Begun, A New Era Has: My review on The Force Awakens

I predicted I would love the movie yesterday and not be able to say anything but great things about it. While I did love and like it a lot, it took a while for me to get into it.  Longer than I thought and I did find some parts that did not sit well with me.

The Force Awakens reminded me of a new pair of shoes.  It was a little uncomfortable at first, something different that I needed to get used to.  But once I had worn it for a significant amount of time, the shoes melded to my feet and I love them.  It tooke a while for me to accept that this movie was the beginning of a new era in Star Wars: new characters, ships, and storylines to get used to.

I felt like the first 2/3 of the movies was story building – a lot of it.  To the point that sometimes I felt that it was a little slow and it was uncomfortable.  Though we were in the universe of Star Wars, it was different.  The galaxy had aged 30 years, the Empire is resurrected in a new form as the First Order, and we aren’t sure what has happened to the Rebellion.  The war that we thought was over is far from over and the Resistance, surprisingly I thought, is still a small faction (albeit more organized) trying to overthrow a large government.

General Notes – Spoiler Territory Ahead

The strengths of this movie pulled from the Original Trilogy with its humorous quips  and little touches that devout Star Wars fans would notice (there were definitely some EU shout outs as well).  The humor mostly came when Han was on screen, so I’d like to see how they are going bb-8to keep the humor going now that he’s dead.  I’m guessing Poe since he had that bad boy funny streak.  The format was like A New Hope in that we followed BB-8 on this journey, similar to how we followed R2-D2 and C-3PO previously.  I loved BB-8 and I understand why everyone fell in love with Artoo when Star Wars first came out.  I want my own BB-8 droid.

The Falcon appeared early in the movie and was the main mode of transportation, but man oh man, does it get beat up.  I cringed every time it hit the sand, but it kind of brought a realness to the situation that I appreciated.

I did not notice the soundtrack as much as I thought I would.  I feel like all the other Star Wars movies had distinct themes that you could go return to and love.  Duel of the Fates, Imperial March, Luke and Leia, Battle of the Heroes, etc.  I didn’t notice anything in The Force Awakens that had me rooting for a new tune.

Once everything was established, and we knew and understood the new characters Finn and Rey, the story began to take off.  The last 1/3 of the movie was Star Wars fun, with a big space complex to destroy (round per usual, but this time in the form of a Death Star converted to a large planet), a lightsaber fight, and some loss of beloved heroes.

In typical Star Wars fashion, there were some plot points that were nicely glossed over that left me scratching my head.  Such as:

  • Where did they get Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber?  Maz Kanata smoothed that over and basically said it was “a story for another time.”
  • Why was the lightsaber “crying” and Rey heard it?  Is this part of the maz kanata lightsaberForce?  Why did it give her all those images?
  • I would have liked to know more about the Republic that was destroyed by Starkiller Base.  It sounds like it was established at the end of ROTJ, but was it an actual governing force in the galaxy?  Is the First Order still the reigning government, or was it similar to a civil war or the Prequel Trilogy with the Separatists and the Republic?  But this time the Republic is the smaller group and the First Order is the larger?
  • R2-D2 basically shutting down didn’t make sense.  It was a neatly thrown in plot point and then he conveniently “woke up” at the end to help the Resistance find Luke…huh?

Characters

I loved Rey.  Rey was my favorite character, no question about it.  They didn’t try to make her a forced “strong female protagonist” as most of Hollywood seems to be trying to do right now.  They made her relatable, a real human being where you understood her actions and the consequences.  She could be male or female, which is what I loved.  There was no push on the romance and even now, I can’t figure out if her and Finn are going to become an “item” or if they are just friends who’ve been through a lot.  I want to know more about her history.  I’m guessing her parents were taken from her?  But who was dragging her away?  Is she somehow related to the Skywalkers?

Mr. Reticent noted that he thought her being captured by Kylo Ren was a Rey Kylo Ren gif“damsel in distress” situation, but I highly disagree.  It made sense with her character.  It allowed her to battle Kylo in the Force, come out victorious, and feel the Force awaken within her.  If they captured Han, it would be a little pointless.  If they captured Finn, there would be so much hullabaloo with him being a previous stormtrooper that there would be too much First Order protocol involved.

I thought Han was still Han, though I did feel like the movie was staged for his death a little too much (who called that?).  I liked his quips, his camaraderie with Chewie was still the same, and I thought it made sense that he was separated from Leia due to their son going to the dark side.  We couldn’t have Han and Leia madly in love because his death would be that much harder.  Abrams and the writers wanted to separate the audience from Han, to not make it *that* hard on us when he died.  Though I didn’t cry when he died, totally expecting it, I did get teary eyed when Rey came off the Falcon and had that moment with Leia.

Though the driving force of the movie was Luke Skywalker, it was frustrating how little they spent on where he had been in the past 30 years.  I know he disappeared due to the failure of his training and starting a New Jedi Order, but it was rushed.  It seems a little out of character for the Luke we know…wouldn’t he have at least stayed in touch with his sister and Han?  I hope we find out much, much more of his backstory in the upcoming films.  When I saw the last shot, I honestly thought, “Oh darn, the movie was just starting to get good.”

Finally, Kylo Ren.  Or, Ben Solo (interesting EU nod).  I went back and forth throughout the movie on whether or not I liked him.  On the one hand, he was not nearly as imposing or intimidating as I’d expect Kylo vs. Finnsomeone on the dark side of the Force to be.  On the other hand, I loved the character struggles he seemed to go through.  It added more layers to a dark side character that we’ve only really seen in Return of the Jedi.  Knowing Kylo was once good and even admits that he’s struggling when it came to his father was an interesting twist for Star Wars.  Vader never admitted he struggled with the light side.  I’m confused as to why he wore the mask, other than to emulate Darth Vader and his obsession with him.  Funnily, and I’m not sure if Abrams meant this, but the tantrums Kylo Ren threw were so much like Anakin that I wanted to pat him on the back and tell him he’s more like Anakin than he knows. I loved Adam Driver’s acting when it came to that moment when he killed his father.  I felt there was a real struggle within him, but when he made his decision, you could see this slight change in his face and oh, it was so perfect.  By the end of the movie, I wish we had more of Kylo and I’m interested to see where he will go in his training with Snoke.

Supreme Leader Snoke.  Where do I begin?  This was my one major gripe with the movie.  I thought he was a horrible addition.  It looks like he jumped straight out of a Tolkien novel/movie, with some zombie thrown in.  I can’t figure out if it was because he was so large or because of his species (whatever he is), but I thought he wasn’t believable.  Every time he came on the screen, the movie felt disjointed and took a step back, instead of forward.  I am curious as to whether it’s because he was so large, which made me think he just looked stupid.  When we see him in future movies, I hope that he is a normal height and not a hologram.  I wanted to see more of Kylo Ren and less of Snoke throughout the movie.

General Hux was like he came straight out of an EU novel: a typical Imperial General.  What I liked most about him was that he seemed to be an equal to Kylo and had no problems calling him out, another difference from the Empire in the Original Trilogy, where everyone was terrified of Vader (shhh…don’t tell Kylo that).  Captain Phasma didn’t have as large of a role as I was hoping, but I appreciate the shout out to female stormtroopers and the fact, again, that Phasma could have been male or female.  Maz Kanata was a nice replacement for Yoda/wise mage, but I’d like to see more of her.  I hope she continues to pop up throughout the new sequels, but is a true guiding force.  General Leia was not given as much screen time as I would have hoped.  She was the same, yet different, but they didn’t explore it much.  She had more of a cameo role than an actual part.  Poe Dameron was interesting and I hope we see more of him in the future.  I think he will be a really strong character, but more please.  More of Poe in the next movie.

star-wars-7-force-awakens-kylo-ren-captain-phasma-general-hux

I believe it took a while for the movie to establish itself, but once the foundation was built, it took my breath away.  Abrams did a great job clearly defining that the baton was being passed onto a new generation, which was one of my highest hopes.  I did not want a movie that only focused on Han, Leia, and Luke again – and this did not disappoint.

The only parts where it fell short for me was the lack of the mystical in the Force and Snoke.  I felt that the Force has always been such an important factor for Star Wars and guides all the movies, so to say, but it wasn’t strong within this movie.  I think we’ll see more of it coming up in the sequels and I certainly hope so.

Overall, I give The Force Awakens a solid B+/A-.  I’m seeing it again tonight so will hopefully have a better understanding and opinion of it once done.

 

Okay, phew, done.  LET’S DISCUSS.

 

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Third Times the Charm

(Please, please, please…if you have been reading all the spoilers on the internet – do not write about them here!  These are all my own theories and I want to be happily correct or incorrect WHEN I SEE THE MOVIE and not beforehand.  Thanks.)

Okay.  So.  This:

This happened last night.

These are my thoughts in no particular order and I am spoiler-free so these are all just MY theories:

  • The most obvious question on everyone’s mind is…where’s Luke?  He was not on the trailer poster released Sunday.  He had a voiceover in the 2nd trailer but it was revealed at Celebration that he recorded that later, so it may not be in the movie.  My theory is that Luke is missing or he’s locked himself away for some reason and the plot revolves around finding him.  I do not think he plays a large part in this movie.
  • Rey is crying and it looks like she’s crying over a body (possibly dead?).  I believe she’s crying because Han dies.  I’ve believed from day one that Han will die in this movie only because it took a lot of convincing, and money, to get Ford to come back to Star Wars.  I think for that reason alone, his dragging feet, he will be written out of the story line.
  • L. Palmer refers to Poe Dameron giving Finn a “bro slap” when he goes off to his x-wing…but I kind of interpreted it differently.  I’m not sure that looks friendly to me, nor do I think Finn thinks it’s friendly.  He looks a little thoughtful and definitely not happy after Dameron walks away.  It could just be that they’re heading into battle so everything is serious, but I’m curious.
  • And speaking of Dameron…dude what are you doing hanging out with Kylo?  What is that all about?  There has been so much speculation since character names were announced that Poe is evil because of his name but I’m not seeing any evidence of that – until now when he’s chilling with Kylo.  Okay, he looks like he’s in a lot of stress and may be getting tortured, but he’s still with him.  finn gif tfa
  • Rey’s accent is English, Finn’s is American.  I was sure, and still am leaning towards, that Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia.  I also have this wild theory that Kylo and Rey are siblings (maybe twins) and she’s hiding from him on Jakku (which I believe is actually Tatooine, but renamed after the Empire fell because it’s WAY too similar to Tatooine and we go to Tatooine in the first movie of both trilogies).  That could be why she’s trying to be “no one”.  Maybe she doesn’t want Kylo to know where she is.  Not sure how all this ties into my theory of her being Han and Leia’s daughter unless she got hidden at birth (like some other twins we know!!).
  • Kylo Ren wants to finish what Vader started.  What the heck did he start?
  • Nice juxtaposition in the trailer of Finn being aimless versus Kylo who seems to have a very clear direction.
  • Kylo will whoop Finn’s butt in the lightsaber battle at the end.  Finn looks nervous and not confident at all.  Maybe this is where Luke comes in and saves the day?  That would be awesome.
  • How does Finn get the lightsaber?  It sounds like, from all the trailers and the title, that the Force can “awaken” in you if you know how to let it in or let it emerge.  So does this get rid of the notion from the Prequels that you are either born with the Force or not born with the Force?  That’s a lot to erase from something that is officially canon…
  • Not sure if anyone has noticed over the trailers and the cool San Diego Comic Con clip that was released – Finn and Dameron share/switch jackets.  To me, it looks like the jacket belonged to Dameron, maybe Finn helped rescue him, and gets the jacket from him?  I only say this because of that brief, split second clip from SDCC when we see Poe being hurtled off in Starkiller Base (or a Star Destroyer) by two stormtroopers and he’s wearing the leather jacket.  Perhaps Finn is one of the troopers leading him away?
  • I think it might be Lupita/Maz doing the majority of the voiceover in this trailer.  “Who are you?…The Force…it’s calling to you.  Just let it in.”
  • It’s kind of cool to see how Han did a 180 from ANH to this trailer.  Now he believes in Jedi vs. telling Obi-Wan to shut up on his nonsense.
  • Lots of other Kylo Ren peeps standing around Kylo Ren…probably the Knights of Ren we’ve been hearing about.  But why don’t they get lightsabers?
  • Anyone see the cool Mandalorian skull on the flags around that temple?  Also, a droid!  JJ is not completely ignoring the Prequels!  It definitely looks more Prequel than OT.
  • Did you notice BB-8 is all over the place?  He’s with Rey, Finn, and Poe during this trailer.  Which makes me think that maybe he doesn’t really “belong” to anyone, or he plays a more pivotal role that any of us suspect.
  • I hate the name Captain Phasma, but she’s starting to grow on me because she looks BAD ASS.  Bring it.
  • Another trench on Starkiller Base.  Another blowing up of a gigantic battle station?  Please no.  Let’s try to be more original.

And finally, here is what I think the timeline of events is based on the trailers:

Dameron gets captured by the First Order.  Finn is a stormtrooper, has a change of heart, rescues him. Gets in trouble, rey the force awakens with bb8escapes via TIE and the Star Destroyer shoots it down.  He ends up on Jakkooine (my friend’s and I term for Jakku) and meets Rey. He’s a wanted man so they escape on the Falcon (still hazy on how she ends up with the Falcon other than she has been repairing it in her junkyard? Maybe?) to the Resistance.  Somehow they have to go find Luke because Kylo and his Knights of Ren are being talked about.  Finn and Han go to find Luke.  End up at a temple where maybe Maz or Luke is.  Finn gets a lightsaber.  No idea what happens to Rey.  There is a climatic battle at the end where Finn ends up facing Kylo, Han dies, Poe blows up battle station (boo).

As you can see, lots of holes!  But that’s my basic prediction…and I’ve got less than two months until I find out!

I got 7:00pm Imax tickets for December 17th.  Woot.  Excited.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS??  SHARE!

Friday Posts – Haiku Me Friday?

Should I talk about the Vanity Fair pics?  I feel like you guys have all already seen them, right?  I don’t consider them spoilers because it was authorized and allowed by Lucasfilm to go on the web.  But if you DO consider them spoilers…then skip the next paragraph.

Only noticeable news is that Kylo Ren is Adam Driver.  Gwendoline Christie is the silver stormtrooper Captain Phasma (stupid name).  Lupita Nyong’o is a CGI pirate character (which is a shame, because it would have been nice to see more diversity in the cast, but pirates! Fun!).  There’s a frozen planet.  Hoth?  Who knows?  A lot of people thought Jakku was Tatooine and it’s not.  See the whole article here: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/05/star-wars-force-awakens-photos

I’m still struggling with my Friday posts, and I apologize.  I like doing the Friday Fives, but I realize it’s too much work on my end when I’m already usually working on another post at the same time.  What I loved about the Scene Its, I’m now realizing, is that most of the work was done for me.  All I had to do was write about whatever scene came up.

So I’m debating if I should go back to my haiku’s.  I actually really liked them (though doing one every day for a month was a bit much) and I can do what I did last year – use whatever photo is on my calendar for that day to write the poem.  (Watch them discontinue the calendar next year.)

I apologize for the back and forth in trying to find something for my standing Friday post.  Bear with me as I experiment a bit.

You made a wise choice. Afraid of a lightsaber? As well you should be.

You made a wise choice.
Afraid of a lightsaber?
As well you should be.

Have a GREAT weekend everyone!