(Spoilers) Star Wars : The Force Awakens – Review + Rant

Review:

Star Wars Episode VII

The Force Awakens

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WARNING: There will be spoilers in this article. If you have not seen Star Wars : The Force Awakens, and do not want it spoiled, I advise you to save this article in your favorites, and come back after you’ve watched it. If you don’t care about spoilers, then, well, you do you.

I also go on a rant refuting a few of the negative and ridiculous points I’ve seen since the movie came out.  Read on to find out.

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Not very long ago, on a planet we’re all familiar with, a torch was passed, and a franchise was saved.

There are a ton of great things I have to say about the new Star Wars movie. It lived up to the hype in more than a few ways, and has set a new bar for the franchise to leap off of. The story is now in motion for a brand new trilogy, and it seems like it’s going to be as good a ride as the originals were.

First, let’s get the peeves out of the way. There aren’t many. But there is one tiny, but meaningful plot point I want to go over. And this is me just being finicky.

But…um….why is Luke’s old saber blue?

Now, now, before you go all ape-shit, and tell me ‘It’s in his family lineage!’ – I know the history of the blue saber.

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It belonged to Anakin Skywalker, who built the saber himself during the test to become a Jedi Padawan – a standard ritual for all training Jedi. It was then kept by Obi-wan Kenobi, A.K.A Ben Kenobi, while he watched over Luke on the planet of Tatooine, after Anakin turned to the dark side. Later, after Luke suffers the loss of his Aunt and Uncle by the Empire, Obi-wan presents Anakin’s saber to Luke, and begins training him in the ways of the force.

Ok. That was the blue light saber which Anakin built and owned when he fought on the side of the Jedi Order.

But it doesn’t belong in Force Awakens. It doesn’t even belong in Return of the Jedi (and it’s not in return of the Jedi).

Why is that?

Because that blue saber was lost in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes back, when Luke’s hand is cut off by Vader during their battle in Cloud City. It falls down through the clouds (along with Luke’s hand), and is never to be seen again. This is shown as being a crucial development, as Luke is forced to craft his own light saber in Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (much like any training Jedi would have under the guidance of the old council).

This is the same saber he uses to cut off the hand of his father during their final battle on the new Deathstar. The same saber he carries out with him, and is shown with him in all the games and books that were created out of the franchise.

This new saber is green, as it was built with a different crystal. The blue one, as I said, is long gone by this point.

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So why wasn’t it the green saber inside the chest of Luke’s belongings?

I understand the point of flashbacks for Rey, but that is a plot hole that threw me off. If I’m wrong, and somehow that blue light-saber had survived, let me know in the comments below.

But if the saber is lost, and the wrong one was in the chest, it does throw things off. If it had been the green saber, she would only have seen Luke’s memories. Instead, she also saw a bit of Anakin’s, since both of them wielded the blue saber. But the saber is supposed to be gone, so she shouldn’t have seen Anakin’s memories. There may even be another problem in the plot caused by the saber change, one that depends on those flashbacks to Anakin, but I have to see the movie again to be sure. You only get so much from one viewing.

I think that really is the only peeve. When I watch it again, I may find one more, but overall, I doubt it.  J.J Abrams did an amazing job continuing the story, and any plot holes that could be found are miniscule, and would be hard to catch; much like my peeve about the saber color.

Now, what was awesome about Force Awakens?

Well, any writer or creator will tell you that a good story is merely the sum of its parts, put together in the correct combination in order to resonate with the audience; all while weaving a tangible plot with new and unique story arcs.

Here are some of the parts that I think made Force Awakens so good.

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The dialogue was real As real as a PG-13 rated movie can be. By that, I mean the swearing was obviously cut down, and sometimes that ruins the reality of a movie. Force Awakens did not suffer from this issue, despite the lack of realistic cursing. The dialogue remained unique to the character, and the reactions were realistic and emotional. Nothing in the script really jumped out as seeming too cliché, or inappropriate.

 Han Solo saying “I got a bad feeling about this,” or Leia saying “May the force be with you,” hardly counts as cliché.  Those are just Easter Eggs, and the only lines I could find that were even close to being cliché.  Who knows, though? I may find more in my second go-around. I’m just saying that the dialogue seemed real.

 

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Equal Screen Time between the Light and the DarkI’m guessing that it’s equal. I haven’t broken it down the two hours to be sure on that, but it seems like a fair statement. They often switch from Rey and Finn, back to Kylo Ren and The First Order, keeping up a nice alternation so you aren’t getting bored with one character. This provides a ton of opportunity to show that Kylo Ren is not your run-of-the-mill villain, and that Rey and Finn are not your average cardboard cut-out protagonists.

In Kylo Ren’s case, the film shows a lot of inner conflict, as he battles the pull of the light side. At the same time, he tries to maintain the intimidating image of the most powerful warrior in the galaxy. When he is deciding whether or not to kill his father, you can see the conflict painted on Kylo’s face. He even points this out in a whispering sob, when he says: “I’m torn in two.”

That’s poor paraphrasing on my part, but you get the point. He puffs out his chest a lot, but on the inside, Kylo Ren is a broken man, unsure of himself and who he is, and it seems his aspirations revolve around proving himself. Perhaps Luke held him back while training him, and that’s why he revolted, but who knows. It would be a bit of a rip-off from Anakin’s origin, but the poetry might be nice. Who knows? We will find out more in Episode 8.

The movie also reveals that Kylo is still learning the ways of the dark side, which makes him more intriguing. If he was an all powerful Jedi like Darth Vader had been in Episode 4, the room for character development would not seem as possible. It’s nice to see the villain grow as a warrior and as a person, and the same goes for Rey and Finn.

With Rey and Finn, you saw this same kind of character development right from the beginning, especially when it comes to Finn. The first scene incites empathy within the first few seconds of meeting Finn. It’s also the first time (in the movie universe) that we ever see the Storm-troopers as real people, and not as the mindless drones of the Empire. Then, when Finn meets Poe, the charisma and chemistry between the two make you care about their future friendship, and it introduces Poe character with ease.

It’s amazing, because it really doesn’t take long to do this, but the great acting, coupled with decent dialogue, made it possible.

With Rey, you see her go from being a bit tough and closed up, to connecting and caring about people for the first time in a long time. The movie hints towards Rey’s past, giving the audience a bit of mystery that draws you to her character. As the movie slowly progresses, it becomes easier and easier to speculate on what secrets her past holds, without confirming anything. Rey’s story alone would be enough to carry me to the next movie. It’s not the only thing that will be pulling me, but it would do it all by itself it that was the only endearing quality. They left me wanting more Rey.

Back to the point: I don’t think this could have been done without a proper amount of screen-time on both sides of the story. It gave you a full view of things, without throwing it all in your face at once, which is one of the things that made this movie so good. It left you with a lot of strings to tie up in the next movie, and each one of those is just as vibrant and well threaded as the one beside it.

 

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Great Casting I’m not going to lie. When I first saw that the movie would be using brand new actors, and that Disney had the reigns, I was a bit nervous. Not because I didn’t believe they could do it – I’ve seen some amazing new actors coming out in the past few years that I have been delightfully surprised with. I was afraid that with everything riding on this movie, that perhaps they might crack under the pressure, or that something just wouldn’t be done as good as it should have been. All the hype and fandom would prove to be too much, and the movie would be the same as the prequels.

 I think it’s a fear that quite a few people had. Like going to get your car fixed by a mechanic you’ve never met before. You’re confident that they will do a good job, but you’re still a bit nervous about going there for the first time.

But I am pleased to say that Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver, all did superb jobs portraying their characters. Everyone did, but the reason I mention these three is because they were the only ones I hadn’t seen or heard of before. In fact, they took the cake over old favorites like Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, or Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fischer. Both who are respected, experienced, and very talented in their craft, but it seems like the new generation of actors really took the show.

Finn’s character (played by John Boyega) never lost pace for a minute. Always on point, and it never seemed like, well, like he wasn’t Finn – the Finn we started the movie with. His acting was on par with the character development, and nothing seemed forced or out of place.

The very same can be said for Rey, who was played by Daisy Ridley. The solitude of her character was portrayed immediately, and the soft side came gradually as we revealed more about her past alongside her. Once again, nothing seemed forced or out of place. Her reaction to seeing a new lush green world was real and inspired awe. It made me want to drink in the settings for a long time, and take it in the same way that she is.  That’s what acting should be, and Daisy Ridley had no problem inspiring emotion in the audience.

And a person should drink in the settings and cinematography of this movie. They did a great job with them, which is the next point on the list. Before that, though, let’s talk about Kylo Ren.

You meet Kylo within the first five minutes of the movie, when they raid a village on Jakku. At first, he is intimidating as hell, more so (my personal opinion) than Vader was in Episode 4. But this has a lot to do with Kylo’s character, which is why I appreciate the performance by Adam Driver so much in this film. It was, just as with Rey and Finn, realistic and consistent.

To give some examples, Kylo actually demonstrates his power, where as when Vader first appears in Episode 4, you only see how intimidating he is by the reaction of pure fear from the Storm-troopers around him – combined with the dead bodies Vader nonchalantly walked over.

In the first impression of Kylo, you see him stop a laser blast in mid-air with the force, and hold it for a decent amount of time while he is deliberating with Poe. You also get to see him use the cross-saber within the first two minutes of meeting him, as he strikes down Max Von Sydow’s character, Lor San Tekka’. The first confrontation piles on some emotional weight, while hinting to Kylo’s family and past, and it does a great job of pulling you in.

The lack of hesitation reveals how intimidating he looks on the outside. Walking around among dead and dying people, while watching his men slaughter more, is much the same as Vader in Episode 4. But with all the actions that come around that small detail, I think Kylo’s first scene was more intimidating than Vader’s.

The scenes that break down the intimidating side of Kylo, are the scenes where he is alone. This is something we rarely ever saw with Vader in the old trilogy. There are a few scenes, yes, but nothing as deep as with Kylo Ren. You get to see both sides of Kylo Ren, and get more into his inner thoughts. You see that the evil exterior is merely a charade he wishes to be true. His true nature begins to bleed into outward as the story develops, and he continues to fight the pull of the light – ultimately going to the dark side when he chooses to kill his Father.

This kind of duality can be difficult to portray, and Adam Driver did a good job in making it obvious in his manner and acting talents. It certainly wasn’t like Natalie Portman screaming “Anakin! You’re breaking my heart!” in Episode 3, when her voice, and the circumstances should be enough.

You may hate Kylo Ren for killing Han Solo, but you can’t lie, the acting was damn good while they did it. At least Han died with honor in that respect. I mean…he could have died in a movie of the same quality as the prequels, so at least there is a bright side here.

As for Kylo being more intimidating than Vader…not completely. Mainly in that first scene; bred from Kylo’s zeal to prove himself.

And, if we could have seen more of Vader in the original trilogy, perhaps he wouldn’t be as intimidating as he was. It was the helmet that hid his emotions, and the mystery of his character that made you fear him.

 

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The setting…My gods the setting…– Everything in the setting of this movie was done intricately, and beautifully. The worlds were unique, with background pieces and little Easter Eggs from the past generations hidden around any random corner – connecting you with the history, and reminding you of how much depth this universe has.

The music was the same, and just as emphatic and encompassing as it had been in the original trilogy. Bringing back John William’s orchestra was a huge part in recreating the atmosphere of the Star Wars universe. It was hit on all the right points, was never overdone, and there were a few times it sent a chill up my spine.

The shots are more than just memorable. I will never forget the image of tie fighters coming in with the sun behind them; turning them in to moving shadows on the horizon. It was a powerful image, and there are many like it in this movie.

I could go on and on about the setting – Hell, I could go on and on about the movie. But I won’t. I don’t expect this review to be spoiler-free, but I also won’t reveal a whole lot about the plot. I will let you decide and analyze the rest for yourself, and we can always leave it up to discussion in the comments.

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Now…for the rant:

Unfortunately, yes, there is something I have to say that is pissing me off about this movie. And it didn’t really come from Disney. It came from a disgruntled audience. I’m not talking about Carrie Fischer’s weight gain – personally I don’t really care much about that. Trolls will be trolls, and though I think Fischer could have handled things better when those trolls came out, it’s not something I really care much about.

But there are a couple complaints I’ve heard from people that I am conflicted on. First, that Disney was pushing a female lead for arbitrary reasons (though, I’m not entirely sure that’s even the case), and second, that they pushed a minority cast for the same arbitrary reasons. Oh…and third: that they were pushing mixed-race relations.

I’m going to be frank. I did not even think about it while watching the movie, and that is saying something. I’m often over analyzing media, and trying to break down everything to see what it’s made of. This way, I can get a better idea of the message, and learn something that could help me in my own creative endeavors. I don’t let my analysis go to any crazy conspiratorial lengths – but I use my skepticism and logic in the analysis to grasp the overall concept of things, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. I try to figure out what the writer was thinking when they created the story, so I can get to the real skeletal structure of it.

If I do this, then why didn’t I think about race or gender during this movie?

It’s quite simple. It didn’t matter to me. I like Rey because she is a strong character, with a lot of development and a mysterious background. I do not like her because she has female genitals. I liked Finn not because he was black, but because, once again, he was a strong character, had amazing chemistry with Rey and Poe, and if they got into a romantic relationship (Poe or Rey), I’d be happy for Finn. Either way it swings (if Poe swings that way), they seem like they’d make a nice happy couple, and it may add some tension later on. Do I care that it’s interracial, or possibly homosexual?

Not in the slightest. I care that the story is good, the acting is good, and the movie is good.

The reason I bring this up, is because I want those of you who pointed these ‘problems’ out to really look at yourselves. Look at what you’re becoming. And trust me, I know what you’re mad about, and I am a bit mad about the same thing – mainly because I find the main idea ridiculous. The PC crowd has entered into the entertainment industry, and there undeniable issues with that regarding censorship and free speech, among a plethora of other things.

Companies should not be giving roles based solely on gender and race politics. They should not be forcing PC down our throats. It wrecks the integrity of the system, and is far more prejudice, than not putting an emphasis on it at all. It says to them that they need to be coddled to, and given those positions not based on their accomplishments, but on what they are born with.  That is an incredibly condescending point of view to put on anybody.

That said, the companies are doing it anyways. And pointing it out by blasting them on Twitter, and going on racist rants, isn’t going to help the matter. It only makes it worse.

As I said, I didn’t even think about it until I heard people on Twitter and Facebook whining about it. I loved the acting and the characters, and that should be all the audience is focusing on. Let the industry do as it does, and when you write or create something, you can do as you do. Screaming about it only adds to the problem, because it shows that there IS a racial and gender issue. The sheer fact that you pointed those things out as problems, and to some of you it wrecked the whole experience, shows that there is some racism ingrained in your heads.

Not to mention the hypocrisy behind it. For some of you, this is an argument of free speech. Well, what about Disney’s free speech? They may be a corporation, but damn it, they have every right in the world to cast who they want, in whatever they want. If you go and pay them money to see the movie, they will not care either way. But demanding, or trying to boycott them, infringes on their free speech.

When you make something, you cast whoever or whatever you want. Cast a fucking fichus plant for all I care. But don’t tell other people what they can and cannot put in their movies. And the same goes for Disney, or any other big corporation forcing their ways into writer’s heads on the grounds of political correctness.

The same goes for everyone. Let’s just say that. Everyone should respect the free speech of another person, whether they like what is being said or not. .And it goes all ways, to all extremes, and to all view points. You can combat the free speech you don’t like, with more speech, but never try to censor it.

One more thing, because I need to clarify my position, I am not defending any company’s choice to discriminate and hire on ethnic or gender roles. But there are labor laws that deal with that if there is any real problem in certain industries. Yes, you have to put the time in and debate, go to court, deal with legal fees – but there is a system for it. In others, it’s a bit more of a blurry picture, and it needs to be dealt with better in those areas. Actually, it could be dealt with easier in all areas, but discrimination in labor and employment is a larger issue that doesn’t just revolve around the entertainment industry. But it is unfortunate that discrimination is definitely tougher to get around if you’re in entertainment. That comes with being in the public space, and having to take on different roles that suit certain characters.

In cases of things like Harry Potter, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower movie adaptation, I am entirely against the fact that they ARE using gender and race politics to choose their actors, and it screws up the consistency of the original story. Especially in the case of the new Harry Potter play, where people that have been used to Hermione being played by Emma Watson, have to get used to not only another actress, but a new skin color and character portrayal as well.

For instance, if she’s black, then her parents must be black too. This means they came from African descent, and could mean an entirely different lineage and history, which would affect her personality, her traditions, along with other cultural influences that DO come with skin color.

But that’s not the big point. The point is: it changes an already established story. If this was the early 2000’s, and the first movie hadn’t come out yet, then it would be fine. But because she’s been so well established as a white, muggle-born, witch, it’s a much harder sell to have a black actress take the role. I hope she’s convincing and is able to portray Hermione’s attitude, but I don’t think the audience is going to buy it.  In that case, it really is the fact that she will look and sound different, and not in small ways. It is a drastic change in terms of character aesthetics. One can argue aesthetics aren’t important to a story, but they are when it comes to a visual story, such as a play or a movie. I shouldn’t have to explain why.

These are the only kinds of situations where choosing actors/actresses based on gender are an issue. When you do it, you muck up already well established characters, some of which partially depend on their race in parts of the story – for either conflict or, sometimes, resolution. It just pisses off fans, for the most part, but it also causes a lot more work than should be required. Because now, you have to revamp the entire story, and all the arcs that depended on race or gender in the original source need to be updated. It all seems faked, forced, and it’s not being done for pure intentions.

Like I said, coddling people and giving them jobs solely because they are minorities, is the most condescending thing you can really do. I don’t think this was the case in The Force Awakens, as every single actor proved they knew what they were doing. But, I can’t deny that there are cases where this is an issue. The point is that Star Wars had new characters, without any source material prior (though some are derived from the extended universe). So if you’re getting mad about race or gender in that case, then perhaps there isn’t a problem with Disney, but a problem with the way you’re thinking.

Maybe you talk about these things a lot. I know that I do. Political correctness has become a big issue, to the point where it seemed to take up most of the headlines last year. Trudeau choosing a cabinet of half female and half male was just one big example of this. I hope they are all qualified, and really that’s all that matters. The same goes for the entertainment industry.

I didn’t notice any push of political correctness from Disney. I saw the audience skewing the narrative toward that direction – I’ve read plenty of that in blog posts and so on. But I’ve seen nothing directly from Disney. Instead, I enjoyed the story, because everyone involved did a good job. And in the end, that’s all that matters, and it was all I was asking for in the first place.

Anyways, thank you for reading, and I apologize for the rant in the midst of a review. I felt they needed to be said, and that Star Wars fans needed to be the ones to hear it.  I hope you enjoyed the movie. If you haven’t seen it, do so as soon as possible. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise, or not, there is a good chance you will enjoy it.

 

May the force be with you,

Adam Gainer

What are your thoughts on Episode 7?

Do you have any theories for Episode 8?

Who was your favorite character? Why?

What do you think of PC?

What do you think about Harry Potter and The Dark Tower?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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