Friday, January 22, 2016

The Force Awakens Review

So I waited a long time to post my thoughts on the new Star Wars. I always admire critics who can shoot out a rapid fire response on a single viewing. I like to process and I wanted to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice before making a judgement call. Here are some of my random thoughts. Spoiler alert for those who still have yet to see this movie.

Once again, SPOILERS follow.

Force Awakens was better than any of the prequels but not nearly as good as the Original Trilogy. This is not mere nostalgia speaking. I have my reasons for placing it fourth in the pantheon. I liked the movie but when the ending credits began to roll I had no desire to applaud. I was entertained but I was not left in awe. I actually felt more awe after J.J. Abram's Star Trek movies than I did for his Star Wars. Movies that come immediately to mind that left me with a sense of awe after seeing them in the theater: The Matrix, Interstellar, Star Trek (J.J. Abrams), The Bourne Supremacy, The Avengers, The Dark Knight...just to name a few in a similar genre. I didn't get that feeling with The Force Awakens. Maybe I was too beaten down by all the cross-promotions thrown at me for a year before the movie opened.

BUT: I did feel that awe for the first 40 minutes of The Force Awakens. I thought the first half of the movie was excellent. It then began to feel redundant when once again they go to destroy a planet killing weapon. Star Wars has not only used this plot device once, but twice! A third time felt lazy and anti-climatic. The outcome was already known. Yeah, they tried to show that the Starkiller Base was much much bigger than a Death Star but that felt forced. Lame plot device.

I thought Rey was excellently portrayed. I loved BB-8. I thought Finn was okay but he still didn't feel like an ex-stormtrooper gone good. I would expect a former stormtrooper who had been brainwashed his whole life to not so easily switch allegiances. I expect more inner turmoil. I expect a different personality from a hardened soldier than the glib "DID YOU SEE THAT!? DID YOU SEE THAT!?" or "Yes, Yes I am with the Resistance." Just a little too goofy from an ex-First Order soldier. But he was okay. The acting was fine.

It was jarring at the beginning not to hear the 20th Century Fox fanfare before the movie. That has become as much a part of the Star Wars movies as anything. I know Disney has the rights now. But the opening credits seemed weird without the old fanfare. I realize I'm quibbling.

Harrison Ford did a much better job reprising Han Solo than I expected. He's been so lousy in recent movies. But he was great. So was Carrie Fisher. All the originals did well.

I like Poe but his opening response to Kylo Ren was dumb...the whole "who talks first, you talk, I talk" took away from the sinister nature of what's about to happen. Maybe they wanted to lighten the tension a bit, but it seemed fakey.

Speaking of Kylo Ren: I'm all over the place with this guy. I liked him at first then he became a whiny emo kid. And killing Han Solo? Don't know if I'll ever get over that. And I found it a stretch that he would kill his own father. Maybe I'm naive. I am looking forward to seeing his development. Not sure if he'll be able to ever come back from the bad side. I guess Anakin did but we never saw him kill his own family. He came close but the worst we saw him do was take out jedi younglings and the camera turned away to shield us from his most barbaric act.

I thought Hux overacted his big speech to the point of self-parody. Snoke is terrible. His CG effects are already outdated. I'm hoping this will be a Wizard of Oz ploy and the guy behind the Snoke curtain is a villain we can believe in.

The effects were good. The story great in the first half, weak in the second half. Not bad...but not nearly as good as it should have been.