Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (With "Spoilers")

Like with "The Avengers" I'm reviewing this after almost everyone I know has already watched it, so I really don't feel I need to describe the plot in-depth and I can go into "spoilers" because again most anyone who reads this will probably have already seen the movie and thus it's not spoiling it for them.  But by all means if you haven't watched the movie yet, please watch out for the spoilers.

So after about 33 years (almost my whole life!) we finally get a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy.  It only took $4 billion to buy George Lucas out and make this happen.  Small price to pay, right?  With so much at stake and so much hype, I was skeptical if the movie could really live up to it, but for the most part it does.

It seemed to me that what writers Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan, and JJ Abrams (plus all the producers and such) did was to analyze the original trilogy and prequels and come up with the things fans liked and didn't like, which again they had 33 years of data for that.  So we have a desert planet (not Tattooine, thank goodness) and a droid everyone is looking for because it contains valuable data.  And that droid is found by a person who has never left the desert and dreams of great things.  In this case it's a girl named Rey who scavenges wrecked Star Destroyers and Alliance ships for parts to sell for food and water rations.  (Kind of wonder if those old ships wouldn't have some MRE-type things around even after 30-ish years but whatever.)  And then we have the Millennium Falcon and Han Solo and Chewie showing up and the whole crew going to a seedy space port bar with cheesy music playing, only this one is run by a wise midget alien who is a thousand years old, sort of a yellow Yoda.  And we have a lot of family drama, only this time it's mostly the Solos.  And there's a super-weapon that blows up planets, though it's actually a planet itself.  And the Rebels, er, Resistance has to launch a desperate raid to stop the super-weapon before it can blow up their base.  (Like A New Hope, why don't they just get on their ships and run away?  I mean you'd lose some stuff obviously but why stand around while the superweapon is bearing down on you?)  Like Return of the Jedi, stopping the weapon involves disabling something on the ground.  There's also breaking into the superweapon complex to stage a daring prison break.  And a sage old character dies.

What you won't see are cutesy teddy bears, annoying little kids, and offensive racist stereotypes.  Or pointless pod races for that matter.  Or really awkward love scenes.  Characters are mostly allowed to have emotions, though it seems Carrie Fisher took too much Botox or something for her face or voice to emote much except weariness.  (Why did they keep her and not Han?)

Anyway, while everyone was wondering, "Where's Luke Skywalker," which is actually a plot central to the story, JJ Abrams and company managed to pull the wool over most of our eyes.  Because Finn was shown with the blue lightsaber in all the trailers and posters, it was assumed he was the one who would become a Jedi.  Nooope.  Instead it's Rey, which makes sense since she has the Luke Skywalker backstory.  And is she Luke's daughter?  It seems very, very likely to me.  I mean besides the backstory, she can call his lightsaber to her hand and use it like it was meant to her.  She hasn't been off-world before and can almost instantly fly the Falcon and instinctively knows how to repair it--like her probably grandpa Anakin Skywalker.  When you get down to it, though, it wouldn't make sense for her to be Leia's kid.  Why would Han and Leia dump their daughter on Jakku and forget about her?  I can see Luke doing that after his Jedi Academy got fucked up.  With what happened to him, it might have seemed like a good idea to him to leave her on some backwater desert planet while he went off to search for the First Jedi Temple or whatever bullshit.  Sure Jedi aren't supposed to get married or have kids, but that didn't stop Luke and Leia's daddy did it?

Of course part of this is wishful thinking on my part.  One of my favorite characters of the "Expanded Universe" (the books and comics that came after the movies) was Mara Jade, a former apprentice of the Emperor who ended up with Luke's lightsaber and then eventually marrying him, having a son, and ultimately dying.  It'd be nice to work at least a little of that into the "new" movie universe.

My favorite part of the movie was when Rey calls the lightsaber to her hand and ignites it, thereby officially embracing her destiny--especially when she kicked Kylo Ren's ass.  Ren is one of the few things they got wrong.  He was too much of a whiny brat, like Anakin in Episode II.  We were all hankering for a badass Vader-type villain, but he doesn't really cut it.  Maybe as he "completes his training" he'll be more badass.  It does seem they're building towards a final clash between Rey and Ren, one embracing the light and the other embracing the dark.  How much you wanna bet that Ren will kill Luke in Episode VIII?  That would set up the stakes for Episode IX and that whole "balance of the Force" thing.

The only other major problem is they didn't really clarify the whole landscape.  Who's the First Order?  And the Republic?  And the Resistance?  From what I gathered it seems like the Republic would be the US and the Resistance is like when we armed the mujaheddin in Afghanistan or the Contras in Nicaragua; basically some ragtag group we prop up to do the dirty work for us.

Anyway, The movie succeeds in the most important aspects:  1) Wiping the bad taste of the prequels from our mouths and 2) Hook viewers for future installments.  It was easily the best time I had at the movies all year.

(4/5 stars)


  1. The interesting thing for me is that I've always tried not to repeat the same story in a sequel, thinking it would be a disaster, but here it was done with great success. Sure there were different things introduced as well, but over all almost the same story.

    I had a great time at the movie, but it does bug me a little how there's always so much trouble in Luke's family. On the other hand, that's how they make it more personal. A random bad guy isn't as interesting. I thought Kylo was pretty bad ass most of the time. If he was older and more mature, he wouldn't fit as well being Han's son.

    There were tons of unanswered questions with no time for backstory, somehow that didn't matter. I just hope they get the next movie done fast.

  2. The fact that the First Order took over after the Empire was destroyed undercuts the ending of ROTJ. I hope Kylo Ren did survive and that we see more of his character development in the next two movies.

  3. There's no way they'd kill Kylo Ren since his character is wonderful (if a little whiny). I had read that the books would establish a lot of back story, but it turns out that there's a ton of facts you'd never know without reading the books. The Visual Dictionary explains a lot of the First Order and character history.