Barnes on Film- Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Review

Barnes on Film- Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Review Hot

Michael Barnes     
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This is not going to be an impartial, unbiased review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It is also not going to be one that dwells on the blemishes and imperfections, the "issues" and "concerns that some may justifiably have with the film. I'm not going to pick nerd nits about it. Director J.J. Abrams, his cast and his crew have given us (and longtime Star Wars fans in particular) a very special, joyful and celebratory gift this Holiday season. It absolutely deserves a joyful, celebratory review free from the kinds of deflating cynicism and narcissistic sarcasm that tend to greet even the best genre films in the Internet age.

In a year in which we already had one major genre masterpiece that took us back to a time when films were made on film instead of in ones and zeros, there is another. Another film that makes us remember when characters were created by actors instead of being created in postproduction, through performances on sets- when there actually were sets. Another film that made me feel like I was a kid again in all of the best possible ways.

You've likely already read other reviews or heard from others everything that I could probably write here. The new characters are practically iconic out of the gate- Finn, Poe Dameron, Rey and Kylo Ren all live and breathe as bona fide Star Wars characters thanks to stellar performances by young actors bringing a surprising level of nuance to their roles. John Boyega's Finn is nervous, jokey and was obviously more than just too short to be a Stormtrooper. Poe makes a huge impression with an easy-going swagger befitting the top X-Wing pilot in the Resistance. Rey will make a star out of Daisy Ridley. Adam Driver's Kylo Ren is a genuinely scary, psychotic creation that could wind up with the most compelling (and tragic) character arc in the entire series.

Performances. Human performances by actors interacting with other actors and physically present elements, executing surprisingly well-written dialogue that is among the best Star Wars has ever had to offer. It's up there with Empire, and it is very telling that Lawrence Kasdan is one of the screenwriters. You can't help but wonder why Lucas didn't call him up to help out with the forlorn (and now more or less nullified) prequels. Or why he somehow forgot all of the things that made Star Wars great to begin with.

The specter of those three films' disappointment looms large over The Force Awakens but it is clear that JJ Abrams and his team didn't forget what Lucas did before he lost heart. And in many ways, this film feels like a back-to-one refreshment, getting back to where it once belonged so to speak. Some may chafe that it is almost a sort of remix of A New Hope, but it kind of had to be that to win back the world after the damage done by the series' own creator.

There is one point, no spoilers, that really struck home with me where a character talks about the Force. She closes her eyes and touches back to the mysticism of Ben Kenobi and Yoda. Not to the rightfully maligned, pseudo-science of "midchlorians" espoused by Qui-Gonn Jinn. That moment really moved me because I remembered being a kid, in wonder with what the Force is and it really being a more important spiritual concept for me than anything I heard in church. And it felt good to have the film acknowledge it as an unknowable, vast force rather than cynically dismissing it with some kind of microbiology.

I was moved over and over again to the point where it almost felt exhausting. It's easy to go on and on about how emotional and great it is to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher together again (and it is), it's easy to point out any number of incredibly moving, powerful moments of action and emotion in the film. There are lots of them. You could almost say that Abrams' manipulation of our Star Wars-loving hearts borders on Spielbergian. But when two beloved characters that if you are like me you have had on pajamas, underwear, T-shirts, in toy boxes and on your desktop at work meet and one says to the other "my old friend, how I've missed you" I defy you to feel anything other than pure love and joy, tempered with the bittersweet passing of years and the growing distance from youth. When Han and Chewie declared "we're home" in that amazing trailer earlier this year, that set the tone for the whole production.

It is a homecoming. But it isn't just facile nostalgia like some have suggested. Instead, I think where The Force Awakens transcends being just a new, great Star Wars film is that it is actually the richest in subtext. The postmodern kicker is that this film is about Star Wars and what it means culturally as much as it is Star Wars. The young characters in this film grew up thinking that Luke Skywalker was a myth- just like we did. Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader and the traditions of the Sith. The events of the Original Trilogy made a huge impact in this world and its characters, and on Jakku we see the remnants of the war between the Empire and the Rebellion. When Finn gets into the gun turret on the Falcon, Luke is there with him. And we are too, because we have always wanted to be there too.

This film is positively haunted by the first three films, but it is telling us that what we have felt for all of these years about them is real. It's telling us to believe in those heartfelt feelings about the Force and Luke and Chewbacca again. This film is about Star Wars- the great cultural myth of our time- and how it affects us. How it can inspire us and move us, how it can remind us of heroism, love, goodness and light in times of growing darkness and hatred. It is a genuine Star Wars film for our time, our children and for those of us who can't imagine a world without X-Wings and lightsabers, the light side and the dark side, and all of the tactile wonders of a galaxy far, far away.

Barnes on Film- Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Review There Will Be Games
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Posted: 21 Dec 2015 08:33 by Egg Shen #217879
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Amen Barnes! I was nodding in agreement with the whole review. Awesome stuff.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 09:15 by Hatchling #217881
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Lovely review.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 09:28 by JonJacob #217884
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A beautiful love letter to Star Wars and your youth.

I disagree with it with every fibre of my being and would rather see you save your strangely criticism free reviewer mode for new aesthetics and new worlds like Ex Machina (which received your full scorn) because I believe that someone filming the thousandth hour of Star Wars and making what is destined to be the biggest money maker of all time should be handled with big boy gloves in full on critique mode.

But like I said, it's still a beautiful love letter to Star Wars and your youth and I'll try not to sully this page with any more of my honest emotion. Well done.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 09:34 by Grudunza #217885
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"when two beloved characters that if you are like me you have had on pajamas, underwear, T-shirts, in toy boxes and on your desktop at work meet and one says to the other “my old friend, how I’ve missed you” I defy you to feel anything other than pure love and joy, tempered with the bittersweet passing of years and the growing distance from youth."

Geez, Barnes. You just made me cry. And yes, I absolutely LOVED that moment, and you nicely articulated why. Such a beautiful sentiment that carries so much emotional weight among all of what we've experienced. And it's spoken between two droids! How amazing is that? The only comparative moment is Toy Story 3 when we are riveted by the impending death of animated toys in a garbage dump.

Wonderful review, Michael. I definitely won't argue with you about this film. :o)
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 10:14 by 433 #217889
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Agreed 100%. Looking forward to taking my 16-year-old nephew and 11-year-old niece on Thursday.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 12:09 by Frohike #217894
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Definitely had a lot of nerd-cry moments while watching this film. The ideas and emotions that welled up weren't entirely nostalgia for me but rather a heady sense of resonance between Abrams' personal realization of the significance of Star Wars and my own newfound respect for some of its core aspects. Repeated scenes and micro-exchanges just constantly, intoxicatingly telegraphed "this is what these films are about. This." without breaking character, so to speak. They always seemed to fit the intradiegetic motivations and needs of the characters but also reached out to two different audiences of viewers.

You can look at that early scene between Han, Finn, & Rey -- when they're standing in an intentionally out-of-focus star field hologram, creating an ambient wonder and shimmer in the air around them while Han is telling them that the mythology is alive, real, all of it -- as being a message that reaches beyond the intradiegetic spellweaving for the new kids in the film, and entreats both the new generation of viewers and the older jaded, burned, generation to start believing again and find potency and relevance in the Ur-stories. It's really a masterful moment in the film's direction and there are so many of these.

It's funny, when you mentioned the midi-chlorian bullshit from the prequels it occurred to me that this entire concept had been purged from my memory as I watched the film. The concept of the Force is something that deserved more respect than Lucas gave it in that awful series, and signified a true departure from his earliest conceptual inspirations. In fact, it strikes me that a personal aspect of himself really did die when he went down the rationalist rabbit hole that he did with the prequels. I just got through reading a fascinating article about the significance of 21-87 (Finn's numeric designation and Leia's cell number), that's not nearly as nerd-seven-degrees-of-separation as I assumed it would be:

www.telegraph.co.uk/film/star-wars-the-f...eorge-lucas-fn-2187/

Apparently Lucas was obsessed during his formative college years with an Arthur Lipsett short titled "21-87" which, as I watched it, was an obvious inspiration for the ideas he went on to develop in the initial trilogy. He wasn't just playing around with Campbellian archetypes as a structural shorthand for his movies. These were concepts that clearly resonated with and affected him on a personal level in his youth. I hadn't even finished reading the article as I watched the short film and this jumped out immediately from the overdub:

"Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God."

The article gives this more context, but in that moment, I realized just how much of a real tragedy the prequels had become for Lucas and for the fans. The cynicism and jaded quality of those films was just oppressive and overwhelming.

It took an equally overwhelming return to the source for Abrams' to save this series, and it's clear that he was successful in doing this. I think this film was a real triumph in this respect.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 12:38 by Black Barney #217896
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Great review. Appreciate u avoiding spoilers. Can't wait to see it
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 13:35 by JMcL63 #217904
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I once blogged a similar hymn of praise to season 5 of Doctor Who, so I get the uncritical applause and where it comes from. Star Wars is like an artistic Sorelian myth, one of the most important cultural artefacts of our time. Glory hallelujah!

Heaven forbid we all feel like that JJ- such enthusiastic uniformity would be worse than a nightmare.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 13:40 by Josh Look #217905
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Great job, good sir.

This review is clearly from the heart and that's how it should be.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 17:18 by SuperflyTNT #217933
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To me, it seems like JJ is doing what he does best. He took an already beloved story, changed some characters and settings around on a superficial level in large part, and made a "new" movie.

It's A New Hope and Empire smashed into one film, and redone. Like Star Trek and Into Darkness both.

It's a great film, but I've seen it two or three times before. Which is fine, because I loved it then, too. Very nostalgic.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 18:02 by MattLoter #217938
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It's impossible to compare to groundbreaking and awesome movies you first saw as a kid, but this is probably the best Star Wars movie, despite a lot of it's greatness coming from the fact that it's the NEW Star Wars movie and exists where SW in general is such a huge part of the cultural lexicon.
Posted: 21 Dec 2015 18:18 by JMcL63 #217941
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MattLoter wrote:
It's impossible to compare to groundbreaking and awesome movies you first saw as a kid, but this is probably the best Star Wars movie, despite a lot of it's greatness coming from the fact that it's the NEW Star Wars movie and exists where SW in general is such a huge part of the cultural lexicon.
I clung to this point for 2 days, but then I found myself digging up a Georges Sorel reference from the internet. That was when I realised that the greatness of this particular film is that it assured fans that Star Wars' place in the cultural lexicon is not overrated and is far from accidental.
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 10:12 by Ken B. #218094
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We've seen it twice. It's fucking fantastic. I told someone on another message board, "If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, and you somehow dislike this new movie, nothing is ever going to please you, it's time to move on."

It is just a fucking thrill and joy to watch. I used to defend the prequels as, "Hey, they're sorta okay, and they're Star Wars!" This is what we could've gotten all along. I can't really defend the prequels anymore.

George Lucas has been such a pissbag about it, too, saying that he's sure this is a movie "the fans will like," in his backhanded complimentary way that says everyone else's vision is shit and inferior, despite the fact that his "vision" was clearly past its sell-by date when he jammed a fucking obnoxious musical number into Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.

Fuck Joh Yowza. Fuck him in his stupid screaming asshole.
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 13:33 by Black Barney #218113
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Is the best reviewed star wars movie not a George Lucas one?!?
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 14:23 by boothwah #218120
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Ken B. wrote:
We've seen it twice. It's fucking fantastic. I told someone on another message board, "If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, and you somehow dislike this new movie, nothing is ever going to please you, it's time to move on."

It is just a fucking thrill and joy to watch. I used to defend the prequels as, "Hey, they're sorta okay, and they're Star Wars!" This is what we could've gotten all along. I can't really defend the prequels anymore.

George Lucas has been such a pissbag about it, too, saying that he's sure this is a movie "the fans will like," in his backhanded complimentary way that says everyone else's vision is shit and inferior, despite the fact that his "vision" was clearly past its sell-by date when he jammed a fucking obnoxious musical number into Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.

Fuck Joh Yowza. Fuck him in his stupid screaming asshole.

www.decktech.net/vs/resources/buzz.php?showmore=1&id=6389

/I think you called some of this stuff out a scant 11 years ago
//I've missed you old friend
///You should set up a Jorge Lucas account here on FaT and share some
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 15:01 by Ken B. #218124
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boothwah wrote:
www.decktech.net/vs/resources/buzz.php?showmore=1&id=6389

/I think you called some of this stuff out a scant 11 years ago
//I've missed you old friend
///You should set up a Jorge Lucas account here on FaT and share some

HOLY SHIT...there is actually a post on there...from 2005...where someone says, "I'm glad you're back, Ken." I think I just lost my shit.
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 17:36 by JMcL63 #218134
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Ken B. wrote:
We've seen it twice. It's fucking fantastic. I told someone on another message board, "If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, and you somehow dislike this new movie, nothing is ever going to please you, it's time to move on."
Yeah. What're all these kvetching 7s from the fans fer chrissake? The Force Awakens had to clear the decks of a trilogy's worth of crap. All that 'nostalgia' was nothing more than necessary reassurance for us vets of the classic trilogy that the new Star Wars is the real mccoy.
It is just a fucking thrill and joy to watch. I used to defend the prequels as, "Hey, they're sorta okay, and they're Star Wars!" This is what we could've gotten all along. I can't really defend the prequels anymore.
That which must not be named.
George Lucas has been such a pissbag about it, too, saying that he's sure this is a movie "the fans will like," in his backhanded complimentary way that says everyone else's vision is shit and inferior, despite the fact that his "vision" was clearly past its sell-by date when he jammed a fucking obnoxious musical number into Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.
Passive-aggressive BS from Lucas there. Still smarting from the fans' reaction to, y'know?
Fuck Joh Yowza. Fuck him in his stupid screaming asshole.
I've been spared Joh Yowza. Fortunately, it sounds like.
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 17:49 by JMcL63 #218136
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Black Barney wrote:
Is the best reviewed star wars movie not a George Lucas one?!?
Here's an IMDb poll agreeing with what I typically hear- that The Empire Strikes back is the most acclaimed of the classic trilogy, taken as a whole. Lucas only had a 'story' credit for that. Writing and directing were in other hands. So no.
Posted: 23 Dec 2015 19:21 by SebastianBludd #218144
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Ken B. wrote:
George Lucas has been such a pissbag about it, too, saying that he's sure this is a movie "the fans will like," in his backhanded complimentary way that says everyone else's vision is shit and inferior, despite the fact that his "vision" was clearly past its sell-by date when he jammed a fucking obnoxious musical number into Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.

The full quote is, "I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for."

If by that he means a well-acted, well-directed film with compelling characters then yes, he's absolutely correct. What gall he has to try and act like the shitty prequels are the cinematic equivalent of him making us eat our vegetables. As if we're supposed to overlook every one of his terrible decisions and subpar directing and storytelling skills because his "vision" trumps all.

Not only that, but he refuses to acknowledge that three of the movies fans have been "looking for" are the unaltered original trilogy films. He's spent years claiming that there aren't good enough sources and it would be too expensive(!) to make proper, hi-def versions of the original theatrical releases when the Harmy Despecialized Editions prove that he's full of shit on both counts. Fuck him.
Posted: 24 Dec 2015 07:08 by Joebot #218170
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SebastianBludd wrote:
Ken B. wrote:
George Lucas has been such a pissbag about it, too, saying that he's sure this is a movie "the fans will like," in his backhanded complimentary way that says everyone else's vision is shit and inferior, despite the fact that his "vision" was clearly past its sell-by date when he jammed a fucking obnoxious musical number into Return of the Jedi: Special Edition.

The full quote is, "I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for."

If by that he means a well-acted, well-directed film with compelling characters then yes, he's absolutely correct. What gall he has to try and act like the shitty prequels are the cinematic equivalent of him making us eat our vegetables. As if we're supposed to overlook every one of his terrible decisions and subpar directing and storytelling skills because his "vision" trumps all.

Not only that, but he refuses to acknowledge that three of the movies fans have been "looking for" are the unaltered original trilogy films. He's spent years claiming that there aren't good enough sources and it would be too expensive(!) to make proper, hi-def versions of the original theatrical releases when the Harmy Despecialized Editions prove that he's full of shit on both counts. Fuck him.

At this point, who has the more unlikely redemption arc: Kylo Ren or George Lucas?? Discuss.
Posted: 26 Dec 2015 23:09 by Mr. White #218286
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It is a homecoming. But it isn't just facile nostalgia like some have suggested. Instead, I think where The Force Awakens transcends being just a new, great Star Wars film is that it is actually the richest in subtext. The postmodern kicker is that this film is about Star Wars and what it means culturally as much as it is Star Wars. The young characters in this film grew up thinking that Luke Skywalker was a myth- just like we did. Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader and the traditions of the Sith. The events of the Original Trilogy made a huge impact in this world and its characters, and on Jakku we see the remnants of the war between the Empire and the Rebellion. When Finn gets into the gun turret on the Falcon, Luke is there with him. And we are too, because we have always wanted to be there too.

I'm a cynic who thinks this film played too similar to the OT trilogy to really rate it highly on its own, but this is a great paragraph. And I do really like the cast in this new trilogy.

Also, the personal hatred the online community spews on Lucas for something as trivial in life as films is easily my least favorite thing about Star Wars.
Posted: 26 Dec 2015 23:56 by Space Ghost #218291
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Mr. White wrote:

Also, the personal hatred the online community spews on Lucas for something as trivial in life as films is easily my least favorite thing about Star Wars.

I agree with this -- it is his creation and his to do with how he sees fit. For fuck's sake, it is like everyone bitching at Martin for not finishing GoT yet; like it is owed to the fans, or something.

Having said that, I thought the next three films -- VII, VIII, and IX -- were based on the stories that Lucas prepared prior to the sale to Disney. So, other than the direction, he is still responsible for the "core" of what is happening and the direction everything is moving in.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 01:02 by Hex Sinister #218295
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Mr. White wrote:
Also, the personal hatred the online community spews on Lucas for something as trivial in life as films is easily my least favorite thing about Star Wars.

Films aren't trivial to all of us.

Artists shall have no sanctuary from criticism.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 08:58 by Grudunza #218304
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Space Ghost wrote:
I thought the next three films -- VII, VIII, and IX -- were based on the stories that Lucas prepared prior to the sale to Disney. So, other than the direction, he is still responsible for the "core" of what is happening and the direction everything is moving in.

No. ALL of Lucas's ideas for 7-9 were rejected by Disney.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 09:05 by JonJacob #218305
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Hex Sinister wrote:
Mr. White wrote:
Also, the personal hatred the online community spews on Lucas for something as trivial in life as films is easily my least favorite thing about Star Wars.

Films aren't trivial to all of us.

Artists shall have no sanctuary from criticism.

But it's gone way past just criticizing his films. Many of these comments are grossly personal and judgmental, it's gross. He gets more vitriol and hate than Bill Cosby.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 09:12 by Hex Sinister #218306
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Heh, what kind of fucking sites are you guys hanging out at?
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 09:26 by JonJacob #218307
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F:AT. Read this exact thread right here again. Pretend George is a friend. These comments are not movie critiques.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 10:05 by JMcL63 #218308
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JonJacob wrote:
F:AT. Read this exact thread right here again. Pretend George is a friend. These comments are not movie critiques.
You're right JJ, and guilty as charged I guess. I must confess a touch of embarrassment even if I don't feel very apologetic about my trollishness.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 10:41 by Mad Dog #218310
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Nobody forced Lucas to try and erase the original films from existence and replace them with his newer vision. That's on him 100% and was a big "fuck you" from him to every kid that grew up loving Star Wars. As for movie critiques, his prequel movies were garbage despite him having complete creative control over them. I don't dislike the guy for making some bad movies though. I dislike him for turning the good ones bad just so he could wipe his ex-wife, Oscar winner for Editing of the original Star Wars, from history. A petty reason to shit all over a cultural icon. Doesn't deserve death-threat level hatred for it, but certainly deserves some contempt from film fans.
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 11:05 by boothwah #218311
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My favorite Lucas interview

Posted: 27 Dec 2015 15:58 by Black Barney #218331
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I think it's fine to love or hate Lucas as long as there's a bit of both. You can't just hate on the guy if you're a Star Wars fan without giving him some serious love for giving you Star wars in the first place. Just like you can't just blindly love him and think that the prequels are just fine.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 07:52 by Jackwraith #218364
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Yeah, I just can't agree. This is the review I wrote on my blog: dichotomouspurity.blogspot.com/2015/12/t...aken-so-much-as.html

If you're going to sell it as "Episode 7", then make it Episode 7, not a rework of Episode 4. That's all this was, which shows a rather stunning lack of original thinking on both Disney's and Abrams' part. There's no story here that any of us hasn't seen 20 times before. You're telling me there's no idea they could come up with that wasn't "Death Star to the nth degree"? Then I don't want those people making any more of these films because that transcends "boring" and arcs toward "playing your audience for suckers." If they felt like they needed a reboot to cleanse the cultural palate of the prequels, OK. I don't agree, but OK. But if that's the case, then market it that way and I'd know that I can wait to see it on Amazon or some such thing because I've seen that movie a couple dozen times already. This was a cheat. A shiny cheat, but a cheat.

And if wanting original material and ideas makes me a crabby cynic, then I am absolutely that without shame or regret.
Ken B. wrote:
We've seen it twice. It's fucking fantastic. I told someone on another message board, "If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, and you somehow dislike this new movie, nothing is ever going to please you, it's time to move on."

If it was actually a "new movie", I might agree with you. But it's not.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 10:21 by Michael Barnes #218387
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OK, I really think there are a lot of folks missing the point of "remixing" A New Hope. I already mentioned it above, but since I keep hearing/seeing this, let me spell it out more plainly.

Star Wars was NEVER EVER, in its entire history, "original". It was written, designed and produced from a starting point that was 100% homage. It was intended to be a pastiche of samurai pictures, Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials, Westerns, WW2 movies and big old shmear of Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces" on top of it. Sure, there were original elements that came out of its assembly and we shouldn't diminish Lucas' genius in getting it together for at least three films, but ultimately it is hardly some out of nowhere, divinely inspired concept or story. It's filled to bursting with trope and cliché, and some of its references are almost cartoonishly overt.

Now, with The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams has done exactly the same thing Lucas did with hero-myth and the movies he grew up loving. But Abrams' references are Star Wars itself. The hero-myth is Luke Skywalker, not Perseus, Gilgamesh, Arthur and so forth. The films it references are Star Wars itself instead of old timey Buster Crabbe serials. The characters in the film grew up with stories about the Jedi, Luke and so forth as if they were legends because they are like the "Star Wars generation". Kylo Ren aspires to be like Vader, the Empire was Germany in WWI and the First Order is the Third Reich- specifically reminding former Imperials of their past glory and triumphs. The Death Star is emblematic of the Empire's power, so of course they would try to recapture that power- and build upon it.

So all of this business about it not being original or repetitive is, I think, missing not only the point but the entire subtextual underlayment that The Force Awakens is predicated on. It isn't just about "hey look kids, remember this!" It's not just nostalgia, it goes deeper than that into cultural resonances and yes, into Campell's mythological concept. In order to work at this stage- after the prequels pretty much ran Star Wars into the ground no matter how much you sympathize with Lucas- this film had to go back to one, so to speak. It needed to push the boat out to not only rebuild the brand, but also re-establish it as a mainstream cultural concern. It also needed to reach people who left Star Wars behind in 1983 as well as those who grew up AFTER the original films. And people that grew up thinking that the prequels WERE Star Wars and the OT was some kind of older films that they were based on. It absolutely had to echo the things that made the original not just a financially successful film, but also one that has impacted culture. And the most brilliant way to do that was to treat A New Hope the same way that Lucas treated Flash Gordon and the universal hero myth.

If this were an all-new story without these touchpoints, it wouldn't have worked so well. It wouldn't have _moved_ people. It would have been Episode I all over again. Episode VIII is where, I think, we'll see more divergence. The groundwork is laid, and now the opportunity is there for the next one to do exactly what Empire did- to take that sort of highly referential, highly unoriginal repackaging and expand on the world and characters in such a way that it becomes its own. I would be willing to bet money that at some point there was a meeting during the planning stages of the new SW strategy where that was explicitly laid out.

As far as Jeff White's comment that "no one will remember this movie" in a few years or whatever...I love you buddy, but that strikes me as quite possibly the most head-up-the-ass statement I've ever read on F:AT.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 11:09 by Egg Shen #218392
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Well said Barnes. TFA is not a "re-hash" for the sake of nerd pandering and making a quick buck. It's incredibly clever and smart the way they went about it. All of the stuff in the film makes sense in the world of Star Wars. Anywho, I think it's a brilliant film. Gonna go see it again tonight.

I've also come up with some thoughts about how Disney MIGHT be planning to approach these films. I really think they are going to follow the blueprint set by the Marvel films. I expect the numbered episode films to be the safest and satisfy the most people. I fully expect the next Episodes to do their own thing, but they will feel the most Star Wars-y. They will be what the Avengers films are. All the familiar faces we know and love in really well made, awesome fucking movies. These films will have the highest stakes, the biggest impact in the story line etc...

In regards to the side story Star Wars films, I expect them to take some chances and do some really cool stuff. My gut is telling me to expect Rogue One to be a film that is really amazing. It will not be expected to be the box office earner that TFA is, so the filmmakers can take more risks. It has the chance to be a Guardians of the Galaxy type film...a complete unknown that comes out and blows everyone away. That makes me really excited. It's gonna be hard to pull off...but given the track record of Marvel it seems possible.

Not sure I'm articulating this properly, but it boils down to this: The Spin off films will be less of what we expect from Star Wars. Main Episodes will be logical extensions of the old films, while doing their own thing.

I could be wrong, but man, I can't wait to see what happens.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 11:32 by Joebot #218395
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Michael Barnes wrote:
Now, with The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams has done exactly the same thing Lucas did with hero-myth and the movies he grew up loving. But Abrams' references are Star Wars itself. The hero-myth is Luke Skywalker, not Perseus, Gilgamesh, Arthur and so forth. The films it references are Star Wars itself instead of old timey Buster Crabbe serials.

That's an interesting interpretation, and I could amost go along with it ... if only it wasn't for JJ Abrams' involvement. Abrams is a fucking hack. He's incapable of telling a story that stands on its own merits. All he does is repackage the same old stuff that you already love, and sell it back to you. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is rewarmed "Wrath of Khan." "Super 8" is just "E.T." He just pounds relenetlessly on that nostalgia button, because it's all he's got. Nostalgia is a totally legitimate story-telling device, as it's a good way to emotionally engage an audience. But when it's the ONLY arrow in your quiver, it gets tiresome.

I'm probably coming across harsher than I intend, because I did enjoy the movie. But the "echoes" back to "A New Hope" really start to pile up. By the time the Rebels are planning the raid on Death Star 3.0, and Han says something about there always being a way to blow these things up ... ugh. That sort of wink-wink, self-referential, ironic humor is not a good fit for Star Wars.
Episode VIII is where, I think, we'll see more divergence. The groundwork is laid, and now the opportunity is there for the next one to do exactly what Empire did- to take that sort of highly referential, highly unoriginal repackaging and expand on the world and characters in such a way that it becomes its own.

And this is where I retain some hope for Star Wars, since Abrams has been replaced for Episode 8. To paraphrase Yoda: "No ... there is another ..."
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 13:22 by Jackwraith #218403
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Michael Barnes wrote:
OK, I really think there are a lot of folks missing the point of "remixing" A New Hope. I already mentioned it above, but since I keep hearing/seeing this, let me spell it out more plainly.

Star Wars was NEVER EVER, in its entire history, "original". It was written, designed and produced from a starting point that was 100% homage. It was intended to be a pastiche of samurai pictures, Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials, Westerns, WW2 movies and big old shmear of Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces" on top of it. Sure, there were original elements that came out of its assembly and we shouldn't diminish Lucas' genius in getting it together for at least three films, but ultimately it is hardly some out of nowhere, divinely inspired concept or story. It's filled to bursting with trope and cliché, and some of its references are almost cartoonishly overt.

But that's dodging the point. Most people that actually care (all .01% of us) already know that. My brief comment about Campbell's underlying architecture (if you bothered to read my couple thousand words on my blog; no worries if you didn't) was brief for precisely that reason: we all know that. Star Wars has been analyzed in that context for almost 40 years now. Most of the public doesn't care. But the fact is that Abrams' movie doesn't bother to do ANYTHING new except split the Skywalker role into two people and, incidentally, make neither of them white males. That's it. Everything else is a rehash of the movie from 1977, down to the handful of tiny ships somehow destroying the (literally) world-sized engine of destruction. It's the same story. Again. If you want me to be excited about your "new" Star Wars thing, you can't advertise it as "new" and then attempt to sell me the same thing I saw 38 years ago. That's not new. That's a reboot. If you think that the prequels damaged the cultural myth so much that he had to do that, fine. I don't agree, given the almost constant presence of the original films in the culture, but that's certainly debatable. What I'm saying is that this was sold as a continuation of the story and it wasn't. Even worse, if they just wanted to rip off something that already resonates with the fanbase, there's only a few hundred possible avenues that have already been explored in both comics and novels that they could have harvested. Instead, they put new names on the old stuff. That's it.

I think it could have been some whole new direction, only touching on the framework that already exists, and the fans still would have flocked to it. You know they would have. And it still could have involved Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2, and the whole clan. Hell, the roles for everyone but Han and Chewie in this film were basically non-existent. You're telling me it would have been somehow less successful to give Fisher and Hamill actual roles and dialogue? They did nothing in this film but stand in place for the waves of fan nostalgia. That's not storytelling. That's a modeling catwalk. Don't tell me to pay $10 for your prologue. Give me a story and not one that I've seen 20 times since 1977. I know Abrams can do it. He did it with his first Star Trek film, which was marketed as a reboot for the whole franchise. If you think that kind of move was necessary, then he could have done the same thing here, had an actual story, and given all of his stars other than Harrison Ford some actual material to work with and the fans still would have been backflipping in adoration. Other than Ridley and Boyega's solid performances, this was a marketing tool. Telling me that the next film is going to be where the new direction really takes off does nothing for this film but diminish it further.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 15:43 by Mad Dog #218416
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Abrams did the exact same thing as with Star Trek. He made a checklist of everything he thinks the fans liked in the original and worked it all into a franchise reboot movie. Nothing more than that. Search your feelings, you know this is true.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 16:21 by DukeofChutney #218420
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I had not seen the Hidden Fortress before I saw starwars, so it didn't really matter, but when you have seen the source material and you now see the new version, particularly when they are so similar, you cannot but help make a comparison.

Just got back from second viewing, this time with my parents. Neither of them are particularly nostalgic for star wars, or even fans really, they do not really differentiate between the prequels and the original trilogy, they are all dumb but fun sci fi flicks in their eyes. I think they preferred the prequels, they commented on how they thought they had seen this film, or at least bits of it, before.

I didn't enjoy it as much on second viewing. I probably liked the new characters even more, and i do think most of them are really great, but i spotted more references to the old films that i was comfortable with. Things like the scene with Han and Chewie planting explosives being straight from Return of the Jedi or Kylo Ren turning around and saying Han as he lands, instead of Vader feeling Obi Wans presence. The first time I accepted all of this as this is effectively picking up from 198o whatever and reminding the audience what star wars is. However this time it felt a bit too dense, almost like JJ went through the original trilogy and ticked each scene he liked then glued them together *edit, only just read Mad Dogs comment*, and found lose plot threads; light saber in a box, falcon in a junk yard, R2D2 under a towel to jump the characters from one to the next. JJ Abrams clearly loves star wars and this feels like his tribute to star wars, but when it comes to DVD time I think i'll just watch star wars.

On the plus side, given that the new characters are super, and given that the necessary dose of fan service and nostalgia is now done, the follow up movies could give us something new and potentially quite good.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 16:21 by Jackwraith #218421
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Mad Dog wrote:
Abrams did the exact same thing as with Star Trek. He made a checklist of everything he thinks the fans liked in the original and worked it all into a franchise reboot movie. Nothing more than that. Search your feelings, you know this is true.

Exactly. As I said repeatedly, my point is that Star Trek was marketed as a reboot. Everyone knew that going in. No more Next Generation, DS9, Voyager, whatever. It was a fresh start. He did the same thing here while calling it "Episode 7", which is bullshit. It was Episode 4, 2.0. They just remade A New Hope, which is fine if that's what people think the franchise needed. I don't and, regardless, I'd have appreciated it being marketed as the reboot that it is so that I didn't bother wasting my time and money on it until it hit Amazon or some such thing. I didn't need to see A New Hope for the 21st time.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 16:40 by boothwah #218424
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Posted: 28 Dec 2015 16:43 by DukeofChutney #218425
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would this work as well with the new female yoda?
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 17:41 by JMcL63 #218429
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Jackwraith wrote:
Mad Dog wrote:
Abrams did the exact same thing as with Star Trek. He made a checklist of everything he thinks the fans liked in the original and worked it all into a franchise reboot movie. Nothing more than that. Search your feelings, you know this is true.

Exactly. As I said repeatedly, my point is that Star Trek was marketed as a reboot. Everyone knew that going in. No more Next Generation, DS9, Voyager, whatever. It was a fresh start. He did the same thing here while calling it "Episode 7", which is bullshit. It was Episode 4, 2.0. They just remade A New Hope, which is fine if that's what people think the franchise needed. I don't and, regardless, I'd have appreciated it being marketed as the reboot that it is so that I didn't bother wasting my time and money on it until it hit Amazon or some such thing. I didn't need to see A New Hope for the 21st time.
Yes, but The Force Awakens isn't a reboot as such- it's not doing away with the canonical movies (just the EU), and it's even got the original cast in it. It is a restart, of course, because that's what was needed after the prequels. As a restart, it's the better for the presence of the original cast members- it's great to see them in the continuing saga we've waited for for so long, all 32 years since 1983 as Michael said. It's the backstory we learn through the latest adventures of these old favourites that gives the flavour of a reboot, insofaras we learn how things have changed in the many years since Return of the Jedi. That's why self-confessed Star Wars fanboys are so delighted by the return of the great space fantasy adventure saga instead of its reboot as a mere franchise.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 17:44 by Mr. White #218430
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Michael Barnes wrote:
As far as Jeff White's comment that "no one will remember this movie" in a few years or whatever...I love you buddy, but that strikes me as quite possibly the most head-up-the-ass statement I've ever read on F:AT.

Ha! All of the personal bullshit that people sling around here, and _that_ is the most head-up-the-ass statement you've read? heh.

[This thread is old now, but POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW]

Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]


Hey, I really liked the cast in this film and I wished it were better. I'm still hoping VIII and IX are good. I go to the theater _wanting_ to see good flicks. But there just wasn't anything here. Maybe Abrams should look at what Lucas had planned for this trilogy as some new ideas are sorely needed.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 17:54 by DukeofChutney #218432
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I appreciate that it is a light speed weapon, and that star wars has never really taken the scale of space that seriously but it really does feel like a goldfish bowl in this film. In the time it took me to take two gulps of beer (they serve good ale in this cinema) Kylo Ren and Han watch the gun fire, then Kylo shows up where Han is only a few seconds after the shot has impacted.

I think its probably just because Abrams assumes the viewer can read extra time between his cuts without any visual cues as to how much time has passed. It feels to me like they are on the bar planet for 20 minutes. In that time the bad guys have a chat, destroy the republic, load this ships and invade another planet. The same thing happens with Han and Chewie showing up at the right planet to snatch the falcon about 2 minutes after take off. I assume we are supposed to read in to that some sort of time gap but it feels near instantaneous watching it.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 19:06 by Black Barney #218440
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That's a pretty major spoiler you put in your post, White.

I find myself agreeing with Jack wraith and, more surprisingly, White. I think I enjoyed the movie more than they did but I have the same issues. This is going to be the hardest movie review I've ever written. It's a movie that I loved watching but I didn't actually really like.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 19:10 by Mr. White #218441
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Dude, I posted a spoiler warning!

Barnes calling my comment out from a different thread is what pulled more of my thoughts into this one.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 19:14 by JMcL63 #218442
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Black Barney wrote:
That's a pretty major spoiler you put in your post, White.

I find myself agreeing with Jack wraith and, more surprisingly, White. I think I enjoyed the movie more than they did but I have the same issues. This is going to be the hardest movie review I've ever written. It's a movie that I loved watching but I didn't actually really like.
That's a cognitive dissonance and no mistake.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 19:40 by Mr. White #218447
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Ok, Barney, I've added spoiler tags now...

And what's this being surprised you agree with me? Didn't we settle our movie differences with John Carter? ;)
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 19:53 by Jackwraith #218450
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Mr. White wrote:
I fully expect to see Rey training Luke at the beginning of VIII. I mean, it's already established she's a better pilot and mechanic than Han, and a faster learner of the Force than Luke while also showing she's a better light saber duelist than Luke was at this point. Where the OT characters had strengths, weaknesses, and room to grow, she's like a maxed out PC video game character. Why does anyone need Luke again?

Exactly. Nothing was earned in this film. There was no progression and very little development. Not even know what the Force is for the first third of the film? No problem! When needed by the script, you'll exercise both the overt (telekinesis) and subtle (confusion) powers of a Jedi like a master. Kylo's struggles with the Light side are told to us, not shown. There's on build up, no tension. Just declaration. Han's death on the bridge was formulaic. There's no other way for that scene to end except with his death. What could have been an epic moment instead feels like they were just ripping off Episode 4 again because Kenobi's death was a shock at the time. Then you add in the rush at the end to set up the next film. Half the plot of Force Awakens was discovering where Luke was. Putting aside the irrationality of using a map, rather than coordinates, when his location is discovered, it's like Rey taking a stroll next door to find him. There's no trial to find the lost master, no tension, no payoff. Nothing earned. It was all a rote exercise in declaring that they were starting the franchise over.
Mr. White wrote:
So, the rebellion beat the Emperor and the Empire in RotJ, but now they have _less_ resources? Seems like some of those old Y-wing bombers would have been helpful on that sortie against the StarKiller planet.

Yep. The Republic is apparently in existence (although wiped out in about 30 seconds) so the Rebel- ahem, Resistance is in First Order space? Does that mean that the Republic was actually funding a covert army inside the neighboring state? Was this a cold war? The First Order clearly seemed threatened by the concept of Luke returning (like, say, the return of the Jedi...?). Does that make them the Soviets of this story and the Republic the US supporting overt and covert action? All of these things are blocks that could've been used to build a story, but none of them are important in the film as presented because there wasn't meant to be a story other than the giant reset button that we were given.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 20:27 by Da Bid Dabid #218453
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I am also in the White/Jack/Barney camp and they have directly hit on most of my beefs, I feel the movie was just good enough for me to see the next one at some point.

I did really like Rey and thought she was the strong point, but her "force creep" was by far the biggest weakness of the film I thought. Rylo was worried she would become more powerful in the moments before escaping and getting the ship? She is basically the Incredible Hulk of force users I guess.
Posted: 28 Dec 2015 21:04 by Sevej #218457
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Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 06:50 by charlest #218480
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I had a lot of fun seeing the film this past weekend but the criticisms already laid out did bother me slightly. I think much of the legacy of this set of films will be determined by the direction Episode 8 goes. If it gets away from rehashing and recycling then Episode 7 will fit in fine.

My biggest complaint really was the stupid Rathtar scene. That felt like JJ trying to mimic the prequels. Bad CGI, completely throwaway action. Felt very out of place.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 07:50 by Joebot #218485
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Mr. White wrote:
... it it drove home the point that this film actually lacked a soul.

In other words, Star Wars is now a "Disney Entertainment Product." Disney is a machine. They churn out solid, well-executed, compentent movies that do nothing to challenge or surprise the audience. They're like pancakes. Hey, I like pancakes. Who doesn't like pancakes? But ... pancakes never surprise you. You know what you're going to get. TFA was a pancake.

And you could FEEL the gears of franchise-building! Just like in Age of Ultron, the movie is stuffed with moments and scenes that do nothing but spawn OTHER stories. Just tell me THIS story, and stop trying to sell me on the rest of your mega-franchise. I love the Marvel Movie Universe, but that is by far my biggest complaint, when a movie starts to feel like a commerical for the next movie. At times, TFA felt like that too.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 09:02 by Gregarius #218499
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You guys are full of crap.

Nothing new? No memorable scenes? What about a villain whose weakness is that sometimes he has the impulse for good? I can't remember seeing that in *any* movie. How about a heroine who finds strength (twice) when in the very pit of despair?

There are similarities to New Hope, for sure, but they seem very surface and inconsequential. There are also a lot of similarities to Empire Strikes Back, but no one seems to be bothered by those. The dramatic climax of ANH was Luke "trusting his feelings" and using the Force to destroy the Death Star. The similar scene in FA has nothing to do with the Starkiller, but instead is Rey alone in the woods against Kylo. She wasn't even being a hero, really, she was just trying to protect herself and her friend.

I have problems with the movie, too. The pacing is too action-packed, the Chewy and Leia dynamic is completely mishandled, the rathgar sequence. But I still loved the movie. I loved that it raised more questions than it answered. I loved that it made you feel pity for the villain. I loved that a Stormtrooper could become a good guy.

I can't wait for the next chapter.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 09:22 by jeb #218503
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Gregarius wrote:
You guys are full of crap.

Nothing new? No memorable scenes? What about a villain whose weakness is that sometimes he has the impulse for good? I can't remember seeing that in *any* movie. How about a heroine who finds strength (twice) when in the very pit of despair?
HEAT, DRIVE, SEXY BEAST, THIEF--any film with "bad guys" as the protagonist---which this may well also be an example of. It's a little more bald-faced here, as in the actual world, "good" isn't a force that compels you. It's just being a moral person. This is actually a pretty common theme of noir. It's Keitel's arc in RESERVOIR DOGS. It's played up a lot in PULP FICTION. It's everywhere man. Finding strength in pit of despair is even MORE common. If you want only heroines, then THE DESCENT, ALIEN franchise, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE NEXT KARATE KID, &c.
There are similarities to New Hope, for sure, but they seem very surface and inconsequential. There are also a lot of similarities to Empire Strikes Back, but no one seems to be bothered by those. The dramatic climax of ANH was Luke "trusting his feelings" and using the Force to destroy the Death Star. The similar scene in FA has nothing to do with the Starkiller, but instead is Rey alone in the woods against Kylo. She wasn't even being a hero, really, she was just trying to protect herself and her friend.
I think this film did the homages, and now it can strike its own path. Abrams had to do a lot of, "See? It's STAR WARS!" to get folks on his side after those pre-quels. He got us, so now he can do his own thing. For one, I don't want to see 3PO anymore. Anthony Daniels sounds wrong. I get that Leia is older and all that, but why would 3PO be any different?
I have problems with the movie, too. The pacing is too action-packed, the Chewy and Leia dynamic is completely mishandled, the rathgar sequence. But I still loved the movie. I loved that it raised more questions than it answered. I loved that it made you feel pity for the villain. I loved that a Stormtrooper could become a good guy.

I can't wait for the next chapter.
Me too--this movie was super fun and they got a lot right. It doesn't need to be CITIZEN KANE.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 11:27 by meeple #218516
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ya ya, childhood magic, blah blah, blah...
It was an 'ok' movie, but not more than that because:

- another droid with secret plans...
- ends up on another desert planet....
- meets another young jedi...
- who joins another rebellion....
- led by another bad guy in a dark mask...
- who works for a bigger bad guy....
- who controls another deathstar...
- which is blown up once again (the third time now) by some rebel pilots...

(But I thought the humour was good, and the Rey character)
(And why don't any of these deathstars have safety railings, dammit?! Must lose a pile of stormtroopers to falling over those edges....)
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 11:28 by Gregarius #218517
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jeb wrote:
Gregarius wrote:
You guys are full of crap.

Nothing new? No memorable scenes? What about a villain whose weakness is that sometimes he has the impulse for good? I can't remember seeing that in *any* movie. How about a heroine who finds strength (twice) when in the very pit of despair?
HEAT, DRIVE, SEXY BEAST, THIEF--any film with "bad guys" as the protagonist---which this may well also be an example of. It's a little more bald-faced here, as in the actual world, "good" isn't a force that compels you. It's just being a moral person. This is actually a pretty common theme of noir. It's Keitel's arc in RESERVOIR DOGS. It's played up a lot in PULP FICTION. It's everywhere man. Finding strength in pit of despair is even MORE common. If you want only heroines, then THE DESCENT, ALIEN franchise, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE NEXT KARATE KID, &c.
There's a reason I used the word "villain." Movies with anti-heroes, movies where the "bad guys" are the protagonists, those aren't villains. MAYBE you can count Heat, but I don't think having a streak of good was actually DeNiro's downfall in that one.

As for the second part, I thought I separated it out enough but I guess not. I don't think the "strength from despair" is unique, but I did think it was memorable, and handled in a new way. Hell, every hero's journey includes setbacks, even in rom-coms. But to have her turn the tables while being captured and interrogated, and to battle back from utter defeat during the light saber duel, those were great moments.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 14:09 by scissors #218538
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Gregarius wrote:
You guys are full of crap. Nothing new? No memorable scenes? What about a villain whose weakness is that sometimes he has the impulse for good? I can't remember seeing that in *any* movie. How about a heroine who finds strength (twice) when in the very pit of despair?
I can't wait for the next chapter.

Thanks.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 17:03 by Black Barney #218545
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Yeah that rathar scene bothered me too. Only a bit because it reminded me too much of Cloverfield, which was JJ I think ? But mostly because I thought they said rancors and I was so looking forward to JJs take on rancors and how Insanely bad ass Han had to be for transporting them. Turns out they were smuggling big balls of Critters and I was disappointed.
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 18:06 by Sevej #218551
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I think the rathtar sequence is a good one, and not because it's got the Raid actors in it. It's a great closing to an important scene for newbies. The scene before that establishes that Han is not a legendary hero or general. Han tried to talk things out, shit hit the fan, and he abandoned his cargo ship in Millennium Falcon. Seems like a typical "smuggler scene".
Posted: 29 Dec 2015 18:46 by Dan Lamb #218554
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Fourth viewing today. Finally - a decent seat in front of an IMAX screen. It's worth the extra money.

I hope we see Bala Tik in future movies. Played by Brian Vernel. Like many of the new faces in the film he performs superbly. He was also in the BBC's last kingdom: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/Q3s2PK...ZQf/odda-the-younger
Posted: 30 Dec 2015 12:58 by Columbob #218643
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jeb wrote:
For one, I don't want to see 3PO anymore. Anthony Daniels sounds wrong. I get that Leia is older and all that, but why would 3PO be any different?

Maybe droids also get old? You see junked droids sometimes.
Posted: 30 Dec 2015 13:31 by Sagrilarus #218648
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Let us keep spoilish materials in the spoilers thread please.