Sunday, January 03, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Okay, it's time to talk about this. I've seen it twice now and enough time has passed to put the movie into a little bit of perspective. After seeing it the first time, I was torn. The second time worked better for me, but I'm still kind of ambivalent about the story.

This isn't going to be any kind of in-depth analysis, but just a bunch of thoughts I had during and after seeing it.

(Note that I'm going to refer to the movie as "TFA" below because it's easier.)


What I liked about the movie:

  • TFA felt like a real Star Wars film. The prequels had an artificial, CGI aspect, which didn't quite seem like traditional Star Wars. TFA did. J.J. Abrams didn't fill the film with his traditional lens flare and lots of chaotic noise, but emulated the tone and pacing of the original films. Well done.
  • I loved almost all the new characters and having the two leads be a woman and a black man was a great choice. What's more, the actors performing these roles were great.
  • The action scenes were mostly easy to follow and exciting.
  • Han Solo and Chewbacca were well used.
  • The pacing of the film was excellent.
  • The reveal of the Millennium Falcon was one of the best movie moments I've had in years. Really funny and surprising.

What I didn't like about the movie:

  • The opening shot of A New Hope was awe-inspiring and iconic. The opening shot of ATF was muddled and dark. I thought the bulb in the projector had been turned down.
  • A New Hope, Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace all climax with a fighter attack on a giant ship/space station in order to save our heroes. Why the hell did this movie have to do the same thing yet again? "Hey, I know what we should do! Those first two Death Stars were awesome. Let's build a new one, but this time, even bigger and with an even more obvious fatal flaw." Urgh.
  • In fact, TFA mimics the structure of A New Hope to a large degree. The Empire Strikes Back didn't do that and is the best of the films. Coincidence? I think not.
  • While the Prequels overdid the political discussion, I would have loved at least a few sentences about the political situation in the galaxy. It's really unclear what's going on with the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order. It seems that 30 years after the destruction of the Empire, nothing much has been accomplished.
  • Why the hell wasn't Leia trained as a Jedi and why don't they even address that?
  • Apparently training Jedi has a very high chance of producing a Sith or other Dark Side follower like Kylo Ren. You think they'd figure out a less failure-prone method.
  • And why the heck does anyone switch to the Dark Side if it de facto means you have to kill a bunch of innocent people? Doesn't that mean that Ben Solo was a sociopath to begin with?
  • Finn's change of heart about being a Stormtrooper was not developed at all. It's presented as a fait accompli in his first scene, and he talks a little bit about it, but there really wasn't any arc to his changing sides or any second thoughts, even when he's killing his former troop mates.
  • If you have a map to a portion of your galaxy and all the systems of the galaxy had been mapped previously, it would be very simple to figure out where the portion of the map goes.
  • Captain Phasma (the cool-looking, female, silver stormtrooper captain) was a complete letdown.
  • I can't decide if I like emo Darth Vader Jr. wannabe or not. He doesn't seem to understand that Darth Vader repudiated the Dark Side before he died. Dumbass.
  • And on top of that, Kylo Ren is actually wounded in a lightsaber duel by a non-Jedi and beaten by someone who's been studying the Force for about ten minutes. That tended to undercut his supposed awesomeness.
  • J.J. Abrams has no sense of the scale of space. The "Starkiller" planet appears to be in a different star system than the unnamed planets it blows up late in the movie. A beam fired at the speed of light from a different star system would take years to hit the target. And if Starkiller is in the same star system as its targets, then just sucking up the sun to power the super gun would be enough to kill all the planets in the system, including the ones our heroes stood on to watch the other planets get blown up. Firing the gun at that point would be unnecessary.
  • A small planet couldn't possibly soak up the mass of a sun and not rip itself apart (not to mention flattening anyone on that planet). That was REALLY STUPID "science".
  • And finally, due to Luke Skywalker's "failure" at training Jedi, one of them became a Dark Lord, or whatever, and killed the rest of the Jedi-in-training. Luke, the only person around who might be able to stop this new Dark Lord, then vanishes for unknown reasons, leaving everyone to the mercy of this new terror. Thanks a lot, dick.
I would love some discussion in the comments.


ahtitan said...

I have seen it (so far) 3 times, and loved every minute of it. Each time I was more impressed with Adam Driver's performance. Really good stuff happening there in the scene with Han.

The movie does follow the structure of New Hope, but I think this was intentionally to tell the fans that the "real" SW is back. It felt right. It was also different enough to not be a copy. I love the new characters, and am looking forward to further developments.

True Finn's defection is quick, but we didn't necessarily need to see his story extended. Perhaps we'll get more of that later.

Regarding Ren's beatdown, read the article I linked to on FB. He had been hit with a bowcaster, which the movie went to great lengths to portray as a badass kill-box. He takes a hit from one and walks it off. His powers and skill are being strained by staying alive from that, and from being thrown off by someone who can actually use the force, which seem to be in short supply these days. And he pretty much easily beat Finn.

I'm assuming that the Republic has been trying to rebuild the galaxy, and that the First Order is made up of those parts of the Empire that don't want to give up their power. 30 years of that struggle isn't that long.

Regarding the science of the Starkiller beam...meh. It's a movie.

Ipecac said...

I would have felt it was real without mimicking A New Hope. It looked right, sounded right, and basically avoided the overly CGI'd version Lucas had created in the prequels. I didn't need the same story again.

If they follow the format, then there will be no flashbacks. Star Wars never did flashbacks. So I doubt we'll see more of anyone pre-TFA. I'm okay with that, but still not entirely satisfied. Don't get me wrong, I loved the new characters.

Yes, he pretty much easily beat Finn except when Finn hit him with a lightsaber. NOOOPE.

I'm appalled at your "meh" comment. You're a theater guy! Yes, it's a movie, but that doesn't mean it gets to just ignore physics. Yes, there are fantastic elements you have to buy, but the first trilogy didn't fudge the vast distances in space. This one did. But that's Abrams. He did it even worse in Star Trek.

ahtitan said...

I really didn't mind the Starkiller beam. Didn't bother me. It bothered you. That's ok.

Also re: the Finn fight, which I neglected to mention before. We don't know how many actual lightsabers Ren has fought against. More importantly, perhaps he was a bit off his game because he'd, you know, JUST KILLED HIS DAD.

Ipecac said...


So I've been reading about the whole Starkiller Base attack and one part of it is even more ridiculous. According to Disney or Abrams when responding to questions, the seat of the New Republic is the Hosnian System and the Starkiller Base is in another system when it fires its weapon. That means it fired its beams through hyperspace.

Okay, I'll buy that. Starkiller Base is able to project a hyperspace tunnel into another star system and shoots its death beams through that tunnel into its targets. Cool. That works within the known physic of Star Wars. I'm okay with that.

But what about the Resistance folk who are watching the Republic planets in the Hosnian System getting blown up? According to Disney, they were in yet a THIRD star system. They are in a completely different star system than the Republican planets, and were able to SEE THEM being blown apart. Sorry, that's just stupid. SPACE IS BIG.

This is all on JJ Abrams because he did the same stupid crap in Star Trek. It took two minutes to get from Earth to Vulcan and Earth to the Klingon homeworld. Aargh. I get that you need to tell a story visually and you need to compress some story elements for pacing, but you still have to maintain some grip on reality to allow the audience to suspend disbelief. And being able to see planets in another star system with your bare eyes is moronic. If they had watched the destruction on monitors in their control center, fine. No issues.

The original Star Wars trilogy didn't make these kind of stupid science mistakes. (Again, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief pretty far in a science fantasy movie, but that was way over the line.)