Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Force Is Strong

[Warning: This post talks about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While I haven't posted any spoilers, it does have some spoiler-ish moments, so proceed at your own risk.]

A few weeks ago I finally got around to watching the new Star Wars movie. I am a mediocre-to-big fan of Star Wars; I enjoy the movies and the mythos, but I'm not a major fan. (For example, I have not seen the prequels yet. Someday I will, but just haven't yet.)

Short review: if you like Star Wars or even just sci-fi, you'll like it. If you're not, it's still pretty fun.

It's not a perfect movie, but it's certainly a very good one--to the point where I was genuinely shocked it didn't get a Best Picture nomination. (Don't forget that the original did in 1977.) It's a continuation of how things were left off in Return of the Jedi, albeit a few decades later.

I won't go through the whole plot, but I'll point out some of the things I liked (and the few I didn't):

  • The movie does a good job of making me care about the new characters. There's basically three new people--Rey, Finn, and Poe, each with an interesting backstory that is efficiently told, and each with motivations that makes sense. 
  • These characters aren't simply new people to fill the slots of Han Solo, Princes Leia, and Luke Skywalker; no one is simply a replacement of the other. They all fill the roles in different ways. 
  • The new big bad--Kylo Ren--is interesting. He's not simply Darth Vader II, although he's clearly of the same vein. His character isn't fleshed out in great detail, but they clearly set him up to do so in the future.
  • The two biggest items of suspense of the original trilogy (Darth Vader being Luke's father and Darth Vader taking his mask off) have parallels that are quickly dispensed with, very deliberately. It's pretty obvious very soon who is Kylo Ren's relations, and they don't insult us by stringing us along; about a third of the way through the movie it's told to us, as if it's not exactly a secret. Also, they quite pointedly tell Kylo Ren his mask is useless and to take it off--and he does.
There's a few things, though, that I didn't care for:
  • The plot is almost an exact duplicate of the original movie. I know they wanted to play it safe after the disaster of the prequels, but after 30+ years you'd think they could have cobbled something different and interesting. Granted, the plot of the original was good, so this isn't a horrible thing, but there's a pretty strong sense of deja vu.
  • Also like the original, there are a ton of plot holes. However, I'm more than willing to give them a pass on this, since I strongly suspect that some of these will be fleshed out in future movies--some are almost telegraphing a flashback.
  • The whole "planet destroying gun that sucks in the sun" thing? That's kinda dumb. Just build a new death star, eh?
At the end of the day, the movie accomplishes exactly what it set out to do: it eases viewers in to the "new" generation of characters by utilizing the old ones effectively, it presents new challenges for the rebels, and it doesn't rely on fan wank and extensive knowledge to enjoy it.

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