Thursday, April 14, 2016

Passing Thoughts On: Star Wars: Episode Seven: The Force Awakens

Well, that's one movie off my list, anyway...

Not so long ago, in a dining room not so far from here, my parents asked me if I was going to go see the new Star Wars movie. With all the sincerity that so many friends, family members, and perhaps even fans know me for, I told them yes, but I was going to wait for the crowds to die down. I had meant it, too, because when the question was asked of me, it was either just before or just after the movie had been released, which meant that it was just in time for the holiday break, and everybody and their damn brother was going to see it about fifty million times each.

I had still intended to have watched The Force Awakens no later than the end of February or early March. As I'm sure a good many of those reading this have noticed, I'm posting this in the middle of April, which means I'm more than a little behind schedule on this. Real life got in the way, I'm afraid, though that's not entirely a bad thing. The fact that I've been working a minimum of six days a week between two jobs since early February means that I can actually afford to go see these things now, and maybe even splurge on the post-movie goodies, just like I used to do way back when I was starting these written reviews, though in this case, I'd hardly call this a review, so I'm going to go with general impressions, instead.

Before I go much further, though, I should say there will be spoiler-ish things ahead, but I'll try to keep them mild and to a minimum.

That said, the question to be addressed here is if it was worth the wait. I'd say it was, in spite of the good intentions and best laid plans I'd had going into this. The only downside is that yeah, the movie was kind of spoiled for me, which made me a little more hesitant than usual to go see it.

Another thing that made me hesitate was the fact that JJ Abrams was directing this one, and will be doing the next one as well, as I understand it. Given his take on the Star Trek franchise, which I'm more a fan of, I was understandably cautious about what he'd do with the Star Wars franchise. On my way to the theater, I kept promising myself that I'd do my best to not let that get in the way of my viewing of TFA, and I'm glad it worked out.

I will say that The Force Awakens drew heavy inspiration from A New Hope. I won't call that a bad thing, because A New Hope is a damn good movie, and it fits right in with where the Star Wars franchise kind of needs to be right now. I won't call it an outright remake because it does continue the story of the original trilogy, and we did get enough time with the characters who would still reasonably be alive after Return of the Jedi to establish a connection between the oldschoolers and the new kids.

Now, how much the prequils factor into this, I don't know. My take on the prequils is pretty much the same as the two, soon to be three Abrams-verse Star Trek movies: wouldn't have been quite as bad if the original trilogy hadn't already existed, and the first movies in each of those series couldn't quite live up to the hype, for me, in no small part because the existing history got in the way and I had expectations, man.

There's also the matter of the Star Wars Extended Universe. I've heard it said that the Extended Universe is officially out of the picture, far as the movies are concerned now, by edict of Disney. That's fine by me, because what I know about the Extended Universe could probably fit in the lid to the Snapple bottle I've got on my desk with room to spare. At the same time, I can't help but wonder if there weren't some influences from there anyhow.

I say this because most of the plot here is that everybody desperately needs to find Luke, who went off to find the very first Jedi Temple in the Galaxy after the new Sith Lord, Kylo Ren, wiped out his new order of Jedi for the new Sith leader, a giant creature named Snoke. While we do get to spend a fair amount of time with our good friends Han Solo, Chewie, and Leia, we also get to spend enough time with our new heroes to get to know them, and Kylo Ren, too.

Our new stable of protagonists this time out are Finn, the surprisingly not cloned Storm Trooper gone rouge; Rey the scavenger; and BB-8 the new droid, who is the companion of Po, the best fighter pilot the Rebellion currently has.

A quick aside here, if I may. There's a very good reason I put Po the fighter pilot last. It's a hint as to what I intend the next movie on my list to be. I'll be dropping another hint towards the end of the review.

Much as they were in the original trilogy, the Rebellion is going up against an evil, Galaxy-ruling lower-case-f force that's taken the place of the Galactic Empire from the original trilogy called the First Order. Snoke and Kylo Ren are the definite upper-case-f Force users working for the First Order. I know there was a non-Force wielding military guy who was usually with Ren and seemed to be in charge of him, really, but for the life of me, I can't remember the man's name. That's my fault, of course, for not paying attention as closely as I should have.

The good thing about Ren's minder is that he did seem necessary, as Ren seemed way more prone to throwing “Hulk Smash!” style hissyfits whenever he didn't get his way, making it obvious that he still had way more training to do before becoming anything like a master himself. Snoke even orders the military guy to go get Ren for exactly that towards the end of the movie.

To really finish this off, I've kinda gotta spoil the ending, but it's one of those necessary things, I'm afraid. But since, by this point, we already know that Episode 8 will be out by the end of next year, having this one end with Rey finding Luke for Jedi training was a good place to end this installment, because that's probably the best place to start the next one as well.

All in all, I'd say this was a good movie, especially in light of the reservations I had going in. I really and truly wish I'd been able to go see it when I'd intended to so I could say the things I've got to say in an actual review rather than just as general impressions. Everything seemed to fit quite nicely, even the rather prominent character death in the third act. The only spoiler I'll give as to who is will be that I'm sure even that particular actor wishes another character he's famous for could have been treated as well in his last outing.

Of course, the biggest downside here is how late I am to this particular party. That little factoid is probably why I feel like the movie spelled things out a little too well for those of us who have been pretty much life-long followers of the Star Wars franchise. A lot of it had been spoiled for me because, well, I'm a good five months late in getting to this, anyway. Avoiding spoilers completely for this long would have been very difficult, at best, and ultimately proved impossible.

Beyond that, it's time for that second clue as to what movie's next on my list. It relates to that Po guy I was mentioning earlier. It's a name that brings to mind pandas almost as much as references to tapioca pudding, though I'm at more a loss as to the pudding thing. I get a sense that there's a movie or something I'm missing here, but I can't... well, won't, really, put my finger on it just now. The good news, though, is that resolution to this particular mystery is closer at hand than a lot of my readers may realize, simply because those same real-life issues I mentioned before prevented me from acting in time to get tickets to one of the performances of Red Green's I'm Not Old, I'm Ripe Tour that's coming through my area. With any luck, there will yet be another chance for me to see a live performance of a character that influenced my podcasting style.

The good news, though, is that my failure in that regard could very well work out in favor of fans of my movie reviews.

Until then, though, have a good day, everyone, and enjoy whichever show you get to go see.

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