13 things I learned from 'The Force Awakens'

Harrison Ford just can't resist a treasure map, can he? Oh, and Star Wars is British now.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
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Daisy Ridley is Rey, the hero of "The Force Awakens".


There's a lot to learn from "The Force Awakens", a film that sees beloved space heroes old and new blast their way onto the big screen for audiences young and old.

The seventh Star Wars film, written and directed by J.J. Abrams, has smashed box office records in its opening week. Here's what I learned from the film...

Warning: This article contains a Sith-load of spoilers for "The Force Awakens". There's more spoilers here than there are stains on the floor of the Mos Eisley cantina. You've seen the film? Then read on.

Harrison Ford can't resist a map

Even when he isn't playing Indiana Jones, the laconic star loves a map. With a temple at the end, no less.

Han definitely shoots first

George Lucas infamously went back and tinkered with "A New Hope", so in the remastered version Han Solo only fires his blaster at bounty hunter Greedo after Greedo shoots him. But in "The Force Awakens", Han doesn't just shoot first, he shoots without even looking. And when there's a rampaging monster on his heels, he doesn't shoot at all, just throws some poor sap into those slavering jaws and keeps running.

J.J. Abrams gets Star Wars

Abrams took the humanistic, utopian vision of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek and turned it into a militaristic, dystopian nightmare peopled by Starfleet officers who argue and cop off with each other at the worst possible moments. He also invented a way do away with starships and cured death, leaving the producers of the new Trek movie with more than a few headaches. Fortunately, he's much more in tune with Star Wars.

TIE fighters have ejector seats

And parachutes. Super-handy in space, I... guess?

A galaxy far, far away still looks like the 1970s

Check out those beards and haircuts in the Resistance briefing room!

Watch this: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' spoiler-free review

The clone wars are over

Stormtroopers aren't clones any more. Instead they're ripped from their homes and brainwashed into serving the First Order. Finn's defection shows that's not as effective a method of indoctrination, and in fact some within the First Order seem keen on the idea of sending in the clones once again. Perhaps the next films will see a new attack of the clones?

There are other planets beside Tatooine

It may be the furthest planet from the bright centre of the universe, but the dusty desert planet of Tatooine has sure been important to the history of the galaxy. Luckily, "The Force Awakens" takes us further afield than the handful of planets that George Lucas kept returning to.

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Peckham-born John Boyega is one of the British stars of "The Force Awakens", along with Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Simon Pegg.


There are a lot of stars in the galaxy far, far away

Among the familiar faces are Yayan Ruhian and Iwo Uwais from "The Raid", and Greg Grunberg from Abrams' previous projects "Heroes" and "Lost". Less obviously, Simon Pegg is an alien junk dealer. Thomas Brodie-Sangster -- the kid from "Love Actually" -- is a First Order officer.

"Saturday Night Live" star Bill Hader and occasional "Parks and Recreation" guest star Ben Schwartz helped out with the voice of BB-8. "30 Rock" star Judah Friedlander is hanging out in the bar scene. Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich is a Stormtrooper. James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, gets to see what it's like on the other side of villain's lair as the stormtrooper who falls for Rey's Jedi mind trick. And that's not to mention the fact that half the cast of "Game of Thrones" is in there somewhere.

That's no moon...

It's a planet that eats stars. The Starkiller is many times bigger than the Death Star, and if that's the baddies' base in the first film of the trilogy, what have they got up their sleeve in the next two?

Anyone can be a Jedi

According to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi Knight -- not as clumsy or random as a blaster, an elegant weapon for a more civilised age. But apparently anyone can hold their own with one. As cool as it is to see John Boyega ignite a lightsaber, it kind of takes away from the impact of the moment when Rey, the real Force adept, does the same thing. And while we're on the subject, how does Rey figure out the Jedi mind trick from scratch? Guess being a Jedi ain't that that hard after all.

And being hit by a lightsaber isn't that bad, apparently

We've seen Jedi use lightsabers to cut through metal and lop off arms left right and centre. But if you're an important enough character, being poked with a lightsaber is no big deal.

Star Wars is British now

Star Wars has always been connected with the United Kingdom. The first film was shot in London's Elstree in 1977. It was filled with British actors from top-billed stars Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing down to the bit-part players and extras that keen-eyed Brits still recognise from their favourite telly programmes. But "The Force Awakens" takes things a step further.

To qualify for massive tax breaks from the UK, the film establishes itself as a British production by ticking off a required list of Britishness. It was filmed in the UK and employs a Limey cast and crew. The tax breaks earned two special thanks in the credits for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey. By jove!

Star Wars is back!

Zooooommm! Pew pew! Swoooosshhhh! Beep-boop beepity-boop! Star Wars!