Star Wars: The Force Awakens is crushing it at the box office. It just passed Avatar for the top movie of all time when it comes to domestic sales. However, the movie had some major plot issues. There are two that really stood out to me. The first was the ever so controversial fight sequence between Rey and Finn and Kylo Ren. The second was how Rey and Finn escaped Jakku. Both of these sequences have parallels to the Star Wars Rebels “Siege of Lothal” television movie which made things much more believable while maintaining the core of the characters.
The Siege of Lothal television movie was written by co-executive producer Henry Gilroy and directed by Bosco Ng and Brad Rau. It shows the Rebels shifting to their larger role within the Rebellion as they attempt to rescue an Imperial officer in exchange for a list of Rebel sympathizers. However, Darth Vader has taken a personal interest in the Rebels and lays a trap that will make their rescue mission extremely difficult.
With this basic plot in mind, Darth Vader eventually confronts the Rebels leading to a lightsaber duel between Vader, Kanan Jarrus and Ezra. It is a very similar set-up to The Force Awakens. A much more experienced dark side user is combating two lesser-trained light side users. To give you a complete picture, Kanan never completed his Jedi training. He was forced to flee across the galaxy as a Padawan after the execution of his master during Order 66. Ezra Bridger is a young Force-sensitive boy who Kanan has taken under his wing and has begun training him.
If you thought the confrontation was similar, the actual combat is even more similar and something I would say is a running theme throughout Star Wars now, starting with the encounter with Darth Maul and later Count Dooku in Revenge of the Sith. Vader easily tosses Kanan aside with a Force push knocking him out of the battle early. The same thing happens when Rey is knocked aside by Kylo Ren. This allows both Vader and Ren to focus on their weaker opponents. While Ren is able to defeat his opponent, Ezra is saved by a recovering Kanan. Everything with both fight sequences is going great. It is all very believable and stays in tune with what we know about the characters. However, this is where the stories diverge. All of a sudden, Rey uses The Force to acquire Luke’s old lightsaber instead of the much stronger (at least from what we saw on-screen) Kylo Ren. The battle maintains Ren’s power and strength over Rey, pushing her to the brink. However, all of a sudden and completely out of nowhere, Ren makes a statement about training Rey. This is literally out of left field and, even after watching the movie twice, I am still baffled by this line of dialogue. This leads to Rey somehow becoming super-powered by The Force (think DBZ Super-Saiyan modes) and completely thrashing Ren like he was a youngling. Fortunately, the planet is exploding and saves Ren from complete destruction.
In contrast to the poor dialogue and unexplained Force empowerment of The Force Awakens, the sequence between Vader, Kanan, and Ezra in the Siege of Lothal is resolved through strategic thinking. Sabine expertly lands a couple of explosives onto the legs of an AT-AT and detonates them while Vader is standing underneath it. At the same time, Ezra and Kanan combine their Force abilities to push Vader further underneath the AT-AT. Not only is Vader caught off guard by the explosion, the battlefield awareness of Kanan allows them to gain the upper hand. However, this is Vader and a mere AT-AT is not going to stop him. He uses The Force to protect himself. This gives the Rebels enough time to escape the clutches of Vader. The characters remain true to themselves; they don’t have bizarre moments of epiphany, whether it is with The Force or randomly wanting to train people in the heat of battle.
After escaping Vader, the Rebels are still left without a plan to escape the besieged system. Luckily, off-planet communications haven’t been completely blocked off and the Rebels are able to reach out to Lando Calrissian who supplies them with equipment they use to devise a plan. It is a pretty brilliant plan too, relying on the fact that the Empire can’t be in all places at once. They are able to create a number of devices that mimic the signal of their ship. This will make the same signal appear in a number of different places across the planet. The Empire is forced to deploy a number of TIE fighters to obtain visuals on the various locations. Unfortunately, by the time they catch on to the strategy, the Rebels are able to calculate the jump to lightspeed and escape the blockade. It is a tight plot that expertly explains how they are able to escape the planet.
Contrast this with how Finn and Rey escape Jakku. They hijack the Millennium Falcon and then lead a pair of TIE fighters on a merry chase through and around an old Imperial Star Destroyer. After doing away with the TIE fighters, they just fly out into space on their merry way. Apparently, the TIE fighters weren’t communicating with the First Order Star Destroyer, The Finalizer, and providing updates on the whereabouts of the droid. They should have been, because Rey didn’t jam their transmissions. The actual troops stationed on The Finalizer must also be completely inept because they weren’t tracking the movements of ships exiting the system. However, Han Solo is able to find the Millennium Falcon as soon as it experiences a technical malfunction. It is just mind blowing how loosely explained these scenes are.
These are just two ways that Star Wars Rebels “Siege of Lothal” outclasses The Force Awakens when it comes to plot, believability, and staying true to the characters’ cores. Here is to hoping that Rian John will learn from the plot mistakes of The Force Awakens and take a cue from Star Wars Rebels for Star Wars Episode VIII, because we all want the best Star Wars experience possible!