So if you want a short review, here it is: it's a Star Wars movie. A real one. Anyone who has watched Star Wars understands what I mean when I say a real one. It's a 4/5 rating from me.* Take a bow, Lawrence Kasdan.
If you want to read something more personal, and a bit more of a deep, meaty, anal-sis on the movie and the franchise, read on.
|Off to a good start already, eh?|
Fair warning, the blog is called The Red Ramble. If you don't like long, rambling posts...
So I watched Star Wars VII. I really wanted to say that it was the most disappointing thing since my son, but it wasn't, really. a few minutes into the movie I realised that this is actually the first time that I've watched Star Wars in the cinema.
You see, I wasn't born yet when the original trilogy kicked off. My first experience of Star Wars was when I was five, six years old I think, and I watched it on VHS, and I was too poor to afford to watch the prequel trilogy on the big screen. I watched poor quality bootleg VCDs of em instead.There's just something about Star Wars that fascinates everyone, and I don't think anyone has ever really been able to put their finger on why.
|Let the Force sleep, you fucks! Five more minutes won't kill it!|
Well, Star Wars is just a good story, really. RedLetterMedia's Mr Plinkett sums it well - it's about a young farmboy who goes on an adventure and defeats an evil space empire with his weird LGBT friends.
You know, a good old-fashioned story? No gimmicks, no frills. There's also an innocent charm to the movies, which makes them timeless. The first two films, A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, are pure movie magic. The third one, well... we'll get to that.
I have ever only had two pieces of Star Wars merchandise. A little toy AT-AT, and a plastic model of the Battle of Hoth. I cherish them fondly, but I've never sought out Star Wars toys, even as a child. The aforementioned two were gifts.
I've always stayed away from Star Wars products and I suppose I've never been able to articulate why until I got older. Put bluntly, Star Wars products are terribly whorish. You know what I'm talking about. You can get anything in a Star Wars themed package, this has been true for years. From sexy halloween costumes to a Darth Vader mask.
To me, the wonderment, joy and innocence of the first two Star Wars movies often butts heads with the franchise's massive product line. On one hand you got this great science fantasy adventure and after you turn the movie off, you're slapped right in the fucking face with a huge dose of cynical cash-grab products.
Now, if you like the Star Wars merchandise, I'm happy for you, it's just not my thing. In my opinion however, they just don't sit well. Return of the Jedi, the third film of the franchise was good, but the cynical, pandering element was starting to show a bit. I feel a bit of an asshole saying this because Return of the Jedi is actually my favorite of all seven movies, but shit, it has problems. Nothing's perfect.
Or rather, not everything can be Empire Strikes Back.
You want to know what isn't Empire Strikes Back? The prequel trilogy. I was very excited about the prequels, and as a young boy, I enjoyed them very much. But something felt off. It didn't feel... well, it didn't feel like Star Wars.
I couldn't find out what was wrong until I matured around my 20s, and then I hated them. They were what I hated about Star Wars merchandise. Whorish, forced, and pretty fucking terrible.
|The Empire Strikes Back remains the strongest of the Star Wars movies. A 5/5.|
With that out of the way I suppose we should talk about the new movie a bit. So uh, spoilers beyond this point.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
You complain about spoilers after this point, you can go fuck yourself.
|Just in case you forgot what this post is about.|
So there I was, watching the Star Wars for the first time in the cinema. The screen lit up. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away..." Then the scrolling text...
I have to admit, I teared up a bit. Things from your childhood can cut your pretty deep like that. It's the Star Wars everybody, Star Wars' is back. It felt like watching the first Star Wars for the first time. That feeling that you're on the edge of something momentous.
Okay, that was the same feeling I felt when I was watching the Phantom Menace for the first time. The grown up part of my brain did remind me of that a few seconds later, yeah. Anyway, the film starts, and it's the most Star Wars thing ever.
Star Wars has always been famous for their opening shots. This one is right up there with A New Hope's. The spectre of the Empire looming over a planet or a moon or whatever. I was smiling at that point.
And then Stormtroopers attack. And then someone hides a thing in a droid, called BB8, which I hate. I thought it looked stupid. BB8 did win me over later though, with his adorable antics, so whatever, you win, movie.
Anyway, back to someone putting things in droids. My smile faded a bit at that. I realised what I was looking at now. See, the original trilogy is all about wonderment, innocence, adventure. The prequel trilogy was full of cynicism, incoherence, and nonsense.
Star Wars VII achieves total balance with both aspects. Hear me out here. Let's face it: we didn't need a seventh Star Wars movie. The last movie didn't leave a good taste in the mouth and really we as an audience should know better than to feed the machine.
But props to the marketing crew - this is probably the most hyped movie of all time. Advertising and marketing students should really study the hype work on this film.
Return of the Jedi finished things well chronologically. Darth Vader was redeemed, Han Solo was saved, The evil empire was defeated. Good. Walk away now. The story is over. But NOPE, Nobody can leave anything alone anymore
So after the shitstorm that was the prequels, how were they going to treat this cash cow? Well, they tried slapping fans with two hour ads for toys and various product - worked swimmingly commercially but the PR front was a shambles.
|The Luke - Vader confrontation made this movie worth it.|
So okay, let's write a proper Star Wars story, and then lets slap some cynical fan service that will sell toys. This was very apparent within the first ten minutes of the film. They did the Star Wars thing, and then they slapped us with an almost beat-for-beat story of A New Hope. Carrot, stick. Now buy the BB8 toy you stupid fucks.
That's what the movie felt like to me. It's a good movie, lets not take that away from it. But every time a pointless scene cuts in - with no significance to the plot but with heavy significance to long time fans, it feels like a punch to the gut. I would say it's very manipulative.
Here's another example. I really like the introduction of Rey. She's in a Star Destroyer and then she slides down the dunes, and there's zero background music. It really sells you the notion that this is an alien world.
|Star Wars VII was very much like Star Wars IV|
Then they cut to a wide shot of the dunes with moisture evaporators and I think two suns.
We made it a point that this wasn't Tatooine but here, have some Tatooine fanservice anyway! There's another big one when Finn accidentally turns on the fucking space chessboard. For fuck's sake. Enough with the fucking nostalgia trips already.
Make your own iconic moments, god damn it.
That said... it's still a good movie, stupid fanservice notwithstanding. You get a clear idea on character motivations and you do feel for the characters. There was a cute thing that I didn't expect from this movie though. Rey was giving directions to BB8 about avoiding quicksand.
Then Finn and Poe's TIE fighter lands on it. Cute! The scene was set up before time, it didn't just happen. Cool. There are very very good action scenes that establish character and character development. There is a very effective scene between Finn and Poe in the TIE fighter that is both meaningful on an emotional level and a thematic level, all done in a very short time while they're dogfighting in space.
It's no prequel film, guys. It's still very, very good.
|Not Red Leader.|
But allow me to talk more about things that I didn't like about the film. Because being a nitpicky asshole on the Internet is fun!
The 'Light' Side
I always hated the Expanded Universe for this bullshit. Yeah, there's a Dark Side, so there must be a Light Side, right?
I'm going to politely disagree here. The Force is called The Force because it is essentially everything in balance. Life creates it, makes it grow. It's in everyone and everything. The Force is inherently neutral and balanced. It is harmony over dominion.
The Force is the whole thing. It's not part of a whole. It is the whole. If it was one half, killing the bad guys would disturb the balance. Even the Emperor senses disturbances in The Force. The Dark Side is not one side of The Force, hence there is no 'Light Side'. The Dark Side is just a perversion of The Force. It is dominion over harmony.
But nope now Disney has jumped into the Light Side nonsense with two feet. Eh, whatever, it's just a movie. It's just an excuse for me to bitch about things.
I'm a big fan of Gwendoline Christie. I really like her as Brienne of Tarth, and I thought her in the role as Phasma was interesting, and I actually liked the character, it looked cool, and it was menacing, almost like Boba Fett.
|Her acting wasn't flat, but by the end of the movie, her character was.|
The only thing of note that she does is getting thrown down a thrash compactor. HER ONLY REASON FOR EXISTENCE WAS TO MAKE A REFERENCE TO A NEW HOPE.
Also she's on Game of Thrones and casting an actress from that series gives you instant nerd cred.
I understand General Hux's character. The Galactic Empire is modelled after Nazi Germany, and General Hux giving the big speech on the new Death Star fit the mold perfectly. He's no Grand Moff Tarkin or General Veers, though. They had more nuance than Hux's only dimension - shouting.
Kylo Ren is a big fucking pussy. And this really just..
Well, it doesn't make for a great antagonist. He just comes up as a massive fucking child rather than as this indomitable antagonist.
When your antagonist is basically a bitch, it robs the tension away from the film.
The only little reference I ever wanted from this movie was the "all wings, check in" scene.
Fuck you, movie!
And while we're on that train..
Where are the bombers?
Visually, the Death Star battle in this film is superior to A New Hope's. But it carries little substance. In A New Hope they had a whole plan using the Y-Wings to bomb the Death Star. The Y-Wings were the Rebellion's bomber craft.
Luke's heroism stems from him taking up the task of the bombers because everyone was being picked off. Luke stepped up, used The Force, and got shit done.
But nope, in this film apparently both sides forgot to bring their bombers. (I thought there would be TIE bombers when the Stormtroopers called for an airstrike on Jakku, didn't happen). All dogfights start to look the same after a while and I found myself getting bored at times.
Kylo Ren's Lightsaber
You know, I don't mind it. I thought the design wasn't the best and lacked substance, but I think it justified itself in that one scene where Kylo Ren uses the hilt to injure Finn. This is very Sithy. The Emperor used lightning bolts to torture Luke. Kylo Ren does something similar here. Inflicting pain is an act of dominance and dominance is the hallmark of the Dark Side. Works! Good job, JJ!
Kylo Ren interrogates Rey simply to show the audience that Rey is strong in The Force. Hey idiots! You do have mind probes right? You don't wanna take this from A New Hope too? You might as well, god damn it, you took the fucking moisture evaporators!
Also in an earlier scene Han Solo tells Finn to keep the blaster. TEN MINUTES LATER HE SAYS HE HAS NO WEAPON.
But how else were they going to have a lightsaber battle?
For fuck's sake.
C3P0's Red Hand
They just changed the color of one hand so they could sell a different looking C3P0 toy, all right?
I do realise that I am being very hard on certain parts of the movie but I would like to stress that this movie really isn't bad. I've chosen to home in on the cynical parts of the movie because it's something that has always bothered me with Star Wars. The one hand has this grand epic adventure with a lot of heart, the other is a commercial monster than wants nothing but your money.
For the most part, The Force Awakens makes up for the previous three films we were subjected to.
And it's still a damn sight better than the garbage Star Trek remakes....
*Ratings Score Explained: 1 - Terrible Movie, do not watch. Will make you angry.
2 - Bad Movie, do not watch.
3 - OK Movie - Watch if you have nothing better to do.
4 - Good Movie
5 - You Should Probably Watch This Once in Your Life, It's Pretty Perfect.