Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free) Review

If there is one movie that we've mentioned most during the course of this blog's nine-year journey, it's Star Wars. And with the first Star Wars movie release during this fine blog's tenure, it's only fitting that we give Episode VII: The Force Awakens a little bit of love.

Through manipulating the space-time continuum, I was able to watch this movie early...and came away not disappointed whatsoever.

All of the foundations that we fondly recall from the original trilogy is there, in Episode VII: the epic scope of the story; the evil villain and his legion; the prevailing hope of the light side of the force. The space battle scenes are dizzying, with amazing camera angles and speeds. The fancical creatures nonchalantly wandering through the background, unlike in the prequel trilogy less dependent upon CGI wizardry, seem believable and almost comfortable. The planet landscapes fill the viewer with awe (especially in 3D). The primary droid character, BB-8, is adorable. And all of the main actors: Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo, have solid acting chops that surpass the expectations from their short resumes (Rey and Finn, in particular, were both really strong and extremely believable).

I loved the fact that there are multiple winks back to the original trilogy, from commonly said lines to a cantina scene that echoes Mos Eisley, to humorous turns used to cut the tension at appropriate times. Having familiar characters like Han Solo, Leia Organa, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Nien Nunb, and even Admiral Ackbar re-take the main stage, is a wonderful throwback (and I imagine, for the seven people who haven't seen the original trilogy, might be a little hard to follow). But it's like the Han Solo line from the early Episode VII trailer: when he says to Chewie "we're home", one can't help but feel nostalgic and warm and fuzzy inside just like we did 32 to 37 years ago.

And one gets that feeling right from the opening sequence, which dutifully follows the opening horizon-line fading words canon, into a pretty fast-paced, J.J. Abrams-typical quick-character development scene. One understands good and bad right from the start, and your introduction to two key characters comes effortlessly. And the pacing isn't always quick from then on in, but it does find the right places to crescendo.

If there's any complaint I had--and it is a mild one--it's that Episode VII plays it extremely safe. On many of the scenes, you can tell far in advance where they are going, often because the sets are either deliberately derivative or the constructs seem way too obvious (for example, as one planet starts to crumble, the earth is obviously going to separate two warring characters). It doesn't hurt the tension any, or make the dramatic parts any less meaningful or impactful. But there didn't seem to be many of those killer world-rocking twists like we had at the end of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (that said, Episode VIII is perfectly set up for at least one, if not two, killer plot reveals and / or twists).

But I guess the most important thing is, J.J. Abrams (and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) successfully reignited all of the majesty of the original trilogy, almost making one forget the dramatic and plot-dragging missteps of the prequels. They've been able to put together a good story that should spark imagination, curiosity, and excitement in a whole new generation of fans, while paying great reverence and respect to the past. I can't wait to take my kids, and see if their eyes light up just like mine did back in 1977.


MR.F said...

In about 2045, when Sons of Steve Garvey hosts another contest to win a stuffed animal, I will post the script for The Force Awakens, line by line.

Dusty Baker said...

I need to go back and review that twisted saga soon (of the stuffed animal contest, not the movie). Good memories, Mr. F!