Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A-Finn-ity For An Ex Stormtrooper

Like a good number of the fandom, I generally liked Star Wars Episode 7, The Force Awakens. It’s not a perfect film of course with its biggest criticism being that it was pretty much a rehash of the original Episode 4, A New Hope. To its credit though, TFA did bring us one unique idea to the table, and that was in the form of a new specific character, a Stormtrooper, who had defected from the Emp...I mean the First Order and found himself fighting on the side of the Reb….Resistance.

When Disney first announced the initial cast for Episode 7, the only new name that I recognized was John Boyega. I knew him from the movie Attack the Block, a cool British science fiction/thriller movie about a group of teenagers who have to fend off a violent alien infestation in their residential block/building. John Boyega got a lot of recognition for playing the lead role of the intense teenager Moses.

As months passed, more details about Episode 7, including that of the pivotal role of the ex-Stormtrooper, came out and the high speculation that John Boyega would be playing him. This was basically confirmed when the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens was released.

For the most part, I thought Boyega did an OK job portraying the ex Stormtrooper, FN-2187 or Finn. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I was fine with it. I guess I was expecting more of that “Moses” intensity to be more prevalent for a trooper. Anyway a little “tradition” I have is that after watching a major blockbuster movie, I go straight to the toy store to buy an action figure from said movie. And for The Force Awakens, I went ahead and got Finn...who even back then was kinda warming the pegs. I don’t think that this has anything to do with how Boyega played that character but more with the fact that the initial Finn figure wasn't very visually exciting. I mean he was basically wearing a brown jacket over his Stormtrooper undergarments.

In retrospect I should’ve gotten his Stormtrooper action figure that came with his bloody helmet that was released later on. But I passed on it and it’s now quite hard to find.

Anyway, if you’ve read any of my previous Sequel trilogy posts, you know how much I loved the next movie Episode 8, The Last Jedi, despite it being a rather divisive film. I know that there are a lot of people out there that don’t like Episode 8 and even Boyega himself has been quoted saying he wasn’t happy with what happened to his character in that film. Well he’s entitled to his opinion, but if you ask me, I think that it was The Last Jedi that really did the most service to Finn and his character arc.

First let’s start with what I wasn’t quite happy about with Finn’s character. I just felt that Boyega portrayed him as just too...normal and light hearted for what his character supposedly went through growing up. One interesting tidbit I read about TFA production was that Finn’s “best friend” Poe Dameron wasn’t originally intended to last very long into the film. In fact I think he was supposed to die when their stolen tie fighter crashed back onto Jakku. But actor Oscar Isaacs impressed the higher ups so much that they decided to let his character stick around. As a result I think the Poe character kinda ate into some of the ideas of what Finn was supposed to be. I dunno, a lot of people pointed out that these two had amazing chemistry, but I felt that they were more just 2 halves of the same character almost identical. And it was some of Poe’s “quippiness” that ended up rubbing off onto Finn.

Anyway, it’s this lightheartedness that doesn’t quite fit in with my idea of Finn given his childhood, or rather lack thereof. It’s established early in TFA that the Stormtroopers aren’t genetically engineered clones like in the Prequels, or recruits like the Stormtroopers from the Original Trilogy. Instead, these troopers are composed of youths forcibly taken from their families at a young age and are indoctrinated...or brainwashed into pledging their loyalty to the First Order.

As the story goes, Finn is able to break through all his programming as seeing his comrades die in combat and then in turn slaughter innocents prove to be too much for Finn to take. He and Poe escape the First Order on their stolen Tie Fighter.

This is why Finn’s character interests me so much more than Poe or even Rey. While just as well developed in TLJ (in my opinion), we’ve kinda seen Poe’s and Rey’s character journeys before. Finn as an ex stormtrooper is more fresh. I really enjoyed seeing his personal world expand around him and how his own character grew from someone so limited into a more well rounded character with a stronger life purpose as a result of it.

Let’s start at the very beginning. As a soldier, I'd imagine that he was raised in a binary world of First Order GOOD, everyone else...BAD. Period. This in turn drives the way he acts which is in a very singular, simplistic and absolute way. When he comes to the conclusion that the First Order is evil, and that he doesn’t belong there, he only has one internal directive; to run away. He wants to get as far as the First Order as possible.

Then he meets Rey and his world grows ever so slightly, she basically becomes his first “friend” outside the Order and this gets imprinted on him. His absolute loyalty transfers from the First Order onto Rey, and it is her well being that then in turn drives his actions. This is basically what Finn is about in TFA. At no point does he switch sides and decides to join the “good guys”. It’s his loyalty to Rey that guides his choices and which ultimately brings him to the Resistance.

At the very start of TLJ, Finn finally recovers from his injuries sustained at the end of TFA. He wakes up at the worst time possible as the Resistance is trying to escape the First Order and his first and only question to Poe is….”Where’s Rey?”. Learning more about the Resistance’s desperate situation doesn’t do anything to sway his “prime directive” and his first and only course of action is to abandon ship and find Rey. And this is where he meets Rose Tico.