Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
It was not until my fourth screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that I asked myself the following question: when exactly does the Force awaken in the movie? The answer may seem obvious to anyone who has seen the movie, but it’s not really as obvious as you may believe. Join me in an examination of this question.
A “Rey” of Light Shines Through the Darkness
You might think that the Force awakens as Rey discovers her Force abilities late in the story, but Supreme Leader Snoke feels an awakening much earlier in the story.
Remember that Snoke tells Kylo Ren “there’s been an awakening,” before asking “have you felt it?” early in the film. This scene takes place right after Finn and Rey help Han Solo and Chewbacca escape from the two gangs on the freighter.
This line occurs many scenes before the interrogation scene where Rey appears to discover her powers while being probed by Kylo Ren — which is several scenes before Rey uses the Jedi Mind Trick to convince James Bond in a stormtrooper costume to let her escape. It’s also a few scenes before they arrive at Maz Kanata’s castle, where Rey has a vision after touching Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.
If Not Rey, Who Else?
Aside from Kylo Ren, Rey is the only new character in the film that appears to have Force sensitivity. So when Snoke brings up the awakening to Kylo, you must assume it’s about her, right? But why did we not see it happen? When exactly did this awakening occur?
Snoke’s line in the movie strikes me as weird because it doesn’t appear to match the order of events we are participating with on screen. On one hand, the line could be a remnant of an earlier draft when the Force awakened earlier in the story. But I feel like if you are going to base the entire title of the film on this line, it must be more calculated. Abrams could have easily edited the line into a later scene with Snoke, like the one after the interrogation scene. So let me try to make sense of it as presented in the story, and within the construct of the Star Wars universe.
Another possibility is that the Force awakened within Finn when he decided not to participate in the massacre on Jakku. But again, aside from wielding the lightsaber, we see no evidence of Force sensitivity from that character. Could the Force exist within Finn? Its unclear.
In the opening sequence, Kylo Ren looks over to FN-2187 because he senses something but doesn’t take action. Did he feel a change in the Force? Or did Kylo just notice the only First Order Stormtrooper with an easily identifiable mark standing there doing nothing?
In the original script and original edit of the film, a longer version of the scene where Kylo Ren consults Darth Vader’s helmet followed Finn and Poe’s escape from the Star Destroyer. Kylo Ren originally berated himself for having seen that Finn was a traitor on the battlefield and not have done anything about it. But the editors realized Finn’s awakening wasn’t a big enough event to earn Kylo’s disappointment, and they moved it much later in the film.
Playing to the Meta
Lets step away from Snoke’s line of dialogue for a moment and look at the film’s title.
And there is the possibility that the title of the film also serves as a meta reference, just in the way that the marketing for the film seemed to mirror the way Star Wars came back into our lives. The first teaser promised an awakening and hit full force, and the second teaser ended with Han Solo telling Chewie “We’re home,” which lands very differently than it does in the final film. And the third and final theatrical trailer speaks to the myth of Star Wars in our lives. It’s possible that the title “The Force Awakens” is a meta comment on the franchise and myth returning to our lives after many years of being dormant. But the line in the movie definitely feels more story-based.
It has been previously revealed that J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy were among a small group of people to come up with the title, which was taken from a line of dialogue in the script. For a long time the movie was almost going to be titled Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire (which was too close to a title of an expanded universe novel), to reference the new darkness emerging from the remains of the Empire. A dark side-positive title ultimately would’ve fit the franchise’s up-down-up-down pattern more than the final concept, but I think everyone agrees it was for the best.