By now, you should have seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Nearly the whole universe bought tickets in advance, and the movie broke opening weekend box office records with ease. There’s nothing quite like seeing a Star Wars film on opening night, surrounded by cheering fans in a packed theater. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I strongly suggest you do so for the next movie.
In the aftermath of opening weekend, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie have such a polarizing effect on people. Everyone either loved it, or vehemently loathed it. There seemed to be very little in between. Personally, I thought it was excellent, but it was not without its flaws.
Some things I did enjoy:
- Kylo Ren stops a blaster bolt: Yep – the dude stops a blaster bolt in mid-flight and holds it there. That’s badass. I liked it.
- Max Von Sydow: Any movie that has Max Von Sydow is automatically bumped up several notches in my book. How can you not like him? He’s Ming the Merciless! Granted, he dies very early in the movie but he was still there!
- Cinematography: Instead of using 90% CGI graphics, they actually used actors and sets. It had a look and feel more reminiscent of the original 3 movies. The Millennium Falcon was a real prop. They built one. The background characters pushing things around in the sand on Jakku were actually actors in suits. Now obviously they didn’t build Star Destroyer sized props and half bury them in the sand, but what they did do, was create a look and feel that was contiguous with the original 3 movies that we grew up with.
- Fight Choreography: The fighting felt more like the action in Episode IV, instead of the master Kung Fu shit in I, II and III. Don’t get me wrong, the bitchin’ fights withDarth Maul (Ray Park is an actual martial arts badass) and the super-exaggerated fight between Dooko and Yoda was entertaining, but it was very incongruous with the original movies. The fight choreography of Episode VII is far more in line with what we saw in the original trilogy.
- Inclusion of original cast members: Way cool! Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill all step in front of the cameras for this one. (Granted, some for much longer than others, and Kenny Baker’s credit as an R2D2 Consultant doesn’t count.)
- No Ewoks or Gungans: Face the facts: Jar Jar Binks was horribly obnoxious. Ewoks weren’t as obnoxious, but they were silly and out of place. I know Lucas caught almost enough flak over the inclusion of Jar Jar, so I won’t beat a dead horse. I’ll just say that the lack of any such character was welcome.
Now for some of the things I didn’t care for:
- Elements of the story seemed awfully familiar: I know I’ve seen a movie before that starts out with someone chasing a droid that is carrying stolen information that is vital to the resistance. And then said droid narrowly escapes capture as the prime villain destroys everyone in an attempt to find the stolen information. I was a little disappointed that they chose a main story arc so similar to Episode IV.
- Kylo Ren is a whiny bitch: He acts like a whiny bitch. When he takes his (unnecessary) mask off, he looks like an emo, whiny bitch. He was written to be an emo, whiny bitch. Why is our main villain an emo, whiny bitch? He spends most of his on-screen time throwing temper tantrums. Darth Vader got pissed off too, but he was much more practical about what and whom he took his anger out on. He didn’t hack and slash computer terminals with his lightsaber when he got mad. He just choked the shit out of people he wished to demote, and he did it with a calm demeanor that showed just how much of a badass he was. Kylo Ren just pisses and moans about how things aren’t going his way and then does the adult with a lightsaber version of stomping his feet and throwing toys around his room.
- Leia doesn’t look or sound like Leia: We all know that Carrie Fisher hasn’t aged as well as some of her fellow Star Wars cast members. It’s unfortunate for sure, but I’m not going to bash her for not aging well. I’m glad that she could be there and be a part of the legacy that she helped forge. That being said, she was nearly unrecognizable as a contiguous character from Episode VI. And not only does she bear no resemblance to herself as we last saw her in 1983, but she doesn’t sound anything like herself either. As backwards as this sounds, I felt about Carrie Fisher reprising her role as Leia the same way I felt about Lucas replacing Sebastian Shaw’s head with that of Hayden Christensen’s in the final scene of Episode VI. Even though Carrie is the original actor, her changed appearance and voice were so dramatic that it felt like she had been replaced.
I know there are loads of fans out there that are completely incensed by the fact that Disney has ignored over 30 years of Expanded Universe books. I didn’t read any of it, so I personally don’t much care, nor am I qualified to make a judgement about how much it affected the brand. Being completely objective about it, there’s no way to make a movie that followed Episode VI in the timeline, and included the same characters without it being a film adaptation of an Expanded Universe book that had already been written. If they wanted to write their own movie, they had to declare the Expanded Universe non-canon. I’m okay with that.