SCI-FI. To star the week off, I thought i would pick the now most successful movie of all time (domestically), STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.
This movie has taken a LOT of heat for its structure, particularly elements that were repeated from the original trilogy… even though some of those elements were repeated in the prequel trilogy too… but nevertheless. I love this movie so much. In order to break it down, the first thing we have to acknowledge is that it’s dual-protagonists: Rey and Finn. Ultimately, the stronger protagonist is Rey, but they each make a first act decision and have their own emotional arcs. In order to differentiate when needed I will put plot points that are Rey-specific in red and Finn-specific beats in blue (like the poster above). Let’s get started!
WANT: Deliver BB8 to the Resistance and return to Jakku.
NEED: Let go of the past; not be so naive.
Why do we empathize? Rey is book smart and we love her intelligence, she’s alone so we feel sorry for her, but her limited world experience has held her back and we want her to experience the journey she craves.
WANT: Use BB8’s journey to get as far away from the First Order as possible.
NEED: Not to be a coward.
Why do we empathize? Finn’s #1 goal is to save himself but he is not willing to do it at the expense or harm of innocent people.
INNER ANTAGONISTS: Rey’s pull to get back to Jakku. Finn’s pull to get away from the entire fight.
PERSONAL ANTAGONISTS: Kylo Ren, General Hux, Snoke.
EXTRA PERSONAL ANTAGONISTS: The First Order. Dark Side of the Force.
PRE-EXISTING LIFE / INCITING INCIDENT
Set Up: Finn sees his friend die in the Battle of Jakku and watches an entire village burned to the ground. He can no longer support the First Order, though they raised him.
Action: Finn needs a pilot so he breaks out Poe Dameron from captivity and together they steal a tie-fighter and narrowly escape the base.
Climax: Poe and Finn are quickly BFFs as they work together as they are pursued by pilots of the First Order. Poe wants to head back to Jakku, against Finn’s wishes. In their argument they are hit and crash on the planet.
Resolution: Finn wakes, separated from the tie-fighter. He locates it and finds that Poe is gone, seemingly dead.
Set Up: Rey goes through her daily routine of scavenging.
Action: She takes her finds to Unkar Plutt who gives her a small “portion” in payment. Rey returns home and eats while she looks longingly at ships flying in the sky as she wears an old Rebel Alliance helmet.
Climax: Rey hears bickering nearby. She rushes over and finds BB8 being taken by Teedo. She makes Teedo back off and finds herself with a new friend.
Resolution: Rey allows BB8 to hang with her while he waits for his owner, Poe Dameron, to return for him.
PLOT PUSH / FIRST ACT DECISION
Set Up: BB8 spots Finn wearing Poe’s jacket and tells Rey. She jumps Finn to find out what is going on and he says that he is a resistance fighter.
Action: Tie-Fighters arrive to take back BB8 and find Finn. Desperate to save himself, and with Rey’s desire to help the resistance, the pair run off with BB8 and steal the Millennium Falcon in order to get away with Rey piloting and Finn manning the guns.
Climax: There’s a problem with the ship so while Rey fixes it, Finn works to get the location of the resistance base from BB8.
Resolution: When the droid reveals the location, the pair agree to help the droid return. (DECISION)
Set Up: Something locks onto the Millennium Falcon so the trio hide under the floor. They are found by previous ship owners Han Solo and Chewbacca. They tell the pair who they are and how they found the ship. Just then, two rival gangs arrive to take money owed from Solo.
Action: Rey and Finn hide as they listen to the conversation above. In order to help, Rey attempts to lock the gang doors and isolate them, unfortunately she opens different doors and releases the rathtars.
Climax: Our heroes narrowly escape on the Millennium Falcon where they get the map out of BB8 and Solo discusses his history with the Rebel Alliance, the Resistance, and the disappearance of Luke Skywalker (all pretty vaguely).
Resolution: They will go to Maz Kanata to get a “clean” ship to return BB8 on.
Set Up: Han offers Rey a job (impressed by her mechanical skills/knowledge) but she hesitates, still wanting to go back to Jakku to wait for her family.
The gang arrives at Maz’s cantina and are unaware that their movements have been reported back to both the First Order and the Resistance.
Action: They talk with Maz who calls Finn a “coward.” He runs off to trade work for transportation to the Outer Rim. Rey hears voices and follows them to the basement where she finds a lightsaber.
Climax: Rey receives a vision from touching the lightsaber that previously belonged to Luke Skywalker. Maz tells Rey she has the force but Rey doesn’t understand or want it.
Resolution: Rey refuses her “destiny” and runs off into the woods. All she wants is to get back to Jakku.
Set Up: The First Order arrives and attacks Maz’s operation.
Action: Everyone fights. Rey is in the woods, trying to stay hidden. Finn can’t stay out of it. He gets into a fight and is given a lightsaber from Maz.
Climax: Finn runs into his comrade (fan name: TR-8R) and the two fight. Rey is caught by Kylo Ren who sees that Rey has seen the map and takes her as a prisoner.
FALSE CLIMAX / LOWPOINT
Set Up: The resistance has arrived! Han Solo sees Kylo Ren taking Rey.
Action: The resistance fights of the First Order.
Climax: Han is reunited with Leia and BB8 is in safe hands.
Resolution: Rey is a prisoner of Kylo Ren.
PLOT PUSH / THIRD ACT DECISION
Set Up: Finn meets up with a living Poe and gives all the information he has about the First Order and the Starkiller Base to General Organa. They decide that Finn, Han, and Chewie will fly onto the base and take out the shields allowing Poe squadron to fly in and take out the base.
Rey wakes and finds herself interrogated by Kylo Ren. He attempts to use his force powers to see the map in her mind that BB8 carried, but Rey’s mind is able to block him.
Action: Finn and Co. land on the base/planet and head towards the entrance where it is learned that Finn has no clue how to take out the shields, he is only there to kill Rey. They find Captain Phasma and force her to bring down the shields, then go to find Rey.
Rey uses her newly-found force powers to trick her guard into releasing her and giving her a weapon. She takes off to find a way to escape.
Climax: Finn, Rey, Han, and Chewie all remeet and decide to use the charges they have to blow up the base from the inside and then get off the planet as soon as possible.
Set Up: They set up the charges and everything looks good to go until Han spots his son, Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo) and attempts to bring him back to the light side. Ren tricks his father into a false sense of security and kills him with Rey and Finn watching.
Action: They pair are heartbroken but forced to leave as the charges begin to blow, allowing the squadron to fly in and begin destroying the base. Rey and Finn head into the forest. They are hunted down by Kylo Ren.
Climax: Finn fights Kylo while Rey is knocked out. He loses the lightsaber and is badly injured.
Rey is able to use her powers to call the lightsaber to her and away from Kylo Ren and fight Kylo. Initially she does not lean into her powers for the battle but Kylo says he can train her and she begins to let the force guide her. She grows stronger in the fight as her anger takes over, striking Kylo across the face. As the planet begins to self destruct she comes to her sense in letting her anger guide her.
Resolution: A chasm erupts in the ground, separating Kylo and Rey. She runs back to the injured Finn and they are rescued by Chewie.
Set Up: R2D2 “wakes” and reveals the rest of the missing map to Luke Skywalker into an unknown galaxy.
Finn is unconscious still and being cared for by the Resistance as Rey prepares to leave. Rey leaves the Resistance and heads out with Chewie and R2D2
Action: Rey flies the Millennium Falcon to a luscious green planet. When they land, Chewie and the droid stay behind while Rey continues to trek.
Climax: Rey finally meets Luke Skywalker. There is an unknown acknowledgement between them as she holds out his lightsaber, seemingly pleading with him to join her.
Resolution: Not revealed.
I don’t know if I’ve said it enough but I LOVE this movie. I love the original trilogy… I love the costumes of the prequels for their art (definitely not their practicality. Who the hell wears pearl chains as sleeves on a nightgown, Amidala? That’s ridiculous.) and I appreciate the very broad strokes of what attempted to accomplish in those prequels, but that’s about it.
Now, I am obviously not JJ Abrams so he may view these plot points differently, so I may be off on some of these beats but I’m pretttttty sure I’m close if not right on the money.
Let’s focus on why you’re reading this… The emotional arcs are there! Finn is courageous in the end and Rey has let go of her past and become worldly and adventurous. For Finn, he knows how to fight and he goes up against his own former comrade to help protect Rey, but he didn’t emotionally change until the third act when he helps Han set up the charges. Remember, Finn only wanted to get onto the base to save Rey. That’s no different than how he is in the beginning, sadly watching his friend die, or fighting TR-8R outside Maz’s cantina. He lies in his third act decision when he agrees to help the Resistance but really has no intention of doing so as he was simply using them to get Rey back. You could argue that his Climactic sequence then is earlier, but there is still more change in the final fight with Kylo though it smaller than Rey’s change. When Finn and Rey first meet, Finn sees Rey fighting and defending herself. He initially is going to help her but seeing how competent she is he backs off. This time Rey is hurt and Finn has helped the destruction of Starkiller base. This is not a brash fight to save his skin, this is Finn standing up and not running from all the decisions he has made in the two hour movie.
Rey’s arc is bigger and I’ve become incredibly frustrated with the discussion online surrounding how she is viewed. First let’s take a look at the definition of “Mary Sue,” the term most often placed on Rey:
A Mary Sue or Gary Stu or Marty Stu is an idealized fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment.
Clearly this is not Rey. Rey is definitely a personification of the Star Wars fandom in that she dreams of becoming a Resistance pilot. We know this when we see her wearing the Rebel Alliance helmet as she eats in the beginning and how excitable she is at the mention of the name “Luke Skywalker.”
She is incredibly smart, knowing the ins and outs of any mechanical issue thrown at her because she has spent her life scavenging so she would need to know what everything is, how it works, and its value. Living at a junkyard where many cultures and languages intersect has also taught her many dialects and without friends, Rey has had plenty of time to practice these skills. She also is not immediately great at flying. Rey understands how everything works but it takes time for her to put it into practice.
One thing that threw me off a little during the four times I saw this movie (remember, all these beats come from my memory so we’re crossing our fingers that I didn’t leave anything massive out) is that the biggest emotional obstacle we’re shown for Rey early on is her lack of friends and therefore dislike of physical touch and help. This is apparent in her first sequence with Finn, however this is ultimately not her arc throughout the movie as she is seemingly desperate to bond with Han Solo as she views him as a mentor, and quickly gets over her apprehension to be friends with Finn. He is much more withholding emotionally from her than she is with him.
As for how she pulls off a great feat in the end in knocking Kylo Ren on his ass… yeah! It is fucking impressive! That‘s how strong her command of the force is so quickly. Most people in online reviews didn’t appear to blame this on her leaning on the dark side which is where my mind went while watching it. Rey’s best friend is hurt, maybe dead. She watched her mentor die. She is no where near Jakku which was her goal to return to after helping BB8 and she is all alone. That is going to cause some rage. So when she begins to use the force to fight she quickly slips towards the dark as they fight and she embraces the power in her anger. Recently, some script pages have surfaced and it looks like the prose of this action sequence confirms what I thought, and had it not been for that chasm forming, Rey may have even slipped right into taking Kylo Ren as a teacher in her desperation for some kind of companion in her life.
Some people think this is ridiculous, but to me it is no different than Luke using the force to take out the Death Star. The biggest difference between that part of Rey and Luke’s arcs is that The Force Awakens is a STUFFED movie. You have two protagonists, a LOT of set up for both this movie and the next, as well as making time for returning favorite characters. All those conversational scenes, fights, etc. that I left out of the beats above was because they didn’t directly effect Rey and Finn’s path of action but they were all necessary as they raise the stakes of the war. So no, there was no time to have Rey practicing the way Obi Wan had Luke. Just accept the fact that she may actually be stronger than Luke ever was.
Which brings me to the final moment of this breakdown: My Theory. There are a million out there and my personal favorite is that Rey is the granddaughter of Obi Wan Kenobi. Watching the film, it LOOKED like they really want it to be Luke’s daughter and ultimately that’s what I want as well. The best would be if she is both which she definitely could be. I think the one thing I haven’t heard yet is what that parentage would mean thematically.
A lot of people look at these new films as “the new hope” to erase the prequels but The Force Awakens looked like it was respecting those films and nodding to them somewhat with Rey. I couldn’t help but look at her on Jakku (especially in the advertising) and think of young Anakin in The Phantom Menace. Both characters are incredible mechanics, intelligent, and have a strong desire to be pilots. In my mind, if Kylo Ren is so desperate to be the “Heir to Darth Vader” then Rey is the “Heir to Anakin” as the ultimate theme/or guiding idea of the film. There’s something really cool and heartbreaking in allowing both trilogies to come full circle and meet in this one.
There are obviously lots of thoughts about how this film is structured and the references it makes to the other movies. Leave your own takes, opinions, and arguments in the comments below and don’t forget to check back tomorrow when I break down an episode of the awesome SyFy series KILLJOYS!