This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. The Force Awakens is rated 12 for moderate violence, threat
Warning: Contains plot spoilers
The Scoop – An entertaining adventure which will please long-standing fans, and bring a new generation into the fold
Thirty years have passed since the events of Return of the Jedi, and the galaxy is under threat once again. Legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared, and a power called the First Order has risen from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Empire. The Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher), is attempting to fight back, sending out ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) on Luke’s trail.
Captured and tortured by First Order commander Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) Poe finds an unexpected ally in Finn (John Boyega), a reluctant Stormtrooper. But their escape goes awry, and Finn finds himself alone on the desert planet Jakku, where he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger in possession of a droid which might hold the key to Luke’s whereabouts.
When they steal a run-down spaceship to outrun their pursuers, Finn and Rey are tracked down by the ship’s original owner: Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who has a painful personal connection to the villainous Kylo Ren.
How do you watch The Force Awakens without being swayed by the hype? I think it’s probably next to impossible. I didn’t read any reviews prior to seeing the film – I even stayed away from most of the news stories in the proceeding months, but something still filtered through.
So whether this is just my inner contrarian talking, I don’t know, but I have very mixed feelings about the film. Something feels calculated to me, precision-engineered to push all the right nostalgia buttons. As many have noted, The Force Awakens borrows a lot of its plot and emotional beats from its predecessors, relying on callbacks and familiarity to win audience love. I kind of wish the film hadn’t played it so safe.
But there’s a lot to love, too. The world of the film looks gorgeous, and feels complete and lived-in. The new-generation heroes – especially John Boyega’s Finn – are people we warm to and want to spend time with. Adam Driver is something special as Kylo Ren, at once charismatically evil and painfully human. The Force Awakens is at its best when it’s doing something new, and now that the torch has been handed on, there’s reason to hope that the next installment in the series will be stronger for it.
- What relationship do you have with the Star Wars series? Have you seen the original trilogy, and what memories do you have of these films? What about the prequels?
- What were your expectations of The Force Awakens going in? Did you feel affected, positively or negatively, by all the buildup? How did the audience react to the film in the screening you attended?
- How did the filmmakers approach balancing the old and the new in The Force Awakens? In your view, did they get the balance right? How important is originality in a film like this?
- How have the main characters from the original trilogy – Luke, Leia and Han – changed since we last saw them? What drives their actions now? What factors are likely to change our values and identity as we get older?
Rey: This is the Millennium Falcon! You’re Han Solo!
Han: I used to be.
- What motivates our new trio of heroes – Rey, Finn and Poe? Why does Finn desert the First Order, and why does Rey save BB-8? According to The Force Awakens, what are the essential qualities of a hero?
- Why do we enjoy feeling nostalgic, and in what ways does our culture play on our nostalgia? Is there a point at which nostalgia becomes unhealthy or unhelpful?
- How does The Force Awakens explore the idea of legacy? How do we see the torch (or rather, the lightsaber) being handed on to a new generation? Why might it be important in our own society for ideas, skills and stories to be passed from one generation to the next?
There are stories about what happened. – Rey
- How did you feel about the scene in which a major character is killed? In your view, was there enough emotional buildup to this moment, and was it an appropriate destiny for the character? What scores are left to be settled, and what questions are left to be answered, in the next installment?
- Why do you think Star Wars is so beloved by so many people? What is it about these stories that appeals to us at a fundamental level, and what might this say about us as people? What are some of the most basic storytelling patterns, and basic moral or emotional themes, which Star Wars taps into?
The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in. – Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o)
For more Film Blog thoughts on the film, see Footprints in beach sand: on ‘The Force Awakens’, and riding out the hype