Beehive huts to the stars!

None of the things I expected from seeing The Force Awakens was to recognize the location where the last scene was filmed, because I’ve been there myself.

I’m being careful not to utter spoilers here…but I’ve been to the western coast of Ireland, in County Kerry, in a place called Fahan. And in that place, where the Atlantic crashes on the shore and blue of the sky and the green of the grass are more vivid than anywhere else I’ve seen on Earth, there are beehive-shaped stone huts called “clocháns” on the hills that tumble down to the sea.

There are many legends about the clocháns, the most picturesque of which is that they were built by hermit monks around 1000CE. Built by hand, without mortar, they are rude and dramatic ornaments to a landscape that would be pretty impressive even without them.

The combination is unmistakable, and that’s how I know pretty much exactly where that last scene was filmed, to within a couple of hundred feet, on the south-facing shore of the Dingle Peninsula. I’ve seen it with my own eyes; I may have walked on the same paths the movie characters used, probably did in fact.

And again, no spoilers, but…it was a superb choice of location for that scene. Well done!

(And for you smartasses out there, no it wasn’t the huts on Skellig Michael rather than the mainland. The lie of the slope was wrong for that; besides, schlepping a film unit to the island would have been both hideously difficult and pointless when the shore locations were about as good for what they wanted.)

UPDATE: On new evidence, they changed locations during the scene – I was right about the beginning, but the very last bit (like, the last 60 seconds of the movie) was indeed filmed on Skellig Michael.

134 thoughts on “Beehive huts to the stars!

  1. I wondered where that was, but didn’t make the effort to look it up. I was going to guess someplace like the Hebrides, so at least I was on the right margin of the right ocean. :-)

  2. This article, cited by wikipedia, seems to assert that it was indeed the island. I’ll leave it to you to show if this is either incorrect or not making the claim the Wikipedia writer believes it made.

  3. >I’ll leave it to you to show if this is either incorrect or not making the claim the Wikipedia writer believes it made.

    Skellig Michael is supposed to be steep cliffs all around. That doesn’t fit what we see in the establishing shot for the last scene, which looks like the slope of the Dingle coast as I recall it in 1995.

    Of course, it’s possible they filmed the establishing shot on the Dingle shore and the hilltop scenes on the island – I can see doing it that way, because the cliffs would have been unreasonably difficult for Rey to get up without climbing gear or a flier.

  4. They filmed in both locations, Skellig got more attenton here in Ireland because it was a controversial choice. (Heritage site with vulnerable archaeology and nature)

  5. >They filmed in both locations, Skellig got more attenton here in Ireland because it was a controversial choice.

    Thanks for that information. I’d bet money, then, that Rey walking up from the shore was filmed at Fahan and they changed locations to Skellig Michael for the very last bit.

  6. It’s weird when that happens.

    There’s a movie set in the neighborhood I grew up in, and moved away from over 30 years ago. I’ve never seen the entire movie, it’s too depressing.

    But once I saw an excerpt, it’s a shot of two older women waiting for a bus. All you see is the wall of a building, and some sidewalk. And I *instantly* recognized *exactly* where it was. (Southeast corner of the intersection of 2 avenues in Brooklyn.)

    Thinking that things might have changed a little in 30+ years, I checked on Google street view and confirmed I was absolutely correct.

  7. ESR, so what’s the verdict on the film itself? Will you review it? Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 94%, but I’m still weary of the hype.

  8. > so what’s the verdict on the film itself

    esr lacks the balls to say it sucks, for to say it sucks would be to say that artistic integrity has been crushed for the sake of heavy handed race and sex propaganda.

    And everyone respectable knows that there is no race and sex propaganda, and if there is it only makes books and movies better.

  9. Similarly compare and contrast the official eurovision winner – a revolting trannie who even if one turns the visual off to avoid the necessity of ripping your eyes out, turns out to be a woefully bad singer, with the unofficial winner “We are slavic” – a ripping good song celebrating sexual and racial differences.

  10. Compare with the official (judges defying the popular vote) winner – on second thought don’t. If you are healthy human being, there is a risk you will tear your eyes out.

  11. >ESR, so what’s the verdict on the film itself?

    It has both the strengths and the flaws one would expect of a J.J. Abrams movie, plus an annoying dose of PC pandering. Overall, rather better than the prequels but not quite justifying the hype. I might write a detailed review when I’m less rushed.

  12. @JAD:


    >> with the unofficial winner “We are slavic” – a ripping good song celebrating sexual and racial differences.

    I didn’t think that the Slavic girl song celebrated ‘racial differences’. Certainly no celebration of the kind of the racial ideas that (some) white Americans subscribe to. In many ways, slavic “untermensch” celebrating their heritage in Europe and ‘giving it’ to smug western europeans is like Mexican americans celebrating cinco de mayo in front of a “manifest destiny” crowd of Arizona cowboys.

    A more fitting example to the point you’re raising would be the many ‘colored faces’ in the Harry Potter movie series. That was indeed a dumb idea. The brits should be as authentically WASP as it gets on their Island, (or whatever fantasy version of it) … But only on their Island!

  13. It has both the strengths and the flaws one would expect of a J.J. Abrams movie, plus an annoying dose of PC pandering.

    What, having a female Jedi hugging a black Stormtrooper? Please. In terms of racial and gender inclusiveness, that’s weaksauce; as it still privileges humans and the gender binary. :)

    Joking aside, these characters are so portrayed as to elicit a shrug of the shoulders when it comes to the significance of their gender or skin color on the importance to the story. And that’s just what a good SF or space-opera should deliver: likable characters whose adventure we yearn to follow, their physical characteristics becoming background detail.

    One thing I thought you might appreciate is Finn — a non-Jedi — wielding a lightsaber and being encouraged to use it. Previous films seemed to establish that one was not privileged to touch a saber without meeting a minimum threshold (ugh) midichlorian count; the major exception being General Grievous whose cybernetic body presumably makes up for a lack of Jedi reflexes. Finn using a saber because it was the best weapon he had to hand was remarkably practical for a universe that famously put such emphasis on a privileged, mystical warrior class.

  14. The brits should be as authentically WASP as it gets on their Island, (or whatever fantasy version of it) … But only on their Island!

    The fact that they were able to hire young British actors with Asian and African backgrounds, including a girl of Chinese descent with a Scottish accent, proves that that island is no longer as uniformly WASP as one might have supposed even mere decades ago.

  15. But once I saw an excerpt, it’s a shot of two older women waiting for a bus. All you see is the wall of a building, and some sidewalk. And I *instantly* recognized *exactly* where it was. (Southeast corner of the intersection of 2 avenues in Brooklyn.)

    With numerous movies being shot in Boston — possibly due to Mayor Menino implementing considerable tax breaks for film companies who shoot there — I find myself often recognizing their settings with “hey, I think I ate at that pizza parlor” levels of granularity.

    It’s one of the reasons I’m stoked for the Ghostbusters reboot, which is set in Boston as opposed to the New York of the original.

  16. uma:
    > I didn’t think that the Slavic girl song celebrated ‘racial differences’. Certainly no celebration of the kind of the racial ideas that (some) white Americans subscribe to.

    That is because you are pig ignorant and blinded by the socially required murderous hatred.

  17. Do you think the only reason they didn’t film it on Vasquez Rock was because it was getting too cliche?

    esr>”Overall, rather better than the prequels”

    That isn’t saying much, lol!

  18. Well, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” looks a bit (plot-wise) like “Star Wars: A New Hope”, only with non-sucky special effects (destruction of the original Death Star).

    The old cast steal the show, and demonstrate that they are really good actors (well, those that have more than one minute total of screen time). The new generation… they have better moments, they have wooden moments.

    ESR, you have some experience with melee weapons; how really should fighting with zweihander-size light sword (absurdly sharp, weighless) look like, and how one proficient with fighting with (quarter)staff would handle (katana-like) lightsaber?

  19. >ESR, you have some experience with melee weapons; how really should fighting with zweihander-size light sword (absurdly sharp, weighless) look like, and how one proficient with fighting with (quarter)staff would handle (katana-like) lightsaber?

    The sword choreography in this one was pretty bad – characters hacking at each other with big, wide, only semi-controlled moves. That is a fast way to get killed. It was done better in Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back.

    A lightsaber would not really be much like a zweihander, which has a very heavy blade and a ricasso (gripping area forward of the crossguard). Nor would it be like a quarterstaff, with a large moment of inertia due to length. Logically, given the way a lightsaber handles, you’d use it like a very light, fast cut and thrust sword.

    A technique properly matched to the weapon would emphasize centerline control and minimal-motion deflection blacking. If it were me doing the choreography I would use the movement language of either katana or German longsword. The best Star Wars fight scenes in the past have recalled katana fencing, but with that crossguard on Ren’s weapon I would have expected German-style bind-and-twist moves similar to longsword.

    (I can use katana language competently and German longsword language pretty well. I have a little experience with zweihanders, though not enough to be really good.)

  20. The sword choreography in this one was pretty bad – characters hacking at each other with big, wide, only semi-controlled moves. That is a fast way to get killed. ”

    For Finn, though, that makes sense. It’s unlikely that he was given sword training by the First Order. We never see storm troopers issuing any type of sword weapon (I was going to say “edged weapon”, but light sabers don’t fit!) In any of the first six movies.

    But I have some trouble with the untrained Rey doing so well against Ren in the light saber battle. Unlike Finn, who at least had had military training, she doesn’t appear to have had any at all. She should be helpless before a skilled light saber user like Ren.

    I’m nitpicking, though. I liked it and thought it was a good job of continuing the original story.

  21. >But I have some trouble with the untrained Rey doing so well against Ren in the light saber battle.

    And you should have even more trouble with Ren, presumably trained in using a lightsaber, having such crude and clumsy technique. I would have chopped him into collets – for that matter my wife would have made short work of him. Parry the first rush, wait for him to go wide with one of those stupid swinging big moves, and gack him on centerline. I’m not the most skilled swordsman, but you don’t have to be to know how to deal with that; I’ve seen better cut-and-thrust from newbies on their third day of a sword intensive.

    I give them a partial pass on Rey not sucking because one of the first things they establish about her in the early scenes on Jakku is that she fights like a really well-trained martial artist; economically, with strong intention, and a precise sense of time and distance. Some of that transfers across weapons. Still, the scene does stretch plausibility.

  22. @JAD

    You didn’t even link to the right video. Here is the right video. Hint hint: Eurovision is a live contest.

    The only thing that ruined it was the English singing part at the end. Should have been 100% in Polish. Especially if it is meant to celebrate Polska Slavs and given the magnificent display of the red and white Polish colors on stage. Perhaps with a little more folk added in. And more butter-churning babes/boobs of course.

    Oh, and it is the mongol/asiatic genes (high cheek bones) that give slavic beauties their looks. Everybody knows that except the hicks in rural Arkansas.

  23. spoilers, spoilers, spoilers

    Presumably Rey got some of Kyle Ren lightsaber technique in attempted and reversed “mind-meld” interrogation. Also, Ren got seriously wounded with Chewie bowcaster (which is shown throwing Stormtrooper across the room… I wonder why physics did take a pass when it was Ren who got shot)?

  24. “And you should have even more trouble with Ren, presumably trained in using a lightsaber, having such crude and clumsy technique. I would have chopped him into collets – for that matter my wife would have made short work of him. Parry the first rush, wait for him to go wide with one of those stupid swinging big moves, and gack him on centerline. I’m not the most skilled swordsman, but you don’t have to be to know how to deal with that; I’ve seen better cut-and-thrust from newbies on their third day of a sword intensive.”

    Is it possible that light sabers, like late Roman swords, have an “edge” but not a “tip”? Or is this claim about sixth-century swords in ” Lest Darkness Fall” completely wrong?

  25. >Is it possible that light sabers, like late Roman swords, have an “edge” but not a “tip”? Or is this claim about sixth-century swords in ” Lest Darkness Fall” completely wrong?

    We actually see Han Solo get run through with a lightsaber tip, which disposes of the theory that it’s a slashing-only weapon.

    As for sixth-century swords, the late Roman infantry spatha and gladius generally did have a thrusting tip, but some (not all) spathas made specifically for cavalry use had rounded tips.

    I know that it used to be believed that Viking swords were commonly made with a rounded tip, but I have become extremely skeptical of these reconstructions since I learned how to use a sword myself. A rounded tip makes some sense if you’re on horseback without stirrups, because it’s difficult to thrust from that position. But not on foot; on foot, giving up a stabbing tip throws away way too much of your potential fighting repertoire.

  26. @esr:
    >And you should have even more trouble with Ren, presumably trained in using a lightsaber, having such crude and clumsy technique.

    But he’s explicitly established as a Darth Vader *wannabe*, with major self-control issues (several instances of hack-and-slash rages earlier on in the movie). My read was that he was trained with a lightsaber, but less so than we’re used to seeing from force-sensitive Star Wars villians, and in any case lacked the discipline to apply that training in the emotional state he was in.

  27. > likable characters whose adventure we yearn to follow, their physical characteristics becoming background detail.

    Every character in the movie is a white upper class young American male. Some of these males are played by blacks, women, etc. But, being written by white males, did not dare adjust the character to fit the actor.

    If you want a female character, or a black character, have to hire a female script writer or black scriptwriter, and run your scriptwriter through a character check by the PC commissars.

    To do “Frozen”, Disney hired a bunch of PC female scriptwriters that it piously ran through the PC comissars, and then had non PC male offshore contractor scriptwriters ghost write the actual scripts. Which is why the female characters in Frozen are allowed to actually be female, because supposedly written by PC female scriptwriters.

  28. >My read was that he was trained with a lightsaber, but less so than we’re used to seeing from force-sensitive Star Wars villians, and in any case lacked the discipline to apply that training in the emotional state he was in.

    That’ll do for a theory. It fits with the reaction I had when Ren unmasked: “Oh, shit, dangerous creature – an overcompensating weakling.”

  29. Maybe Kylo Ren specialized in esoteric side of the Force, like his stasis and mind-reading, neglecting lightsaber fight. He didn’t finish Jedi training, and neither he has finished Knights of Ren training (as Supreme Leader said).

  30. > For Finn, though, that makes sense. It’s unlikely that he was given sword training by the First Order. We never see storm troopers issuing any type of sword weapon (I was going to say “edged weapon”, but light sabers don’t fit!) In any of the first six movies.

    Not the first six movies, no, but what about that electrified thing that one of the stormtroopers used to fight Finn? I like to imagine there’s a whole backstory to that where the military commander guy’s secret real objective with that program is to have units able to counter Ren.

  31. It also makes sense in my mind for Finn to have received that training and be known to have received it, because otherwise that guy would have thought “untrained idiot with a light saber, just blast him” instead of getting into a sword fight in the first place.

    Of course, as an alternate theory, it’s also worth noting that it’s established in an earlier scene in the movie that Luke’s lightsaber has a bit of a mind of its own.

  32. “The sword choreography in this one was pretty bad”

    That’s space opera for you….they have laser blasters, photon torpedos, time-space disruptors, and presumably, museums full of gunpowder weapons…yet, as soon as the hero meets the villain they start belting each other with swords.

  33. “That’s space opera for you…”

    Correction:
    That’s bad space opera for you. Star Wars lacks the plotting and world building of decent space opera. Smith wrote better pulp than this 70 years ago. Imagine axes against armored space suits, galaxies at war and semi-understandable physic powers by Lensmen.

  34. Speaking of lightsabers: Did it bother anyone else that the light from the sabers was intense enough to chop wood, yet too dim to melt snow? Or is this just a personal physicist-hangup of mine?

  35. >Smith wrote better pulp than this 70 years ago.

    Indeed he did. Arguably Doc exceeded Star Wars 100 years ago in the early drafts of the first of the Skylark novels, let alone the later Lensman sequence.

    Historical note: the Star Wars universe is recognizably derivative of Edmond Hamilton’s 1947 space opera The Star Kings, which was already corny and obsolete the year it was issued due to Hamilton’s having been completely uninfluenced by the Campbellian re-invention of SF after 1938. Years earlier, in 1933, Hamilton had invented the lightsaber in his story Kaldar, Planet of Antares.

  36. I know very little about swordfighting, but assuming that the lightsaber “blade” is weightless, wouldn’t epee or sabre technique make sense? I realize this would look kind of ridiculous, but it’s kind of entertaining to imagine Kylo Ren being taken down by a fencing student.

    Something that actually bothered me during the movie (that I haven’t heard anyone else complain about yet) is the nonsensical economics involved in the construction of Starkiller Base. Somehow this tiny remnant of the old Imperial forces can gather the resources to build a superweapon an order of magnitude larger than the Death Star. It’s like North Korea suddenly building the Tsar bomb and a delivery system without anyone noticing until after a gigantic crater appeared where DC used to be.

  37. >Having now seen the film, I think the scene in its entirety was filmed on the Skellig.

    What produced your earlier statement that there was filming on the Dingle shore? Because the lie of the slope in the film still seems too shallow for Skellig Michael.

  38. There were reports here at the time of filming on the Dingle Peninsula but nothing confirmed.

  39. >I know very little about swordfighting, but assuming that the lightsaber “blade” is weightless, wouldn’t epee or sabre technique make sense.

    Epee, not really. You only thrust with those; you’d be giving up a lot of lethality by not using a lightsaber’s ability to cut.

    Whether “sabre technique” is applicable depends on what kind of sabre you’re talking about, but it’s worth noting that lightsabers aren’t shaped or sized like any of the edged weapons usually bearing that name.

  40. Nb. are boffer swords used in LARP-ing etc. light, or are they usually weighted? If they are kept light, are there any recognized techniques fighting with them?

  41. >Nb. are boffer swords used in LARP-ing etc. light, or are they usually weighted? If they are kept light, are there any recognized techniques fighting with them?

    That doesn’t have a simple answer. A well-constructed simulant can have a weight similar to a real sword, but the distribution will be different. At my school we weight the pommel in order to get the balance point of the sword to where it would be on a live-steel one.

  42. I wonder… how much does the fact that they have no “flat” (but can still parry just fine) make light sabers unique vs real world edged weapons?

  43. > the nonsensical economics involved in the construction of Starkiller Base.

    It is presumed that Snoke is really Darth Plagueis the Wise by a growing number of SW theorists. I follow that theory. Snoke would be able to get financial access to build such a base. If in fact, he never died at all.

  44. “how much does the fact that they have no “flat” (but can still parry just fine) make light sabers unique vs real world edged weapons?”

    Good question. How often do you whop someone upside the head with the flat of your sword in a real fight?

  45. >How often do you whop someone upside the head with the flat of your sword in a real fight?

    Um, never?

    OK, so I haven’t been in a fight with live steel. But if you’re in a situation where you need to have a have a gun drawn, how likely is it that you’ll have the luxury of merely hitting someone with it rather than pulling the trigger?

  46. >>“how much does the fact that they have no “flat” (but can still parry just fine) make light sabers unique vs real world edged weapons?”

    >Good question. How often do you whop someone upside the head with the flat of your sword in a real fight?

    Nah, it’s not that.

    There’s an ongoing, never-resolved debate about parrying with edge vs flat. Rather like emacs vs vi in character.

    The original question has self-identified the questioner as a ‘flat parry’ partisan.

  47. That would be my thought as well. If you can hit the guy with your sword, then you want to use the edge so you can actually accomplish the goal: ending the fight.

  48. I was referring more to the dynamics, i.e. that you don’t have to care which way the blade is turned, but it’s still a cutting weapon. I assume that with real-world techniques there is some motion dedicated to making sure the sharp edge is directed at your opponent, that you parry with the flat, etc, all of which is unnecessary with a lightsaber (but add a crossbar and it once again matters how it’s oriented).

  49. >There’s an ongoing, never-resolved debate about parrying with edge vs flat. Rather like emacs vs vi in character.

    No, there is no debate. You parry with the flat; otherwise you’ll notch your edge and damage your weapon. Nobody I have ever trained with has disputed this.

  50. >I assume that with real-world techniques there is some motion dedicated to making sure the sharp edge is directed at your opponent

    There is, but it’s not something you train in isolation. What you do is learn how to throw a repertoire of efficient strikes with your wrist turned so that the blade edge leads the strike. This quickly becomes unconscious.

    By contrast, you do have to explicitly train at least a little – and make conscious wrist motions – to parry with the flat.

  51. Someone who has trained only with a lightsaber may not have those techniques, then. And the wrist movement necessary to ensure the blade edge leads the strike (and the flat for a parry, etc) may or may not be the most efficient/effective wrist movement for using a weapon that can cut or parry in any direction, so someone whose technique includes this aspect may not be a 100% effective lightsaber fighter.

  52. > There is, but it’s not something you train in isolation.

    Well, there’s a reason I used the word “motion” rather than “effort”. Conscious, unconscious, it’s all still there. And it may not be for a lightsaber fighter.

  53. > No, there is no debate. You parry with the flat; otherwise you’ll notch your edge and damage your weapon. Nobody I have ever trained with has disputed this.

    Actually, both Liechtenauer and Fiore teach edge parrying, the two premier treatises currently being used in HEMA for longsword. In addition, if you look at the Infantry Sword Exercise, by Henry Angelo, the sabre fencing manual used by the British military during the 1800s (also the most common sabre/backsword manual for HEMA), it also teaches edge parrying.

    Why? Because the edge parry is a stronger, safer parry, as it aligns the impact of the parry into the forearm. Parrying with the flat aligns the impact into the wrist, which results in a weaker, more easily broken parry.

    Basically, the debate has been won in HEMA circles and it’s edge parry, whenever you can.

  54. More on edge parrying – if you read Liechtenauer or Fiore, both have bind techniques that depend on edge to edge contact during the parry, as the techniques assume (rightly) that sharp swords stick to each other.

    In HEMA, we end up simulating this stickiness with grip tape on the edges of our weapons.

  55. >Actually, both Liechtenauer and Fiore teach edge parrying

    I’m going to have to check this myself – I’ve got a copy of Liechtenauer around here somewhere. I’ve read both and don’t recall specific advocacy of edge parrying, and my school uses both as sources, but I’ve never heard anyone advocate edge parrying. Are you sure this in’t a HEMA-specific interpretation of an ambiguous illustration?

    On the other hand, your argument about the body mechanics does make some sense. On the gripping hand, the relative weakness may only be an issue in a style that uses a lot of force-on-force parrying, like German longsword. My school’s roots are Sicilian and the style favors a softer, more evasive parry analogous to a deflection block in empty hand.

    Interesting. You’ve given me something to think about.

  56. >How often do you whop someone upside the head with the flat of your sword in a real fight?

    This happens all the time in sparring. You’ll be like, damn it, I got a clean hit, but I hit with the flat, not with the edge. Even people who’ve been training for years still end up doing this occasionally in sparring sessions.

  57. >More on edge parrying – if you read Liechtenauer or Fiore, both have bind techniques that depend on edge to edge contact during the parry

    Do they? Beware of your assumptions. My school is in the process of assimilating German style bind techniques, but we don’t necessarily or even usually do them edge-to-edge.

  58. >You’ll be like, damn it, I got a clean hit, but I hit with the flat, not with the edge.

    Oh, yeah, that’s true. I understood Jay’s question differently, as to whether we ever deliberately flat people.

  59. > Are you sure this in’t a HEMA-specific interpretation of an ambiguous illustration?

    I took a quick look at my books (I’m off to longsword class in a few hours, so I brought them with me), and it seems like they cover both flat parrying and edge parrying, depending upon the situation.

    It looks like the general case is that thrusts can be parried effectively with the flat, while cuts usually need to be parried with the edge.

    My guess is that I’m just weak at defending against the cuts where edge parries provide an advantage, so that’s what I’ve been working on in my training, which colored my thinking that edge parries ruled supreme, when the sources have examples of both.

  60. “I understood Jay’s question differently, as to whether we ever deliberately flat people.”

    And that’s the sense in which I asked it.

    It should be obvious that I’m not a swordfighter. They get too up close and personal for my tastes.

    Also, EXPN HEMA?

  61. HEMA = Historical European Martial Arts. A general term for the historical sword clubs that have been popping up in the past decade to revive 1300s to 1800s European sword fighting techniques. It differs from SCA in that HEMA is almost entirely focused on unarmored, like vs like, sword combat. You don’t see any of the other historical aspects that SCA delves into.

    Personally, I’m learning German longsword, British sabre, and Olympic epee fencing, with the latter mainly to help my sabre thrust work, as you can find many a college club with good fencers to practice against.

  62. @ Jay Maynard

    > Also, EXPN HEMA?

    Historical European martial arts, I believe.

  63. “Oh, yeah, that’s true. I understood Jay’s question differently, as to whether we ever deliberately flat people.”

    You do that to idiots that invade Canada. (Google ‘Fenian raids). The Canadian militia chased the Fenians back over the border, whacking them with the flats of their swords all the way.

  64. >HEMA = Historical European Martial Arts.

    Yes. With a more specific implication of having been influenced pretty heavily by John Clements, whose quite excellent books on reconstructed Medieval and Renaissance sword provided a lot of the impetus for the early-21st-century HEMA revival.

    For everybody’s information, the sword people Cathy and I train with, Polaris, are derived from a pre-Clements family style but have a lot in common with them and are now incorporating more HEMA techniques. A principal difference is that HEMA leans heavily on the German sources while our style is based on Southern Italian; it’s, um, slipperier would be a good way to put it.

  65. @Thsu
    I prefer this Matt Easton video where he talks about it from the perspective of what the historical sources say. (Warning… Matt can sometimes come across as a smarmy British git and this one is kind of the worst for that) He is a little light on documentation in the video but he does link in the description to a HROARR article which contains excerpts from historical sources at the end (no attempt at translation unfortunately) plus some verbiage of the mechanical and biomechanical reasons why edge blocking is superior.

    From my perspective, anyone saying “always”, or even “always try to” regarding parrying when talking in general (i.e. not limited to a specific art, weapon or technique) is probably mis-informed. What i have observed is that the overwhelming majority of historical texts don’t actually mention edge or flat blocking directly.

    The only exception I have for that is from Silver’s “Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defense” where he describes what Hutton would call quarte by saying “The like may you do if he strike at your [left] side, if you ward his blowe with the edge of your sword your hands and knuckles as aforesaid, casting out his sword blade towarde your left side”. (Ch8 P25)

    Hutton talks about the orientation of your hand in the guard and talks about where you receive the blow (“On the forte”) but leaves the “on the edge or on the flat” as being obvious from the position of your hand. (He uses both front and back edge predominantly but also uses the flat for a couple)

    Talhoffer’s Grosse Messer instructions definitely use the flat predominantly. Not so certain about other weapons, i haven’t really dug deep there. Again not stated but in this case the bio-mechanics as depicted don’t work without using the flat.

    I’ve heard that Bolognese style uses both flat and edge but again haven’t dug deep enough to talk with certainty. I’ve done a (very) small amount of Lichtenauer and from memory that was blocking with the edge, but then it more truthfully was attacking such that your blade just happens to be in the way as well. I’ve heard that is very much german longsword style but again don’t know deep enough to be sure. I have seen a picture that is very definitely flat blocking but that was at half sword so not necessarily indicative.

    Fiore doesn’t say and the pictures are simplistic enough that it’s difficult to judge whether it’s an oblique edge block or a flat block. Bio-mechanically, i’ve found that it tends to work better with the edge.

  66. A principal difference is that HEMA leans heavily on the German sources

    Not literally true… Fiore(Generally considered Italian Longsword but also comes from a Lichtenauer lineage) and Destreza (Generally considered Spanish Rapier but is actually intended to be a general combat system) are also darling children of HEMA.

    HEMA in the UK has a very solid core of Sabre (frequently Hutton but not solely) and Backsword (Silver predominently).

  67. I looked up the videos posted on the Polaris Fellowship of Weapons Studies facebook and youtube page, and the sword techniques used look … odd.

    To better explain what I mean, here’s the steel longsword tournament from this year’s FightCamp, a large UK event. You see both Fiore’s Italian style and Liechtenauer’s German style used by the participants, and even though my club is based in Boston, rather than in the UK, my club’s style looks very similar to styles used in this video.

  68. >No, there is no debate. You parry with the flat; otherwise you’ll notch your edge and damage your weapon. Nobody I have ever trained with has disputed this.

    Other folks said it better.

    I don’t sword train (maybe someday, in my copious free time) but I couldn’t escape the debate. I’m a regular on a gun forum where sword topics come up from time to time, and different parties (all of whom have trained extensively) argue, each ‘irrefutably’ (of course) backed by sources and practical example both, for flat-only, or for edge-only, or for it-depends. I’ve seen the Matt Easton videos, for example, as well as others that disagree.

    I thought awareness of the debate (and different people drawing support for different positions from the same sources) was a thing.

  69. >I thought awareness of the debate (and different people drawing support for different positions from the same sources) was a thing.

    Today I’ve learned that it is in mainstream HEMA. But note that my main interlocutor also learned that; he thought the debate had been settled in favor of edge.

    I guess the meta-level lesson is that the various Western Martial Arts schools out there aren’t cross-fertilizing enough yet. Polaris is at least trying to learn – three years ago we didn’t even have a German-style longsword form. It has since become my favorite sword style for open-field combat, though I still tend to fall back to sword and dagger in confined spaces.

  70. Help me out. I didn’t see much PC pandering in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a terrible movie, but it wasn’t obvious to me that it was especially PC.

  71. >Help me out. I didn’t see much PC pandering in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a terrible movie, but it wasn’t obvious to me that it was especially PC.

    The thing that stuck out at me most was the insistence that Rey had to be a steel-hard butt-kicking action heroine that never needed anybody’s help. In the Jakku scenes this was pushed to the point of unintentional self-parody.

    It’s not that I mind strong female characters, but…we get it. Stop lampshading it so hard already!

  72. @esr
    > It’s not that I mind strong female characters, but…we get it. Stop lampshading it so hard already!

    Eh, maybe… I have met a few military officers who are female and they do tend to try to over project these sorts of masculine traits, and the contrast between their femininity and the necessity of traditional masculine traits can come off as a little bit of a parody. It reminds me of another movie, GI Jane, which was kind of crappy and definitely super PC, but if you remember after the psycho officer beats her up and tries to get her to submit Demi Moore says “suck my dick”. That is the same type of overcompensation.

    So I’m not convinced it is all that unrealistic. But I can see why you might say that. But she is a pretty minor character. Rey on the other hand (whom I though you were referring to initially) is also a tough as steel, need nobody’s help kind of a girl. And I found her one of the few genuine performances in the whole movie.

    On the other hand, your comment taught me a new word, so thanks for that…. “Lampshading”, excellent word with high utility….

  73. >Rey on the other hand (whom I though you were referring to initially) is also a tough as steel, need nobody’s help kind of a girl.

    I was referring to her; I typoed. I’ve fixed it.

  74. >“Lampshading”, excellent word with high utility….

    Not my invention: comes from the TV Tropes website. Warning: do not go there unless you are ready to be fascinated and lose several days of productivity.

  75. s/days/months/ … it’s even more of an infinite time sink than Wikipedia.

  76. @esr
    > I was referring to her; I typoed. I’ve fixed it.

    Ah, ok. Well then I really don’t agree. I found her life attitude very appropriate for her back story. Honestly, I am a bit of a tough as steel, don’t need anybody’s help kind of a gal too. My parents were killed in a car accident when I was eight years old, so my back story kind of forced that on me too. So I actually identified with her a bit.
    I don’t imagine you think that a movie can only be non PC if all the women fit a very narrow stereotype of women. It isn’t PC to portray different, if realistic, types of women and men. And really, it isn’t just some arbitrary choice, after all, the nature of that woman is pretty fundamental to the plot. A Paris Hilton gal just wouldn’t fit. And let’s remember, Natalie Portman was a kick ass kind of a girl too.
    FWIW, I would accept that criticism of the ridiculous Leia Organa, however, I don’t know if she was a parody or just a terrible actress. I tend toward the latter.

  77. ALL the planetkiller weapon scenes sucked. Yes, the CGI is a half-century better than the original. But the director is centuries worse. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he just makes the scenes noisy. There is never any sense that Space is Big. And ‘powered by the Sun’? Doc Smith’s Sunbeams and the Ring Laser in Ringworld taught Lucas nothing.

    Young Princess Leia had a cute face, and used it. This chick has a frowny face and a running face and a scared face. Sprinter chicks are famed for hot booty, and she spends half the movie running, and never looks hot once. I saw Carrie Fisher in an interview warning the new actress that she’d become a jackoff fantasy for millions of nerds. They dodged that land mine by about fourteen galaxies.
    After she hooks up with the Resistance she at least shops at North Face.

    The black guy is a wimp. Cloned from warrior stock, raised in a barracks, followed the profession of arms all his life, he’s a wimp. Even his drill sergeant is a wimp. This may be historically realistic, given the scandals about Prussian Army officers around 1900, but it’s embarrassing in a movie. No wonder the chick friendzones him so bad. Every time the two are together you get a scene from one of the stupider polemics at Chateau Heartiste. I don’t think Leia ever calls Han or Luke her friend. I don’t see why she bothers to kiss his forehead- it’s not he comes across as the stud a girl does not raise up until she’s ready to lay down. Maybe she was blinded by Cherenkov radiation from Lando Calrissian spinning in his grave.

    Magic swords go great with superscience. Magic swords go great with space magic. Fighting with cutlery does not go great with space age war zones. A magic sword fight in Darth Wannabee’s sanctum sanctorum would work great. A magic sword fight scene in the Great space-Pattern of space-Amber would work great. The sword fights in the pine trees do not work.

    There’s a scene where a starfighter cannon hits an individual stormtrooper and he’s knocked back like he was shot with a Brown Bess. Epic failure of scale. But hey, so’s every other use of starfighters in the movie.

    I hate her walking stick. It isn’t a staff sling, it isn’t a lucky stick for her budding Force powers, it barely works as a weapon. She never spins it like a cute bandleader. She doesn’t use her walking stick for walking. She doesn’t use it climbing stairs or hillsides. Maybe it’s a massager? Girl needs one.

    Good points:

    ‘I used to have a bigger crew.’

    The scene where Han shoots a stormtrooper without bothering to aim just to be cool, then peeks to make sure it worked.

    Darth Wannabee isn’t a bad villain. Conflicted, everyone in the Galaxy knows it, he knows it. He uses it.

    Nice foreshadowing with Chewie’s space crossbow. But, Chewbacca? When in doubt, empty the magazine.

    I watched the movie last night in a big theater with about ten people. Went out for more popcorn once, took a long whizz. Not worried I’d miss something. (In the movie, I mean). Afterwards (after the movie, I mean) a sick guy on a stretcher clapped twice. Nobody was disappointed. After the last three movies nobody had their hopes up.

  78. >The black guy is a wimp. Cloned from warrior stock, raised in a barracks, followed the profession of arms all his life, he’s a wimp.

    This is true. I remarked to my wife Cathy that Finn seemed to plug into some very old, very nasty stereotypes of the black man as cowardly clown.

    >No wonder the chick friendzones him so bad. Every time the two are together you get a scene from one of the stupider polemics at Chateau Heartiste.

    OK, that was funny. Point to you.

  79. The black guy is a wimp. Cloned from warrior stock, raised in a barracks, followed the profession of arms all his life,

    I don’t think he is actually cloned. Two things point in this direction.

    A) He’s not Jango Fett. Or New Zealander.
    B) (From Memory) He comments in the movie that he was taken from his family as a baby.

    And actually this makes more sense. Since First Order is basically an imperial remnant, it’s not so plausible that it has access to cloning.

  80. For those reading along, let me state for the record, we are getting into spoiler alert territory here.

    @Bruce
    > The black guy is a wimp. Cloned from warrior stock, raised in a barracks, followed the profession of arms all his life, he’s a wimp.

    I don’t get that AT ALL. I think exactly the opposite is true. He is brainwashed from birth, yet retains enough of his humanity to be reviled by the massacre of civilians and innocents. And he then makes the extraordinarily brave decision to escape from the unjust force that has nurtured him. And as he does so, rather than just running himself, he also rescues a man from torture and presumably imminent execution.

    That is brave in a Hugh-Thompson-at-My-Lai type of a way.

    Clown? I don’t see that at all. He seemed like a man who overcame his fears, overcame the overwhelming peer group pressure and rejected his whole world to be true to decency and ethics. Perhaps imperfect because he wasn’t Rambo, but a person in whom decency bloomed despite the toxic soil in which he grew.

  81. >And he then makes the extraordinarily brave decision to escape from the unjust force that has nurtured him.

    Finn lies ineptly about being with the Resistance (with the ineptness being played for yucks). And crumples under pressure, running out on the only people who have treated him decently. By that scene I was half-expecting him to leave with a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo while eye-rolling and talking thick dialect, yassuh. Any credibility of the character as a hero was long gone.

    Somebody, either the actor or the director, deserves a serious knouting for what they did to Finn. It wasn’t the script. He could have been played as a stoic, inner-directed man – that would have been consistent with his original action of defecting. Instead we got plucky comic relief. If I were the usual suspects in the racial grievance industry I’d be outraged – and I am in fact a bit bothered.

  82. @esr
    > Finn lies ineptly about being with the Resistance (with the ineptness being played for yucks).

    I didn’t get that at all. There is no reason to believe that just because he left the First Order than he would automatically join the resistance, and, vunerable, he used a little shaky deception to protect himself. I don’t see the “for laughs” thing.

    Having said that I don’t have the whole story. Honestly, the film was so terrible that I knid of nodded off for a while in there, so maybe a slept through the “microaggression.”

    I think it is ridiculous when the SJWs go nuts on some minor perceived infraction and start batting about the term racist and misogynist. However, I think there is a reactionary thing where the most minor perceived concession to PC is amplified to be “this movie is all PC crap.” Not saying you have this perception ESR, but for sure that was JAD and a few other folks’ reaction.

    Like I say, I didn’t see anything that I found excessively PC in this movie. But I might have napped through it. A snoozefest it was, I just didn’t think it was a SJWfest.

  83. I concur, Jessica. He had the stones to defect from the muhfukkin Stormtroopers. One does not simply defect from the Dark Side.

    When the previews hit I had him pegged as a Rebellion double agent, and even braced for a Stormtrooper sergeant or somebody to drop the “aren’t you a little short” line.

    Also, while he may be combat-trained, he doesn’t have commando training and will probably only have anything close to 100% efficacy as part of a Stormtrooper unit. This may be by design, as the First Order has no interest in Stormtrooper autonomy and plenty of interest in seeing its rank-and-file troops effectively disabled except when following orders passed down the official chain of command.

    OT, but Linux community mensch Ian Murdock, of Debian fame, has died. His last known public interaction was a disturbing series of Twitter rants about the state of American law enforcement that included hints of suicide.

  84. the TV Tropes website. Warning: do not go there unless you are ready to be fascinated and lose several days of productivity.

    Howard Tayler has a “two strikes per lifetime” policy on posting links to TV Tropes.

  85. @ Jessica Boxer

    > My parents were killed in a car accident when I was eight years old

    I’m relatively new to this blog and had no idea. Please accept my condolences, along with my admiration for your strength and for your achieving intellectual and martial-arts skills despite adversity.

    I’ll comment on this thread’s other topics later.

  86. Stayed away until having seen the movie, and just finished watching both SWTFA and The Hateful Eight back-to-back. I give it a 6 out of 10, was nominally entertained, and glad I saw it on the big screen. The plot seemed like a Mulligan’s stew of standard tropes and repetition from earlier sequels, and was clearly intended to appeal to feelings rather than intellect. Both the heroes and villains were bland IMHO and the Finn/Rae dynamic made it seem like more of a romcom than scifi thriller. I have no problem with Hollywood pushing the diversity meme with it’s role model choices, but the touchy-feelly character emphasis should be offset with at least some modicum of warrior archetype. If either Denzel Washington or Samuel L. Jackson has played the Finn role, no one would be suggesting that the character was wimpy or token.

  87. >If either Denzel Washington or Samuel L. Jackson has played the Finn role, no one would be suggesting that the character was wimpy or token.

    Because if either of them had played Finn they wouldn’t have interpreted him as a limp dishrag.

  88. I didn’t get the coward or wimp from Finn. I got the “normal-guy WAY the hell out of his league trying to cope and catch up”, hopefully to grow into a more battle-tested warrior later. Remember, that Luke Skywalker (supposedly a baddass jedi master) was once a whiney farmboy yokel. If Finn started off as Mace Windu (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ScaryBlackMan) , you’d have the whole “Everyone is Tough” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WorldOfBadass) issue that so many action movies have.

  89. And crumples under pressure, running out on the only people who have treated him decently. By that scene I was half-expecting him to leave with a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo while eye-rolling and talking thick dialect, yassuh. Any credibility of the character as a hero was long gone.

    And Luke’s depiction in Episode IV is entirely consistent with the stereotype of the “whiny, spoiled white kid”.

    Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

    Despite the fact that Stormtrooping is the only thing Finn ever knew, Jakku is his first taste of real action. He’s traumatized by the violence he witnesses there. He probably yearns for a quiet life tending a garden or something; throwing himself back into the fray is not on the agenda. My point being that this is Finn’s growth arc from coward to hero, which has many parallels with Luke’s arc from the original trilogy. And Luke didn’t even get the crowning moment of awesome in his first episode that Finn did, of stepping to a (wannabe) Sith lord with a lightsaber, holding him off as best he could with whatever rudimentary edged-weapon training he may have had. To be fair, though, he did get his own CMOA in Episode IV by blowing up the Death Star.

    Finn’s arc also parallels Han’s: Han, like Finn, intended to abandon the rebel forces to pursue his own desires, but changed his mind and joined forces with the rebels because he realized what skin he has in the game.

  90. >I got the “normal-guy WAY the hell out of his league trying to cope and catch up”, hopefully to grow into a more battle-tested warrior later

    Finn is not a normal guy. He’s not only been through boot camp but was raised from childhood in a military organization that is ruthless to weaklings. This is why the parallel to Luke doesn’t work; for him to have even survived to the point when he got fed up and could defect he would have to be a lot tougher than he’s depicted. He should in cold fact be the scary black man, otherwise he’d have been killed or discarded long ago.

  91. I just looked at this interview that Lucas gave to Charlie Rose on the movie. Two things he said really stood out to me.

    First he said that after Disney bought the franchise that they decided to “make a movie for the fans.” To me, that is exactly what this movie is. Really “make a movie for the fans” is a nice way of saying “milk the thing for all it is worth”, you know like Rocky 17, or something.

    And to me that is exactly what this movie is. A collection of things that are star wars-y, a bunch of things to say “look another Star Wars Movie!!! If you loved Star Wars you have to go see it”. It is a movie without any substance, hollow. A friend described it as like one of these reunions you go to with people who were a huge part of your life in the past, and you get together and try to force the fun, and you laugh, but it is hollow, empty, all the magic is gone, you are going through the motions. The love is gone.

    The second thing he said is that Lucasfilm was bought by “white slavers”. They paid him $4 billion for it, so I think that comment is laughable. Of course it is funny that that little Lucasfilm spin off, Pixar, was bought ten years ago for twice as much as the mothership.

    Here is the interview:

    http://news.yahoo.com/george-lucas-says-sold-star-131428981.html?nf=1

  92. Finn had been a soldier since childhood. If the First Order had anything even remotely resembling a competent military training regimen, they’d have known he wasn’t cut out for front line combat by the time Finn reached adulthood.

    Finn’s first taste of real combat? They simulate that stuff today, with live ammo flying around, even the wounded/dead soldier bit, they simulate that, because it’s common enough that armies want their soldiers to react properly when it occurs.

    If Finn couldn’t hack it, they’d have assigned him to different duties. Finn obviously doesn’t have a problem with self defense, so putting him into support roles, like resupply or rescue or reconnaissance or garrison duties, where any shooting he does would be in self defense, would work just fine.

  93. @JAD
    “To do “Frozen”, Disney hired a bunch of PC female scriptwriters that it piously ran through the PC comissars, and then had non PC male offshore contractor scriptwriters ghost write the actual scripts. Which is why the female characters in Frozen are allowed to actually be female, because supposedly written by PC female scriptwriters.”

    What in the world are you talking about ??

  94. SWTFA is doing recordbreaking boxoffice and has tapped into a nerve worldwide which seems to be an appetite for “fighting back against something big and controlling.” This meta-meme is present in many other popular movies, TV shows, and even current politics. It’s as if our societal conscience is anxious about the future and resonates with these fantasy portrayals.

    This projection into real life is fundamental to our human nature. As such, can you identify a character in SWTFA that represents your personal archetype or aspiration? I cannot.

  95. The SWTFA has immersion-breaking lack of sense of scale.

    As for “Finn” – he either was sanitation engineer, or he was frontline stormtrooper. Unless First Order had such loses that they had to move sanitation engineers to the front line? That’s probably not the only inconsistency…

  96. @John CB- ‘cloned from warrior stock’
    ‘I don’t think he is actually cloned.’

    Searching my memory of this movie’s unmemorable lines, I think you are right and I was wrong. I think I recall something about genetic something, where I got ‘warrior stock’, but it wasn’t a memorable phrase.

    @Jessica Boxer- ‘The black guy is a wimp’
    ‘I don’t get that at all. . .brave in a Hugh Thompson at Mai Lai way’
    ‘Perhaps imperfect because he wasn’t Rambo’

    From wiki- Thompson ‘stopped a number of killings by threatening and blocking’ armed men on a killing spree. Rambo movies stupidly caricature the stuff of Hugh Thompson.

    Finn is a caricature too, but not of Rambo. He didn’t stop the massacre. He froze up. Later he made a morally correct decision to desert, yes. Not blow up the villain’s ship and run, just run like a wimp. He loses to Darth Wannabee. Losing your fights isn’t immoral, just wimpy. He has a pudgy face and a light voice- not immoral, just wimpy. Like a wimp he never checks out Rey- well, she doesn’t dress to show her figure, does she? Or flirt with wimps. If they save her life, she will be a friend.

    @Jessica Boxer ‘the ridiculous Leia Organa’

    I imagine a million middle-class parents of girls in high school see Rey on screen and think, ‘that’s my daughter’. Running for a Title IX track scholarship, good at something practical, surrounded by creepy boys who will never grow to be men eligible for an honorable marriage and the wimps no healthy girl ever notices- no wonder she’s all frowny face and going by Rey instead of Reyna. Not her fault she’s not a romantic heroine. Nice Brit accent, anyway.

    Leia is a cute rich girl who likes to dress up and tease the studs she keeps tripping over. Ridiculous? Well, for ‘successfully heterosexual’ values of ridiculous. Egg-faced cute girls were the Farrah Fawcetts of America from the 1830s to the 1860s, and the first Star Wars uses a bunch of chunks of Civil War pulp. The Trent Affair, Saint Marse Robert, Jim Crow, the minstrel show versions of Bob Logic and Corinthian Tom, the Dark inVader from the North, even the worship of Force by the rebels. And a Virginia Princess nobody has to show how to shoot a pistol or lead a rebellion or govern a state- so ridiculous!

  97. @Bruce
    > He didn’t stop the massacre. He froze up.

    That isn’t what happened at all. He saw the people who had nurtured him committing a dreadful crime, and no doubt suffered shock. To the rest of you concerned with his battle hardenedness, it is distinctly possible that he had been successful in many fights, but this is the first time he had seen an atrocity committed. A reaction of shock in face of your friends doing such a thing is a strong indicator of moral strength. If only more people had reacted that way through history! The brave people in the Milgram experiment stopped in revulsion, they didn’t shoot Milgram or break down the doors. Perhaps he could have done more, but that is always true. Sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is say “no”, and that, if not perfect, is an honorable decision. Brave and cowardly are not binary states.

    He had no way to stop the massacre. Perhaps it is more honorable to die in a hopeless cause, and I suppose he could have done that, but I think it is better to maintain your life to fight for right rather than throw it away. Perhaps he could have done more, but that is always true.

    > Later he made a morally correct decision to desert, yes. Not blow up the villain’s ship and run, just run like a wimp.

    Again, did he have the ability to blow up the villains ship? Probably not. However, he did rescue a guy being tortured and presumably pending execution. That isn’t running like a wimp, that is making a difference in the best way he could. Could he have done more? I suppose, but that is always true.

    > He loses to Darth Wannabee. Losing your fights isn’t immoral, just wimpy.

    Loosing is wimpy? The only person who would say that is someone who has never actually been in a fight. Losing to a superior opponent is not wimpy, it is honorable and brave, assuming you acquit yourself to the best of your abilities. I’ve lost thousands of fights, but I assure you wimpy is not an adjective you would ever apply to me if you knew me in RL.

    > He has a pudgy face and a light voice- not immoral, just wimpy.

    I don’t agree at all. I think he is actually pretty attractive.

    > Like a wimp he never checks out Rey-

    Maybe he isn’t into Amazon girls?

  98. @Jessica:
    >To the rest of you concerned with his battle hardenedness, it is distinctly possible that he had been successful in many fights, but this is the first time he had seen an atrocity committed.

    Something half-remembered from the movie makes me want to day this was his first combat, but I might be wrong there.

    What do know is that he did start showing signs of freaking out earlier than when the whole village was being gunned down, namely, when one of his comrades died and wiped blood on his helmet as they did so.

    On the one hand, he clearly is freaking out in a situation where a soldier should be able to keep his cool. On the other hand, I would expect the tendency to freak out the first time someone dies face-to-face with you to be much more common, much harder to detect ahead of time, and much harder to inoculate against than the tendency to freak out when first exposed to live combat.

  99. Ever notice how many Jedi get their hands sliced off in episodes 1-6? Kylo Ren does one thing right, at least: he uses a light saber WITH A GUARD.

  100. >Ever notice how many Jedi get their hands sliced off in episodes 1-6? Kylo Ren does one thing right, at least: he uses a light saber WITH A GUARD.

    True, even if the guard seems kind of dangerous to the operator in itself.

  101. @Jessica- ‘He has a pudgy face and a light voice- not immoral, just wimpy.’
    ‘I don’t agree at all. I think he is actually pretty attractive.’

    Both characters are healthy and young with regular features. If Finn lost thirty pounds of fat and added twenty pounds of muscle and learned to keep his voice steady, he’d be a stud. If Rey does some squats to get her track coach to switch her to sprinting, goes to college and lets the freshman fifteen plump her upperworks, and finds herself surrounded with eligible gents who make her smile, she’ll be hot. If they met then, there’d be the drama. Strainy-face jockette friendzones a wimp is not drama.

    ‘I’ve lost thousands of fights’

    How are you alive?

  102. Something half-remembered from the movie makes me want to day this was his first combat, but I might be wrong there.

    In the bar he says to Rey, “In my first battle I made a choice: I wasn’t gonna kill for the First Order.” So Jakku was his first deployment. Probably he was never sent to the front lines because his psych profile said he wasn’t up to it, but his superiors relented on Jakku thinking it was a simple case of “get the thing from the old man, torch the place, and leave”. We’ve seen time and time again the First Order isn’t spectacular at judging what they’re up against. There’s more than one scene that goes like this:

    Snoke: Have you recovered the map?

    Kylo Ren: Er, uh, yeah, about that…

  103. With regard to the depiction of certain Star Wars characters as cowardly, feckless comic relief and how that plays into reinforcing negative stereotypes, I concur.

    The way C-3PO has been depicted in film after film is an insult to droids everywhere.

  104. >The way C-3PO has been depicted in film after film is an insult to droids everywhere.

    Is it PC to think it’s an an insult to imply that droids are gay? I have trouble keeping track…

  105. >Is it PC to think it’s an an insult to imply that droids are gay? I have trouble keeping track…

    Wait, wha…?

  106. “The way C-3PO has been depicted in film after film is an insult to droids everywhere.”

    Leave C-3PO alone. He’s not the droid you’re looking for.

  107. Droids are lifted from black slaves. ‘He is our new master now’. ‘We don’t serve their kind here.’ ‘Yes, master’. ‘Master Chewbacca’. The scene where Master Chewbacca the Wookie threatens casual violence against a droid who’s winning a board game, knowing there’s no legal recourse for a slave race accused of insolence. Workies were the prole side in the Workies vs Merchants 1830s+ politics of New York, and being proles naturally hairy, inclined to chew baccy, and to commit casual violence against house slaves. The crossbow is a poacher’s weapon- proles don’t own hunting parks. Slaves were safer victims for homo or straight or sexdroid rape, and the Corinthian Tom of a Bob Logic/Corinthian Tom minstrel show would be a cleaner and prettier victim than R2D2 or Bob Logic. Corinthians were dandies.

  108. >Finn is a caricature too, but not of Rambo. He didn’t stop the massacre. He froze up. Later he made a morally correct decision to desert, yes. Not blow up the villain’s ship and run, just run like a wimp. He loses to Darth Wannabee. Losing your fights isn’t immoral, just wimpy. He has a pudgy face and a light voice- not immoral, just wimpy.

    What about that wimp, Luke? His new mentor is struck down in front of him and he fires off a few shots and splits. Don’t forget that wimp Han, firing first on Greedo and sneaking out before the final death star battle in Ep. IV.

    >Like a wimp he never checks out Rey- well, she doesn’t dress to show her figure, does she? Or flirt with wimps. If they save her life, she will be a friend.

    Cuz we all know Leia was pimping herself out in that white blanket she whore, sorry, wore (I actually did type that by mistake), :) and Luke and Han were licking their lips and ogling her the entire time in Ep. IV.

    It’s amazing how much “analysis” has bubbled out over the years because of these simple films with amazing effects/visuals and a stirring score. I’m not saying Bruce is all wrong- I certainly know little about Civil War-era fiction tropes- but his macho disdain for this sequel certainly seems inconsistent, assuming he liked the original trilogy.

  109. >Is it PC to think it’s an an insult to imply that droids are gay? I have trouble keeping track….

    I don’t take that to be the insult. Having a stereotyped character be useless and ineffectual, *that’s* an insult. And annoying.

    All they let 3PO do is mince around with his arms up in the air yelling “oh, no!”. Recurring theme – 3PO got captured again, 3PO got destroyed again, need to rescue him/put the parts back together again, etc.

    Reminds me of a line that stuck with me, I thinks it’s from ‘My So-Called Life’…. A character observes “I’m so gay I can barely function.”

  110. >I don’t take [implying that droids are gay] to be the insult. Having a stereotyped character be useless and ineffectual, *that’s* an insult. And annoying.

    I should have used a sarcasm tag.

  111. @Fox -‘Leia was pimping herself out in that white blanket she wore’

    It is a Very Nice white blanket. Nice white dress, no decolletage since she’s a princess, not a married queen. In your experience girls dress up only to pimp themselves?

    ‘Han and Luke were licking their lips and ogling her the entire time.’

    Just seeing Leia’s hologram stuns Luke. When he first meets her he just stares, unable to talk for a moment. Han flirts with her every time he talks to her.

    ‘I’m not saying Bruce is all wrong, but his macho disdain for the new movie seems inconsistent, assuming he liked the original trilogy.’

    I’m macho! Thanks. I liked the first two movies a lot, the third was disappointing, the prequels were bad, this one is bad. It’s macho to expect romance and drama in a romantic drama? Never mind, take what I can get. Beats raping grizzly bears.

  112. Say… am I the only one here who likes C-3PO? :-(

    For that matter: does anyone else feel Jar Jar Binks wasn’t too bad?

  113. >For that matter: does anyone else feel Jar Jar Binks wasn’t too bad?

    Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

  114. @Jorge:
    >For that matter: does anyone else feel Jar Jar Binks wasn’t too bad?

    Jar Jar was great! If not for Jar Jar we wouldn’t have Internet Jar Jar hate, which is entertaining enough that it more than makes up for any annoyance one may feel watching him in the prequels. HHOS.

  115. Biggest difference I saw with Finn vs Luke in ANH. Finn chooses – Luke gets carried along by plot. Off the top of my head, Luke makes one significant decision in ANH, and that’s to fly an X-wing in the Battle of Yavin Otherwise he gets dragged along by (in rough order), R2, Obi-Wan, and Leia. Finn is making choices throughout the movie. They’re not all good choices, mind you, and I thought his panic level throughout the movie was set to “too damn high.” ESR’s coment about the just desserts of either or both of the actor and director might be further than I would go, but I certainly would have preferred a little less sweaty panic.

  116. I was making a joke. The only thing about C-3PO that I actually actively dislike is the easy “Anakin built him” reveal in Episode I.

    Ian Argent, all the main characters were in sweaty panic mode it seems. Rey chickened out when she touched the lightsaber; her goal, up to that point, was to turn around and go back to Jakku to wait for her family to return. And Maz at one point told Han that he could no longer run from this fight. (Han arguably had a better reason for running; he was afraid of having to confront his own son and then it would be either him or Ben.)

    But yeah, “people who are running from the First Order and must stand and face the truth” is a recurring theme for Episode VII. It’s not just the black guy.

  117. It’s amazing how much “analysis” has bubbled out over the years because of these simple films with amazing effects/visuals and a stirring score.

    Indeed. In anticipation of the Episode I hypetrain, my college ran the original trilogy back to back. I came away thinking not that this was the grand epic saga I had seen in my childhood, but rather, “Man these films are hokey.”

    And Star Wars really is hokey from start to finish. But episodes 4-7 are the best kind of hokey. It’s entertainment plain and simple. But it’s also fuel for the imagination. It gets your brain on board with its overall story so you find yourself unconsciously filling in the little details.

    And it’s really, really hard to make a movie with even a simple plot that does that. No one cares about Ecks or Sever. No one wants to know about their backgrounds or justify the stupid decisions they make on screen. Hollywood is awash with Ecks-vs-Sever-type plots and very little actual gold.

  118. But yeah, “people who are running from the First Order and must stand and face the truth” is a recurring theme for Episode VII. It’s not just the black guy.

    As succinct a summing up of the main theme of the movie. This applies also to the New Republic (though the material that points this out was cut from the movie and can only be found in supplementary material, such as the novelization). The NR suffers greatly from NOT facing the truth. Arguably, each character suffers in proportion to their inability to face the truth, or how much they attempt to evade it. (Han dies of not believing his son has fallen to the Dark Side, Kylo suppresses his light-side tendencies and is badly wounded as a result. Finn spends a large part of the movie panicking and/or running – ends the movie in a coma. Rey has her “why me?” moment, and is captured and tortured because of it. I’m curious as to what price Luke is going to pay…

  119. I’m late to this party because I only just saw the film today. On the PC front, I think it’s useful to contrast Rey’s character to the ethnic checkboxing in the rest of the film. Rey is hypercompetent to the point of being a Mary Sue, a lot of the time. My reaction was a lot like ESR’s: ‘I get it already, I like the character because I like competent nerd girls, but please stop showing off your own enlightenment, you’re getting in the way of your own story’.

    On the other hand, while someone appears to have gone out of their way to ensure that whites/blacks/women/asians/whatever are all represented with speaking parts, combat parts, parts of authority, whatever, it never gave me the anvil-dropping impression that Rey’s treatment did; it was just taken for granted, and I think it worked much better because of it.

  120. One of the Resistance X-Wing pilots was played by an Asian woman. White-ass me blinked and nearly missed her; meanwhile the Asian Tumblrinas were like “OMG AN ASIAN IN STAR WARS!!!!”

    Yes, Rey is a borderline Sue — she’s kind of like kid-Anakin in that regard. But if the fandom for the likes of River Tam and Lisbeth Salander is any indication, there are masses of people who actually like that sort of character. Especially if she is a young strong hot woman, as opposed to say, a bratty precocious 6-year-old. In Hayden Christensen’s body.

  121. That’s an interesting comparison. I like Rey for a lot of the same reasons I liked River, and much of it is probably just what you say; it’s an appealing archetype to me. But River never gave me that same sense of anviliciousness. Perhaps because she was also crazy.

    In comparing reactions with a friend, last night I noticed that that scenes I had a beef with were almost all early on. The hypercompetence dropped off after that. While she still repeatedly demonstrates knowledge of things she has no business knowing, she does start to fail like anyone else.

  122. While she still repeatedly demonstrates knowledge of things she has no business knowing, she does start to fail like anyone else.

    And yet with barely any knowledge of what the Force is, she masters it to within Jedi levels of capability in a very short time.

    The scenes with Rey flying off in the Falcon with Chewbacca really do call to mind the last scenes of Serenity with River…

  123. > In comparing reactions with a friend, last night I noticed that that scenes I had a beef with were almost all early on. The hypercompetence dropped off after that.

    Well, as someone who’s worked in a junkyard all her life she’s got some legitimate reason to have picked up some mechanical knowledge about hyperdrives and such from taking them apart. And as for flying, supposedly the novelization shows that that “bike” she uses to get around is actually capable of some tricks.

    And given that the character also has supernatural powers which are well-known from the original trilogy to give someone an edge in picking up skills under pressure (I don’t know that anything she did was more impressive than the shot that destroyed the Death Star), I’m inclined to allow some suspension of disbelief.

    I also think it’s implied that some of her Force skills later in the movie (this is the scene right before the out-of-nowhere mind trick, which was the most “what?” moment for me) came from backlash from Kylo Ren’s attempt to read her mind

  124. I have no problems with her competence as a mechanic. The way I look at it, the age of aircraft between WWi and WWII, any tractor or auto mechanic could probably diagnose and repair an aircraft engine or hydraulics. And Rey’s speeder is intended to be a “tractor” that’s been souped up. That’s why it looks like the front end of a classic tractor. Antigrac and power systems in that are analogous to antigrav and power systems in a spaceship. Hyperdrive systems, though? The Force must have guided her, or at some point she was familiar with the Falcon’s own supraluminal drive system (noted to be “highly customized” even in the current canon.) Not impossible, if she was only recently on the outs with the alien she sold scavenged parts to; which is what a couple pieces of dialog implied. It’s also (IIRC) implied (but not stated) that she told whoever made the bad “repair” to the Falcon’s hyperdrive not to do that and was ignored; so familiarity isn’t out of the bounds.

    Finally, familiarity with the Force. Perhaps the force interrogation was more of a two-way street than Kylo was expecting? Or, for that matter, the battle of wills near the end of the saber duel? Also, the Mind Trick was implied to be the simplest of a Jedi’s abilities a couple of times (dunno if that’s Legends or current canon, though).

    These are all answers that should have gotten more treatment in the movie; which was already quite busy. What do you cut to keep the run-time?

  125. re: Finn

    Remember that when he was assigned to Starkiller base his job was sanitation; it’s entirely plausible the First Order knew perfectly well he wasn’t exactly commando material. Rotating him into a front-line unit with elite leadership and light resistance expected could be plausible military doctrine…

    re: Jar-Jar.

    There’s a wonderful theory out on the internet arguing that the prequel trilogy only makes sense if you assume Jar Jar was was a drunken-style Sith Lord manipulating everyone by playing the fool.

  126. >I have no problems with her competence as a mechanic. The way I look at it, the age of aircraft between WWi and WWII, any tractor or auto mechanic could probably diagnose and repair an aircraft engine or hydraulics. And Rey’s speeder is intended to be a “tractor” that’s been souped up. That’s why it looks like the front end of a classic tractor. Antigrac and power systems in that are analogous to antigrav and power systems in a spaceship. Hyperdrive systems, though? The Force must have guided her, or at some point she was familiar with the Falcon’s own supraluminal drive system (noted to be “highly customized” even in the current canon.) Not impossible, if she was only recently on the outs with the alien she sold scavenged parts to; which is what a couple pieces of dialog implied. It’s also (IIRC) implied (but not stated) that she told whoever made the bad “repair” to the Falcon’s hyperdrive not to do that and was ignored; so familiarity isn’t out of the bounds.

    This doesn’t seem too extreme.

    Remember Anakin as a boy? With no training at all, he’s creating droids, building a sophisticated race vehicle from scrap materials and then flying it – a type of vehicle that is too difficult for even a *trained* pilot that doesn’t have LITERALLY superhuman (as in, non-human and better than humans are capable of) reflexes.

    Being Force-sensitive seems to confer lots of abilities, even to the untrained.

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