Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers)

I put off this review for three weeks but it’s hard to imagine that anyone who wants to see it hasn’t: 1) found a way, 2) or inadvertently, read spoilers. If you want to avoid this review, go ahead. Yes, there is a discussion of the Big Death. Spoilers!

First Order Stormtroopers from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at "Star Wars: Celebration" in 2015

First Order Stormtroopers from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at “Star Wars: Celebration” in 2015

Since, we now live in a world of binary opinions: “I LOVED it,” “I HATED it,” “You’re WRONG,” “Why weren’t the bacteria given positions of power with flashy buttons and a miniseries?”, “Because the oysters got it!”, etc., let me say that I don’t see the world that way. My worldview has dozens of shades of gray.

My first Facebook posting said, “I miss George Lucas” and that I’d explain that comment later. I still stick with that succinct review for “The Force Awakens (TFA)”.

First of all, I loved that the world of “Star Wars” has visually come back to life. (Saw it in 1977 and never looked away.) I like the new characters and the acting. Some of my favorite parts are the small touches of acting: Chewbacca handing Han Solo his winter jacket because he knew his human would forget. The Resistance fighter, Poe Dameron, looking around the Star Destroyer with the expression of “OMG it’s big!”

2015-04-16 13.32.07-2The people who built this world came out of the love of “Star Wars,” and many like director J.J. Abrams, are fans. They knew their work would be shredded, analyzed, discussed, become part of modern culture (not just media culture.) “Star Wars” fans reach from the White House to the casual person standing at Best Buy trying to buy a television.

On the other side, I also thought TFA put checks against the modern fans’ “list” of what they wanted.

TFA carries the SW plot forward (check!) It gives a younger generation their own heroes with Rey, Finn and Poe (check!) It answers the fans’ displeasure at the lack of women in the Rebellion/Resistance (so now it reflects the reality of military forces of many modern countries.) (check!) General Leia Organa is in firm control of the Resistance. (Good. About time. check!)

It provides a bounty of marketing possibilities: New characters (more toys. check!) Old characters (in new costumes, with now 30 years of history. check!) Thugs and assassins (new costume possibilities and more Toys! Books! Tee shirts! check!)  It gives us a cute (and expensive) new ‘droid. (check!)

New 'droid BB-8 introduced to R2-D2 at "Star Wars: Celebration" in 2015.

New ‘droid BB-8 introduced to R2-D2 at “Star Wars: Celebration” in 2015

We’ve got new baddies: The First Order (Tee shirts, costumes, weapons. check!) Drab Resistance wear except for flashy flight suits  (Tees! Costumes! Hair pieces! check!)

For travel possibilities, Luke Skywalker’s stone refuge in Ireland (where the locals are prepared for an influx of “Star Wars” fans tripping over their robes on the way up to pose for pictures. I’d recommend they import a lot of Disney products as well like Bandaids.)

It gives us another desert planet, Jakku. (ho-hum.) It gives us another planetary system-destroying monster. (ho-hum.) It gives us another Evil Being warping the Force (Didn’t I see the like of this in a Marvel movie? Big spooky holographic? ho-hum.) It gives us another bar scene. (ho-hum.) It gives us a big escape from the Evil Baddies by flying a baddie’s TIE fighter. (ho-hum.)

Then it gives us the death of a major character in a not particularly well justified plot twist.

You’re not supposed to say “I don’t believe he’d do that” when confronted with the death of a major character who has basically carried a lot of “The Force Awakens” on his shoulders.

The Han Solo we meet in TFA is a practical man who knows his son is terribly troubled. He knows how his son feels about the family – negatively. I’m certain he knows what Kylo Ren’s done, his reputation, and keeps track if only to avoid the boy.

Solo has also seen what happens with lightsabers. They kill people.

So when he walks out to try to redeem his son (who carries a flashy lightsaber) on the basis of an appeal to familial love, well, huh?

It wasn’t his death that surprised or disappointed me; it was that the movie’s characterization of the older Han didn’t led me believe that he’d act so suicidally.

Han Solo's costume from "The Empire Strikes Back" on display at "Star War: Celebration" in 2015

Han Solo’s costume from “The Empire Strikes Back” on display at “Star War: Celebration” in 2015

(On a side note: Han Solo was the most approachable of all the major characters in the original series and he continued that way in TFA. He, as the adult, also changed over the movies the most. Luke and Leia were very young and probably took their life changes more easily. Solo changed his mind about smuggling, joined the Rebellion, fell in love, had a child with Leia, fell out of love, left — Solo had a normal human life where things happen.)

So, why do I miss George Lucas? Because he would have given us something different.

It’s common and easy to whack at George Lucas for his characterizations whether or not you’ve even seen all the films. (I know too many of you out there who haven’t watched but opine endlessly anyway.)  For all the flaws of Episode I-III, they introduced viewers to new sophisticated cultures. They faced the problems of governments, trade, ancient history, religions and conflict. (They also had clumsy dialogue and over-use of computer graphics which detracted from the stories they told but I digress. I really enjoyed ATTC.)

And that’s what I miss in “The Force Awakens.” Something really, really new.

(But I’ll settle for what I’ve got.)

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2 Responses to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers)

  1. John says:

    Thanks for the review it was a nice read. I watched the movie on day of release which in Europe was luckily 2 days before the US release. The day after I’ve seen it people started spoiling the movies in chat rooms and on social media, it was crazy and very evil to be honest.

    One part which I am of a different opinion is George Lucas. I have no hate for the man who created such a franchise I am just disappointed at the George Lucas who wrote and directed the pre-sequels. I admire how he brought something different as you mentioned in the prequels (new cultures and ideologies, trade issues, conflicts etc) but it came at the cost of elements that made Star Wars movies what they are, the prequels lost their humor (Jar Jar wasn’t funny), dialogue was poor and most of the acting not convincing at all. CGI was overused and the world in the prequels did not seem real anymore. George Lucas got lost in his own creation and tried to move the franchise forward while throwing away the things that made Star Wars great. I am glad he let it go.

    I know not everyone is a Disney fan, but I am trusting this more with Disney who knows good storytelling and made a fortune with it, than George. It is known that George and Disney was not on the same page about the sequels and I am glad they opted to bring in new directors and mix up the writers a bit.
    The Force Awakens did not bring anything new and I believe that is part of the strategy to get fans back into Star Wars, after the disappointing pre-sequels. J.J. made a movie as a tribute to the originals and that resembles a New Hope, the universe felt real, the humor is back, the acting was top notch and the returning cast did a great job to bridge the old and new trilogy.
    On the bright side, something really really new is coming for sure. Disney hired Rian Johnson to write episode 8 and 9 and direct episode 8. He is a very innovative writer and directed the hit film Looper. There are already some rumors that based on the script he will bring a lot of new things in the Universe of Star Wars.

    I have started a blog recently and I like to write about Star Wars, movies, music, apps and gadgets, feel free to stop by. I will post a number of new articles in the coming days.


  2. John says:

    Regarding Han, it was a bit of a shock to me as well and even though Han Solo as a character lives on the edge and takes a lot of risk but for him to walk so easily into his dead as not easy to justify.


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