Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Every generation has a story.
I've passed up too many coincidental dates lately I owe everyone this. We'll return to our normally schedule shenanigans - probably with a far worse movie - next week. For now, enjoy the day-pun and a flick we've already covered in the QF format when it was brand new. Light your sabers and miss your targets, let's see how it's held up to repeat viewings.
Let us come out of the gate swinging! One of the most lodged complaints about this movie is that it was way too similar to one of the original trilogy movies plot-wise. Now, this is a double sided cattle prod that's just shocking everyone too stupid to realize the electric ends will shock you. Here's the deal from my mind: When the prequels came out, after a bit all that "new Star Wars" smell wore off and people were in arms about them - too different! Too CG! Too J.J. Binks! So here we have a sequel that sticks close to the tried and true formula from the movies all these vocal fans loved - idealistically exactly what they wanted in their outcries. Besides that, any movie - if watered down enough - has a remarkably the same plot. Think about it? How many movies have you seen tell the story of the Hero's Quest? The difference is in the details - and I feel here there are enough details to really set them apart.
Our main villain here - if you consider it to be Kylo - has a vast emotional range in comparison to our past Empire dogs and the rather stoic robot-of-a-man Vader. I know this is another thing some people complained about ("Emo Kylo Ren"), but personally I feel it's a great little bit. The Sith, as far as any media has told us, were always about emotions and using them to enhance their raw power - much like a fantasy barbarian would go into a rage to drastically pump those muscles to the limit and ignore even death till he came off his rampage. It's fitting, and it also helps to make him more of a character - he feels, he has inner conflicts, he has desires. It's not just another faceless entity the enemies have to overcome, it's a person who could snap at any moment, forged in practice but not refined to it's true potential yet. Heck, we even start off seeing some of that power when he essentially freezes time in a small area using the force - something we have yet to see before. Later on, his outburst on the ship shows the volatility of his emotions, but also of his character - while also serving as a humorous moment for the watcher when the troopers come into play.
The final main complaint I've heard about this movie - and one that I partially agree with - is that of Rey feeling too much like a Mary Sue. For those not familiar with the term, it essentially boils down to a character who is somehow capable of whatever they seem to need be capable of for no apparent reason - which in my opinion can usually boil down to poor writing. The fact this term was effectively started (to my knowledge) because of a fan fiction character only makes that second point drive home even more. See, I don't think Rey is a Mary Sue because she's good at everything - I mean, in Star Wars nearly everything can be attributed to just "oh, the force," much to my annoyance. The reason she feels like a Mary Sue to me is because none of her skills are really explained on screen. We get that she's a scrap hoarder on a desert planet, and she can drive little land-skiff style speeder things. Yet she continually pulls out more and more skills - engineering, fighting, flying space vehicles - that isn't really ever backed with any lines to make it feel as though she's had some kind of decent training to explain the abilities. I'm hoping that in the sequel they will get more into her past, and in turn all of these amazing jack-of-all trades skills will be better explained.
Now, having said that you may think that I really don't like Rey - which isn't really the case. Her character is enjoyable, and her chemistry with Finn (whose probably actually my favorite character in this movie) and their banter really make this movie one of the more enjoyable Star Wars movies in my opinion. Heck, all the cast do a good job with line delivery and acting - even though some feel really underutilized. Probably one of the greatest of those is the Phasma character, who pre-release everyone had been convinced was going to play some kind of a cool or important role (what with the cape and all the chrome) but effectively played the part of Boba Fett in winning the "does nothing" award.
Effects-work is on point in this movie. A good amount of practical effects were used, and to great affect. That isn't to say the digitals are poorly done either - on the contrary , it's actually hard to tell the two apart at times. There are some moments (especially after having seen the behind the scenes) where it feels they might have done a bit too much of a CG pass on a practical element, but it's still all a thrilling ride. Missing from this entry are any actual space-battles however, with all the ship-to-ship being in atmosphere outside of a single escape run. Still, the closeness to the ground does help add an element of excitement, especially in the scenes where it plays a decent roll in on screen events. The robotic character (mainly being BB-8) actually has an amazing personality for something that's basically just a ball with a head.
The music supports the scenes greatly, and audio is always understandable even when delivered through a mask-filter. Action scenes come off great, including and leading up to the climactic lightsaber battle at the end. Easter eggs are abound for those who care, including a less eggy return of a lot of the main players from the original Trilogy. Cinematography-wise, things are put together beautifully, including some scenes with long flowing shots to really let you revel in the awesome event being played out on screen. Lastly in this rambling sort of paragraph, the 3D effects were pretty well done in a few moments, with the most notable being a ship coming out of the screen and getting a flinch out of a few people. They didn't hold up quite as well for a private home viewing, but I'm still working out attempting to watch this in 3D using a VR headset I have, at which point I expect amazing things.
Overall, there is no real reason to not like this movie. If you find it to close to others, it's sort of just being nitpicky and not allowing yourself to enjoy. It's not flawless, but it is incredibly enjoyable to watch and experience. Well worth a rent, if not a buy. I also have to say that of all the trailers of recent years, this one did the most excellent job of not giving anything away that I have seen.