Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By Sati. Saturday, December 26, 2015 , , , , , , ,
 (spoilers!)

I was 10 years old when Phanthom Menace came out. I remember how the toys inspired by the movie were everywhere and everyone was talking about this film. I had not seen this one in the cinema but I did see Attack of the Clones. By the time Revenge of the Sith came out the new trilogy was already such a subject of ridicule I watched it solely for the laughs.

I wish I was born 15 years later or 20 years sooner. It must be so dope to be a kid and grow up with actual good Star Wars films. But what George Lucas tarnished for my generation, the new one is getting thanks to Disney and JJ Abrams. I'm not gonna sit here and lie - this film has one of the least ballsy scripts of the year. It follows the formula of A New Hope, it relies so heavily on nostalgia and it plays everything very safe. But I think this is a small sin comparing to the alternative - Lucas' prequels were no doubt creative. Creative to the point we wanted to rip out our eyeballs and shove them into our ears as plugs, just so we don't have to experience that creativity anymore.

The blessing here is that people can just forget the prequels and focus on the sequels instead. After 32 years we return to the original timeline and we see what happens after the events of Return of the Jedi. We meet a young scavenger Rey (luminous Daisy Ridley), a Storm Trooper gone rogue Finn (John Boyega) and a pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac). When the evil First Order tracks down Poe, he sends crucial info for the Resistance in adorable droid - BB-8. Very soon Rey discovers BB-8, helps him out and soon she meets Finn too. Rey, Finn and BB-8 embark on a journey to return BB-8 to Resistance, all the while escaping from The First Order.
The Force Awakens is incredibly fun. It is not boring for a second, it is easy to follow and it has very likable characters. Abrams is smart to include traits of character that are universally endearing in his main heroes and showing them early on to make sure the audience cares about these people. Poe is brave, Finn does the right thing and Rey is extraordinarily kind. And then we have BB-8. Sorry R2D2, this is the real Miss Universe of droids. When he gave thumbs up the entire audience cheered.

The best thing about the film is its main character - Rey - and Daisy Ridley's lovely performance. Rey is someone we like from the very first moments, someone who is good, noble and brave. She has such innocence to her and the moments when she fangirls over Millennium Falcon and Han Solo were so adorable. I think even Harrison Ford's legendary grumpiness died a little in the face of such childlike, sweet enthusiasm.
This is Ridley's first movie. I have no idea where the casting people found her. Maybe it was Heaven where she hang out with other angels, while riding on unicorns or something? She is so cute and natural in her role here. She has that bite and charm Keira Knightley had in Pirates of the Caribbean, she looks a bit like Keira too, but she has more innocence to her and infinitely better written character.

What is truly impressive is that Ridley sells every single emotion she shows in this movie. Fear, hope, courage - it all rings true. She acts with her face so beautifully - the movie's ending is just fantastic and the magnitude of the events that are happening cannot be denied, but it is in Rey's eyes that you really see the importance of it all. I almost shook myself seeing her raise her hand with saber in it and tremble with tears in her eyes.
John Boyega's Finn and Oscar Isaac's Poe provide the solid support and create a likable trio along with Rey, but Isaac is very underused here. It's actually not so much a trio, like in the old trilogy, but Finn and Rey duo. It is incredibly strange Rey and Poe don't even have a scene together. Hopefully it changes in the next movie. The movie's antagonist is played by Adam Driver, who, given who his character is, is very miscast. Driver is a good actor and he does well here but considering the character's parentage it all seemed quite silly.

Kylo Ren is a good villain. And the film promises some ambiguity here - we know the light is calling to Ren. We also saw the pure anger with which Rey was fighting. I've seen so many theories about how these two will switch sides in next movie. While it would rob Rey of her innocence and I don't think anyone wants to see that, it's good that there is at least some ambiguity to the story here.
The iconic characters from the old trilogy come back, most prominently Harrison Ford as Han Solo. It's apparently not a secret that Ford wanted out of a franchise for a while now, but me not being very familiar with it, I was surprised at the turn of events. I actually only saw the original trilogy for the first time few days before seeing The Force Awakens so I cannot imagine what impact Solo's last scene must have had on die-hard fans. That scene was absolutely heart wrenching, in big part thanks to Chewbacca witnessing it and Rey's agonizing, helpless screams. JJ Abrams doesn't fuck about, does he?

I've seen people bitch about how Leia has no reaction to what happens. I'm not sure if they got out to pee in this very moment or they passed out from seeing one of the most iconic characters in the world of cinema ruthlessly slaughtered, but there is quite a long shot of Leia looking devastated right after Han dies. Do people associate grief and heartbreak solely with yelling and welling? Leia's way of showing grief was perfectly in line with her character whom I actually found to be quite cold while watching the trilogy. So really, that complaint is a strange one.
There are so many actors here who are unrecognizable, masked or even in cameo capacity - Daniel Craig shows up as dickish Storm Trooper and I bet he had more fun doing this than the last 007 movie, Lupita Nyong'o plays a tiny Maz Kanata - who is an awesome character but really you are just so freaked out Academy Award Winner is reduced with CGI to this tiny creature instead of you know, giving her something that she would be recognizable in. And Gwendoline Christie, having survived the atrocious writing of Game of Thrones season 6, shows up as Captain Phasma but she is wearing a helmet the whole time.

Domhnall Gleeson, who was in about 100 movies in 2015, shows up as the general for the Order and basically goes full retard here. I've just seen him deliver beautiful, subtle performance in Brooklyn, but whatever he was trying to do here, he failed in miserably. But I'll say one more thing about acting - in his 30 seconds of screen time I found Mark Hamill to be better than in the previous three films. Combined.
I'm super psyched for the next movie. We have all those characters that were so well established in the movie and I'm interested to see what happens next. But there is one big reason why I believe Episode VIII will be even better than The Force Awakens - it's gonna be directed by Rian Johnson, who has made one of the finest sci-fi movies of the last decade in Looper and directed, in popular opinion, the best Breaking Bad episode in Ozymandias.

I think things will get very dark with Johnson at helm, but that's good. The Force Awakens successfully delivered great entertainment while still containing one of the saddest moment in cinema this year. And in Rey, Finn and Poe we have new characters to root for and have adventures with.

We will meet again soon, my friends.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(2015, 135 min)
Plot: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt (written by), George Lucas (based on characters created by)
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac  

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32 comments:

  1. Great review! I disagree about Driver being miscast, I think he's great. He captures Kylo's internal conflict very well, I think. I look forward to seeing him and Rey duel again. There's so many interesting theories out there about where they will go as characters.

    You're right about Isaac being underused, they talked so much about a new "trio" of characters, but Rey, Finn, and Kylo were the main stars for me.

    What happened to Han was sad, but I think most Star Wars fans saw it coming. We all knew Ford wanted Han to die in ROTJ, and there was enough foreshadowing there so that it wasn't a huge surprise. I'm glad you liked it!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah but does this dude look like something that could have come from Harrison Ford's DNA? That's all I'm saying :)

      I just wish there was more of Poe :(

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  2. Daisy Ridley was the MVP of that film. I love how you mentioned her innocence in the film. One of my favorite moments in the film is where she's eating in the desert all by herself and she puts on a X-wing helmet. I was kinda moved by that because it's so subtle and you didn't need any dialogue to establish who she is and it's a perfect moment in the film for me. I also noticed that one of the things this film has that the prequels didn't have was humor. It was funny as the screening I went to brought in laughs as it made my viewing even more enjoyable. I'm hoping to see it again as it's made me a believer again and I hope Rian Johnson can create a great sequel.

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    1. I think Lucas would like to think prequels had humour too...but let's face it all of it failed. But at least the prequels are unintentionally hilarious

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  3. Great review Sati! I was in a similar situation with regard to Star Wars. I was a very young child when the final Star Wars film came out, 'Return of the Jedi,' so I never got to to see any of the 'Star Wars' films in the theater. I was a young college student in 1999, so the prequels were a little young for me. Although I did go see them in the theaters. With 'The Force Awakens,' I finally feel like I'm seeing a real 'Star Wars' movie in the theaters for the first time. It's been very exciting.

    I loved how Rey was written. She didn't have an ounce of cynicism or bitterness, despite her circumstance. She was also an incredibly competent character. Hollywood script writers typically write competent female characters as being angsty and pissy. Not so here. She was a breath of fresh air.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah Rey just felt so real and noble. I really loved that character but really all of the characters, except maybe Gleeson's, had something going for them. The script played things too safe but they did a very good job with establishing all those new people for the new trilogy

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  4. So true about Mark Hamill's performance...even if it was a five second performance. His -look- gave me straight chills with that heavy, heavy gaze that he knew what he had to re-open and do. Such a spectacular ending, because they easily could have opened the second movie with that scene, but they chose not to. Love the script for that.

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    1. Yeah you could actually feel the weight on Luke's shoulders there. Really good stuff, he was so much better than in OT where he was kinda sorta just there

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  5. Finally saw this. I enjoyed the movie but found it to be in the good, not great category. I think most die hard fans did expect Han to die-but the scene was terrific between Ford and Driver-a son manipulating a father he does not respect and father's one last hope so well portrayed.
    Oscar Issac did a GQ interview where he stated that Poe was supposed to die, that was how the character was pitched to him and after Abrams talked to him, he changed his mind. But that is why Poe was underused and vanished throughout most of the movie.
    Daisy Ridley does not like to be compared to Keira Knightly but I feel like she made such a strong impression here for such a young and untested actress that she did remind me of Knightly in a good way. I don't know why that bothers her but it shouldn't. One of things that I liked about Rey was that she was good hearted, intelligent and intuitive. It would have been easy to write the character as bitter and closed off after being abandoned as a child, but she wasn't.
    John Boyega had a lot of charm. Finn had some of the worst lines but he made them work.
    I agree with you on Domnhall...what the heck was that? I also agree with Courtney about Hamill, he give me chills at the end. Perhaps it won't be such a good thing to find Luke?
    I have a funny feeling that we could be seeing Kylo change sides by the time episode 10 rolls around. But let's hope the same does not hold true for Rey!
    I don't know if you are a Lost fan, but there are two Lost cameos in TFA: Greg Grunberg is a pilot (just like he was in the first episode of Lost) and Ken Leung (Miles) played a Resistance officer. And Thomas Brodie Sangster played a First Order officer. I read that in EW but completely missed him!

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    1. Yeah I read that about Poe as well, I am hoping that he will have much more to do in the next movie, it's a waste of his talent and him not even having one scene with Rey was very odd.

      She really shouldn't mind the comparisons, Keira is a wonderful and very natural actress which is quite a rare thing - her work last year in all of her movies was incredible.

      Domhnhall was really lost. It didn't help that his character was such a major cliche, I wonder why they even had that character in the movie.

      I did see LOST cameos but I also missed Jojen :)

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  6. PS: Forgot to add, great review!

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  7. "This is Ridley's first movie. I have no idea where the casting people found her. Maybe it was Heaven where she hang out with other angels, while riding on unicorns or something? She is so cute and natural in her role here."

    Yes! Great review! This one really worked well for me too. So looking forward to the future of this franchise.

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  8. Ridley was EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And you are so right about the fact that this was NEVER boring. The pacing here is insanely on point. The story is a bit too familiar, but you don't care in the moment because it has such natural flow.

    And poor Nyong'o. I read that she lobbied for a much larger role that was intended for episode VII and so she passed on a slew of other films she was offered and then they cut the role from this film, moving the character to episode VIII and so she had to settle for a small, CGI role while now Gugu Mbatha-Raw is getting the larger role in the next film.

    Ouch.

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    1. It's messed up that Lupita was not even there but the character was very fun! Ridley stole the show, though.

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  9. Fantastic review! This was the first ever Star Wars film I ever saw in a cinema, so the whole experience was just wonderful. Rey, Finn, and Poe are such great new characters all played by fantastic actors, while I thought the villains could have been fleshed out better (the actors were good though). Plus, I wanted more Lupita. Still, it was great seeing Han, Leia, Chewie, and the robots back. This was just such an enjoyable experience.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah enjoyable is the best way to describe this movie, really very good fun but I'd love for Ridley to get some accolades for her acting here

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  10. Great review but you just to open with "I was 10 years old when Phanthom Menace came out." Can you possible make some of us feel any older? ;)

    I loved this movie even more the second time I saw it. I loved the new cast members and the old friends. Daisy Ridley is freaking awesome. Loved what she brought to the character. And I actually really went for Driver. I think his main thing is weakness. He is trying so desperately hard to be someone and something he is not. He fails multiple times. He wears a mask for the sole purpose of looking and sounding menacing. I really did like that conflict.

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    1. Oh it's worse for women. Near 30 is basically like 60 for a man :P

      He was good but I just cannot forgive him for what he hes done. This is some major shit. i don't know how he could redeem himself

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  11. Awesome review Margaret! You highlighted a lot of the points I like about this film, mainly Ridley which was a casting feat and her character is intriguing. "I think even Harrison Ford's legendary grumpiness died a little in the face of such childlike, sweet enthusiasm." Ahah yes indeed, though Han's curmudgeon attitude is what's fun about him. She does look a lot like Keira but without the annoying toothy-grin and she's got that refreshingly innocence that's not at all put-on.

    Yeah, Driver looks nothing like Ford nor Fisher it's hilarious! But hey, he's got nice hair :P I am curious to see what Rian Johnson will bring to the next film, I think a darker tone would be welcomed by fans. I hope they give Oscar Isaac more to do as well.

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    1. Oh yeah his hair was definitely flawless :) But seriously I just couldn't get past that he is supposed to be Han and Leia's son and looks nothing like either of them

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  12. Great review, Sati! You know, I was 8 when The Phantom Menace was released, but I was lucky enough to have watched Special Edition of the original trilogy in circa 1997 or 1998. It really gave tremendous impact to my admiration to Star Wars.

    Well, I definitely like Adam Driver here; he might not look like Han or Leia, but behind or without mask, he's still that troubled youth. And you know, Kylo Ren makes my favorite Star Wars character now (after Han Solo)!

    Really hope Rian Johnson knows what to do with Episode VIII, which I think would be the most pivotal.

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    1. Thank you! Oh that is lucky! I wish I saw the original trilogy sooner

      I think Han Solo is my favorite along with Rey :)

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  13. I just loved everything about Rey. Ridley too. If Episode VIII is all about her continuing journey with Luke, I'll be so happy! Great review Sati, good to see you loved it just as much as I did!

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    1. Thank you so much! Ridley really is the new sweetheart isn't she?:D

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  14. Great review!

    You didn't mention one thing that I personally found to be the best aspect of the film after Rey and her caharcter and that's the score.

    I fell in love with it and may even say it might be the best of the seven. I especially loved The Scavenger, The Starkiller, Torn Apart, Farewell and the Trip, and The Jedi Steps and Finale.

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    1. Thank you! I actually saw a lot of people complain about the score, which I found to be good as in other parts of the franchise. I'll need to give it a proper listen, though on it's own.

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  15. This is the first time I went through your review, outstanding stuff Sati. I thought the movie was excellent too. I also think the ANH Rehash thing is old, there's a ton of stuff that's different. I mean Lucas repeated the Death Star business in ROTJ. There's going to be some superweapons in that galaxy.

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    1. Thank you! I think Rian will make sure the next part is more original and unique, at least I hope so

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  16. Lovely review! I loved the film too, and Ridley arguably delivers THE breakout performance of the year. Can't wait for Episode VIII!

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    1. They fucked over my expectations with Han probably not being in that :/

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