Monday, December 28, 2015

#Recap - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So I just came back from The Force Awakens. Finally!

I know what you're thinking, wherever you are - finally! Yeah, I know. But I just couldn't have caught the movie earlier, what with the end of the year, work, Christmas, etc.

Now was the only time I could watch this film.

I'll try to keep this review simple and straightforward. Since I managed to avoid spoilers as much as possible until now - spreading my own fake spoilers around based on my knowledge of the expanded universe :P - I will try to keep this spoiler-free for the others who, just like me, haven't been able to watch this yet.

Until the cut below, I won't have any spoilers. I will mark the spoiler section down below.

Let's me say this right away: Overall? I really liked the movie.

There! Review over.


Yeah, I really liked the movie, but.. there's a few things I didn't like that much. Probably for controversial reasons of my own. I haven't checked that many reviews of the film yet, so I even have no idea what other people think about it. I just know my bro loved it a lot more than I did, even though I'm mostly positive about the film.

I liked enough the new heroes/cast, even though they were a bit too young-ysh. I liked the general new story. The film direction, the special effects, etc.

Now onto my main issues: my main problem with Hollywood these days when they're not making reboots... they just seem to be making nostalgic-sequels that are basically complete revamps or the originals. Predators did that to Predator 1. Jurassic World did the same with Jurassic Park and so did Terminator 5 too. And This Force Awakens is basically an "HD Remaster" of the original film, aka "A New Hope" for a new generation.

Yes, it follows the same general structure, plot, characters, etc. And even goes through the same motions in the same places (Jakku = Tatooine, Rey = Luke, etc.). I mean, bash the prequels as much as you want (I mean, I specially dislike Episode II) but at least each film had its own identity and was its own distinct adventure.

I liked the references to the other films, sure. I even liked how strangely the final confrontation seemed to parallel Anakin and Obi-Wan's in Episode 3 on the lava planet. Really, it strangely mirrored that scene!

George Lucas might have a questionable directional sense (even though I adore THX personally..), but he was a great worldbuilder. Somehow I feel that's J.J.Abrams problem, he's the opposite. He has a great sense of direction but his movies lack a distinct tone. That was apparent with his Super 8, Star Trek and Mission Impossible. They borrow a lot to previous classics and have a ton of great fan service and throwbacks but they're not really that unique.

Don't misread me, like I said, I loved the movie. There were some gorgeous scenery, action scenery, etc. But I felt a lot of things felt a bit generic. Like I said, Rey was just Luke or the young Anakin again. That Poe Resistance pilot guy was a bit bland too. Our villain was as whiny as "his ancestor". I loved Finn though, he was pretty fun! 

All said and done, I can excuse the big nostalgic factor and vagueness of the character since this movie has to be the first in a new trilogy of films. This was just the introduction for this new Sequel Trilogy.

I'm glad to see Abrams replaced for the next films, since he can work wonders with the initial pitch but his overuse of a "mystery box" gimmick often detracts from the end of his movies/series. And if the later films turned out bad we would all be branding pitchforks to Abrams. Although the the following directors will have a lot to answer for... No easy task if you ask me.

Now onto SPOILER territory.
SPOILER ALERT!! You have been WARNED!!!!!!!!!!

I'm kinda sad to know they've completely ditched George Lucas original 1970s plan for a "Sequel Trilogy", just so we won't ever know what he originally imagined for these 3 new films.

Say what you want about the Prequels, I always side with the artist not the corporation. This is his series, I would have loved to know what he originally told Mark Hamill these films would be about. We know it would have taken place after the original trilogy (and should have been filmed around 2011). Following a new generation of heroes and Luke's offspring while Luke worked on setting a new Jedi Order. I doubt any idea will survive Disney since they probably want to keep on producing Star Wars for decades to come, like the Marvel films, instead of the original 9 planned films.

Speaking of Mark Hamill, it kinda annoyed me we only got to see him at the end. An worse than that, if felt like the movie ended before that during the celebration, and the bit with Luke was actually a "stinger" for the post-credits sequences like they do in modern/Marvel movies (hence why it was silent).

All the actors did great. Although as long the old cast didn't enter the picture it felt like I was already watching one of those Disney Star Wars Anthology spinoff films and not one of the "real" main films. No Jedi? No Sith? No Empire? No Skywalker? I liked Finn and Rey enough but it just didn't really connect to the main saga just yet at first.

I know it's finally cool to bash CGi, but I just knew they would mix both practical and computer effects to both ends in the film despite Abrams claiming to doing it old school like the Original Trilogy. And they might even have to  rely more on CGi on the following films if this Snoke character gets more involved in the big picture (who I'm convinced his really "Darth Plagueis", Palpatine's master mentioned in Episode III - just compare the "Snoke" track from the new film's soundtrack to just "Palpatine's teachings" music track from the scene he mentioned him in Episode III).

I liked the few cameos I could catch from both characters AND actors I could recognize. I didn't notice Simon Pegg's voice as that alien dealer on Jakku. I laughed when I recognized Daniel Craig afterwards. Although Greg Grunberg's role kinda pulled me out of the film with his character I shall name "Porkins 2.0".

Speaking of the film directly, I didn't like "Kylo Ren" much at first. Why not call him "Darth Kylo" or "Darth Ren" for consistency? Because he's a "knight of ren"? Are they all named "something Ren"? Why not name him Ren Kylo instead then? And what are those nights? So many questions.. that might be answered in the sequels.. or not. Or just in the new expanded universe?

And I laughed when he took off his helmet the first time. I mean, really? That's "the guy"? But after that I kinda saw the resemblance with both "his grandpa" Anakin and even Harrison Ford. Good casting actually.

Also, I knew this "Captain Phasma" people made such a big deal of would barely be in the film. She's the new Boba Fett! Hahaha! So little screentime. She didn't even do a thing! Ha!

We all knew someone from the old cast was going to die. Or more exactly, I knew Han Solo was going to die at the end of the die - without spoilers I mean - because 1) Harrison Ford never liked Star Wars much and 2) he only signed in this new film he they killed Han Solo and greenlighted a new Indiana Jones movie. Before the film even entered production. And since they announced a new Indy not long ago, I knew Han was going to die. I just feared he would take Chewie or Leia or Luke with him. Despite knowing the scene was coming (with all the clear winks at the camera what with his last hug with Leia and the meeting with Kylo Ren on a tiny bridge), it still worked for me and was quite emotional.

I have a few nitpicks with the film. Just details. Nothing important. Like why have Han and Leia's child named Ben Solo when only Luke spent much time with ol' "Ben Kenobi". The Expanded Universe did that much worse with Jacen Solo and Ben Skywalker. Speaking of, why ditch the entire EU if you're simply going to redo all of if beat for beat. New bigger super-weapon that can destroy solar systems? Check. Han and Leia's son that trained at Luke's Jedi Academy before turning to the dark side? Check. Remnants of the Empire surviving Episode 6 and turning into a bigger and more dangerous threat? Check. Just wait until they reveal a Palpatine clone or Rey being Kylo Ren's twin sister. Or Mara Jade!

Also I didn't feel John Williams' new score not particularly memorable despite a decent composition. His original music for the trailer was a lot better (and not in the actual film).

The following sequels (and spinoffs starting next year) will really define what to expect since this was really a refreshed and introduction for Disney's take on the franchise). What will the main game plan be? Will this lead to several trilogies the same way they keep churning "Marvel Cinematic Universe" "phases"?

All in all, I really liked the film. But it's not my favorite SW film. Despite a lot of people claiming Empire or Jedi are the best films in the franchise, to me the original one remains the best film since it both established the entire SW universe, clearly defined the tone and structure of this film series (I just love Star Wars transitions, credits roll and big "star wars" space battles at the end) and was such a game changer for movies.


  1. Just watched the movie earlier today. Felt like watching Star Wars, more so than the previous three films I felt. A refresh of the first film, kind of a reunion film along with new things to go forward. Plays it safe, but it's still a pretty good time, I thought. Not super amazing awesome as everybody I know says it is, but I enjoyed it just fine. And yeah, need to see what they do with the next anthologies to see where they take these films. If it's closer to what they do Expanded Universe wise with these anthologies, I guess I wouldn't mind. (And I had a feeling with Han, too, only based on what I know about Harrison Ford and Star Wars in general. Still, he played it his best, so it was a good way to end it, yes?)

    1. I dunno for anthologies, though. They sound as bad as what people complain about the actual prequels.
      a) useless story since we know were all things will end like? Check! Rogue One will see a bunch of rebels we never saw in the original trilogy steal the Death Star plans, hence they will all die and only Leia will make it with the plans to send them to the droids, to Obi-wan on Tattooine.
      b) CGi madness? Check! Instead of simply doing the natural thing and cast a lookalike for Tarkin who will be a prominent character in the film, they announced they will be recreating the actor entirely in CGi - yikes!

      Harrison Ford hates these films, like he said many time he only played in the new one so they could greenlight another Indiana Jones.