February 27, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

The new Star Destroyer in The Force Awkens

The Finalizer from 'The Force Awakens' courtesy of Star

It is both better than and not as good as what George Lucas could make

I have been a huge fan of Star Wars since May 28, 1977, the day my parents first took me and my little brother to see “A New Hope” at the big Northpark General Cinema theatre in Dallas Texas. Yes, me and millions of other people.

So as a big fan of Star Wars, of course, I was waiting with great anticipation to see “The Force Awakens” on opening day Dec 18, 2015. I watched the trailers over and over again, studying each frame to see the new characters and settings. December 18th didn’t seem like it could come fast enough.

Finally the day came, and my fiancé and I saw it in one of the first IMAX showings in Tokyo. It was worth the wait, and the film lived up to the hype. It was thrilling to see the old characters, the new, and the many great sci-fi action sequences.

As the credits rolled, I felt happy and delighted. But after exiting the theatre, I got a sense that something was missing from the movie.

Why “The Force Awakens” is not as good as what George Lucas could Make

Abrams can make a great action movie. He has proved it with “Mission Impossible 3”, “Star Trek 1” and “Star Trek 2”, and “Super 8”. He works great with actors, and is really good at creating atmosphere and intrigue for action and sci-fi movies.

His handling of “The Force Awakens” was masterful. He was able to blend the original characters with the new, and keep the fast pace of editing and motion that Star Wars movies are known for. It really “felt” like a Star Wars movie, even though George Lucas was barely, it at all, involved.

But a few things are missing from “The Force Awakens” for me. These are a sense of grand visions and fairy tales, and mysteries that Lucas brought to the original six films. With the release of every single Star Wars movie that Lucas has made, there was always something new and eye-opening to bring feelings of awe, inspiration, and wonder.

The story and settings of “The Force Awakens” did not convey this sense of awe and wonder for me.

In some ways, it seems like a remake of episode IV. This by definition signifies a lack of originality. The film has a droid with secret information hunted by Imperials. The final battle takes place at a Death Star. These are all things we have seen before.

Also, where was the mystery of the force? It was mentioned and used by the characters, but it seemed like some kind of mutant power that the characters innately had, and not a mystical and majestic energy field.

I can understand that Rey is strong in the Force, but how could she possible perform the Jedi mind trick and wield a light sabre in a way to defeat the expert Kylo Ren? In all of the other Star Wars films and TV shows, there was always a mentor figure that taught others how to use the Force. Max Katana seems like she fit the role as a Force mentor, but she was only telling the characters things out of a kind of knowledge, and not showing them anything.

Additionally, there were no new and exciting planets, like we got in every one of the 6 original films. Planets like the swamp world of Dagoba, the beehive-like mountainous Genosis, and the giant sink hole riddled Utapau to name a few. Each one of Lucas films showed us totally different planets that we have never seen before.

The Force Awakens gives us two green forest like planets with Takodana and D’Qar. We have seen Tatooine in 5 of the original films. There is nothing special about another desert world in Jakku.

We get an Ice planet (probably Ilum) which is similar to Hoth. That is it! Four planets that are not new.

Additionally, the scale of the locations on the planets seems much smaller. Nima outpost on Jakku was puny. I understand that it fits the story, but it doesn’t lend to the Space Opera style of the other movies, like Mos Eisley does on Tatooine.

Granted, The cantina scene on Takodana was filled with many new characters that were very well done, even better done than the original one in Episode 4, but it is only one part of the planet, and we don’t get a sense that the planet is very big.

The “alien marketplace” designs in the “Art of The Force Awakens” seem much more interesting than what we got in this film.

Also, compare the Resistance Bunker on D’Qar to the original Rebel Base on Yavin IV in Episode 4. The Resistance base has an airfield with seemingly not enough ships on it, and a bunker operations center, that seems claustrophobic, even smaller than the headquarters in the ice mountains of Hoth. The Rebel Base in Episode 4 and a feeling of scale, of it being a large indoor hanger inside a huge temple complex, but the base on D’Qar didn’t.

I guess part of the plan with the new Trilogy is to start smaller like Episode 4, then build up to bigger locales and conflicts like the original trilogy did. Maybe this is the reason “The Force Awakens” feels too small for me.

Besides the locations and scale of the film, one of the things I always looked forward to in new Star Wars movies was totally new designs of everything, from space ships, speeders, robots, creatures, buildings etc.

The Force Awakens seems to have less new designs. Many of the visual items in the film are redesigns of classic ones. X-wings fighters, Tie Fighters, and Storm Troopers look almost the same as they did before.

In terms of new spaceships, the new designs for Han and Chewie’s freighter, as well as Leah’s troop carrier really don’t look cool and inspiring at all. Kylo Ren’s shuttle was very cool looking, but it was still very derived from Darth Vader’s shuttle from Episode 6.

Granted, there are some totally new designs in “The Force Awakens”, and these were refreshing. The new Star Destroyer does look cool. The Jakku junkyard was appealing visually, and the new design of a rounder and smaller BB-8 was delightful and cute. But these things weren’t enough to instil deep feelings of wonder and awe in me. Just medium shallow feelings.

So for these reasons above, “The Force Awakens” feels like it doesn’t fit with the other films. It doesn’t feel like an Episode VII to me, more like Episode 1 of a redesigned franchise (like Abrams did with Star Trek).

But having said all of the above, I still loved the film, and look forward to more instalments.

Why “The Force Awakens” is better than what George Lucas could make

Many criticised the prequel episodes I – III as not having the personal charm of the original Star Wars. Trilogy. I agree with this. The characters of Obi-Wan, Padme, and Anakin were fun to watch, but were never as compelling as the original trio of Han, Leia, and Luke.

Poe, Rey, and Finn are wonderfully compelling and fun new characters. Abrams did a good job here, and I am sure this is one of the reasons ”The Force Awakens” is doing so well at the box office. George couldn’t make these kinds of characters in the Prequels.

I especially think that Rey is awesome. She is wonderfully portrayed by Ridley Daisy. She is a complex and likeable character. To see her pilot the Millennium Falcon brought chills down my spine in the way that it totally represented the blending of the old and the new. She is also the first strong Force using lead female character shown in the films, and this is refreshing and inspiring.

Finn was also an excellent new character. He is a new kind, a warrior without necessarily having Force powers. John Boyega’s performance was fresh and magic. His chemistry with Rey was fun to watch. His fierce drive and lively energy did bring a new freshness to the Star Wars universe.

The character of Kylo Ren was also delightful. He is following a reverse Jedi path, trying to resist the temptations of the light side. This is new and very interesting. His sword is the coolest thing since Darth Maul’s double blade. His voice is also really cool.

Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was also well done. Right away with his first meeting of Kylo Ren, he exhibits class and humour in a Star Wars kind of cocky way that was thrilling to watch. It is also neat to see a genius pilot that is not a Force user… or is he?

I also liked the new Storm Troopers. They seemed more dangerous and skilful than the ones in the original films with their nazi like cruelty and more militaristic manner.

So, as proved in “The Force Awakens”, Abrams strengths lie with characters, action, and pacing. He excelled at creating excellent chemistry between the characters and in displaying their unique characteristics. These elements did bring a newness and freshness to the Star Wars universe that was lacking in the prequels.

So in the end, Abrams is better with characters and situations, and Lucas is better at visuals. Too bad they couldn’t have co-directed, and then we would have had the perfect Star Wars.

Filed under: Arts and Entertainment — Brad @ 3:03 am


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