Star Wars: The Force Awakens Thoughts

Star Wars The Force Awakens Daisy Ridley as Rey
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been out for a month now. Most of the planet has seen it. It continues to gobble up money and all the merchandise is still being bought up by everyone.

Star Wars merchandise has always been around, but man I think Disney has eclipsed George Lucas standards! Now the learner is being schooled by the master! I haven’t been able to walk into any store for the last few months and not see products with Star Wars characters on it! I went to buy coffee creamer and the bottle was shaped like R2-D2. Did Disney refuse any merchandise offers that came their way for this movie?

Anyway, fans are continuing to discuss the movie. Some love it, others hate it and both sides are being very vocal with their opinions. I don’t think that’s too surprising. We all knew however the movie was going to be it would fuel some passionate reactions.

I ended up seeing it the night before it opened thanks to my friend who works at a theater. He fired up the movie for me and my other friend after the theater was closing up. So the three us sat and watched it late that night.

I didn’t have lofty expectations for it. I wasn’t counting down the minutes until its release. I certainly wasn’t poring over the trailers, I wasn’t waving around toy lightsabers and crying at seeing the Millennium Falcon onscreen again. That might have happened thirty years ago when my Star Wars fandom was at its apex, but with this movie I kind of just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Yeah, I’ll go see it”. Quite frankly I was more excited to see Spectre.

Let me say some spoilers lay ahead.

I’ll admit I did get jazzed seeing that “A long time ago…” opening and hearing that Star Wars theme kick in. That is an exciting moment as a movie fan. It might become one of those instinctive reactions of emotion that that will be bred into the human race. Generations from now seeing a Star Wars opening will continue to affect our descendants in the same way as it does to their iPhone-loving ancestors and 1970s iron-on t-shirt wearing forebears

Star Wars The Force Awakens cast

But The Force Awakens was alright. It didn’t blow me away. I don’t expect any new Star Wars movies to be better than the original trilogy in my eyes, but I thought it was ‘OK’. It suited me fine while sitting there, but I don’t really have any desire to sit through it again.

There were problems I had with it, (oh yeah it has flaws!) but I took it for what it was – just a decent Star Wars flick that was meant to be designed to please old and new fans and make us forget about Lucas’ prequels.

I probably should have written about the movie sooner but I hadn’t really thought much about it since seeing it. I saw it and quickly forgot about it. Then just recently I met up with some friends and it became the topic of conversation. We all shared opinions and thoughts about it. That got me to actually watch some online reviews, notably from the fans who disliked it.

And there are some very good points being brought up. I can understand the criticism it’s been getting. In fact hearing a lot of the complaints makes me realize maybe I’m being too kind on it and my affection for the return of the old characters has eclipsed the actual quality of the movie.

It is something of a backdoor remake. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in the saga. It takes a lot of cues from 1977’s Star Wars, even some from The Empire Strikes Back – probably too many. I don’t care much for all the nostalgic nods it does to the earlier movies. It was enough to see the original cast back in their roles. I don’t need the cute little fan service winks that are sprinkled throughout the movie. I’ve seen the original trilogy enough that I don’t need a new movie to try to exploit images from it to satisfy me. I guess seeing the Falcon’s little monster chessboard pop up is supposed to excite me, but it just gets me to do an eye-roll and think, ‘just do some of your own things’.

Yeah, those little fan service nods – ugh. It was blatant enough that the story is basically 1977’s Star Wars with Rey (Daisy Ridley) as Luke Skywalker right up to a Death Star that needs to be blown up. Those fan pandering winks just reminded me that the ’77 film did this all before. And I can completely understand how seeing a very close replay of the original movie would disappoint fans.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Rey Finn

You could go through the whole movie and draw the comparisons to the story beats of the original film. It wouldn’t be hard and granted none of it was done any better, in The Force Awakens but oddly enough that didn’t bother me. I guess because I enjoyed the performances and chemistry of Daisy Ridely and John Bodega much more than I thought I would that made up for the ‘not quite fresh’ story.

I was disappointed that the layout of the politics was never explained and it was just presented. I was confused as to why there was still a Rebellion.

Thirty years ago they defeated the Empire so I assumed the Rebellion were now back in power. Princess Leia would be back ‘Princess-ing’ or ‘Queen-ing’. There wouldn’t be anymore rebels, but they’d be the army of the galaxy. But they’re back working out of a secret forest base with old hangers and maps and Leia is back being a general. If anything I thought the First Order would be the rebels struggling along scrapping together to put up a fight, but it appeared to be the opposite. They looked like they were doing just fine. I just don’t get what was going on.

The same with the whole ‘Why would there be a map to Luke’s location?’. No idea. I can go along with coincidences and leaps of logic in a movie and just swallow it, but I would have thought there would of been more reasonable explanations after all this time now that they’re finally making this movie than just hoping we’d just accept a lot of this stuff.

Star Wars The Force Awakens lightsaber duel Kylo Ren Rey Finn

I also didn’t care for how easily Rey and Finn were able to hold their own against Kylo Ren in that lightsaber fight. I enjoyed the fight itself and I kind of liked how he was like a ‘villain fanboy’. He worships Darth Vader, he has his little bad guy cosplay outfit on and thinks he’s a real badass with his silly looking lightsaber. But it’s hard for me to buy he couldn’t easily slice Finn and Rey into pieces.

And I don’t care how tuned into the Force Rey might be. ‘The Force’ argument can only go so far to explain away leaps of logic in a Star Wars movie for me. ‘Oh wait that doesn’t make sense!’ ‘Well you see they were guided by the Force and….’ ‘Oh please! Just come up with some reasonable explanations behind actions and motivations without relying on the excuse that The Force is behind it all’.

BB8 was a cute little droid, but the rest of the aliens and robots were forgettable to me. Everyone was talking about how there would be less CGI in this Star Wars movie. And I guess compared to the prequels there was, but there was still plenty of lousy CGI present. That tangerine Yoda-lady substitute was silly looking. They should have just had the actress play the part herself. Put a weird hat on her and be done with it. Instead they made the character a boring looking alien with googles. Bah.

And that alien octopus scene – whoa. Not good. Maybe that was supposed to be an updating of the trash compactor monster scene. This time instead of it just grabbing Luke and pulling him underwater this monster grabs a whole lot of people. Eh, it looked bad. The mynock scene in Empire was better. And all they used for that was giant rubber wings flying past the camera!

The worst CGI offender was Supreme Leader Snoke. Wow he looked really bad! That really looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie. They should have rethought that design. They really should have just used one of those transparent blue holograms effects for him. Abrams loved referencing the original movies in this so why not use that old school effect too. I could barely pay attention to what the guy was saying since I was so distracted by how terrible he looked.

Star Wars Starkiller base battle

The Star Killer Base. Oh I was on the edge of my seat for that battle! PSYCH! I wasn’t even close to being invested in that part. I didn’t care at all about it. It was mainly background to the gang running around on the base.

I guess they just needed an excuse to have scenes of spaceships fighting each other and that was the best way they came up to include it, but I didn’t give a lick about any of that. They could have come up with something a bit more original than just another Death Star battle, but fortunately it was so insignificant to Rey, Han and Chewie running around that it just felt like filler to me.

I heard a lot of fans being angry at the character of Captain Phasma who was played by Gwendoline Christie. Apparently there was some great anticipation by fans of this character who was promoted as being the ‘new Boba Fett’.

I had no idea of this. As I said I wasn’t poring over every little snippet of rumors, clips, interviews or press releases about this movie so I wasn’t aware that this Captain Phasma (it sounds like a silly name to me by the way) was being built up to be some fan favorite Star Wars character. So when she showed up and did basically nothing in the movie there was no disappointment on my end. I just viewed her as a silver stormtrooper – nothing more.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Captain Phasma

I think whenever a film starts to intentionally push a character as something great, they try to convince fans to like them and on their own begin to compare them to a beloved character from the past it sets up failure anyway.

Trying to make a new Boba Fett is ridiculous. I don’t care what Lucas or anyone else says, I don’t think they had any idea that that character was going to be so popular with fans. It’s unfortunate they’re going to try to recreate that accident by trumpeting a ‘new Boba Fett’. Fans will decide what characters become their favorites. Just do your best, come up with your own characters and stop trying to replicate the old movies and characters so much.

Speaking of returning folks John Williams’ score I also felt fell flat. Besides some of the older Star Wars music nothing stood out to me. There was no new music that I remembered after seeing the movie. I really enjoyed hearing like Princess Leia’s theme when she showed up onscreen but as far as any new stuff goes there was nothing. That’s one thing The Phantom Menace wins over The Force Awakens, at least it had that great Duel of the Fates song.

I’ve done plenty of complaining, but I have to admit I did still enjoy the movie while sitting there. It’s nowhere near great, but there was enough cool Star Wars stuff to hold my interest and keep me engaged until the end. I was never bored.

Some of the space battles looked good. I liked the Falcon chase. I liked the desert scenes. Some of the humor worked pretty well. Rey’s interrogation scene was a nice tense encounter.

Despite me thinking Kylo Ren should have owned Rey and Fin I liked the lightsaber fight. The character was one of the best additions to the Star Wars cast in a long time. Ridely was much better than I expected. I immediately sympathized with her sitting, doing her scavenging and making that groovy bread. I guess the arguments of her being a ‘Mary Sue’ (not sure how that term got coined) are valid, but it didn’t bother me as much as it has others.

I was surprised how much Ford was in the movie. I wasn’t shocked by his fate. I wasn’t expecting Ford to sign up for a whole new trilogy and be hanging around. I’m still kind of surprised they were able to coerce him back for this one. I would have liked to have seen more of Fisher though.

And giving us just a taste of Hamill in a cliffhanging ending was smart. He was one of the draws for me to see the movie and now since his story is being held off until a sequel, well of course I’d want to see it. I wouldn’t put it past them that that was all skillfully thought out to guarantee old-school fans would turn out for the next movie.

Speaking of Hamill he must be happy with all this renewed attention and work he’s gotten lately. I see him popping up in The Flash as The Trickster and just think to myself, ‘he must be loving all this’. He’s back playing Luke and being an important part in these new movies. His voice work as the Joker has endeared him to comic fans, who hope he returns for more animated movies. I remember when his biggest thing outside Star Wars was being the lead in Corvette Summer. So he must be excited that he’s been in such demand lately.

Chewbacca Return of the Jedi

So The Force Awakens was saved in my mind by the characters and a handful of scenes. Unfortunately, it’s not great and doesn’t come close to touching the original trilogy. It’s an adequate opening chapter to what hopefully will be better films to come. It won’t have any rewatch value for me and I probably won’t think about it again until the next movie.

I have two departing final nitpicks regarding Chewbacca. Since Return of the Jedi he has looked odd to me. They make him too clean looking now. He’s not as mangy anymore. When I see him in the old movies he looks rougher, realer. All that running around has made his hair go all over the place. His hair is just flopping all over his face a lot of the time. It looks like if he gets wet he’ll reek of that wet dog smell and make Han want to open a window in the Falcon. Sometimes he pushes his head hair back and he looks more groomed, but for a lot of the time he looks like he could use a brushing.

Now his head is always all brushed and he just looks too neat looking. His fur looks nice and soft, it’s got brighter color to it. It always looks like he just got shampooed. It’s like he’s carrying a comb in his back pocket. It’s something I always immediately notice about post-1983 Chewbacca.

And lastly – I don’t buy that after all their years together Han never tried firing Chewie’s bowcaster even once! We’re expected to believe it’s only up until The Force Awakens Han gives it a try and is impressed by its power. No way! No way in hell! I cannot buy that after all their adventures together, flying all around the galaxy, all the trouble they’ve gotten into or even just hanging out firing at targets Han never once said to Chewie, “Hey, let me give this thing a try”. Come on!

I think I might be the only one bothered by that bit since I haven’t seen any fans bring that up, but boy that aggravated me.


 

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2 Responses

  1. BlogDude says:

    I really enjoyed the film for what it was and thought it was a breath of fresh air after those dreaded sequels. I find myself caring about these characters and am with them along the way. People tend to think that this film is a soft-reboot or a complete rehash of A New Hope with a modern twist, but then again if it was too different or didn't have that sense of connection with the previous films, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy with that either. After watching the film four times, I tend to enjoy it more and more. Sure it has it's faults and I think it was lame for Disney to get rid of the Expanded Universe, but I'm intrigued to see where they go with this.

  2. Numinous says:

    Up until Han and Chewie appear, I thought the film was doing a fairly good job of being a pastiche of SW and then the film left me increasingly disengaged. It's not bad and it's not good. I do think there was an intention not to alienate any SW fans or audience members that resulted in the film being very generic and it struck me as basically an animated film done in live action. I won't be watching it again. Nothing to it beyond being cosmetically entertaining.

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