Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars (Force) Lightning Take

Tuesday I finally saw, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and I say finally because when a movie of this magnitude opens and you have to wait a few days, it seems like an eternity.

So after only seeing it once I thought I'd hammer out a quick lighting review of salient impressions while they were still fresh in my mind.

Initial impression, it was pretty good.

No not great.  When I tell people what I thought they seem perplexed.  "Not great?" they question.  As if I'm not sure in what I am saying.

I'm sure.

JJ Abrams seems to have a problem with other peoples properties.  Too slavish to the original material.  Give him his own thoughts and he usually nails it.  I remember his Star Trek sequel, "Into Darkness" and I don't recall it fondly.  In fact, when it was revealed that Abrams was going to reboot the Star Wars franchise I remember thinking, "Good luck to you people, he nearly sank the Trek franchise."

Full disclosure, I am Star Trek fan first and foremost.  It's not that I don't love Star Wars, I do.  But it came out when I was in college so it wasn't imprinted on my psyche like it was for so many that saw it in their respective childhoods.  So, any criticisms to follow you can take with a grain of salt if you like.  I prefer to take a more adult view of "The Wars."

What I did Like...

Whoever decided to cast Daisy Ridley as Rey is a genius (and if it was Abrams you all can pat yourselves on the back.)  

Rey is the emotional center of the movie and Ridley is brilliant in this role.  Her emotive quality is always etched across her face.  Whether it is in courage, sadness, joy or fear Ridley nails it.

We should be thankful she is the future of the franchise.

The Heart String Moments

Despite this moment being spoiled in the teaser it still pulls at your heart.  Believe me, you can feel it deeply.  Just seeing Harrison Ford as Han Solo sets off a cascade of warm memories.  Truth be told, this is almost his movie.  He is in it quite bit.  Quite a bit!

Yes, my heart swelled when I saw Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  Yours will too if it already hasn't.  The reviews haven't been to kind to her.  Too bad.  Princess freakin' Leia.  (And I'm a Trekker remember!)  Echoes of, "I love you" and "I know" will ring in your head.

There is an action sequence at the beginning of the movie featuring the Falcon and it is utterly spectacular.  What an edge of your seat thrill ride.   I saw it in 2D (I tell people I wanted to see it in it's original format to be faithful to the original release.  I'm kidding.  The 11:45 a.m. screening was packed and the 3D at 12: was too.)  I can only imagine what a 3D version was like.  Guess I''ll have to go back.

John Boyega has real comedic talent.  With humor, timing is everything and he has it.  I think they tried to add a romantic element to his character but I have to say I didn't feel it.  No, it wasn't the forced PC nature of it.  It just didn't feel organic to me despite the lead up to the two characters involvement.  You can judge for your selves.

Speaking of character, In, Finn, Boyega's character, the add an element of self pity and yes, a little cowardice.  It's in his self preservation or let's say, survival instinct.  Not everyone is born a hero.  Sometimes you have to find it in you.

This element of self pity, fear and cowardice is also embodied in the character of Kylo Ren.  It's no spoiler to reveal he is the baddie in this movie.

Adam Driver knows craven.  Well done.  If there is any complaint to his character, we don't get to see enough of this.  He stomps around a lot and he has anger issues (you'll see.)  

In adding cowardice, self preservation and self pity to the story it gave great depth to the tale.  In a franchise that inspires hope and heroism it was a welcome diversion.

What I didn't like...

Unbelievably, there isn't enough Poe Dameron in the movie.


Oscar Isaac has the perfect cut as the resistance leader X-Wing pilot.  Perfect.  Sadly, he is underutilized and to compound this, he disappears in the movie and mysteriously reappears and his reappearance seems oddly out of context!  JJ!  We better see a lot more of him in the next move.

Speaking of underutilized.


Yep,  we better see a lot more of Captain Phasma in the next movie.    I won't spoil here.  That's coming and it is a biggie.

The Musical Score


The musical score is a little underwhelming.  Yes, it contains all the original tunes but sometimes it is oddly lacking.  There is a major light saber duel in the movie and you'd expect the music to rise.   Anytime a light saber is introduced the music should swell.  For that major duel it was meh only.

Speaking of that duel there is a moment that everything slows nearly to a halt.  Sure, I get what it's for and you will too if you haven't already seen the flick.  But please.  A bit too slow.  Any decent opposing duelist would take advantage of this "reflective quietude" and strike.

Not here!

Okay the Big Spoiler Complaint

Last Warning

Still with me here?  Okay, you've been warned.

 Luke Skywalker isn't in the movie.

Well, he is, but not until the very, very end and it is anticlimactic.  Not only anticlimactic but overly drawn out too.  I wanted to walk into the screen and grab the light saber out of Rey's hand.  And the helicopter shot?  Too obvious and it only added to the drawn out nature of the final shot.

What is also confounding to me is they missed a major opportunity to re-introduce Skywalker to the saga.  

A major opportunity!

I'm still spoiling here so here it is.  When Finn and Kylo Ren are having their light saber duel in the snow, Finn falls and loses his light saber.  Remember when Luke used the Force to retrieve his saber from the snow and defeat the Wampa in The Empire Strikes Back?

Ren tries something similar here.  The saber begins to quiver and flies past Ren into the hand of...


Okay fine. She can use the force.  We got evidence of that already.

When that light saber quivers and shoots past Ren it should have landed right in the hand of Luke Sywalker.

The theater would have exploded.  (We had a fun crowd.)  Imagine Luke showing up to the rescue, defeating Ren and spiriting Finnn and Rey away.  

What a moment!

That they missed.

How could they have not thought of that opportunity?  Seriously, it puzzles me.

Luke Skywalker deserved his big hero moment and it should have been in a climactic scene.  As it was, he stood mute atop the cliff side.

"Hello, Luke, may the force be with you"


See you in the next movie then.