This weekend, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released in America and I have no doubt it is going to blow away any box office leaders. It was visually inspiring, progressed well, and stayed true to the older movies.
I’m writing this article because I am a huge Star Wars fan. That’s pretty much it. I want to write down my thoughts so they can bounce off my “Star Wars Fan-ily” (Get it? Did I stretch that “Family” pun too far?). I want to start discussing what this latest movie might mean for the whole series. No real outline. I may start to ramble. LET’S BEGIN!
CINEMATOGRAPHY & STORY-TELLING: AWESOME
JJ Abrams made a conscious decision to use more real-life elements while recording than relying on green screen and special effects. This works well for the audience. It felt more visceral than the “pre-prequel trilogy”. Sprinting with Rey & Finn through the outdoor bazaar while Tie Fighters made strafing runs put you in the action along with them. You weren’t a bystander watching the lasers fly past going “I’d hate to be them.” You’re trying hard not to stand up in your theater seat and scream “RUN! RUN, YOU TWO!!!”
He also made the conscious effort to the keep the same character development mechanics that made the original Star Wars so epic. Namely, he limited the main characters to only three and focused on developing them. Not everyone involved in parallel. This is something Episodes I, II, and III struggled with terribly, They felt like a bunch of people fighting for the spotlight instead of conveying one story. Personally, I didn’t even feel connected with Anakin until half way into the third episode. So the scene where he realizes he has lost his soul mate. The part where he realizes the only woman he would reject the Jedi order for because passion and love were forbidden, was dead? It failed to grip me, so his grief stricken “NOOOOOOO!!!!!” felt almost comical when I first watched it. (… and judging by the meme, others felt the same way.)
Sorry. Tangent. Back to The Force Awakens…
I also have to give a mini-hat tip to the big reveals Abram’s had. He kept me off guard by keeping my attention misdirected until unveiling each of them. That’s the hallmark of a good director. When you can anticipate the emotional state of the audience and use it to your advantage, it the deciding factor between “Nailed it!” and “Sooo close…”
LOVE THOSE EASTER EGGS
This movie is littered with things that made me squeal like an excited school girl. From “Admiral Akbar” delivering his (now) hilarious lines such as “Our _____ can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!”, to the chess set turning on right where C-3PO and Chewie had left off, to Han saying “I have a bad feeling about this.” There was even Luke’s training droid I apparently missed while they were on the Millenium Falcon and even the voice of Sir Alec Guinness when Rey begins her flashback after touching the lightsaber. Hardcore Star Wars fans will be delighted discovering each and every reference.
I think this was a brilliant move for the Star Wars team. They knew that this franchise needed to be handled with serious consideration and these little acknowledgments made me elated. Each time I saw one, I giggled or excitedly pointed or made a gasp noise while hitting my wife’s armrest. I think we (the fan community) do this because we think it gives us credibility and separates the “sci-fi” fan from the “Star Wars” zealot.
If this kind of thing was a competitive sport, the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons may be our Michael Jordan.
I think it’s most ubiquitous in the Star Wars community because (and I’m sorry to say this) it’s becoming waaayyyyy too over-marketed. (Whew. I said it. Go ahead and burn me.)
Let’s be real here for a minute. When I was growing up, the only thing I remember seeing I could buy was that little plastic light saber that broke as soon as you actually dueled with someone. Today, they have everything. Everything. I’m not kidding. Did you know you could buy a Vader Shower Head from Bed Bath & Beyond? That makes me sad.
So although it has a bad stereotype, I can understand this nerd-reflex. We want to share our joy with people who cherish it the same way we do and, when done right, it evokes the same response. “Oh snap! I didn’t notice that! Guess I have to go back and see it again!” Brilliant work, Disney. Brilliant work.
THE ONE, THE ONLY, HAN SOLO
How long do I have to wait before I talk about this scene? There’s ONE SCENE I would have been VERY UPSET if someone told me about so if you didn’t head the warning up above, I did you a favor by putting the other two sections as “buffer” just in case but-I-have-been-wanting-to-talk-about-this-since-it-happenedsojustdealwithitbecauseIcannotholdITINANYLONGER
WHY DID YOU KILL HAN YOU (me cursing a blue streak)
HAN was… no. screw it. IS. STILL IS, YOU HEAR THAT, ABRAMS?? I actually went through the FIVE STAGES OF DEPRESSION when that happened!! I sat stunned in my chair as the blade extended through his chest. Tears filled my eyes, but I immediately started working through the phases of grief.
1. Denial – “No way. He’s gonna come back. He’ll fly in on his Millennium Falcon again and it’ll be great.”
2. Anger – (Movie Credits) “… Seriously? Where’s Han?” (Matt. He died.) “NOPE. TO THE FORUMS!!”
3. Bargaining – “I mean, they could TOTALLY still bring him back! Do the whole Obi-Wan Ghost thing, right?? #BringHanBack”
4. Depression – Ask my wife. I spent the next day pretty much by myself and didn’t want to talk to anyone.
5. Acceptance – I’m here now. I don’t like it, but I’m here.
I mean, can we all just take a moment and say how awesome the Han Solo character really was? Hands down, Han has always been my favorite character. Luke was the obvious protagonist throughout the series, but Han was a reluctant hero. He didn’t have any special skills or abilities; he just had guts, luck, and a strong moral compass… even if it pointed toward credits more often than it should have. Harrison Ford’s performance made him incredibly relatable. Smooth, suave, and a little cocky. He’s the wildcard and he keeps things lively. Maybe that’s why I liked him more than royalty or the Jedi.
In The Force Awakens, he finds himself in a reluctant patriarchal role. The two newbies, Rey & Finn, are thrown in with him and Chewbacca pretty quickly. After some mandatory shenanigans, they begin to bond a little and boom. Now the newbies are brought into the fold of the larger, epic Star Wars storyline.
His dialogue and delivery made this movie for me. Everyone gave a stellar performance, but I had looked forward to Han Solo ever since I heard they were making VII, VIII, and IX. Correcting Rey with the quintessential line “12 Parsecs!” or shaking Finn while quietly screaming “THAT’S NOT HOW THE FORCE WORKS!” were classic Solo quips.
And then you killed him… Just like Obi-wan. You bastards.
THE PLOT IS REALLY FAMILIAR
Was anyone else getting déjà vu during this entire movie? It started with the poster right before we walked into the theater. The large blue sphere with the iconic “laser eye” drew my attention and I remember saying to my friends, “Wait… is there seriously another Death Star in this movie??” That set the tone for me.
I can understand J.J. wanting to keep the story familiar to appease the die-hard fans, but this seemed really similar. His reboot of Star Trek has been fantastic because of the “Time Warp” thing so he can introduce characters but play them out slightly differently; but this was felt like they just changed some names at some point. Maybe I can summarize it this way.
In Episode IV, you have an aspiring farm boy who dreams of becoming a pilot for the rebellion when suddenly, a droid comes into his possession and his boring labor intensive, sand-filled world is flipped upside down. Soon, the empire comes searching for the droid, and they need to escape. Their primary goal is to deliver that droid to Princess Leia only to find out there’s a plant-sized canon that can obliterate other planets with one shot from its giant death laser. We know it’s capable of doing it because it does it right after we learn about it. Planet goes BOOM! Then the Empire finds out where the rebel secret base is located and, because they just blew up a different planet, they need to prepare before they can fire at the planet with the rebel base. Luckily, that gives the rebel forces just enough time to scramble a squadron of fighters while another team infiltrates the moon-base and deactivates the defenses. It doesn’t go entirely according to plan and the infiltration team splits up. They tip the battle into their favor with only seconds to spare and are able to exploit the one flaw in this giant planet-sized bases’ defenses. Although they are now about to win the battle, the guiding character Obi-Wan is murdered at the hand of the dark-side antagonist, Darth Vader which was his estranged master from his early childhood. Everyone goes home, celebrates, and Luke flies off to learn more about this “Force” thing from Master Yoda.
If you want the plot for The Force Awakens, just swap out some of the names and you’ve got it. You can even keep Princess Leia. She’s even has the same role.
And I wouldn’t be nit-picking that hard but rebuilding the Death Star in Episode VI already made me feel a little… “Really?” Yeah. I can believe microscopic germs are compelled by an invisible, omniscient, omnipresent energy but the credibility of rebuilding a giant space station THE EXACT SAME WAY TWICE is too much?
Believe me, the irony is not lost.
I love Star Wars and I love the community it creates. Star Wars has done something no other brand (that I’m aware of) has done as well. They’ve made something that was typically sci-fi and “nerdy” into something EVERYONE can enjoy and relate to. That’s powerful; and if this movie is an foretelling of how the rest of the series will play out, I am ALL IN, BABY. Great movie. Great community. Love it. I’m done. Thanks for reading!
(Also, if anyone reads this and can get me somehow involved with episodes VIII or IX... PLEASE contact me.)