‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ pays homage to the past, but works best when it looks to the future

Is there really ANY way I can appropriately preface this? Like at all? I could certainly go into vivid detail what Star Wars means to me or what it feels like going into a new movie after all this time, but better writers have already done that. And let’s face it: Star Wars means a lot of different things to a hell of a lot of people. The original films didn’t just change movies; they changed people, myself included. In terms of being obsessed with movies,  Jurassic Park may have asked me to dance but it was Star Wars I wanted to marry and grow old with. I don’t remember my life without Star Wars. Those first three movies, while not perfect in every respect, are lore to millions upon millions of people. To me, this franchise may just be the closest damn thing I have to a religion, with the prequels representing the hodgepodge, inconsistent and tonally all-over-the-place Old Testament and the original trilogy being the Holy Gospels themselves that start off strong and end on a quasi-disappointing note, with the Expanded Universe (which I guess is pretty much the Wild West at this point in terms of what is canon) serving as the ever expanding and ever contradictory texts that keep getting discovered and were edited out completely.

Me getting choked by my Jesus.

Me getting choked by my Jesus.

When Star Wars works, it provides a feeling that can only be described as the Star Wars feel. I’d call it the Force but that got taken already.

It’s simply that feeling you get when you see a scene like this…

And this…

Or this…

The EU has been capturing the Star Wars feel for a while on the small screen and page, but it is another thing entirely to get that Star Wars feel from a movie. Seeing moments like that…you just can’t compare it to anything else. They’re the reason this franchise is as big as it is, and now Disney has presented with whole new opportunities to feel those Star Wars feels all over again.

Having now seen it, I can say I had an absolutely amazing time watching this but having seen it twice now it’s almost got me like…

Albeit without the murderous rage…or any rage at all, really. I’m sure this movie is going to meet the needs of A LOT of people, particularly Star Wars fans because it gets back to what we expect to see and feel in a Star Wars movie.

Going back and rewatching the prequels, the main problem I’m faced with is that they don’t feel like Star Wars movies. Chock it up to thin, overly focused and technical dialogue, sloppy story-telling, a lack of urgency, hallow characters, listless and tensionless action, an overabundance of fan service (this movie, at times, falls prey to that impulse too) or what have you, any time I watch any of them now, its a chore. They’re not fun. They’re not compelling. Sure, they absolutely stunning at times on a visual and technical level but there’s not soul to it. This new movie FEELS like Star Wars, and as far as I’m concerned that is a massive step in the right direction.

Just a note: there will be a spoiler-free section of this review as well as one that is exclusively about spoilers so be on the lookout.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

The Plot:

“30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.” – IMDb.com

The SPOILER FREE Review:

Right off the bat, this movie is better than any of the prequels. So rest assured on that front. Is it better than any of the original films though? Well that’s a pretty damn tough nut to crack. It is definitely not better than The Empire Strikes Back nor A New Hope but I’d put it neck and neck next to Return of the Jedi. Regardless, it’s way too soon to say this movie has the lasting power of those first three. They’ve been around for 30 plus years and have since infected every facet of popular culture. I’d say this has potential but we aren’t far enough out just yet, not to mention we still have to see how this new trilogy finishes out. It’s a promising start, but I don’t want to commit to “iconic” or “mythical.” This movie, and this new trilogy, need time to stand on their own before we look at their merits in comparison to the original film, which are by no means faultless themselves. (Ewoks, the brother/sister thing, Han having nothing to do by Return, etc.)

This feels like Star Wars because it was ultimately designed to, thanks in no small part I imagine to the involvement of Empire and Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. It’s almost as if the filmmakers saw the Mr. Plinkett prequel reviews and took extensive notes on what fans wanted. (I’m beyond excited to see what those guys over at redlettermedia have to say…which can be found here and I pretty much agree with everything they have to say in said video.) While that ultimately works in the film’s favor, it does come off as a bit of pandering here and there which you’re going to hear me bitch about momentarily.

There are a lot of archetypes and narrative threads  lifted from A New Hope here. I won’t go into too many specifics yet but ultimately I didn’t find TOO much of an issue with in the same way that a lot of other people seem to be at least in terms of the kind of new characters we get and the general plot set up. There were some moments that were certainly done better in the earlier film, but it by no means makes this movie a remake.  A New Hope is taken from  A Hero of a Thousand Faces established by Joseph Campbell, or the Hero’s Journey. It is a story structure that has been followed in mythology, legends, and epics throughout all time. Campbell wrote in the 50s and 60s, and Lucas used it in Star Wars, which he cited. J.J. is using it now and he used it because its tried and true. There are worse skeletons you could build your Star Wars movies around that A New Hope, trust me. Like I, and countless others have said, “If it ain’t broke…” This formula works well, and its a great way to introduce characters, get people invested, set up the world, and get the story going and ultimately this series needed to desperately get back to basics. The prequels did not do this which left us with a series of movies in which we, as an audience, were connected to absolutely no one and grasping at straws in terms of finding a main character. That all being said however this movie, at times, overreaches. Like lifting key plot points from the earlier movies in the climax. This leads to perhaps my biggest problem with the film.

If we’re going to be completely honest here, I could have also used a little less fan service. A good portion of it works, but some of it felt incredibly forced or on the nose in much of the same ways it did in Jurassic World. (While I was initially on board with that movie for the most part, each progressive viewing lowers my opinion of it a bit. Still think its quite a bit of fun however.) The movie worked best when it was building towards new stuff or at the very least, subverting what we’ve seen. Kylo Ren and Finn’s characters are pretty good examples of this. When fans complain about the prequels not being enough like the original movies, they aren’t arguing for them having the exact same plot of the original trilogy. They are/were arguing for a return to the practical, a return to the grounded, and a return to the basic. Aesthetically and narratively, The Force Awakens achieves that, but dips back into the well to such an extent (particularly during the climax) that it irked me just a tad. It by no means ruined the movie for me by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t wish to convey that at all. 

Every previous Star Wars movie (-shivers- even the prequels…) were self-sustaining in that they felt like complete movies. By the end of each of them the players had been moved and things felt like they had changed. We left wanting more…at least in the case of the original movies. Empire ends on a cliffhanger but it still feels like a complete movie. Yes, the story isn’t done but we know where each character stands and what to expect with the sequel. The Force Awakens however gets so enraptured with providing a Mystery Box that it, at times, loses track of the rather simple story its trying to tell. By then end, I’m not sure where anyone stood beyond just two characters. I’m excited to see what those characters will be doing in the next movie but I would have liked a hint at the bigger picture. Where is (deleted) going to be? How is (deleted) going to deal with (deleted)’s (deleted) and the other (deleted)? All I’m saying is: leave us wanting more, but not at the expensive of actually ensuring we’re full. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt seeing as they are ensured a full trilogy (unlike Lucas’ original film) so I’m assuming this will be a very much a “BIG PICTURE” type of story. Not my favorite way to pan out a story, but we’ll see what comes next I suppose. 

Another major improvement however is the comedy. One thing the prequels sorely lacked was a sense of fun. There were some jokes here and there, but they often fell flat either to awkward delivery or simply being lowest common denominator jokes meant for babies.  Force Awakens swiftly corrects that by actually adding a sense of levity to the proceedings. Sure, it gets dark. Every Star Wars film gets dark at one point or another but they never lose their sense of fun (at least in the original films) and that sense of fun is incredibly crucial in world set in a galaxy similar yet ultimately different to our own.

The new cast is, across the board, spectacular; particularly our new leads.

Daisy Ridley may just be the discovery of the year.

Star-Wars-countdown--bo-staff_article_story_large

I love that the movie didn’t go out of its way to make Rey a strong, independent woman and instead lets her actions speak for themselves. Much like Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, her character, not her gender, comes first. It doesn’t seem like a blatant, “Fuck, women can do stuff now. Make the feminists happy.” kind of move we hear a lot about now.  I’ve heard complaints that she’s boring and a blatant Mary Sue and there is some validity to that. She is good at a lot of stuff at the beginning of the film and we see her get better at stuff as the film continues. But I’ve never seen Mary Sues as inherently negative, particularly when they are written well and portrayed by a compelling actor. It’s all a matter of context and execution. Star Wars is chock-full of messianic figures (Luke, Anakin) and though they can appear untouchable, they express weakness through other facets. I never really stopped to question Rey’s “bullet-proofing” because I was actually investing the action taking place around her. It all comes back to Ridley’s performance. She is so inspired and kinetic throughout the film that I was completely onboard with her journey, as a character, throughout. It’s a triumph of casting. I’ve harped on this in the past, but were she just a flat, invulnerable character, I would have been angrier but given that we see her stumble and we some cracks; we see her afraid and unsure of herself. We’ve sort of got to take it on faith that she didn’t teach herself all of the impressive stuff she knows (which kind of sucks, but I digress) and will see her backstory unfold in future movies. For what’s presented here, I had no major problems with and look forward to Ridley becoming a bigger star after this.

Having seen Attack the Block, John Boyega hitting out of the park as the defecting Stormtrooper, Finn, came as no big surprise to me. Forget “this guy is going places”; he’s officially made it there.

kinopoisk.ru

Finn is, by and large, the avatar for the audience this time around at least more so than Rey. While the world of Star Wars always has that undercurrent of familiarity, these new movies appear to take us to corners of the galaxy we’ve never experienced before so having a fresh faced turncoat stormtrooper, who has known nothing besides being a stormtrooper, is the perfect launching point for something that is all at once the same but different. Boyega is clearly having the time of his life being in this movie and that enthusiasm comes across in his performance 100%. He’s funny, he’s scared and he has a big heart. His interactions with Han and Chewie make for some of the movie’s best and funniest moments.

Oscar Issac is probably given the least to do in terms of the major players, but is by no means a disappointment.

11879145_1007879875930280_3304429837994472327_o

He has that roughish charm of Han Solo. I wouldn’t say he’s the new Han Solo. If anything, I found him fitting in the Leia role a lot more. Sure, he has to be rescued but he is completely competent (perhaps the most competent of all the characters) and I’m hopeful that he has a larger role to play in the sequel.  There was one element of his story that I didn’t like because it felt like a cop out. It just seemed…too easy. I have sneaking suspicion it may be dealt with in a later movie, but it would be equally stupid. We’ll see.

The new droid, BB-8, that Disney has been pushing like gang-busters, is also a hit thanks in no small part to the incredible puppet put to excellent use here. There was a really fear that the character would be a cutesy, annoying, made-for-kids gimmick a’l’a Jar Jar Binks or the Ewoks. Luckily while the little guy is INCREDIBLY cute, he is never annoying. Like R2 before him, BB is bundle of personality expressed through brilliant and crucial noises.

maxresdefault

This little guy is going to be a new favorite, no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.

If I had to pick a favorite new character however it’d have to be Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.

des0190_462d9660

He has a bit of an anger problem that manifests itself in pretty frightening ways. Without getting too spoiler-y I will say that out of anyone, I’m most interested to see where he goes in the next film given what we learn about him here.

Driver’s a guy I’ve been a fan of for a while now. Whether it’s being the best character on HBO’s girls (I was alway half expecting/ half hoping for him to say, “Hey, kid.” to Rey during a particularly tense scene.) or stealing scenes in Coen Brothers’ movies, the guy is a talent to watch. He was just an actor waiting for a big part to make him a house hold name. And his performance here is star-making.

This is the closest the series has come to having a potentially iconic villain since the Emperor. (It’s honestly too early to tell with Ren’s Master, Supreme Commander Snoke, as he is hardly in the movie and I wasn’t overtly impressed with his design in the same way I was with Ren’s.) He’s unpredictable and incredibly powerful. Unlike Darth Vader though, he isn’t calm and relatively collected. He behaves like a petulant child when he doesn’t get his way…a child with a claymore lightsaber. Like Rey, there are some complaints about his character being inconsistent but it’s important to remember we haven’t seen the full picture yet and based on what we know about Ren, I was sucked in and I wanted to know more about him and how he fell to the Dark Side.

The rest of the villains don’t really shine as bright because they are not given nearly as much to do. I was pretty excited to see the “Chrometrooper”, Captain Phasma, in action but she is regulated to a part that is comparable to Boba Fett’s in Empire: She looks really cool, but doesn’t particularly add much to the story. Here’s hoping she gets a shot at redemption in the next film.

ep7_ia_38369_0bbb2aae

The same could be said of Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux, who gets a few scenes here and there (with one particularly evil, particularly Nazi-esque speech) but nothing truly substantial. It’s the same problem with Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope. I want more of this guy but he is often related to the backseat.

One quick disappointment (nitpick) was the appearance of Yayan Ruhian, Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman of The Raid films as space pirates and are not once utilized in a fight/action sequence. That’s like having Michael Jordan on your team and leaving him on the bench.

Some blink and you’ll miss them cameos include Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Greg Grunberg and even a voice cameo from Ewan McGregor as old Ben Kenobi that I caught during the second viewing.

Now that we’ve talked about the new, let’s talk about the original fossils..er…cast. I meant cast. You can’t prove I didn’t!

star-wars-force-awakens-han-solo-chewbacca

Boy did I miss Harrison Ford as Han Solo and boy am I happy he is the OG character with the most to do in this movie. I was expecting more of an extended cameo from both Han and Chewie. So color me satisfied that the two are actually major players here.

The writer’s get Han Solo’s voice. Combined with Harrison Ford actually being awake this time around and it’s as if the character never left us at all. Seeing and hearing Han be Han again is…it’s just the best.

“Outta the way, ball.”

“…14.”

“That’s not how the Force works!”

“There’s always a way to blow it up.”

There’s a reason why Han is almost across the board the character we wanted to be as grown ups. Now he’s the guy we want to be when we’re seniors.

Carrie Fisher makes an appearance as General Leia (she will forever be a princess in my heart, and I do not mean that in a derogatory fashion) and her scene with Ford lead to some of the strongest feels you’ll feel all year. The chemistry between the two actors is still plainly visible, and having it underscored with John Williams’ iconic music is going to melt any icy heart that claims to give at least a damn about these movies.

Yes, Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker does appear and yes, it is incredibly epic and has an air of myth around it which I dug quite a bit. I’ll say no more on that topic.

And of course, C-3PO and R2-D2 show up for brief, but memorable appearances. 3PO’s first appearance got one of the biggest laughs in the theater I saw this in and R2 one of the biggest applauses. I’m hoping to see more R2 and BB-8 interactions in the future, because for the brief time the two interact here is flipping adorable. But the focus is primarily on the new crew, as it should be, with the old guard taking a more supportive role.

Now on to the effects. Holy shit. What a phenomenal mix of both the practical and the digital this time around. From the puppets, to the dogfights, to the actual, real locations utilized. Abrams and co. really went out of their way to provide us with a  whirlwind of new Star Wars imagery to take in. It’s the antithesis of the prequels on a visual level. This feels like the same world established by the original films. With all the new stuff to take in visually, you almost wish you could pause the movie in the theater to just take in everything. This’ll be Mad Max’s biggest competitor in the technical department come awards’ season.

I also want to highlight what a good-looking movie this is. J.J.’s go-to cinematographer Daniel Mindel did a hell of job shooting this monster and does a good job at reminding audiences how exciting Star Wars can be when we aren’t bombarded of an endless slew of “shot/reverse shot/shot/reverse shot…”The imagery is best when it is taking something iconic and subverting it and/or shooting it in a whole new way i.e. TIE fighters on the horizon, an AT-AT half submerged in the sand, a snowy lightsaber battle, etc. As always, the sound of Star Wars is crucial. Iconic Sound designer and mixer Ben Burtt returns to provide us with  all of the “pew pews” and “vrrrm vrrmms” of a galaxy far, far away. John Williams’s score is as on point as it ever has been. The man is without a doubt the most important figure in movie scores, bar none. 

The action/adventure aspect is also reinvigorated here with actual action scenes that pull you in. Whether

The prequels went out of their way to cram lightsabers in every fucking scene they could, and just became numbing by the time they got to General Grievous.

General-Grievous_c9df9cb5

The fights, while visually kind of interesting, had no emotion behind them. One of the (few) consistent praises I hear about The Phantom Menace time and time again is that three-way fight near the end of the film is “really good” and how awesome it is because they’re doing flips and shit or whatever.

 The only thing awesome about that particular scene is John Williams’ “Duel of Fates.” This fight is a dance. An impressive, yet overly choreographed dance. It’s hallow. I don’t care about what’s happening. When we get to Attack of the Clones, it’s the cinematic equivalent to jingling keys over a baby.

The best fights (in Star Wars and movies in general) were about the feelings behind them. Why are these two characters fighting? One of the best moments in the entire series is a fight between an old man and a half robot, not because of the choreography, but because of the pathos and sense of backstory you feel between these two enemies. And if you think it is bad because “It’s boring and lame, bro, because they like such at fighting. That old man sucks. Everything old sucks….” you’re probably a fan of any movie in which a character walks away from an explosion without looking back. More power to you, dude.

The Force Awakens brings lightsaber duels back to what make lightsaber duels, and by extension sword fights, awesome and compelling. It’s not about all the flips and stunts and the shiny attractions and the bracelets. It’s about the raw emotion between the two people fighting. There is a wonderful lightsaber duel set in a snowy forest here that had me grinning from ear to ear when I wasn’t close to falling off my seat. A lightsaber fight in a snowy forest is something I’ve been clamoring for for a while now. It harkens back to old samurai films and it’s just a flat out cool visual having a lightsaber illuminated against the icy surroundings with hiss of snowflakes hitting the blade and evaporating.

SPOILERS

maxresdefault

– Welcome to the spoiler zone. I’m going to talk about specific things that I really liked and really didn’t care for here. Should you chose to remain untainted you should skip right on ahead where it says END OF SPOILERS and jawas welcoming you to the spoiler free area down below. You have been warned. – 

Okay.

One moment, please.

I need to take a moment.

HOLY SHIT.

WHEN KYLO REN CATCHES THAT LASER BLAST?!?!

ARE YOU KIDDING M-

AND THEN-

THE FALCON REVEAL?!

WAIT AND-

THE FALCON CHASE ON JAKKU?!

AND THE-

DANIEL CRAIG’S CAMEO?!?!

RIGHT?!

HAN AND LEIA’S REUNION SCENE?!?!

WHA–

HAAAAAAAAAAN, NO!!!!

OH MY-

AND THAT LIGHTSABER DUEL IN THE SNOW?!?!

OH MY FUCKING CHEWIE!

LUKE. IT’S LUKE AT THE JEDI TEMPLE, GUYS!

AH AH AH

-ahem-

And, we’re back.

Please excuse my Harry Knowles moment there.

What I wanted to accomplish with that is to establish that, yeah, I’m kind of a big fan of Star Wars and this movie, and I may have gotten a little excited during this movie, I’m doing my absolute best to keep a firm head on my shoulders while critically appraising it.

So let’s talk about THAT character death.

Han Solo is someone I pretty much had pegged for death pretty damn early on in this venture. Ford has gone on record countless times about how he felt the smuggler with a heart of gold should have bit the bucket at the end of Empire. I’ll flat out admit that Han’s my favorite character in the first two movies (and one of my favorite characters in any movie based on the strength of just those two movies), but it becomes painfully obvious he was meant to die before Return of the Jedi as he is given next to nothing to do in the last film. Like really think back and tell me what purpose Han served in that movie. He certainly distracted that one Scout Trooper on Endor….that kind of helped, I guess? In fact, this death is probably what ultimately convinced Ford to sign on in the first place….after he cleaned up the dump truck of money Disney left at his front door of course.

Does it work though? Is Han’s death a simple, cheap trip used to make us feel something or does it actually work in a devastating yet narratively satisfying way?

Yes. In my opinion, very much yes.

He is very much in the Obi-Wan role this time around, and while his death is pretty spelled out during the scene through lighting, it makes sense and its completely devastating.

Speaking of the lighting: it’s half light, half dark whilst it seems that Kylo Ren is struggling to try and leave the dark side. The sun goes out, it’s all dark. Kylo’s grip tightens and Han is no more. His death pushes Rey further towards her destiny as a Jedi much in the same way Obi Wan’s did to Luke.  It also allows for Kylo Ren to fall even further, having now fully committed to the Dark Side, and become an even bigger threat. It appears that they may be doing something similar to Jacen Solo from the now non-canon EU given that character’s similar struggle between the light and the dark. I appreciate that his parentage is revealed organically throughout the movie and not treated like the BIG TWIST moment. 

Quick aside: I fucking love Kylo Ren. Like I said before, he is my favorite of the new crop of characters. I love the tantrums and ineffectual while still being a clear and present threat to the heroes. It’s great to have a villain who in many ways is as untested and growing as the heroes are. There is still time for the filmmakers to 100% drop the ball, but I’m excited to see where he goes. His struggle between light and dark isn’t something I expect to see for the last time here and I hope it remains as compelling but not force (^_^) feed to us. In many ways, he is how the Anakin Skywalker character should have been executed in the prequels.

My only real problem with Han’s death is the lack of emphasis placed on Chewbacca’s direct reaction to it. Leia feeling it through the Force was a wonderful touch, but Chewie just gets really mad and fires on Ren (which was badass/devastating/emotional), and then gets a quiet moment by himself later but it all happens really quick and no one really interacts with him extensively after that. Leia goes to hug Rey first, walking right past Chewie. It reminded me of that awkward scene in A New Hope in which Leia comforts Luke over Obi-Wan’s death (a man he has known MAYBE for a day) when her ENTIRE FUCKING PLANET was just destroyed. There is also no real final moment between Han and Chewie before all is said and done which feels like negligent story-telling on the writers’ part. If you’re going to pay homage to the past so much, at least provide pathos and closure to one of the most defining friendships of this entire franchise. Han never interacting with Luke again also feels somewhat like a missed opportunity but that’s simple nitpicking on my part.

One thing Abrams loves to do  is set things up for future installments, (Sticking the landing not at much, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) and there are quite a few things set up here that I am whole heatedly anticipating to see how writer/director Rain Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper) picks up the baton for the next movie.One thing that I am absolutely ecstatic about is the juxtaposition of  Jedi and Sith training we’ve been all but promised for Episode VIII with Kylo Ren and Rey. I assume the two are going to end up being cousins even though I’m kind of against that. Signs point to Rey being Luke’s daughter (ex. the lightsaber calling to her, R2 reactivating when she returns to the Resistance Base, Ren being aware and afraid of her, etc) but I argue for have Rey be her own character, apart from the Skywalker family, that happens to have a particularly strong connection to the force. Maybe she was a Force sensitive child that Luke forced into hiding for protection, with Max Von Sydow’s character who was killed near the beginning serving as a guardian. (I’m grasping at straws simply because I’m with the rest of you on this one.) I just hope it isn’t a family connection. If the big reveal of the next movie is that they’re cousins (or god forbid, brother and sister AGAIN), I may scream…out of anger at how convoluted and lazy that would be…

 I really, really, REALLY hate saying this but this may be the first Star Wars movie that could have used a political scene or two. I never really got a good sense of the ultimate threat the First Order, or their mysterious leader played via motion capture by Andy Serkis, represented to the galaxy as a whole. Sure, they blow up AN ENTIRE SYSTEM OF PLANETS but we never really see any fall out of that. There’s little to no mourning for the BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS of lives just lost. C’mon, Leia has to at least say something right? The New Order (and the Resistance, who I guess are really the Republic but are calling themselves “the Resistance?” All that was fuzzy to me) feel isolated from the bigger universe.

This isn’t me asking for them to explain everything. Lord knows that we don’t want to slide back into prequel territory in which everything is OVERLY spoon-fed to us. Just a scene or two. Did the New Order just destroy the Republic or just a series of planets? Was that Coruscant? Just tell me and I can gauge the threat. The movie spends MAYBE two or three moment after the destruction before its off to the next thing. It makes things fuzzy because it doesn’t linger on the moment very long.

Speaking of distant, another major gripe of mine is the whole sequence concerning the destruction of the Starkiller Base a.k.a. the new BIGGER and BETTER-ER Death Star. (The whole BIGGER Death Star plot point was really a big miss for me too while we’re at it.) It felt so far removed from the main plot that I totally forgot about Poe and the rest of the X-Wings trying to blow it up and I wasn’t too emotionally invested either way and the moment in which it is actually destroyed fell flat. It isn’t aided by the fact that we’ve seen this basic climax twice before this and done better at that. I mean I really want to hear the writers’ reason for including it AGAIN. A can live with a lot of the other repeats, homages and what have you, but this one irritated me a little bit. I was a hell of lot more invested with the lightsaber battle going on planet side with Ren, Rey and Finn and kind of wish this had just been a straight-up rescue mission, with the added bonus of disabling the planet before it destroyed the Resistance’s base and giving time for everyone there to escape, instead of just the destruction of yet another ultimate weapon. Subvert expectations and have the weapon around for the sequel. DAMNIT, I’M FAN DIRECTING AGAIN. ABANDON SHIP!

END OF SPOILERS

star_wars__jawa_group_by_katrinakity-d6c9pm3

I guess I want to end this (rambling) review by expressing my fear and ultimate excitement with this new series of Star Wars films.

The biggest bummer this movie represents to me is that this is truly the last time a Star Wars movie will ever be THIS big. Think about it. Now that Disney has it locked tight in its iron clad claws, we are getting one of these bad boys every year until they stop becoming profitable and I’ll be there first night. I don’t care if it’s anal bleach or spider food or oranges, you put “Star Wars” in front of anything I’m going to pay attention but a certain point, the excitement is not necessarily going to go away but it isn’t going to be as palpable as it is now. It all boils down to diminishing returns. I’m not particularly a fan of the notion that I may one day not be excited by a new Star Wars film nor do I wish for a world in which Star Wars movies become just another IP.Right now, the second “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” fade in on the screen and is quickly followed by that John Williams overture, all cynicism melts away and I don’t want that to go away.

I also want to address an issue that’s been bothering me. Why in the hell does there have to be a nerd consensus to this movie above any other? Why do we need to uniformly love or hate something? Is it just because this is a Star Wars movie? That has to be it, right? A common fear I found in others was that this movie wasn’t going to be amazing. Not that it would be bad, but that it wouldn’t be amazing. I think that just represents the danger of being too hyped for a film. Trust me. I was IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY excited for this film, but I didn’t go in thinking it would change my life. I liked to joke that it was the reason I was avoiding death for the past few years but I kept my head above water before going in…well tried to at the very least. And let me stress: there is nothing wrong with being super exited for this movie and leaving disappointed nor is there anything wrong with loving the every loving shit out of this movie. Hell, there is even a middle ground. I grew up in the age of the Special Editions and prequels so I know a thing or two about people shitting on my opinions for the simple act of liking or disliking a movie. (I liked them growing up AS A GOOD MANY PEOPLE MY AGE DID. That opinion has since changed but might as well own up to it.) I think a lot people are going to love this movie for bringing the Star Wars back to Star Wars and others are going to hate it for bringing too much Star Wars into Star Wars. Neither are wrong. There doesn’t need to be an entire nerd civil war around this. 

Did I enjoy this movie?

Yes.

Did I like this movie?

Yes.

Did I really like this movie?

Yes.

Did I love this movie?

No, not as a whole.

Did this movie disappoint me?

No, not in the parts that mattered.

Now I certainly loved PARTS of this movie. I’d even say a love most of it and I’m hoping that it will ultimately grow on me as a whole as the year’s go on. This was a very good Star Wars movie, just not a great one. I’ll need to see it a couple (hundred) more times to properly assess its place in the canon, and for what it is, I was properly entrained and it feels like the Force (Star Wars) is finally back on track to attaining balance, and it honestly feels really good. I literally cannot stress how good it feels to be excited for Star Wars movies again. I feel like Bill Murray at the end of Scrooged. Just switch out “spirit” and “Christmas” with “Star Wars” and you’ll get a good sense of what I felt like by the time the credits rolled, accompanied by John Williams’ music. 

J.J. Abrams and his team did what Lucas himself could not. He brought us back to Star Wars and that feeling only good Star Wars can bring. Those feelings of awe, adventure, camaraderie, fear, nostalgia, and whole host of other emotions wrapped up in one, beautiful package.

I went into this wanting that Star Wars feel again, and by-and-large I got it, wholesale.

I’d mark that down as a massive victory for this movie in and of itself.

And for better or for worse, Star Wars is here to stay, and I’m going to enjoy the Star Wars feeling for as long as it lasts…

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ pays homage to the past, but works best when it looks to the future

  1. Pingback: Best TV moments of 2015 (Excercise caution least ye be spoiled) | Sharks with Laserbeams

  2. Pingback: ‘Rogue One’ looks great, thrilling even at times; all while failing to justify its own existence (SPOILERS) | Sharks with Laserbeams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s