Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (USA, 1015)

Nine Things About the Movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens

1. This triumphant chapter of the Star Wars saga takes place about 30 years after the previous chapter, Return of the Jedi. Jedi was released 32 years ago, so this movie is basically re-joining the story in it's "real" timeline. It's a direct continuation of the original trilogy, but you don't need to see any of the other three prequel films - which I refer to as The Movies That Shall Not Be Named (TMTSNBN).

2. It was directed by J.J. Abrams, who worked in television and as a producer until he directed Mission:Impossible III, and then resurrected the Star Trek movies.  (And I'm thinking that if one guy can bring both Star Wars and Star Trek successfully back to life, maybe we can end the decades-old fight over which series is better. Maybe the two fan-bases can finally unite and co-exist peacefully. Even though Star Wars is clearly superior.)

3. Even though it feels like a Star Wars movie, it's got Abrams's visual style - the dolly shots on both the z- and x- axes, the canted angles, the shaky cam and snap zooms. But he hardly uses any lens flares this time, which is fine.

4. Writer Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two of the original trilogy's scripts (but none of TMTSNBN), returns for this one. This means the script is sometimes silly, simple, and melodramatic. But that's exactly what Star Wars is - a space opera. It's supposed to be sprawling, adventurous, and chivalric, with epic conflicts between technologically-advanced enemies. It's not supposed to be hard science fiction. This isn't Interstellar.

5. This is the first Star Wars movie to get its original release in 3D, and it's one of the most impressive uses of 3D technology I've seen.

6. There is enough fanservice in this movie to fill a Jawa sandcrawler. This leads to the only real flaw in the film (if you consider it a flaw); the almost overwhelming amount of nostalgia. The story does develop in some new and interesting ways, but it also feels kind of like a reboot of the first two movies. Several elements of the films are outright repeats of the original trilogy.

7. The only thing that really annoyed me in the movie was the "suck the energy out of the sun" thing. That's the kind of moronic crap I expect from a Marvel superhero movie, not a Star Wars movie. But it wasn't a deal-breaker; see Point 4.

8. The young cast is well-picked. This is Daisy Ridley's second film. John Boyega finally gets a lead role like he deserves. Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, who may be the most interesting Star Wars villain ever.

9. The movie may not be perfect, but it strikes a good balance between being new and risky, and being traditional and sacred. It will satisfy fans of the original trilogy, and also bring new viewers into the magic of the Star Wars universe. May the Force be with it.