Star Wars the Force Awakens review … with and without spoilers

I’m going to write the first half of this review spoiler free, and then the second half will be just loaded with spoilers and near random conjecture on the next two movies.  If you are planning on seeing it, and are like me and don’t want to be influenced at all before you see it, then don’t read this.  I always find that when you read a bunch of spoiler free reviews or hear a bunch of headlines that say a movie is either really good or really bad it can really affect your enjoyment.  Instead of going into those movies with a clean slate, you instead go in tying to compare it to the rating you have come up with in your mind.

I heard mad max fury road was amazing, and when I saw it I was underwhelmed.  I heard National Lampoons Vacation with Ed helms tanked, I was really surprised with how much I liked it when I went and saw it.

What i’m trying to say is… go see the movie.  If you are going to see it in the next couple days or couple weeks.  Just skip this.  If you are going to wait a few weeks or a month to see it, then I doubt what I say in the spoiler free section will have much impact.

Either way, if you are going to see it, and haven’t yet, don’t read the spoilers section.  That’s lame and you are robbing yourself of a few surprises.

So… here we go with the spoiler free review…

I went and saw The Force Awakens Thursday night at the 11:00 pm showing.  There was an early showing, well several really, starting at 7:00 that featured a ton of people dressed up in all manner of Star Wars themed garb.  That’s fine. I’m a nerd, and I appreciate that stuff, but I don’t want too be in a movie theater full of those people.  The 11:00 pm showing had a hand full which is just fine for me.

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none looked like that… i know i should find a star wars cosplay image, but look, this is what google image search gave me when I typed in “cosplay” and now I’m in love

I know I might sound like a hypocrite since I am a huge nerd, but there is something about cosplay that doesn’t involve hot ladies in skin tight outfits that just reeks of sadness and desperation.  If I think of it logically of course, I know the exact opposite is true. Those people are full of joy and are comfortable in their skin and environment.  I just know that if I dressed up, I’d feel way too self conscious, and I project a lot of my shortcomings on other people. But enough of the self diagnosis, let’s talk about the movie.

I want to say something where I would use the phrase “It wasn’t a perfect move..” but I think that would give off the wrong impression.  Usually when someone says that, they aren’t talking about a movie that they ever had any thoughts of it being perfect.  Usually the phrase is used on a movie like Jurassic World or the next James Bond movie.  With those movies there is a lot of expectation and excitement, but at no point do you really expect or even hope for it to be perfect.  For a new star wars movie, that is the unrealistic bar that some people have in their heads.  So when I say it “wasn’t a perfect movie” understand that I think of this star wars movie the same way I would think of an all time great athlete. Tom Brady isn’t the greatest athlete ever, but holy shit is he fantastic. He maybe isn’t the best QB ever, but I would never turn down an opportunity to have him on my team.

I may be mixing metaphors, so let me try to be a little more concrete while still not delivering any spoilers.

I had a few fears going into this movie, a lot of the stemming from the prequels.  I was afraid they would shoe horn in references and connections to the other movies where they weren’t needed and were actually distracting.  I was afraid it would pander.  I was afraid it wouldn’t have the right feel.  I was afraid it would over explain, and leave no mystery.  I was afraid it would feel like fan fiction, or worse yet, like a reboot from someone who didn’t love the source material.  I was afraid there would be no sense of wonder.

I’m happy to say that all of my fears were unfounded.  Yes it isn’t perfect, and maybe there is a better star wars movie out there that could have been made, but here is the important thing; THIS IS A STAR WARS MOVIE!!!

That is something I could never say about the prequels. When I watched those movies, to me,  it had a completely different feel from the original trilogy. This movie feels like a natural extension.  Best of all, that extension isn’t obvious.

One of the things I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t pick up 30 years after return of the Jedi with all the characters where you expected them. That’s not how real life works, and it was brave for the makers of The Force Awakens, to not just go with the obvious scenarios.  I’m sure if you asked fans of the original trilogy, what would have happened to each character, 90% would not have guessed accurately with any of the main characters.

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That isn’t to say that what was done was a departure and out of character.  It was just unexpected, which is good. The choices they made help create a rich backstory, that is mysterious, honest, dynamic, and intriguing.

Speaking of the intrigue, I love that the new characters seem to fit in perfectly with the Star Wars universe but are still unique unto themselves.  Each one has a bit of mystery, and the fact that they didn’t come out and give the complete history of each new character through forced dialogue should be commended.

As far as the winks and nods to the original trilogy… there weren’t any winks or nods in my opinion. Everything that could have come across in a wink or nod fashion really just felt like it was at home in this star wars universe of movies. When you are watching a TV show like Breaking Bad or the Shield, and something happens in season 3 that relates back to something in season 1, you don’t think to your self “Oh isn’t that a cute little thing they put in for the fans of season 1.”  No, that’s just how natural story telling is done.  Now when you have a TV show like Castle (which I’ve never actually watched) and the titular character is played by the same guy who was the main protagonist in Firefly, dressing him up as his Firefly character on Halloween episodes and having him say that he is dressed up as a “space Cowboy”, is a totally fun little wink to people who watched that other completely different unrelated show.

Maybe I’m over explaining what I consider to be a wink and a nod and why they fit in some mediums and stories, and not in others. My point is, anything referencing the original trilogy, never takes you out of the moment like a wink and a nod moment would.  I know the term “organic” is overused, but I think it applies with this movie in many ways.

Pretty soon I am going to have to talk about specifics that are also spoilers, but one of the things I wanted to mention before I get to that is that I loved the locations and settings and sets.  I know I am beating a dead… horse, I’m not going to say bantha or tantan or jarjar, look I’m not that much of a nerd and that is cheesy. So yea, I’m not trying to beat a dead horse when I compare things to the stuff I disliked in the the prequels, but man the look and feel of this movie is so on point.  I hated how polished and sterile so much of episodes I, II, and III looked.  There was no grit and grime, and I guess the stories were supposed to take place somewhere that was suppose to be elegant before the ravages of war took their toll.  Still, having what looked like real sets, with limited CGI, with more rust than chrome, gave it all the right feel.

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Ok Now I’m Going to Get Into The Spoilers.

So…..

SPOILERS!!!!!

GO BACK IF YOU DON’T WANT ANYTHING SPOILED

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This section is going to be more linear, and starts with the opening crawl.  Honestly, most of the crawls in the past have done almost nothing to set up the movie outside of the first one.  I guess wit this movie you still don’t need it, but seeing the line about Luke being missing really connected with me.  Maybe that’s because there were a lot of rumors about Kylo Ren being Luke, but I was trying to convince myself all week that those rumors were BS so that if it did happen I would still be surprised. (yes we will get to all that later).

The first scene where poe gives bb8 secret information to keep safe before the empire captures him kind of made me feel uneasy. It wasn’t bad, but i was just kind of worried that since it was basically the same set up as a new hope that the rest of the movie would be like this. Turns out it wasn’t, but i’ll admit to some trepidation.

The Introduction of Kylo Ren freezing blaster fire in mid air was a pretty bad ass way to introduce him.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about him being a knock off Darth Vader, but now that I know some of his back story, it is clear he is not a knock off in terms of the film makers trying to intimidate what has worked before, but instead we have Kylo as an almost king joffrey type character. Not a perfect analogy, but I think anyone who has seen both things will kind of understand what I am getting at.  It was great watching Kylo transition within the film to this Vader like badass, and into a wannabe almost poser whose warped misguided hero worship/obsession makes him seem sympathetic only because his motivations seem sad and pathetic.   He seems like a teenager who as an adult was an outcast and latched on to something that he could claim as his own, mostly because everyone else saw it as evil, but he liked it because whatever it was is an outcast like what he imagined he was in his mind.

I should really retype that last couple of sentences so it is more coherent, but i’m not going to.  How about this.  Kylo Ren is a sad emo kid grown up and with power that has corrupted him.

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Let’s just get to the first of what I felt were the two big moments with him. First, the reveal by the supreme leader that he is in fact Han and Leia’s kid. That kind of stunned me.  I knew the general outline of some of the post Return of the Jedi comics and paper back books, and this is kind of a departure, although it may borrow some elements as well.

We will get to the other big thing that happened with Kylo, but lets get back to the rest of the movie, and talk about the two other main characters, Fin and Rey. In the previews I assumed Rey was Han and Leia’s kid, and maybe she is.  They put a ton of work into making her seem like Han with all the stuff happening on the falcon, and she obviously has the force like Leia’s side of the family does. Still, is she Han and Leia’s kid?  Is she Kylo Ren’s sister.

We don’t know what caused Kylo to go to the dark side, and I’m guessing it had something to do with her.  Yes they say that the supreme leader corrupted Kylo, but there has to be more to it.

As the movie went on, I was getting more convinced that she was Kylo’s brother, but all that changed at the very end of the movie when she tracked down Luke and handed him the lightsaber that he lost back on bespin. I really think that she is Luke’s daughter, and that she was hidden away on jukku just like he was hidden away on Tatooine. Maybe her arrival caused Kylo’s spiral into jealousy at the Jedi Academy when Luke was trying to rebuild the Jedi knights.

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I hate myself for having read all of these

I think the biggest hint that she is his daughter is that her introduction as his child would fit perfectly with that voice over that sounds like Luke that was in the one teaser that talks about how the force is strong in his family.

BTW, that speach wasn’t in the movie.  There are a few little things that were in the previews that weren’t in the movie.  Also not in the movie; Luke doing anything other than standing on a mountain top and slowly turning towards the camera.  That’s all he did in this movie. I’m ok with it though.  This is a trilogy and I like the idea of a slow burn with his character.  This movie was really all about Han and that was awesome.

Before we get to Han and his big moment in this movie, let’s talk about Fin since he is the other new character that really shines and takes center stage.

Having him be so like-able and funny, while at the same time mysterious and almost selfish was a real feat to pull off. I’m amazed at how much I rooted for his character while at the same time also thinking “That guy is hiding something”.  I heard a wild theory that he might be a clone or decendant of Mace Windu.  I just don’t think that is true.  It would be cool, but more in a fan fiction way than in a real big time star wars movie kind of way.  I really hop that doesn’t turn out to be the case.

Speaking of mysterious new characters, the tiny lady who knows about the force but isn’t a jedi, and had luke’s lightsabre and had those giant glasses… what’s up with her.  I have a feeling she was Yoda’s home slice or something.  There has to be something to her beyond just what was in this movie.  Hopefully she survived and will be coming back.  In the same vein, I’m excited to find out more about the Supreme leader. Maybe it would be cool if it turns out he is a character from one of the previous movies, but they would have to be very careful with that. If done right it could be cool. If done wrong it would be sooooooo dumb. Like Jengo Fett is the main clone for all the storm troopers dumb.  I think he is somehow connected to Luke and the Jedi training and Kylo and that he looks all fucked up because of whatever falling out there was.

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Not going to lie, I also wondered about how cool it might be if Jar Jar was Snoke.

Anyways, moving on, The rest of the movie is great and doesn’t need a lot of dissection really except for the showdown between Han and his son.

Seriously… don’t read this if you don’t want spoilers.

just go find something else on the internet to keep you busy.

There’s thechive.com

or theonion.com

I’m a big fan of uproxx.com

Or if you hadn’t heard, the new season of serial launched a couple weeks ago so go check that out. I think the website is serialpodcast.com

But if you are ready for huge spoilers here we go.

The moment Han walked towards that bridge I knew he was dead in the same way I knew Ned Stark was dead as soon as Joffrey gave him the executioner the order to kill him.  There is enough time inetween the deciding moment and the act itself that you are able to think of a thousand scenarios where the person you love will live.  But you also know that everyone of those thousand scenarios is a cop out and that the film maker wouldn’t have done a great job up to this point and then written themselves into a position where they had to use a terrible cop out.

Here’s the part that really got to me. I think Han didn’t call him Ren. I think he called him Ben. Like, his name was Ben, and maybe that was Han naming him after Obi Wan Kenobi.  I have no idea. Maybe I misheard it, but when I heard what I think was “Ben” it was magical.  I can’t explain why, but something about it was perfect. It was great that Han had a name to call him that wasn’t the one being used by everyone else. That it was something a father could call a son. It was a name that was a reference that didn’t seem too obvious.  If he had named the kid Lando, for instance, or anakin, it wouldn’t have felt right.  Naming his son Ben was just so god damn perfect.

I don’t know if Han’s death at his son’s hand was perfect, but damn did it get to me. It wasn’t really overly sad, but it just made me realize, that these guys made a real movie. Obi Won died in the first movie. yoda dies in the third movie.  Star wars isn’t a movie franchise where everyone you like lives. People die. There are real stakes. Good job J. J.

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No, that’s not how he died. It was via lightsaber.

I could go on, but it is late and I have to get some work done. I’m about 2 hours behind schedule right now cause I love talking / writting / typing about this movie.  I’m sure I will have follow up posts after my next visit to the theater to see The Force Awakens. I put the over under on the number of times I see it in the theater at 4.  Seems kind of low honestly.

later.

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