December 19, 2015

This Jedi Reviews STAR WARS VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS **CONTAINS SPOILERS**



Like millions of other fans, we saw it - the long-awaited new Star Wars film, the Force Awakens. Let me just say up front—a small disclaimer—that I am not your average Star Wars fan. Further, I am not a fangirl in the sense that I have to buy every t-shirt and action figure that hits the store shelves…well, mostly (I do love my Jedi robes). I am the fan that thrives on the story, the details, the philosophy, the technology, the backstories…you get the gist. I live in the mind of the characters, and in the maker. I don’t care as much about the ‘ride’ of an action-packed movie as much as how much it makes me think. In fact, while I appreciate the thrill of a good dog-fight over an exotic planet, that is not what makes the movie for me.

I guess when you wait for a couple years, then experience the massive amounts of hype, by both the media, the producer et al., and the fans, you may be set up for a little disappointment by the reality. I don’t know that I would say full-on that I am disappointed. But, I am not full-on amazed, either. That is not really a criticism…I love Star Wars. I still do. But, let me explain.

I love the original films. They are like a comfortable, old blanket that stirs up sweet memories of youth. I can easily overlook the technological shortcomings just as much as I overlooked the signs of age on my beloved grandmother’s face. I have watched them so repeatedly that the dialogue comes out in my everyday speech. And, I not only see characters, quirky aliens, and new environments, I see the heart of the maker flowing through the story with messages that are poignant today. Is there a force outside ourselves? Is there a bigger world than the one we know? Am I more than I know? Does that even matter? These were, and still are, important questions for me.

And, then there are the prequels. The true heartbeat of the backstory. The Jedi in their glory. The Senate. The Sith. Coruscant, Naboo, and revisiting Tatooine. Who doesn’t love the costumes, the grandeur, the set up? Young Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Yoda fueled my mental daydreams for many, many hours. I saw the movies in the theaters…then went back by myself multiple times. Did I announce my fandom to the world? Actually, no. I wasn’t going for bragging rights…I actually just wanted to live in the environment one more time. I immediately purchased the music and would hoard it to myself until I had absorbed every little nuance of the emotion that John Williams poured into the scenes. I loved the prequels…yes, even Jar Jar (because I know, and love, a lot of people just like him!)…and they are still my go-to movies whenever I need a ‘Star Wars fix’ or just an escape into daydreaming about a galaxy far, far away.  So much to think about, so many pieces to the puzzle, and so much tragedy for beloved characters that became part of my world.

And then VII. As the premier happened, we were glued to the internet, soaking up every little bit of excitement from the red carpet. Then the now-famous Gena Davis whoop at the conclusion of the viewing. George’s snarky jesting, the fascinating new actors, all the talk about how wonderful it was…”Star Wars is back!” First of all, that is such a slap in the face to so many, but even more, that is a big bill to fill. Disney is happy. JJ is happy. The fans are happy. Life is good.

Last night we saw the movie. Again, I don’t want to say I was disappointed. But I have a question…haven’t we seen this before? The answer for me is yes – we have seen ALL this before. This is the same story line with different characters. A ‘no-one’ trapped on a desert planet. The bad guys are building a giant weapon and the good guys are in a time crunch to go blow it up against all odds. The no-one discovers special talents within themselves. The bad guys are incredibly bad. The good guys are at a distinct disadvantage. “Give it all you’ve got!”


I didn’t get anything new to think about. (Now, I’m whining!) There is some mysterious potential for some characters…where did they come from? What has happened in the years since ROTJ and TFA? But, that is not enough to get those gears grinding in my head like before. I was just expecting…well…more. I was led to expect more.



So, what did I like about the film?

1.       Rey! What a great character. Strong and smart. Oh, and the fact that she is force-sensitive is pretty cool, too. She is dressed like Luke, just not as…ok, I’ll say it…whiney. I am pretty sure she is a Skywalker, but perhaps that is just my hope.

2.       BB-8 is absolutely adorable! Full stop. I missed R2, though (amazingly, he saved the good guys, again!). But, that’s ok. BB-8 was very enjoyable to watch.

3.       Carrie Fisher. She is just plain ole cool, in my view. Love her. Hope she is in the next one.

4.       That some of the EU was cherry-picked for the new story, even if it was switched up a bit. I liked that nod, and I thought it was well done.

5.       That scene with the Resistance to the rescue on Jakku – those X-wings looked amazing! But, we saw those in the first trailer, so…

6.       Chewie. Always. I felt so sad for him, for sure. Which leads me to another repeat scene (remember Luke screaming when old Ben was killed by Darth Vader? Of course you do.) So many repeated scenes. Did they have to write any new script??

7.       I like the new pilot, Po, but for me, he is no Ewan McGregor. *shrug*

8.       The music. Not that I heard much of it during the movie, but I bought the soundtrack. Don’t miss it.



And, not so much…

1.       I wasn’t surprised that Han…well, you know. But I understand why. I was still sad.

2.       Phasma was a little over-hyped for her role. I think that could have been fleshed out a bit more, especially now that we won’t see her again. The Hux/Tarkin character was a well-done re-do. (Y’know, come to think of it, with our current political mood, the whole Nazi-style of the Empire really was even more distasteful this time around.)

3.       No new dialogue. Familiar repeats are ok, but there were a lot of clichés. Typically Star Wars movies are a bit punny, and I had heard that it was going to be, but it definitely lacked the groaner puns that I have grown to expect.

4.       I really wanted Finn to come to at the end, or be in a bacta-tank, or something…not just unconscious. Oh well, surely they will continue to develop his character. His character was actually very refreshing – I liked him quite a lot. I didn’t like being led to believe, in the trailers, that he was the Jedi.

5.       I missed R2-KT. Perhaps I will see this cute, little droid on the next viewing. I will be looking, for sure.

6.       For me, VII was too intense with action and suspense without adequate breaks for character development or a bit of humor to give the audience a break. This was a pretty realistic film, far more than the originals or the prequels, so somehow…”we lost something.” Perhaps we lost the  sense of fantasy. I completely ‘felt’ every Stormtrooper who was killed, and those poor gang members that came to collect from Han - there was a high body count in this one, including the destruction of several planets with untold thousands of denizens. Everything felt too real…I left the theater thankful I didn’t have to live in that universe…so different from my reaction to the other films. Then, I wanted to live in that galaxy far, far away.

7.       I sorely missed the presence and signature of the Maker. It was different, and I missed it. That is what really made the other movies Star Wars for me. The magic of a specific artist cannot be duplicated, I guess. And I definitely think of George Lucas as a visionary and an artist. Indeed. I was hoping the saga wouldn’t turn into another action-destruction-flick sequel-machine, as I can see those anywhere (Marvel, anyone?). The timing of this movie, as a whole, was so very different from what I have grown to love about the SW movies.

8.       That leads me to the last thing I really didn’t care for: all the teasers, interviews, merchandize and costumes on the shelves before we even knew the characters – we were told to love them before we were even introduced…which is the marketing machine that is Disney. Every commercial – I don’t even watch television in my home, and I managed to see quite a few of them while in restaurants. Everywhere we went we eventually heard the SW theme coming from somewhere. Talk about inundation…I don’t blame them for playin’ the game, but it kinda ruined it for me in the days leading up to the movie release.

So, I guess that is it. SW is such a part of my life, I just needed to get all these feelings out onto paper and mostly out of my head. I don’t want to be a spoil-sport – not at all, and I apologize if it came off that way. And YES, I am excited to see where the saga (or is it now a franchise?) is going next. Somewhere, someone is already counting down to the next movie. In a way, I am, too.

“To me, art is communicating emotions — that’s all,” Lucas says. “That’s art. If it’s not communicating emotions and it’s just an intellectual exercise, then it’s just a road map. Or it’s a set of plans for a building, it’s not the building itself.
“The great thing about art is that you get a feeling about something, you get knowledge about something, but you don’t know why..."


4 comments:

Your Friend said...

You are an excellent writer and reporter for the rest of us, not so empathetic smurfs who just let everything flow over and through us without so much as an intellectual thought stimulated.

This was very informative and worthy of anyone's consideration who is the least bit invested in the SW Universe.

Keep letting us know your insightful views as the film fantasy expands. It will help us look at elements that we miss in the rushing flow on the screen. Love it!

Mainekokopellian said...

Wise words , thoughtful and well expressed

AJ said...

ANH 2.0 was a decent carnival ride, but the plot similarities were so frequent they actually became a distraction. I'm worried about the next installation... jedi trainiee and master jedi training in a remote location. Sound familiar?

Jeanne said...

We saw it last night, and I agree with what you said about it being the same story all over again. Considering how many talented authors have written Star Wars novels that were much more original and, at the same time, more consistent with the feel of the Lucas' vision, I wish that the screenwriters would have drawn more from that wealth of writing and ideas.

I wish Wedge Antilles had been brought back. I know Denis Lawson didn't want to be in the movie in a minor role, but I would have enjoyed him more than Po. OK, big Wedge fan here. :)