Review: Star Wars – the Force Awakens

OR DOES IT simply re-awaken or is it in a time-loop? OR worse yet … is it simply lost to a time continuum paradox where it can’t escape it’s own greatness.

Ok so before I start off this review know that there are going to be spoilers. So WARNING SPOILERS

OK.

So as far as my assessment of Star Wars the Force Awakens there is little that could be said of this movie production value wise. It’s a VERY well made movie and there really were only sloppy parts in a few scenes. Even when I could see the seams of the film as someone who understand film compositing I gotta say it’s pretty well done even there and a hat must be tipped off to J.J. and the band at Bad Robot who managed to make it work through and through.

For doing this alone usually that garners me to at least give it a positive score and if a film manages to amp up the production values from there it’s only positives to gain so in that regard rest assured my review won’t be scathing.

However, there are two versions of this review and two ways to approach it. One is as a movie junkie or as a Star Wars fan who has watched the movies and loves the stories in and of themselves. More importantly these people make up a majority of those who watched this film and the previous and rest assured they will enjoy it thoroughly. From the subtle wink winks to the not so subtle continuous telegraphing of the plot that appears within the film and even in the trailers it’s an incredible enjoyable film. This is reflected in me when I watched in the first time. I enjoyed all the highs and lows, I cheered when the millennium falcon showed up, and consequently got a little choked up when Han Solo died. It was the Star Wars I grew up with as a kid and I can’t tell you how much joy it brought me just to sit back and relax and relive it.

Then there is the ULTRA fanboy within me that screams to me in my head as though blood has been spilt all over the floor. Star Wars’ lifeforce blood to be told. Something within me rejected it, I sensed a very large and powerful corporation attempting to weave a spell and pull one GIGANTIC Jedi mind trick on top of ALL of us and specifically speaking they’re seemingly have. Now before you question my line of reasoning I’d just like to mention my Star Wars credentials if you will.

When I was young I loved Star Wars. I didn’t like or sort of enjoy I LOVED it and importance on the word love. Every weekend or every other when my parents were busy me and my brothers and sisters used to sit down and watch the Star Wars (original trilogy). When the re-releases came out me and my cousins would buy all of the action figures and collect a few and play with the rest. For books I used to exclusively read ONLY star wars books. This became so bad in 5th grade that my librarian teacher, who was a friend of my mom, complained to her that she was having trouble getting me to diversify my reading habits. Eventually she managed to get me to read other Science Fiction but that pretty much as far as she got me (Shadows of the Empire is awesome btw). I don’t think that I finally ventured into new reading territory until I got into either 6th grade or 7th grade and even then with Star Wars in full swing I still loved reading comics about or TV shows or even reading long posts on Wookipedia about different various subjects. I enjoyed the prequels but not as much. Played numerous board games (don’t challenge me in Star Wars Trivia Pursuit … I know the attack pattern of the snow speeders on hoth … yes that is a question). For Toys I loved Legos. But when Star Wars lego sets came out it almost had a heart attack and proceeded to buy or collect or order Star Wars legos at every chance that I got.

THEN there were the videogames … don’t even get me started ooohhh my gosh. I remember my Dad taking us into a Fry’s Electronics as a treat when we were on our year long missionary Furlough in San Jose to buy a computer game. He asked us what we wanted and immediately me and my sister gravitated to a Star Wars triple pack of games (It had rebel assault 1 & 2, Dark Forces, X-Wing). Me and my sister played those games to death. I think we stopped playing them when our disks simply couldn’t be used anymore. After that my cousin Kyle collected the Jedi Knight games which we also played to death such as Jedi Knight, Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Academy. My love for Star Wars games go to extreme bounds such as playing Knights of the Old: Republic, Force Unleashed, and even Star Wars: Empire at War.

What even more interesting is the fact that out of Star Wars I got interested with anything that had a “Star” in it at a young age. For example, Star Craft which I’ve loved because of it’s grittier approach to many of the same high space opera sensibilities that Star Wars also beholds to.

The other day I calculated how much time I’d spent roughly and I realized that I’d probably assuredly spent more than 10,000 hours in Star Wars related media and even its more acute sensibilities. I mean considering that I know enough about the Jedi and Sith that I even know some of the theology and can recite whole sections of the movie and voices (and sounds … looking at you ewoks) you could say I have the bad case of Star Wars being ingrained in my head. I can’t escape it.

So naturally when I saw this movie it began to dawn on me, “what is this movie trying to copycat Star Wars?” It failed the tast test and I’ll tell you a very simple but pointed reason why. George Lucas wasn’t involved. While this is probably for the best it resulted in a look that felt like Star Wars but while like J.J.’s recent Star Trek Films it just seemed close but incomplete. Whereas George Lucas would pan back and let you take in the action sequences and had a more slower and rythmic pacing to shots J.J. will ramp it up suddenly and take you at a full brisk pace even when lots of action is involved. The color grading seemed slightly off for some reason in many of the shots until later in the movie when the color grading was easier because it was an Imperial Base (grey and white light red) and Ice Planet (bluish white and greys). Even the movies visuals were all like they were trying to mimic something that had come before it which, thematically I understood within the movie’s history but still, didn’t make sense.

And then there was the fan service. Ohh my gosh don’t even get me started. I knew this film would have a lot but when they did it multiple times and pretty obviously it just kinda took away the second time I watched it. I like the more subtle fan service hints they did such as background dialogue or the training droid and I get why they did do it but do you need to do it ALL the time. That when I realized that this movie wasn’t being made by the the creator or someone who knew and loved the depth about Star Wars but rather someone who was the complete and utter ultimate fan boy. Seriously watch the film and think to yourself this is the ultimate fan made or fan service movie and then you will be quite surprised how much you realize afterwards doesn’t hold quite up.

Shoddy light saber fights that are slower in many ways and less well thought out than even the originals which by all extents were rather slow. I thought I was watching people swinging laser claymores rather than the extremely pliable, quick, and almost samurai-esque photon katana’s we’d seen even in the originals. You have an extreme case almost of two movies, one which is J.J. Abrams, and the parts which the studio execs DEMANDED be in the movie. Like who in their right mind spends another couple decimillion credits into a PLANET Death Star that once again has a MASSIVE fatal engineering flaw with an openly attackable (by air and by ground) mechanism which if it fails blows up the entire station.  Like you’d think that they would have learned they’re lesson after the first 2 Death Stars that maybe just maybe they needed to rethink they’re methods of building gigantic super-weapons that were susceptible to attack my small 1 man fighters that evade their turbo-lasers. First time Luke used the force = ok. Second time = maybe should have built smaller exhaust ports. Third time = now your just being inane.

Combined with the numerous points at which I ran into telegraphic of plot point problems this movie has and you are looking at something that is a hodge podge that needs serious fixing especially from a logic and story standpoint. Now the previous movies did telegraph stories at certain points and that’s ok and in this movie it’s passable because the actors are good (especially daisy ridley), the special effects are good, and the dialogue is all good. However, in many ways I almost feel as though they could have brought in a few other things and pulled out a few others and it would have made for a far more entertaining movie. Such as for example what if instead of Star Killer base you instead insert “The Eclipse” Dreadnought star destroyer which would have made for a far more interesting movie I think and visually speaking would be more oppresive and interesting. Then you have the “Eclipse” en route to the rebel base on a lush planet when it gets take out by x-wings and an epic fight on the bridge between Kylo and Han Solo and Rey and Fin and crash lands on an ice planet. You could still have that epic Han Solo and Kylo Ren moment and the confrontation in the woods but it changes the feeling and pacing of the film and gives it more of a kinetic direction that previous films of impending doom if the eclipse reaches the Rebel Base. Different enough to be interesting but having similar feelings.

So my final verdict is

8/10
But why so low you ask?

Well see now on if there had been no other extra stories outside of the movies and I had not enjoyed them I wouldn’t have had a problem with this movie. But considering that they destroyed the entire Expanded Universe including the novels, the videogames, and even what I think are some of the best bunch of Star Wars stories in one fell swoop at Disney’s bidding I must say many fanboys cried out in agony as if a great loss had been felt. So Mara Jade doesn’t exist or Dash Rendar but all the while Clone Wars and Rebels (which are abominations) live on as canon? Or  take “the Knights of the Old Republic” which I think should have been the new star wars films. (Even Richard Linklater hints to this in “Boyhood” which I completely agreed with and totally got when they began mentioning it in the film). The story arc of Darth Revan, if they ever make those films, would elevate Star Wars into some serious themes and bring it to full fruition and potentiality. Or force unleashed which goes into depth on the 20 year gap between the 3rd and 4th films and which are awesome. But NAH we’ll just steal visuals from every nook and cranny such as Revan’s Mask (Kylo Ren’s Mask) … or Darth Malak’s ability to steal thoughts (Ren Again) or even the Sith Emperor (Snoke) or even names StarKiller Base (Galen “Starkiller” Marek(Force Unleashed) or Bendak “Starkiller”(KOTOR) or Daisy Ridley’s “Rey” (Bastila Shan). But like always profits come before anything else along with making sure you can tell whatever stories you want. But even though the EU was struck down to become something far greater than you can possible imagine I just wished they hadn’t paved over the bones so quick.

BTW :I basically wrote down what I thought the basic Storyline of the movie would be after seeing all the trailers and my movie plot was about 90% correct except for a few changes. Further making this worse afterward I read another persons basic storyline and they were about 98% percent correct even down to the Kylo Ren and Han Solo confrontation and the movie ending with Luke Skywalker meeting Rey so yeah it was VERY predictable.

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#winning

This is a documented history of my luck or I guess being a Christian the benevolence of God so take it as you will but for some reason me and my friends win stuff.

(NOTE: If anything is missing from this list please post and let me know so I can update it. LOOKING at you Nook Cottage bros.)

So something hilarious happened on Saturday at the recent InstaMeet Drive … I won again albeit I wasn’t even there.

Here’s the gist of what happened. I was hungry because I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. So I left for about 15 – 25 min to get chow at Wendy’s and when I came back Jonathan Bidwell told me I’d won something or some swag. Glasses to be precise. So this got me thinking that maybe I should document everything that I have ever won … plus a couple of friend’s winnings as well. (After all were pretty lucky). Some I won by entering a competition others by simply being present and participating.

Clippers Tickets                  2012                  IntraMural Basketball Championships

Movie Tickets                      2012                  IntraMural Volleyball Championships

Beats Headphones             2012                  Midnight Madness Secret Santa

Gift Card (Substantial)        2012                  School CLA Test

In-n-out Giftcard                 2013                   U.P. Men’s Barbeque

Triton Headphones            2013                   Gaming Salon Raffle

CBU Cruiser Bike              2014                   Provider Student Workers T-Shirt Design Contest

Movie Tickets                    2014                   IntraMural Volleyball Championships

HackPoly T-Shirt/Swag     2015                   Cal Poly Pomona Hackathon 2015 – “Best Design”/”Design Off”

Pair of Thieves Socks/T’s 2015                    Manhattan Beach InstaMeet

Tens Sunglasses              2015                    Corona Restoration Roasters InstaMeet

 

(For the record I just want to say I was ONE digit away from winning a ULTRABOOK Laptop at Blizzcon so that was a rare “so-close” moment for me. The last digit was a 7  … I had a 6.)

 

By My Friends

Kindle Fire (Christian Hassler)                         2012                    IntraMural Volleyball Championships

50″ Flatscreen HDTV (Jon Cox)                      2013                    IntraMural Basketball Championships

Nike Fuel Band (Mitchell Sweetman)              2014                    IntraMural Volleyball Championships