Off Topic! “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Spoiler Free Review

Off Topic! “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Spoiler Free Review

Hey gang! I’m going to go off topic with this post, but hey, since Star Wars had an impact on anime and manga, why not? 😉

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens Friday morning after getting talked into it by friends. Fortunately, they called it when they said the first showing Friday morning shouldn’t be too crowded. They were right. Lots of people, but lots of different viewing options at that time (3D IMAX, which I attended; 3D, and 2D). Some of you may not have seen the movie yet, so I thought I’d do a spoiler free review first off (and I would request that comments be kept spoiler free too). Maybe next week or so, I’ll do a full on spoiler review, after I’ve watched the movie for the second time.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

What I liked, in no special order.

  • The comedy. Seriously, there is a lot of good comedy moments in this movie, and not just targeted at Star Wars fans. Even better, there’s no failed, wannabe Buster Keaton gag stuff in here, and certainly no childish “Icky, icky goo!” jokes either.
  • The emotional stuff. Things didn’t get too over the top when it came to the emotional moments in the film (and I’m not talking about nostalgic things for fans). But when characters went through emotional things, it felt genuine, whether it was anger, fear, happiness, or sadness.
  • The final scene. Since I cannot reveal spoilers here, all I will say is that for me, this had the most powerful ending to any of the Star Wars movies. The moment in Revenge of the Sith where Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor is close second, tied with the end of Empire Strikes Back with Luke and Leia watching Lando and Chewie depart. The Force Awakens trumps because the moment is longer and allowed to build.
  • The nods to the original trilogy. When they were just tributes to the original trilogy, they were really good.
  • Han. Harrison Ford was Han Solo again. There was no phoning it in or anything. OK, so he’s not as young as he used to be, but he’s still Han Solo!
  • Chewie. Last time we got to see Chewie in the movies, it was a cameo in Revenge of the Sith. There are some subtle nods to Chewie being older as well, but man, the character had great presence.
  • Han and Chewie. Is there a better partnership ever invented for the big screen? I can’t think of any. In this movie, one just understands why the two have been partners all these decades.
  • Leia. OK, so Carrie Fisher’s face didn’t move much, but then it didn’t move that much in Star Wars either. 😉 That aside, Leia had some nice little moments in the film.
  • Han and Leia. They had some really nice moments together. I loved how their relationship was handled. Infinitely better than that forced relationship in Attack of the Clones.
  • Rey. Really liked her as the half Luke Skywalker character of the movie. Great acting on the part of Daisy Ridley. She really nailed it and I think she will become an iconic Star Wars character. Further, her character felt natural, not some forced thing to satisfy some PC sensibility.
  • Finn. Really liked him as the other half Luke Skywalker character of the film. Someone mentioned John Boyega is a black actor, but I didn’t see that here any more than I saw that with Billy Dee Williams’s Lando character in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
  • Rey and Finn. No forced romance here, just two people becoming partners and friends as they work for a common goal.
  • Poe. I liked this X-wing pilot a lot. They didn’t quite utilize him fully, but hopefully that will be rectified in future films.
  • Kylo Ren. He may be a Darth Vader wannabe in the movie, but he trumped Vader at least twice, one of which was quite spectacular.
  • Luke. ‘Nuff said.
  • BB-8. Up until I saw the movie, I didn’t like BB-8. I saw the droid as a discount, wannabe R2-D2. The marketing kept pushing it and I kept rejecting it. However, once I’d seen the movie, I was shocked to find that I really liked this droid. Heck, I think it has more personality than R2-D2, and that includes the R2-D2 stuff in the canon Clone Wars TV series. It really had some scene stealing moments for me.
  • The visuals. I really liked the look of things, especially in the battle scenes. Visually, this was pretty impressive.
  • The Stormtroopers. I just rewatched the original Star Wars, and the Stormtroopers are initially set up to be quite good soldiers. Then, outside of a small moment in Empire Strikes Back, they are shown to be pretty feckless things that became a cool looking joke as they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. In The Force Awakens, there’s a real feeling of these Stormtroopers being well trained, highly skilled soldiers to be feared. They are deadly, ruthless, and devoted to the cause. That’s how Stormtroopers should be.

What I disliked (in no special order).

  • The rehash elements from the original trilogy.  While I liked the tributes to the original trilogy (and there were a ton of them), when the tributes simply became rehashes, they weren’t so good.
  • No real sense of majesty or awe. I can think of only one moment in The Force Awakens where I felt a sense of majesty or awe. I always got a feeling of majesty and awe whenever regular Star Destroyers showed up, even in the canon Clone Wars and canon Rebels animated series. When I saw the First Order’s Star Destroyer in this movie, I never got that sense of awe or majesty. (I think because it is underlit.) And yet, the old, derelict, crashed Imperial Star Destroyer on Jakku that you’ve seen in the trailers or even in the Star Wars: Battlefront game that takes place on Jakku has that awe and majesty. (It has to be the lighting.)
  • No real feeling of drama or tenseness in the climax of the movie. In Star Wars, even after all these years of having seen the movie, I still can feel the tension as the Rebels desperately attempt to destroy the Death Star. In Empire Strikes Back, I had that feeling through much of the movie, not just the end, as the characters were often in desperate situations. In The Force Awakens, the elements that are supposed to drive up the dramatic tension levels seem to just be doing things by the numbers. As such, it never felt dire at the movie’s climax, even though it was supposed to be. (In the first half of the movie, the drama and tenseness was present.)
  • No clear understanding of the relationship of the different factions in this movie and the politics of the situation. In Star Wars, we knew the politics of the situation without going to the weeds. The Empire ruled the galaxy, and they were attempting to find and crush an elusive, small band of rebels and their hidden base. In doing so, we knew the Empire wanted to send a message to the rest of the galaxy to put down any additional thoughts of rebellion. This is a pretty straight forward, simple understanding of the political situation of the galaxy.In The Force Awakens, I think JJ is so desperate to stay out of the deep political weeds that bogged down The Phantom Menace that he avoids the politics completely, which was a mistake to me since we never have clarity on the different factions (beyond, “These guys good, those guys bad, those other guys, who knows!”). I could be slightly more specific, and it really wouldn’t be a spoiler, but I’ll err on the side of caution.
  • Sound FX. This might be due to the IMAX theater I saw it in, but everything sounded as if it were a tribute of the original sounds, only “modified by JJ.” Everything from TIE fighters flying & shooting, the X-wing flying & shoot, the classic light saber activation and movements (the new light saber is supposed to be different, so I had no problem with it not sounding the same), etc. had iconic sound elements that identified them as what they were, but then appeared to have additional sound elements added to them. So nothing sounded right to me. I hope this was just the theater I was in. I haven’t seen other people complain about this.

In the end, I really did like this movie a great deal and look forward to seeing it again. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when I left the theater. It will be interesting to see how I feel after I’ve seen the movie a second time.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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7 Responses to “Off Topic! “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Spoiler Free Review”

  1. arimareiji says:

    Just a couple of minor nitpicks about elements of the main-page image:
    1) Where’s Luke? It makes me wonder whether the image was created before he committed to the movie, and/or whether his part was barely even a cameo.
    2) The “hilt” of the lightsaber that I’m guessing belongs to the bad guy (since bad guys shouldn’t have human faces) bugs the stew out of me. I thought (please correct me if I’m wrong) that a hilt’s primary purpose was to stop an opponent’s blade from sliding down yours and cutting your hand off. Not only is it unable to serve that purpose, I imagine that with all the twirly spinny two-handed moves they make when dueling, it would be very easy to cut your own wrist off.

    I’m going to go off topic with this post, but hey, since Star Wars had an impact on anime and manga, why not?

    Undeniably true and much more than enough reason to justify the review, but I wonder: Other than the shout-outs (Urusei Yatsura in particular) and ripoffs, can you think of many thematic elements that hadn’t already been done better by others (or even copied from Japan)? I’ll gladly grant that it becomes hard to trace through intervening years as influences mutate and recombine, but the only thing I can think of myself is “beam spam”.

    No real sense of majesty or awe…
    No real feeling of drama or tenseness in the climax of the movie.

    I recently re-subjected myself to most of Attack of the Clones (in an effort to find a particularly bad scene that left a strong impression), and was struck by the same. I don’t know whether this is true here or not, but in that case I got the feeling Lucas felt visuals alone could accomplish both.

    Imo, the reason an immense waterfall or deep canyon fills us with the former is that being right next to it gives it immediacy. Unless we’re engaged with the characters and story, not even the most spectacular pictures will have the same feel.

    Much the same is true for the latter. It’s human nature to have a hard time caring about characters or people we can’t relate to. Even gruesome pictures of a million civilians dying in a war will have less impact than simply hearing about fourteen people dying in a workplace shooting, if we feel no connection to the former and closely connected to the latter (because we’re afraid it might be us).

    when the tributes simply became rehashes, they weren’t so good.

    It could be worse… when I still watched it, Naruto rehashes were a close second to filler for infamy. Not only were they usually simple replays and needlessly long, they were often repeated a few times.

    They did a triple backflip over the shark when Kiba kept fondly reminiscing about his dog sidekick practicing the jutsu of “Dynamic Marking” (peeing on everything while spinning in mid-air). Yes, really. (^_~)

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      1) This was part of the marketing plan — hide Luke and create massive speculation.

      2) Kylo Ren’s hilt gets used. But yeah, I think the new light sword was more about J.J. putting his mark on the franchise more than anything practical.

      Other than the shout-outs (Urusei Yatsura in particular) and ripoffs, can you think of many thematic elements that hadn’t already been done better by others (or even copied from Japan)?

      Star Wars, thanks to Lucas, borrowed heavily from Japan. The Hidden Fortress is a 1958 Japanese feudal era movie about a couple of squabbling peasants who escort what turns out to be a princess and her general through enemy lines. Lucas based C3PO and R2-D2 off of those peasants. He even had one of the Imperial characters (I forget whom at the moment) call the secret Rebel base a “hidden fortress.” And, the way scenes have that swipe transition was taken from The Hidden Fortress.

      Vader’s design is said to be partially on samurai warrior armor.

      (As an aside, the entire Star Wars movie is actually borrowed from all over.)

  2. I liked the stormtroopers as well… although there were definitely some throwback moments showing that they still can’t shoot to save their lives.

    I liked that one stormtrooper with the melee weapon. That scene was better than any of the lightsaber battles IMO.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I liked that one stormtrooper with the melee weapon. That scene was better than any of the lightsaber battles IMO.

      I’ll try to remember to discuss this more when I write my spoiler review.

  3. shadowjetx says:

    Actually, the whole thing about Kylo Ren’s light saber being different is because its not a proper light saber.

    Each Jedi makes their own light saber with techniques passed down from the previous generation. Luke was a bit of an exception during the beginning of the original trilogy but even he makes his own light saber after a certain point.

    Kylo Ren didn’t have the proper teaching/techniques to construct his own light saber so its the reason why the plasma blade is all messed up and the cross guards are there to vent improperly tamed power of the light saber.

    I’d talk a little more about the light sabers in Ep.VII, but that’d be approaching spoiler territory.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Kylo Ren didn’t have the proper teaching/techniques to construct his own light saber so its the reason why the plasma blade is all messed up and the cross guards are there to vent improperly tamed power of the light saber.

      Has that been established as canon, or is that just theory? I ask because it wasn’t in the movie.

      Which reminds me, now that I’ve seen this again, I need to write a full on review.

  4. […] another tidbit. I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I plan to do what I did with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, only I’m not going to worry about keeping it spoiler […]

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