Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pass The Popcorn: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - A review with few spoilers



It was difficult staying away from all the social media spoilers that were popping up from the day of the Premiere until Thursday night when Kristina, Sarah, Michael and I hit the AMC Theater (La Jolla 12) for a 10:50pm showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Despite an embargo on reviewers requested by Disney for 24 hours, there were still things going around, plus the usual conjecture.  The only review I read, since I can trust him not to give things away, was the one by Leonard Maltin.  After seeing the film myself I could see that he pegged it.

I'll try not to throw in any major spoilers, but if you are still one of those who haven't seen the film yet, you might want to skip this until you have.  Otherwise, don't complain to me!

Happy was I that the film opened with the Lucas logo and then the scroll we have all come to expect.  I had told Kristina that if there wasn't a scroll I was going to walk out.  Probably an overstatement, but it wouldn't be Star Wars if we didn't see those words spreading before us. We hear the music of John Williams and we are transported (Can we say that about a non-Star Trek film?) to that galaxy far, far away.

We get desert planets, lush jungles and bars filled with the worse scum in the galaxy. More stormtroopers then we have ever seen before and an evil guy in a mask. All things we wanted and that were hinted at in the trailers.  We see characters we have grown to love over decades and get introduced to some new heroes and villains we will learn to love and hate over the course of at least two more films.  It is both an introduction and a reminder of worlds we have known in a lot of forms since 1977.

We meet Rey, a young woman making a living by foraging the broken technology from the ruins of ships and machines abandoned over the years. We get to see FN-2187, a member of the First Order taken from his family as a child and trained to be a stormtrooper. Never in actual battle before, he witnesses the brutality of those he serves for the first time and finds that he can not follow the orders he is given.  Poe Dameron, a member of the Rebel Alliance and one of their best pilots, finds himself captured, but is able to enrust an important piece of information to his droid, BB8 before he is taken away.  We also are introduced to Kylo Ren, a mysterious masked figure whose goal is to follow in the footsteps of Darth Vader.

Along the way we get to meet some old friends, some of whom have gone their separate paths.

There is a meme going around that if you've seen STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE you've pretty much seen this film. A bit of an exaggeration but one can see some similarities.  We do have Rey following in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker, as she seeks revenge for what has happened to her life at the hands of the Empire.  Lightsaber battles, ariel dog fights over a planet and the danger of a super-weapon.  Still J.J. Abrams and his team have taken those elements, added some new ones and brought back the Star Wars that many of us thought we would never see again, after those prequels.

I hate to rank my favorite Star Wars films, since each of the three original ones hold such great memories.  It's hard to judge them simply as films at this point. George Lucas created with them an entire universe which has become embedded in our culture.  I can't think of any other film franchise, excepting perhaps Star Trek that has gone from entertainment into almost a religion for some folks.

This is not a great film, but it is a good movie and reminded me of why I have loved these characters and this universe from my introduction in '77. (Okay, to be honest it was actually in '76, when I saw a presentation for what was to come at the San Diego Comic-Con of that year.)  I'm glad to see everyone back and I'm already looking forward to all that Disney/Lucas has in store for us.

Do yourself a favor and see the film, if haven't already.  It will remind you why you fell in love with this world years ago.
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