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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

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Random first impressions:

MVP: Williams
2nd MVP: Williams
3rd MVP: Williams
4th MVP: Ford
5th MVP: Driver
6th MVP: Williams
7th MVP: Ridley
8th MVP: BB-8
9th MVP: Williams
10th MVP: Boyega

And Oscar Isaac is badly wasted as is Max von Sydow. I think Driver's character was underwritten, but I think he does a really good job given what he has to work with. As the new protagonists, Daisy Ridley is pretty good as Rey, and she succeeds as the new Luke, but John Boyega isn't even close to a replacement for Solo as Finn.

Kylo Ren's powers with the Force seemed all over the place. His mind-reading ability seemed to surpass anything of which Vader, Palpatine, Obi-Wan, or Yoda was capable, but he's a novice who still clearly struggles immensely to utilize the Force to his full ability.

Someone else said this (maybe in this thread, maybe somewhere else), but the last fifteen minutes absolutely should have been in the next film.

As a piece of nostalgia for the original trilogy, I think it succeeds fairly well - my favorite moment was Han and Chewie stepping onto the Millennium Falcon and saying, "Chewie, we're home." As an original story mean to continue the Star Wars saga, I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't thrilled either. It's first of all not original, and the story is the film's biggest weakness. All of the "spoilers" were so obvious that I can't fathom being upset over someone revealing them. The revelation in Return of the Jedi that Luke and Leia are siblings is much more exciting than anything is this. Heck. The backstory of Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones is more fascinating than anything in this.

Speaking of that, 12yo Evan definitely enjoyed Attack of the Clones a lot more than 25yo Evan enjoyed The Force Awakens. (Not sure what that says about 12yo Evan's taste.)

I do think The Force Awakens is better than AOTC and The Phantom Menace, but that's it. I'd easily rank both Jedi and Revenge of the Sith ahead of this.

And again, the score is fantastic. I'd be willing to watch it a second time merely to do an in depth analogy of the score, which I regret that I was focusing too much on the story's weaknesses to analyze the score as much as I should have.

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7 minutes ago, Evan C said:

Kylo Ren's powers with the Force seemed all over the place. His mind-reading ability seemed to surpass anything of which Vader, Palpatine, Obi-Wan, or Yoda was capable, but he's a novice who still clearly struggles immensely to utilize the Force to his full ability.

It makes sense. He's powerful enough that even Luke wasn't able to take him down. His instability prohibits him from exploring the full extent of his power, however.

I won't be surprised if Snoke begins pursuing Rey as a superior apprentice, especially if she is a Skywalker. If Snoke is, in fact, Plagueis, he has substantial reason to be interested in the Skywalker bloodline.

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I really enjoyed this discussion in The Atlantic:

Quote

Within the overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Force Awakens has been the common acknowledgement that Disney’s new take on the franchise is mostly made up of recycled parts. For a lot of people, this is a big part of the appeal. For others, it’s a filmmaking choice that carries a hint of cynicism but ends up being justified by the entertaining final product. For others—I’d say “just me” if I hadn’t seen a few other gripes along these lines—the lack of originality nearly kills the film. The Force Awakens feels, in some ways, like a betrayal of Star Wars, or a misreading of its essence. There’s nothing wrong with Abrams returning to the universe that the prequels seemed to completely ditch, the one of screaming TIE fighters and of actual human beings with feelings getting wrapped into an epic quest. But there’s something wrong with him returning only to wallow, with him almost completely declining to build anything new within it.

 

 

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See, I can get behind criticizing the film's lack of visual and narrative imagination and the lamer callbacks to the earlier films, but I think that line of critique has limits. The film gives us charismatic new characters who suggest different trajectories and destinations than the original films.

THE FORCE AWAKENS largely functions as bridge between trilogies. The final scene--which is the first moment where the film breaks away from OT geography and gives us a new location that looks unlike anything we've seen before--is a step into new territory.

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Evan C said:  

my favorite moment was Han and Chewie stepping onto the Millennium Falcon and saying, "Chewie, we're home."

 

My favourite moment was when they rushed in at the start of that scene.  For me it was the closest thing to a surprise in the film and had a nice fun element to it that fit the characters well.  It also had a tint of nostalgia that worked.

 

Evan C said:    

 I'd easily rank both Jedi and Revenge of the Sith ahead of this.

 

I'd rank Jedi ahead of this.  Not sure about Revenge of the Sith though, but mind you I only saw it once, back when it was in the theatres.

 

 

Ryan H said:  

The film gives us charismatic new characters who suggest different trajectories and destinations than the original films.

 

Yep, there still is hope that this franchise can go in some really cool directions.  They have set up some stuff to potentially work with.  

 

Edited by Attica

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Another question that I'm wondering, which we will probably never find out.  Was Chewbacca the best man at Han and Leia's wedding (if they were married?)  Was he involved with the raising of Ren?  Surely there was some involvement, but we don't see any connection either with Ren or with Han in regards to this.  But that then brings more problems with Chewbacca walking by Leia (and yes I know I keep bringing that up... but I keep thinking of more problems.)  Maybe future film's will dive further into Chewbacca and Ren in regards to his childhood, although I doubt it.  Of course we will probably be seeing more in regards to Luke's involvement with Ren's childhood which will probably mean that Han Solo will be coming back in some sort of flashbacks.  Maybe we will see more of Han and Leia's marriage in the future.

Edited by Attica

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7 minutes ago, Attica said:

Another question that I'm wondering which we will probably never find out.  Was Chewbacca the best man at Han and Leia's wedding (if they were married?)  Was he involved with the raising of Ren?  Surely there was some involvement, but we don't see any connection either with Ren or with Han in regards to this.  But that then brings more problems with Chewbacca walking by Leia (and yes I know I keep bringing that up... but I keep thinking of more problems.)  Maybe future film's will dive further into Chewbacca and Ren in regards to his childhood, although I doubt it.  Of course we will probably be seeing more in regards to Luke's involvement with Ren's childhood which will probably mean that Han Solo will be coming back in some sort of flashbacks.  Maybe we will see more of Han and Leia's marriage in the future.

Last night I was listening to the podcast Full of Sith and the panel has some good discussion about the film. They've seen it multiple times so they caught things I didn't.

Spoiler

Regarding Chewbacca, they too wondered if the Wookiee had helped raise Ren. I mean, the deepest emotional thrust is Ren killing his father, but Chewbacca then takes aim at the man he likely held in his arms as an infant. They also point out that Chewbacca shoots Ren but only wounds him, whereas he takes out all the stormtroopers. Could it be he simply missed or was he reluctant to kill his best friend's son (although the anger of Wookiees - I'm thinking ANH and Wookiee temper over losing dejarik - is a point against this as in his shock and rage it almost makes more sense for him to kill Ren outright).

The Full of Sith podcast also brought up more interesting tidbits. They suggest that Rey might somehow be a Kenobi. One of the parallels they note is that in Obi-Wan's first onscreen appearance (ANH), his first words are an alien language that chases off enemies interested in droids. As well, Rey hears Obi-Wan when she touches the lightsaber, which could be explained because of Kenobi's relationship to the owner of that particular blade, but maybe...also, it would break us out of the Skywalker-Solo families.

The panel doesn't see TFA as a straight-up repeat of ANH but the entire OT. The first third is more ANH, the second half is more ESB (Maz Kanata's tavern/temple is a throwback to the Mos Eisley cantina, but she is a diminutive alien with some knowledge of the Force and Rey has her "Dagobah grove" moment in the temple basement. The attack on Starkiller Base is a rehash of ROTJ as Han leads a strike force to take out the shield generator.
 

The more interesting point the panel makes is at the bridge scene. During that sequence we cut away from Han and Ren to Poe Dameron who, as he and the starfighters attack Starkiller Base, says something like, "As long as we have light we have hope," which makes sense tactically, but then when we cut to Han and Ren, the two characters are illuminated by light, Han by pale-blue, Ren by red. As the scene progresses, according to the panel, the light around Han seems to dim and when are eventually left just with Ren in red.

Side-quibble: This new trilogy needed to focus on a female protagonist, but there's been such a glut of female protagonists lately - Bella Swan (I know, bad example), Beatrice Prior (Divergent), Katniss Everdeen (the Hunger Games). I mean, I guess for years it was always men taking the protagonist's role, but still...

TFA is complicated for me because I'm torn over J.J. Abram's nods and throwbacks to the OT. I both love and appreciate many of them and feel annoyed that TFA doesn't really present us with much that's original.

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First impressions. Spoilers, because apparently I can't figure out how to do spoiler-tags anymore:

 

 

It took me about ten minutes to settle into the movie before I started accepting it, and every time an OT character showed up it took me about five minutes to accept that. I don't know if that says much about the movie, but still. Definitely not as emotionally connected as I was, at 15, to AotC (and, honestly, I feel more emotional connection to the aesthetic of the Prequels than to that of the OT, even though I grew up with the latter). 

It's fun, though; not as ambitious or interesting as the Prequels, but also not as seriously flawed in the areas of dialogue and acting--so, on balance, it's a wash. I like all the new characters and found Kylo Ren particularly interesting as a continuation of the Oedipal themes from the Lucas movies. 

I didn't get at all emotional over Han Solo's death, though I did have an odd emotional reaction to seeing Rey with a lightsaber.

The Han-Chewie stuff may be my favorite of the franchise, actually; it felt very lived-in.

On balance, I'm positive, though I wish the movie tried to do something--anything--that wasn't direct from the OT.

Edited by NBooth

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1 hour ago, Attica said:

Yep, there still is hope that this franchise can go in some really cool directions.  They have set up some stuff to potentially work with.

No matter what, we're headed to some different places. I don't know whether or not the journey will be satisfying, but it's hard to imagine the next two trilogy installments being retreads. (Besides, Kasdan has said that Johnson's installment is going to be very weird.)

Also, I don't understand how anyone could rank REVENGE OF THE SITH ahead of this. That film is so, so dire.

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8 minutes ago, NBooth said:

First impressions. Spoilers, because apparently I can't figure out how to do spoiler-tags anymore:

 

I didn't get at all emotional over Han Solo's death, though I did have an odd emotional reaction to seeing Rey with a lightsaber.

I, too, liked seeing Rey pick up that saber.  Of course, as soon as Ren tried to force-grab the saber (stuck in snow a la ESB), the entire theater knew that sucker would be flying past him to Rey.  But still--it was exciting, if not surprising, stuff.

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4 minutes ago, Ryan H. said:

Also, I don't understand how anyone could rank REVENGE OF THE SITH ahead of this. That film is so, so dire.

Amen.

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20 minutes ago, NBooth said:

On balance, I'm positive, though I wish the movie tried to do something--anything--that wasn't direct from the OT.

Making a stormtrooper a protagonist is definitely the most notable new element. That whole opening establishing Finn feels new in a good way.

Stained parent/child relationships are not new to the STAR WARS universe, but the film does adjust the dynamic so that what we're getting is not a retread. And after looking over some spoiler material for EP. VII that wasn't officially published, I think I've figured out Rey's lineage, and if I'm right, then EP. VIII will do even more interesting things there.

The political landscape of the story have also shifted, though a lot of the exposition in that regard ended up on the cutting room floor, so the full weight of its First-Order-as-ISIS take isn't really felt.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Evan C wrote:
: As a piece of nostalgia for the original trilogy, I think it succeeds fairly well - my favorite moment was Han and Chewie stepping onto the Millennium Falcon and saying, "Chewie, we're home."

Blecch. I know Han and Leia are divorced and he doesn't have a *real* home any more and all that, but still. (And then there's the whole "fan service" aspect of that line, and that shot.)

: The backstory of Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones is more fascinating than anything in this.

Oh, well put!

Ryan H. wrote:
: The film gives us charismatic new characters who suggest different trajectories and destinations than the original films.

It gives us Rey, at least. I like David Poland's line about Kylo Ren being "Millennial Darth", and I'm intrigued by the complaint (offered by Poland, I think, and others) that Finn is reduced to comic relief (which adds an interesting wrinkle to all the "diversity" praise the film was getting *before* it came out).

Attica wrote:
: My favourite moment was when they rushed in at the start of that scene.  For me it was the closest thing to a surprise in the film . . .

I suppose you could call it that. To me it was just another dumb coincidence a la Kirk and Spock Prime and Scotty all coincidentally being on the same planet in JJ Abrams' first Star Trek movie. (And in both cases, the dumb coincidence exists largely to get an original cast member into the story. Original cast member ex machina, or whatever.)

winter shaker wrote:
: They suggest that Rey might somehow be a Kenobi.

Does anyone else remember when Uncle Owen was Obi-Wan Kenobi's brother? (That was in the novelization of Return of the Jedi, which I'm pretty sure took this detail from the screenplay for that film. I believe that novelization *also* was the first source to mention that Obi-Wan fought Anakin Skywalker near some lava somewhere, and *that* detail *did* end up making its way into the prequels.)

NBooth wrote:
: It's fun, though; not as ambitious or interesting as the Prequels, but also not as seriously flawed in the areas of dialogue and acting--so, on balance, it's a wash.

Pithily put. That's about where I am, too.

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1 minute ago, Ryan H. said:

Making a stormtrooper a protagonist is definitely the most notable new element. That whole opening establishing his character feels very new in a good way.

Stained parent/child relationships are not new to the STAR WARS universe, but the film does adjust the dynamic so that what we're getting is not a retread. And after looking over some spoiler material for EP. VII that wasn't officially published, I think I've figured out Rey's lineage, and if I'm right, then EP. VIII will do even more interesting things there.

The political landscape of the story have also shifted, though a lot of the exposition in that regard ended up on the cutting room floor, so the full weight of its First-Order-as-ISIS take isn't really felt.

Yeah, I can grant all of that. I was speaking a bit broadly (though I'm not inclined to give them any credit for the political stuff, which was cut and so doesn't really keep the movie from seeming like a retread). I was also thinking mostly in terms of the plot and settings, both of which--with minor variations--are nothing new. And the aesthetic is a direct lift from the OT, though there's at least one glimpse of a planet that looks like it would be more at home in the PT. 

The parent-child stuff is the common element that bothers me the least, actually; I'm a sucker for that sort of thing (then again, I think the way it climaxed in this movie was emotionally underwhelming, if not outright dumb. The fight with Rey felt much more emotionally involving, which seems--wrong, somehow).

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Side note: any ideas on the chronology here? It's 30 years or so ABY, but how long has Luke been missing? Five years? Ten? If they mentioned it, I missed it. 

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Wintershaker said:  They also point out that Chewbacca shoots Ren but only wounds him, whereas he takes out all the stormtroopers.

 

I was also wondering about that.  If they want to progressively make Chewbacca more of a central character then they have something else to work with here.  Who knows, maybe he could be the guy that either kills or brings back Ren.

 

The Kenobi's is interesting.  I would think it would be a good way of bringing things full circle before Luke moved out of the series (however that is to happen.)

 

Ryan H said:  

I don't know whether or not the journey will be satisfying, but it's hard to imagine the next two trilogy installments being retreads. (Besides, Kasdan has said that Johnson's installment is going to be very weird.)

 

I'm very cool with weird and even with it's faults I think Looper shows promise for what he might be capable of doing with this new film.  It's possible that he might make a great film that isn't as generally accepted though.

 

Peter T Chattaway said:  

It gives us Rey, at least. I like David Poland's line about Kylo Ren being "Millennial Darth", and I'm intrigued by the complaint (offered by Poland, I think, and others) that Finn is reduced to comic relief (which adds an interesting wrinkle to all the "diversity" praise the film was getting *before* it came out).

 

 

Rey is great, Ren has potential to develop into something more, and Finn is interesting enough and has a lot of potential even though some of the ways he was handled (ie. too much knowledge and skill) was problematic.  I can see them doing interesting things with Finn's backstory and future involvement with the stormtroopers etc.  For example, what family was he stolen from, and how does that link up with the other families and story at large?  

 

Also maybe this film really is about two children who find a family and one who completes his walk away from this.

 

 

Peter T Chattaway said:  

To me it was just another dumb coincidence 

 

 

They had made a point of telling us that Han and Chewbacca had been scanning for the Falcon as they had been looking for it for awhile.  So I suppose there still would be some coincidence in them being in the same star system (or within scanner range, whatever that might be), but even then, they *were* smugglers and therefore would possibly be in that area.

 

 

 

 

Ignore the spoiler box below, I don't know how to erase it.  This new interface is a nightmare.

Spoiler

 

 

Edited by Attica

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3 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Evan C wrote:
: As a piece of nostalgia for the original trilogy, I think it succeeds fairly well - my favorite moment was Han and Chewie stepping onto the Millennium Falcon and saying, "Chewie, we're home."

Blecch. I know Han and Leia are divorced and he doesn't have a *real* home any more and all that, but still. (And then there's the whole "fan service" aspect of that line, and that shot.)

Oh, I know it was JJ Abrams' style fan service which didn't make a lot of sense plot-wise, but Ford inhabits the role so well, and I was just happy to see him enter the movie.

 

3 hours ago, Ryan H. said:

Also, I don't understand how anyone could rank REVENGE OF THE SITH ahead of this. That film is so, so dire.

Give Revenge of the Sith the following:
It has a better character trajectory for Anakin (in spite of Hayden Christensen's wooden acting).
It substantially moves the story forward.
Ian McDiarmid is a better villain than Snoke (or Hux or Ren).
Anakin's betrayal, murdering of the Jedi children, and his fight with Obi-Wan has more weight than anything between Kylo Ren and Han Solo.
 

Edited by Evan C

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3 hours ago, Evan C said:

Give Revenge of the Sith the following:
It has a better character trajectory for Anakin (in spite of Hayden Christensen's wooden acting).
It substantially moves the story forward.
Ian McDiarmid is a better villain than Snoke (or Hux or Ren).
Anakin's betrayal, murdering of the Jedi children, and his fight with Obi-Wan has more weight than anything between Kylo Ren and Han Solo.
 

I don't believe any of that, beyond "It substantially moves the story forward." Which it does, but in a horribly clumsy, unsatisfying way, bungling moments that should have been easy to deliver.

Anakin's character arc makes no sense and has no sense of tragedy because it feels so nonsensical. I find all the stuff with Ren considerably more moving and dramatically compelling (the Rey/Ren lightsaber duel carries more weight than any fight scene from the prequel trilogy).

McDiarmid is great in JEDI. In SITH he goes so over-the-top that he loses any real sense of menace. The fight with Yoda is awful.

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6 hours ago, NBooth said:

Side note: any ideas on the chronology here? It's 30 years or so ABY, but how long has Luke been missing? Five years? Ten? If they mentioned it, I missed it. 

Rey was abandoned when she was five, so ten years at least.

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6 hours ago, NBooth said:

 I was also thinking mostly in terms of the plot and settings, both of which--with minor variations--are nothing new. And the aesthetic is a direct lift from the OT, though there's at least one glimpse of a planet that looks like it would be more at home in the PT. 

The concept art in THE ART OF book is loaded with new stuff. But the production team moved away from their original, more striking concepts to safely STAR WARSy ones, with the production team leader declaring that a desert/forest/snow combination would give the film the right feel.

Jakku was originally envisioned as a kind of junkyard planet, with smokestacks and ships half-submerged in water. Later versions portrayed it as a kind of Western-styled outpost, with direct reference to Sergio Leone.

Takodana was originally a "pirate planet," crowded with disreputable types. Later versions seemed more like Scotland.

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I can appreciate the utility of that move, even as I regret the fact that more striking settings weren't used. 

 

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13 hours ago, Ryan H. said:

See, I can get behind criticizing the film's lack of visual and narrative imagination and the lamer callbacks to the earlier films, but I think that line of critique has limits. The film gives us charismatic new characters who suggest different trajectories and destinations than the original films.

THE FORCE AWAKENS largely functions as bridge between trilogies. The final scene--which is the first moment where the film breaks away from OT geography and gives us a new location that looks unlike anything we've seen before--is a step into new territory.

Yes. My read on the cultural moment is this: Listen everyone. We are just going to globally regroup on this Star Wars thing. Let's get everyone on the same page again and then we are going to move forward from there. So bring all your millennials and younger, and we will just kind of celebrate Stars Wars right now. We will have Abrams do his thing with the lens flares and all that. And Williams is in on the score. The next ones will be cooler.

If this is the case, it is pretty savvy creatively and financially. 

Edited by M. Leary

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Ok, the following is a loosely-connected ramble playing off a few posts above--I think:

If this new movie has done anything, it's underlined for me--in a way that I never thought possible--how much I'm a child of the Prequels. As I've said, I grew up on the Original Trilogy--I can't think of a time when I didn't know that Darth Vader was Luke's father. We had the pre-Special Edition versions on VHS. Etc. But the Prequels managed to come out at crucial benchmarks in my life and they marked the period when I was, not just a casual fan, but a hard-core Star Wars fanboy. I love the look of those movies, the settings, even the characters (heck, I'll even mount a defense of Anakin's terrible dialogue in AotC because I was writing exactly that sort of stuff in my diaries at the time). I like their ambition. And I'll maintain, in the face of all comers, that the first twenty minutes and the last thirty of RotS have the makings of the best Star Wars movie ever made (my cold, analytic brain will always side with Empire, which is the fluke of the series--a really great movie, as opposed to a simply entertaining-or-passable one).

And, as a result, I spent a good bit of time at the start of Awakens doing exactly what I imagine old-school fans did when TPM came out--shifting uncomfortably in my seat and wondering where the magic was, why it didn't "feel" like Star Wars--not like my Star Wars. Eventually that discomfort subsided and I was able to enjoy the movie on its own terms, but every once in a while I would grimace--at a camera angle, a piece of design, a character's introduction--and wonder if the magic had ever been there in the first place.

But, y'know, I was there with my brother and his oldest son--three, so perhaps a little young, but very precocious for all that--and watching that boy watch Star Wars--having him climb into my lap during the final X-Wing assault and point (and make audible observations about the fate of various characters--sorry, Peter)--underlined for me how very special this whole thing still is. My nephews are getting their own Star Wars trilogy. So I can gripe that it's not my Star Wars, but it was never going to be, anyway. 

Not sure that's apropos of anything. Like I say, I came down basically positive on the movie as a whole--neither hating it nor ecstatic that "Star Wars is back, baby" (because my Star Wars is never coming back). And I can appreciate the savvy maneuvering that made this movie as comfortable as possible for older fans--M.'s read on the cultural moment strikes me as spot-on. The movie itself is fine--hits its mark, says its lines. I'm eager to see what Johnson does with the property, but it's because I like Johnson, not because I'm invested in the continuation of the Star Wars saga. But that's fine.

Edited by NBooth

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Ryan, I'm curious to hear your take on Rey's lineage. Can you post, either spoiler tagged or just PM me? I haven't had the time or energy to dig through any of the material on this film, but I do want to get the ART OF... book now.

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5 minutes ago, Anders said:

Ryan, I'm curious to hear your take on Rey's lineage. Can you post, either spoiler tagged or just PM me? 

I second that.

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