Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Force Awakens: Imperfect, But a New Hope

I loved the Star Wars in junior high. Before Episodes I-III were released. Up until the past year, expressing your liking of Star Wars was not nearly as cool as it has become this past year. When I was a kid, we had to search in the corners of department and hobby stores to find Star Wars toys. Now, most of the models I built and toys I collected have been given away, right before they might be worth something. (Dang it!).

In any case, I didn’t enjoy the prequels. They were good storylines with much better special effects and light saber fights, but the bad dialogue couldn’t get saved by the good actors they had on the set. Also, if they would have made a couple better casting choices, omitted Jar-Jar, and made the Gungans and Trade Federation leaders a bit less fulfilling of respective stereotypes, I think the prequels could have been a lot better. But I digress.

I was always a fan of J.J. Abrams’s work. I’ve enjoyed Lost, the new Star Trek movies, and the new additions to the Mission: Impossible series. Just knowing the presence of Abrams’s fingerprints, I was comfortable watching a few DVD’s of Felicity with my wife several years ago. So I’ve always known that Abrams would take Star Wars seriously and not let it turn into a third-rate popcorn flick.

Social media has been amazingly good about not spoiling. So see the movie when you can, because spoiler-free cyberspace may not last much longer. Spoilers ahead here, by the way.

It was surreal to see the same opening title. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. They did a good job of setting the stage for the new plot-line. The Resistance, led by ol’ Rebels and their descendants, is looking for the vanished Luke Skywalker while on the run from the First Order, a new power-hungry empire. One storm trooper develops a conscience and frees a member of the Resistance, while the droid that contains the map to Luke Skywalker randomly finds its way into the hands of a scrappy commoner on a sandy planet named Rey. Does the story sound familiar yet?

There’s a Facebook meme going around stating that Episode 7 is a copy of Episode 4, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not. Here’s a list:
  • The First Order is the new Empire.
  • The Resistance is the new Rebellion.
  • Rey is the new Luke Skywalker.
  • Jakku is the new Tatooine.
  • BB-8 is the new R2-D2.
  • Finn is the new Han Solo.
  • Han Solo is the new Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Kylo Ren is the new Darth Vader.
  • General Hux is the new Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Snoke is the new Palpatine.
  • The Starkiller Base is the new Death Star.
And there’s also the sheer coincidence of the one droid with the digital information to save the galaxy meeting someone with midi-chlorians in their blood. Did I miss anything?

The Facebook meme also states that nobody cares that it’s a copy. Which I understand. It’s a well-executed film with great acting, a good storyline, and a few twists and turns you didn’t expect. (Just like Abrams blew up Vulcan, he killed Han Solo).

I think the one thing that was a bit disappointing was Rey’s quick learning ability. It took Luke years of training, humbling experiences and convergence to face Darth Vader and finally defeat him, and he wanted to be a Jedi. Rey, on the other hand, had much more opportunity and invitation into Jedi-hood and, after closing her eyes for a few seconds, she was able to defeat a Sith leader the first time she used a light saber. Huh? And I thought Sith couldn’t use the Force to throw around Jedi like rag dolls (and vice-versa).

Nonetheless, I’m happy that Abrams is at the helm. The Force Awakens was an entertaining, well-written and well-executed movie, and I’m sure the rest of the series will be, too.