Review of Star Wars The Force Awakens
Full review complete with spoilers
You have been warned. If you read any further, you should damn well have seen the film. Otherwise, you'll know pretty much everything interesting that happens.
I'm not going to apologize for the last article I wrote concerning this film. Because at the time, I was going by what I saw in the trailer, and nothing more. No one is happier than me to admit that I was wrong about a few things. A lot of things, actually.
Here's the short version of the review: I loved it!
If that's all you came here for, you're done.
And now, the long version
I really have to restrain myself here. Because if I were to rattle off everything in my head, I would end up analyzing the crap out of every aspect of the film, rather than just sticking to a review. This, of course, would annoy everyone, and that would serve no purpose... I think I will leave the analyzing of everything to the abundance of nerds that are already gearing up for that. There will be plenty of discussion I'm sure.
The film indeed is very Star Wars
Right from the opening of the film, there was action. This, of course, is the way all Star Wars films start. The introduction of the characters was well placed. The dialog was well written and well delivered. Just about every reference to the original trilogy we fans wanted to see was cleverly thrown in. They even blatantly made the joke about parsecs. They did this for the 40 somethings in the crowd who wanted familiarity with the original trilogy without wiping our faces into it.
I think that the writers also made it a point to reference the original trilogy and purposefully NOT reference the second trilogy. I mean, I think they deliberately avoided the mistakes that were made there.
Han Solo and Chewbacca played MUCH bigger roles than I expected. And somehow Ford really managed to capture the character again. It was, for lack of a better term, just really cool to see.
The writers introduced us to one of the main characters pretty much immediately (Not the droid. The pilot). Although, his ultimate importance wouldn't be seen until later. That being, how he could shoot down Tie Fighters incredibly well. From there, the other new characters were introduced. This is the first time, pretty much ever, that you saw a Stormtrooper actually pause and second guess what was happening around him. Even if the trailers hadn't spoiled that character from the get-go, we probably would have been able to see where it was going.
A word about the trailers
One of the biggest problems with trailers nowadays is that they spoil the entire f'n film pretty much instantly. Like, the preview for Batman and Superman... Wonder Woman appears. Thanks for that, jerks. Now that you've totally wrecked that surprise, there is really less of a point in watching that film even with Ben Affleck in the starring role.
The trailers for The Force Awakens didn't do that. They were more than clever about showing just enough to make us wonder what the hell was going on without actually spoiling much of anything. I don't know about you, but I was surprised to see Rey and Finn flying the Falcon.
Anyway... Special effects
Here is the one place that I hold most dear in these movies. I like the story, the characters, etc... But the Special Effects were always the main draw. This was especially true with the original trilogy. Here again, I reference the second trilogy. The effects relied WAY too much on CG for everything. So much so that it started to look overkill and cartoonish. There was so much shit going on most of the time that you couldn't even tell what was happening. And more to the point, you didn't care about any of the people involved in the battles. It all became completely fake looking.
In this film, they purposely, and deliberately went back to the basics with the effects. Practical, physical sets, and real models. What this means is that they went old school, and more or less replicated the way the effects would have been done in the mid 1970s. But, you know, with today's knowledge and technology. Even the new droid here...
Nothing CG. They actually designed a built a working remote controlled prop. Yeah, I know that the whole thing was designed with marketing in mind. I know that many people will be getting them for Christmas. But setting that aside, it actually IS a good character. And he plays a really good part in the film.
In my view, their efforts in this area paid off well. Because visually, the entire film was spectacular. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment when I suddenly became excited about this movie. It was during Monday Night Football. They showed a brand new trailer during half time. That trailer included this bit:
I was like, "Okay, that looked pretty bad ass!!!" And suddenly I was way more excited than I was before that. Thankfully, all of these battle sequences could be described that way. I am also happy that they didn't design like 5 new fighters. The Xwing is a bit updated. The Tie Fighter, well, that one is new. I couldn't tell if there were 2 different models. But the one they centered on early in the story was much larger, and included a back seat for a gunner. My point is, they didn't go overboard with new ships that no one has ever heard of, or would remember, or care about.
The new protagonists of the series
I don't really have much to contribute to this.
As the story unfolded, only Rey really grew into her character. Poe was already who he was. Finn was getting more brave. BB-8 is just the cutest damn thing since R2-D2 (obviously). Rey was the one to whom the title of the film refers. So it was interesting to watch that unfold. This is the story line that we will be following in the upcoming films.
The bad guys
This guy. Not nearly as menacing as he wants to be.
Maybe that's the point. Maybe he IS a Darth Vader wannabe. And not just because the writers wanted one. That's who he really is. But this was one mistake they made in the film. His mask came off too early. As soon as that happened, every shred of mystery, everything that made the character interesting, left the building. And I still don't like his stupid broadsword lightsaber.
The actual bad guy is some mysterious figure who only appears as a very large hologram, and appears to be a very strong dark side user. Where have I seen that before? Okay, clearly they didn't put a lot of thought into that one. I am expecting that the actual person behind that character is in fact 4 inches tall, and that's why he likes the hologram. For the time being, this character can actually be ignored. Because even though he appears to be the one driving the ship, he didn't create the First Order... The remnants of the Empire appear to have done that. He really didn't do anything other than get Kylo Ren into the mix. And he got his ass beaten by an untrained girl who'd never seen a lightsaber until that afternoon.
The film ended on a high note. That is, The Force has indeed Awakened in a young girl that was previously unaware of her importance to the galaxy. And her ultimate mission is revealed in delivering Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber to Luke. This is, of course, a grand setup for what is yet to come. The First Order (Empire) will be there. The Resistance (Rebels) will be there. But the story will be about a new generation of Jedi, presumably with Rey at the front of it all.
I think it's fair to say that most of us old school, 40 something Star Wars nerds were just a little concerned that this movie would be a disappointment. I had already said as much, once before. I'm glad to say that I was completely wrong. Wrong about damn near everything I assumed was going to be bad about the film. And, just this once, no one is happier to be wrong than I am.