Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

LightsaberHRBy 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.
  • mingMax 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.
  • Cloud City DuelFight 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.)
  • jarjarNo 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 renKylo 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 who is leiaI’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.

3 thoughts on “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

  1. Well said, sir! Carrie Fisher’s change can be “explained away” by talking about the years after the fall of the empire and the stress of trying to keep the Galaxy from tearing itself apart from power struggles and then organization of the fighting against the First Order.

    I also thought that the Knights of Ren were pretty cool! I think that the reason that Kylo was whiny was look at his dad. Han Solo was always saying “It’s not my fault!”. Then he had his mom breathing down his neck all the time. So, I can see why he might be an emo. He has daddy issues. Of course, he resolves them in this movie.

    I feel it was a great movie worthy of being included in the Star Wars franchise. I would see it over and over again just like the others.

  2. Good review. I will add a little of my own thoughts.

    First off, your thoughts on the fight choreography are spot on. The I/II/III episodes did turn into Kung Fu fests. In the originals, even in the biggest fight scenes, the dialogue was the most important part of the scene. Darth Maul’s final fight was memorable, but not nearly as moving as Ben’s “If you strike me down . . . ” speach.

    I will disagree with you on the whole Kylo Ren thing. Well, maybe not disagree. Let’s just say I took it differently. I think the emphasis was on the relationship and they wanted him to be a child turned evil. When I saw him, I thought of all the talk of training for Jedis to control their emotions. It was never said, but I always assumed that Sith had the same sort of training to channel their emotions towards their goal – although they did let it rip when they were ready to use it. I always assumed that Darth Vader had learned a great deal of control from the Emporer. As much as I hate to even reference the prequels in an argument, he had a lot less control in those three movies.
    That being said, Kylo Ren isn’t a Sith. He’s a dark side force user. He answers to someone, but nothing has gone into a mentor/student relationship between the two yet.
    Maybe I was just more forgiving, but it did seem like there were differences that accounted for these things.

    Now the thing I think you missed:
    I absolutely LOVED Kylo Ren’s light saber. The little side spurs were okay at best, but the way it was sparking and not smooth, was really cool. It seemed like it was unfinished, or imperfect in some way. Like maybe his lack of training left him with a weapon that was unable to contain the power. Okay, it’s probably just a cool effect they can do now that they couldn’t earlier. But I really, REALLY liked it.

    One final thing. A lot of people were put off with how an untrained Rey could beat Kylo in a fight. This didn’t bother me either. Of course it didn’t. My theories all point to an untrained Kylo as well. They don’t really ever show him doing anything that badass. He’s a powerful force user among non-force users. But they don’t show him force choking rivals into submission or taking down an army on his own. They DO show Rey doing some pretty cool stuff as a scavenger. Is it really that big a reach that she could keep up with him in a fight? Maybe I missed something, but I didn’t feel betrayed by that like some did.

    Oh, and did Rey and Chewey flying off in the Millennium Falcon feel a lot like Lando and Chewy at the end of Empire?

    It wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly what they needed. I’ll be much more excited for VIII than I was for VII.

  3. Great review! I agree with everything said. However, I did read many of the expanded universe books and really enjoyed following Luke, Leia, and Han, as well as those they came to interact with. I had long hoped for movies based on the Timothy Zahn trilogy. I find it sad that the geneal populace will never know these characters like those of us who read the books.

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