Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Familiar music.  Opening crawl. Starfield.  Someone shoots a blaster, someone turns on a lightsabre, and someone flies a ship.

Is there really any point to a spoiler-free review with a movie like this?  Is my opinion really going to influence anyone’s decision to see it?  It seems to me that some aren’t going to be interested no matter what, while others would go to see it even if it was all about a clown swinging a light sabre at a pinata.

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Anyway, let’s proceed with a Spoiler-Caution of “Yellow Alert” on.  We’re not going to mention specific details of major plot points, but if you’re a purist about seeing this movie knowing nothing in advance, than what are you doing here anyway?Overall, I enjoyed the film quite a bit. I quite liked the main new characters:  Rey, Finn, and Poe.  I thought Kylo Ren was an interesting villain and sufficiently different from Darth Vader or anyone else we’ve seen to not feel like a retread.

Having said that, there are a lot of things in the movie that do feel like a retread.  Viewers of the series will find a lot of familiar plot points all the way through.  It kind of feels like shades of the Jurassic World school of film sequels, where there’s a lot of time taken in the midst of things to visit old sets and old props, and make sure there’s plenty of opportunity for nostalgia, while still crafting a story that is very recognizable while still have elements of originality.  Another way of putting it is that it’s a bit like watching A New Hope with a lot more light sabres and force action in it.

As a fan of the movies (though not a massive fan), I didn’t mind that though.  As I said, I enjoyed the series’ newcomers, and most of the best stuff in the movie is around them.  At the same time, I was excited as anyone to see the old favorites as well, and as anyone who has seen the promotional material knows, we do pay a visit to Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3P0 (or is that C-3PO?), the Millennium Falcon, Stormtroopers, Admiral Ackbar, Nein Nunb, Tie-Fighters, X-Wings, and even Luke Skywalker as the movie goes along.

Of course, it’s Luke, Leia and Han who are the big deals here.  They’re the ones that all of us old-time fans have been itching to see more of, played by their original actors no less.  And for me, they were among the least satisfying elements.

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It’s a funny thing, really.  When the prequel trilogies hit, one of their disadvantages were the lack of these favorite characters / actors.  Pretty much nobody else in Episodes I – III felt like “real people” in the way that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher did. Now that they are back, they are the ones who feel a bit artificial.  Maybe it’s just been too long, I don’ tknow, but it  was hard to buy that that was Han Solo on that screen, and not just an older Harrison Ford.

Not that I would have preferred them to not appear, or anything.  I’m glad they were there, I’m glad we should be expecting more of the same in the upcoming movies.  I guess I’m hoping that another couple of movies will help to make me feel more connected to them. Of course, that’s also how I felt while watching Qui-Gon Jinn in Episode I, and we know how that turned out!

I liked this movie, but I wanted more from it.  The action is there, the magic is there, but not the depth.  There are places where this film’s story really demanded an emotional richness, but the filmmaking was not really up to delivering it.  There’s one big scene in particular,  a narrative moment of such significance that it should have moved me profoundly.  Instead, it just felt a bit empty and breezed over, so I can only hope that the eventual sequels allow the catharsis that was not present here.  For me, this was by far the most disappointing part of the experience.

(I also didn’t like the way that at the very end, an extremely significant bit of information is given to our characters with no more justification than it’s simply necessary to keep our story moving.  Come on, guys, just a little bit more story motivation, hey?  It couldn’t have been that hard!)

But with all of that, there’s a lot to enjoy here.  I’d say that chief among them is the story of Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, because frankly, she is kind of awesome.

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She fits sort of the same character mold that Anakin did in Episode I, and that Luke did in Episode IV, but in my view, she is better at it than either of them.  This is someone whose adventures I am eager to see more of.

As long as she doesn’t turn out to be secretly Finn’s sister, than it should all be okay…

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