One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which scene from the latest Star Wars film they deem greatest.
The rathtar sequence is the best scene, says Jon.
“Chewie, we’re home.”
Hearing those words roll off of Han Solo’s tongue in The Force Awakens trailer caused a fan boy frenzy to overtake me. Noticing goosebumps and wiping misty eyes, it soon became apparent the shot of Solo and his Wookiee compadre back aboard the Millennium Falcon might wind up occupying my favorite scene of the film.
Little did I know that my go-to portion of The Force Awakens would take place just moments later. The action-tinged activity aboard Han’s bulk freighter Eravana, where the Falcon finds itself forcibly parked, deftly showcases the main reason we fell in love with Solo in the first place.
We learn Han and Chewie’s cargo consists of a trio of rathtars, a special delivery for King Prana. While Rey remains clueless about these beasts, Finn knows their blood-curdling reputation. A quick jump-scare tease of a rathtar tentacle in a corridor window gives us just a smidgen of a glimpse. This only heightens the scene’s anticipation.
Knowing members of the Guavian Death Gang have bullied their way on board and will be showing up soon enough, Han ushers Rey and Finn into a shaft below and hangs onto BB-8 for safe keeping.
“What are you going to do?” Rey asks.
“Same thing I always do,” replies Han. “Talk my way out of it.”
Looking down at the aging rogue, Chewie grumbles in disagreement.
Han quickly snaps back, pointing at the Wookiee, “Yes, I do. Every time.”
The comedic exchange between Han and Chewie shows us that the saga’s own legendary duo may in fact be morphing into an old married couple dynamic. This quick-yet-wonderful moment proves Han, as Maz Kanata puts it later in the film, has found himself “back in the mess.”
Rey and Finn now quickly out of sight, the Guavian Death Gang appears at one end of the hallway. Tension builds as this intimidating gaggle of criminals, led by the haggard Bala-Tik, demand the 50,000 credits they loaned Solo for the rathtar gig. The armed and faceless foot soldiers, red lightbulb-like helmets atop their shoulders, exude all kinds of cool.
At the other end of the hall, another small group of baddies, Kanjiklub, emerge arguably more strikingly dreadful than the Guavians. Draped in Mad Max-meets-Star Wars garb, Kanjiklub have been milked for credits, too, and they’ve come to collect. The impeccable casting of Kanjiklub notches up their formidable qualities even before they hardly make a move. A trio of the Kanjiklub actors appeared in the heralded action film series The Raid. Just having them present stacks the ante.
Seeing Han and Chewie wind up in the middle of an organized crime sandwich gives us a situation never before seen in the saga. The perils of swindling and smuggling play out before our eyes, serving up both humor and jeopardy at the same time.
We soon get a little more visual rathtar information as Rey accidentally opens their holding pen doors. Rathtar tentacles reach out of the steamy, yellow lit containment; another great pressure-building device. And the jutting tentacles provide a most wonderfully gratuitous shot when seen in 3D.
The eerie howl of the rathtars offers an excellent air of foreboding and gives Han the opportunity to utter the trademark line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Yes, just in case you forgot, we’re watching Star Wars.
Thus begins an adrenaline-pumping action sequence as everyone scrambles to escape. The full-on appearance of the rathtars gives evidence of their unique, horrific magnitude. Tentacles waving in every direction, the rathtars viciously roll down the hallway feasting on a gangster buffet. These things may belong to one of the slickest alien species in the Star Wars galaxy.
We watch as Han humorously scurries from the madness. Some 30 years later, Solo still packs a punch, walloping the Kanjiklub dude in the mohawk helmet before tossing him into the jagged jaws of a rathtar. I lost ample amounts of popcorn bouncing in my seat seeing Han lay the smack down.
While Han and Chewie beeline toward the Falcon, Rey and Finn emerge from the shaft. They attempt to run from the rathtars, but Finn gets yanked away by a treacherous tentacle. The rathtar rolls away with Finn in tow, and a panicked Rey has to resort to looking at a bank of security screens to see where the behemoth has taken her newfound bud. By showing Finn’s predicament unfold on the security screens, J.J. Abrams uses a terrific storytelling device. We only get bits and blips of action, and the suspense percolates. With ace timing, Rey hits a button that closes a blast door in time to slice the rathtar’s tentacle holding Finn, releasing him. We get just enough fun space gore from the severed tentacle pieces flopping on the ground and squirting a touch of alien ooze.
Meanwhile, before Han and Chewie can get the hangar door open and reach the Falcon, a Guavian tags the Wookiee with a laser blast. Han then grabs Chewie’s bowcaster — that’s another cinematic first — and fires the weapon, somewhat goofily impressed by its prowess.
All of the good guys soon make it to the Millennium Falcon, hop on board and attempt to scram amid a storm of Guavian cannon fire. Not much rivals the fan-pleasing sight of Han Solo back in the Falcon’s cockpit flipping switches. The glow of console lights illuminate that unmistakeable face.
With Finn tending to a wounded Chewbacca back in the common area, Rey buddies up to Han in the co-pilot seat. Han tells Rey he’s opting to take off from the hangar at lightspeed. When Rey asks Han if that’s even possible, Han quips back with an instant classic: “I never ask that question until after I’ve done it.” The massive, gaping mouth of a rathtar adheres to the Falcon’s cockpit glass bringing more intensity to the situation. Without a moment to lose, Rey gives Han a suggestion that aids the pilot in engaging the ship in lightspeed. It works, and several streaks of light later, they’re out of danger.
In this bundle of Star Wars goodness, the viewer gets nearly everything we so geekly desire, including white knuckle hoopla, amusing one-liners, mind-bending critters, bad-to-the-bone space scum and that iconic smuggler doing what he does best.
Watching this scene, I know I’m home.
Maz’s castle is the best scene, says Brendan.
If we’re talking the best scenes from The Force Awakens, there are a ton of excellent choices. It’s a really hard decision, but for me, there’s one that stands heads and shoulders above the rest. It’s gotta be when Han and Chewie take Finn and Rey to Maz Kanata’s castle.
Not only does Maz’s joint have plenty of scum and villainy (ahem), it’s filled to the brim with legends, heroes, and a cornucopia of glorious oddballs. I love that the place has been a watering hole for these shady types for a millennia. That means Maz been probably been smuggling and slinging Corellian ale since even Yoda was but a babe.
Han Solo warns Finn and Rey not to stare at “any of it,” but I just can’t help myself each time I revisit the film. Every corner and alcove of Maz Kanata’s castle has a cool critter stuck back there. Strange, unrecognizable figures crouch and huddle around games of chance cube and sabacc, cheering and commiserating and eating. It’s like the Galactic Senate plus Jabba’s palace multiplied by Dex’s Diner…it’s so dense!
It shouldn’t surprise you at this point that I love creatures (my childhood obsession with the book Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina is partly to blame), and that’s a major contributing factor to my love of this scene. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit poring over the pages in the The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary featuring Maz and her motley guests from far-away systems.
Can we talk about the soundtrack for a minute? The awesome space-reggae vibe comes from the amazing musical mind of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams. In a saga famous for its background music from Figrin D’an to Max Rebo and “Yub Nub,” “Jabba Flow” is a worthy new Star Wars groove. That unique sound lends Maz’s castle a very distinct feel when compared to other seedy hideouts we’ve seen throughout the saga.
Maz herself is a wonderful, funny (“Where’s my boyfriend?”), and intriguing hostess, and I’d love to see more of her in the future.
Our characters all come out of Maz’s castle very changed. Between Rey’s vision, the destruction of Hosnian Prime, and the attack on the castle, this segment of the film is a big turning point. By the time we leave Takodana, Rey’s been kidnapped, the Republic capital system is gone, Finn has decided not to run away, and Han and Leia are reunited at last.
Even without getting into what exactly Maz had stashed in her basement over the centuries (I swear the Ark of the Covenant has gotta be in there…but that’s a question for another time), the time we spend at Maz Kanata’s castle is the best part of The Force Awakens. As far as Star Warsiness, it scores on many levels — a slew of kooky aliens, a sweet jam playing in the background, and a lived-in look with a feeling of place and history. Maz’s castle is a wonderful part of the film and a great addition to the universe, making the important scenes that take place there feel that much more special.
I can only hope that Maz had insurance on her lovely establishment so she can rebuild it. I’d hate to think she’s now pulling morning shifts at a coffee shop somewhere.
What do you think is the best scene? Did both writers get it wrong? Let us know in the comments below!
Jon Waterhouse is an award-winning journalist, radio show host, and performer whose byline has appeared in a variety of print and online publications includingEsquire, BlackBook, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on MTV.com. He helms the geek travel blog NerdsOnHoliday.com.