Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Remo D
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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Post by Remo D » Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:30 pm

Sorry, folks--it's going to be another week until I get settled down and get my Internet connection back at home, so my annual "Year in Review" epic is going to have to wait till then. But plenty of people have been asking me what I thought of the new STAR WARS, so I've got to get this much out at least.

My perspective: I was a first-generation STAR WARS fan who was blown away by the original (later "Episode IV") while still in grade school. I thought EMPIRE was even better (as in "best") and that JEDI was a considerable letdown. I was unimpressed with the endlessly-tinkered-with re-release versions... but at the very least they gave me the opportunity to take my own daughter to see them on the big screen. As for the "prequel" trilogy? I didn't hate them. I thought they got better as they went along, and while PHANTOM MENACE was certainly the least of the bunch, not even that was unwatchable by my standards (though a certain character did his level best to make it just that). Nobody likes ATTACK OF THE CLONES either, but when it comes to grand finales, I'll take a Harryhausen tribute in a monstrous arena over an Ewok battle any time, so I liked it better than JEDI anyway. So sue me. Strictly by episode number, I ended up ranking the six movies thus: 5, 4, 3, 2, 6, 1.

In other words, I haven't truly LOVED a STAR WARS movie since EMPIRE all those years ago. And no amount of nostalgia or hype could get me geared up and champing at the bit to see THE FORCE AWAKENS. I was reasonably sure I'd enjoy it but had no reason to think that the old magic was going to work its charms on me like it used to.

I was wrong.

Look, we're still in early release stage and people still get angry about "spoilers." If you've really been waiting to see this film, you must have done so by now. But I'm still not going to waste time rehashing the plot. Base level: you know that "Finn" (John Boyega of ATTACK THE BLOCK) is the Stormtrooper with a conscience who gets involved in the latest Rebel business; that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger with mad skills; that BB-8 is the latest in endearing Droid technology and that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) aspires to succeed Darth Vader himself as a worthy vessel for the Dark Side. And that all of them get caught up in a plot to obtain crucial information that will lead to certain characters from previous adventures. And you know exactly which ones show up early enough to get a serious piece of the action.

For all you may have worried about where J.J. Abrams would take this franchise, let me assure you that he knows exactly how to please fans of the original series AND captivate newcomers with his up-to-date bag of tricks--how to build up suspense and yet NOT keep us needlessly waiting with obligatory cliches. And here's an example of the latter that I appreciated perhaps more than any other. Of course you remember AVATAR. As beautiful as that movie looked, don't you think you could have made it better by shaving off half an hour or so... particularly the half hour between the point when our hero's duplicity is found out ("I never want to see you again!") and the point of his invevitable re-acceptance by the tribe? THE FORCE AWAKENS dispenses with all such rehash by giving us no-nonsense characters that know what they need to do, get to the business of doing it and STILL manage to entertain us with banter and fast-paced action along the way. (Oh, and as Darth Vader was always my favorite character--at least until the prequels came along? Kylo's a fine and intriguing would-be-inheritor who still gets to have his own personality: "Anything else?")

Perhaps you'll disagree, and that's fine. I'm the guy who liked CLONES better than JEDI, after all. But I've got nothing to gain by lying to you... this is the most enthralling fun I've had with STAR WARS since EMPIRE all those years ago. Enjoy.


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Darth Tanner
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Re: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Post by Darth Tanner » Sat Jan 09, 2016 9:50 am

I've been serious lagging on my movie discussions during the past year (I'm hoping to correct that in 2016). I did see this on opening day and then went back last weekend to see it a second time in IMAX 3-D. This movie has already been out for three weeks and has shattered box-office records everywhere, so it's safe to assume that everybody that cared about this movie as already seen it and we shouldn't worry too much about spoilers at this point. But just in case, I'll keep my thoughts as spoiler-free as possible.

Like Remo, I grew up on the "original" STAR WARS trilogy. I still have fond memories of seeing RETURN OF THE JEDI on the big screen with my father during its initial run in 1983 when we lived in northern VA. Even then I felt that it didn't measure up to the first two movies, but we still had a great time and that series is really what got me interested in movies to begin with. I also didn't mind George Lucas tweaking the original films and releasing them as "special editions". I know purists were outraged, but I thought the revamped special effects actually worked in the films favor (with the exception of a few comic moments) plus it gave people a chance to see them on the big screen again. I only wish George hadn't taken the original versions I grew up with out of circulation and hope someday those can be released with glorious remastering. Of course, we have debated over the prequels a lot during the early years of this forum but I still have to say that I enjoyed all of them (although I will admit that PHANTOM MENACE is the weakest of the entire series).

When I saw REVENGE OF THE SITH in 2005, I thought it brought a nice closure to the series and I was perfectly satisfied. So when I heard that Disney was doing a new series along with spinoff films, I immediately had my doubts (even more so when I heard that Lucas wouldn't be involved) despite being a lifelong fan of the series. But the more I heard about Episode VII (bringing back the original cast, the involvement of Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams) it all started to seem promising. Then I really got excited when I saw the first trailer and couldn't wait to see this.

I concur with Remo that THE FORCE AWAKENS is totally entertaining and I think it is the best in the series since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. There is never a dull moment in the film as the story and the action scenes (along with some nice bits of humor) are terrific. Indeed the whole movie really brings back the feel of the old-school films and I almost felt the same way I did seeing RETURN OF THE JEDI in the theater in 1983. My favorite scene in THE FORCE AWAKENS has to be the introduction to the Falcon. I also like the fact that J.J. Abrams relied more on practical effects as opposed to CGI and they all look great. In fact, CGI is used pretty sparingly here and it is certainly a refreshing change of pace after the CGI-laded prequels. While seeing the classic characters in action again is a real treat, I really enjoyed the new characters that were introduced (particularly Rey). I'm already looking forward to Episode VIII and hope that the director who is supposed to replace Abrams can keep the momentum going.

In closing, I will have to say that this is the best movie I've seen during the dismal 2015 and I would encourage even the naysayers to go check it out. I should also add that the 3-D conversion on this looked great to me :)

Edit - and yes I will be posting my thoughts on 2015 in due time, but I always like to let Remo do the honors first since it's his thing.

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