When I first met Poe Dameron back on December 17, 2015, I didn’t much care for him. That surprised me. It really did. Why? Because I expected to take an instant liking to the hot shot pilot. You see, I have a “thing” for flyboys. 😉 From the few images of Poe to which we were treated in the trailers leading up to Episode VII’s release, I thought it would be a lot of fun to see Poe in action. Too, as I read the opening crawl for the first time, and soon after learned Poe was the Resistance’s “most daring pilot,” I thought he would be someone special indeed.
Truth be told, I didn’t have any reservations about Poe — or my liking him — when we first meet him. I immediately was drawn into the story as he is completing his mission to retrieve the map that will lead the Resistance to Luke. His mission is interrupted by the First Order force’s landing on Jakku, and Poe is brought before Kylo Ren. That is when I do a 180 regarding the hot shot pilot. From the moment Poe opens his mouth to speak, I lose all my expected affinity for him. His one-sided repartee with Kylo Ren left me cold. “Oh no,” I thought to myself, “is this guy for real?” If he is a major player in the story, he has the potential to ruin “The Force Awakens” for me! I didn’t buy Poe’s bravado, his obstinance. I didn’t buy his instantaneous friendship with Finn, or the pair’s supposed kinship. Or was it Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of Poe? I couldn’t be sure. With each subsequent viewing of TFA, that disappointing, negative feeling about Poe was cemented. After seeing the movie that first time, I figured I’d suffer through each scene in which Poe appeared [luckily, there weren’t too many], and subconsciously breathe a sigh of relief when he no longer was on screen.
And then something remarkable happened the seventh time I saw “The Force Awakens”. I had a change of heart. I’m not altogether sure if I can put my finger on what caused this switch to occur, but if I had to take a guess, I think it boils down to watching the look on Poe’s face as the First Order’s stormtroopers haul the pilot to his fateful meeting with Kylo Ren. Poe stares in disbelief at the frozen beam from his blaster as he is ushered past it. It is at that moment he has to make one of two decisions — either tremble and cower in fear or come across as one who is brave, full of bravado, cannot be intimidated. Attitude can propel one into believing anything is possible, even when faced with insurmountable odds. In other words — mind over matter. If Poe comes across as being especially brave [and who wouldn’t believe he is being brave by the way he talks to Kylo Ren? He’s either that or — I’m sorry to say — out of his mind.], he can will himself to be brave. A daring attack can be his best defense — and Poe is the Resistance’s most daring pilot, is he not?
Then, there was Poe’s and Finn’s quick bond of friendship. That rankled me. Yes, Finn did something terribly heroic by rescuing Poe [although Finn’s motives were partially self-serving], but the two were separated almost as quickly as they were brought together! Their exuberant reunion on Takodana did not fit into character. At least to my way of thinking. As I watched TFA for the seventh time, and could tell I was changing my mind about Poe, I thought about my own military experience — about how instantaneous friendships, tight bonds can be forged by two people facing perils at every turn. You must trust in each other’s capabilities. It may be your only chance for survival. Poe’s and Finn’s first moments together were wrought with dangers of gargantuan proportions. Each of them thought the other had perished as a result of their crash on Jakku. Should their reunion be anything other than joyful, full of excitement — and a great deal of relief when they see each other? Each of the men had to be sure he wasn’t seeing an apparition, n’est-ce pas? Then, Poe gives something precious to him to his long-lost friend — his flight jacket. The gesture is symbolic on many levels. For Poe, it is his way of telling his new friend that Finn has earned the right to be part of something bigger than himself, and that the two freedom fighters are kinsmen. We both wear the same skin now, so to speak.
I’ve seen “The Force Awakens” a couple more times [and counting!] since I had my change of heart about Poe Dameron. Each time, my affinity for the hot shot pilot has grown. No longer am I irked by his display of bravado when he comes face to face with Kylo Ren both on Jakku and when he is held captive by the dark-clad figure. With each viewing, I garner deeper appreciation for the son of freedom fighters in the first war against the Galactic Empire [Poe’s father fought with the ground forces on Endor while his mother piloted an A-wing high above the green planet.]. Now, I look for the black and orange X-wing streaking across the sky, and then as it darts deep into StarKiller Base to inflict the final blows that will destroy the super weapon.
As I left the theater after that seventh viewing, I told the usher who was waiting in the wings to clean the theater, “This was my seventh time seeing ‘The Force Awakens’, and it is as good as it was the first time I saw it — even better!” “Wow! Seven times?” he remarked. “I pick up nuances, new ways of seeing the story and characters,” I responded. Then I was on my way.
That’s all it took — one little nuance from Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron as he watched the unbelievable — for me to totally change my mind about the character. I did another 180, and am back on target where I thought I’d be all along concerning Poe. 🙂 He now ranks among my top five characters from the [new] film … rather than finding himself dead last. He is solidly ensconced in spot # 4. [No one will ever usurp Luke Skywalker as my all-time favorite Star Wars character. Never. Ever. 🙂 ] You know, back in the day, a certain princess had her own misgivings about a certain smuggler. She wasn’t taken in by his boasts of bravado … but she eventually came around to a new appreciation for him after getting to know the real scoundrel-turned-freedom fighter. I figure I’m in good company. 🙂
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