Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)

The Force Awakens... indeed!  In some respects, JJ Abrams surpasses my expectations; in others, he misses the mark.  His version of Star Wars was a good amount of kitsch and banter on a Coney Island caliber emotional roller coaster, but without all the onscreen chemistry in A New Hope or Empire Strikes back.  WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS (but very few of them and nothing that you don't find out in the opening text crawl).

JJ Abrams (Armageddon, Mission Impossible III, Super 8) - Director/Co-Writer
Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) - Co-Writer
Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) - Co-Writer

The old cast is back with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, 

Lupita Nyongo (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop)  - Maz Kanata
Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis, Lincoln) - Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley (don't front like you watched Scrawl or Mr. Selfridge- No, you never saw her before) - Rey
John Boyega (Junkhearts, Attack the Block) - Finn
Gwendolyn Christie (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2) - Captain Phasma
Max Von Sydow (Shutter Island, Flash Gordon - a movie dying for a remake!) - Lor San Tekka
Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes) - Supreme Leader Snoake
Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina) - Poe Dameron

Also seen in The Force Awakens were the kicka$$ martial artists from The Raid 2, Yayan Ruhain and Iko Uwais.


Last chance - SPOILER ALERT, you've been warned... 

The Force Awakens starts some time after Return of the Jedi. So, if you thought the Galactic Empire was devastated or destroyed when Luke, Han, Leia, and the rebel alliance killed the Emperor and Darth Vader was done-zo, then you're mistaken.  The empire has not collapsed.  In fact, the "civil war" (as it was referred to in the text crawl for A New Hope) rages on.  Like most failed corporations, it seems the Empire's decided to re-brand itself as the Third Reich... I mean, the First Order.  Luke Skywalker is... well, let's just say... he's about as active in the ongoing war as Jabba the Hut would be at a Blink Fitness.  The story centers around the accidental conscription of Finn and Rey in the fight against the First Order and the search for Luke.  

If you saw Episode IV: A New Hope, this movie will not hold many surprises for you at all.

PHOTO: Scene from the new Star wars:The Force Awakens trailer released during Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, April 16, 2015.Episode VII lacked the originality of Episodes IV, V, and VI, but it was still really, really good.  In fact, I might go out on a limb and say that... eh ehm... people will go out in droves and see Episode VII.  And they will like it a lot, they may even go back to see it again.  Neil deGrasse Tyson has ruined my ability to suspend disbelief in a lot of sci-fi movies and I'm sure he would have a serious problem with the major danger element created for The Force Awakens; still, you have to give it to George Lucas, Disney, LucasFilm and anybody else with a points on this movie.  It is likely to have moviegoers raving and running back to see it on 3D, Imax, and every other expensive format they've created even though it's just an introduction of new characters doing the same thing.  A solid movie all around and one of the top 3 in the series, but it wasn't without issues.  My first concern was that JJ Abrams didn't really create a whole new story, so much as rehash one and add the newbies.  Hopefully, this is all a set up for what's coming.  Kylo Ren struck me as a weird combo of Hayden Christensen's annoying Anakin Skywalker and that kinda weird tall, long haired guy from Girls... which I later found out, that's who played Kylo Ren - I never actually saw the show Girls for longer than the few seconds it took me to identify the show and find my remote control. Another issue with the flick is that they didn't shoot it like Cameron did Avatar.  I'm no expert but the 3D quality wasn't remotely as good as Avatar, which suggests that it was not filmed completely in 3D or that JJ Abrams didn't upgrade on the frame rate - either way, it could have been visually better than it was (and I know they had a budget through the roof).  No, The Force Awakens is not a perfect film and aside from there being a heroine and a black male lead, there is nothing novel to it.  The Force Awakens is more of an homage and relaunching of the Star Wars brand after the debacle that introduced us to Jar Jar Binks (me'sah thinks George still regrettsa dat... AND HE SHOULD).  

It is nice that they have Rey (Ridley) and Finn (Boyega) doing the heavy lifting.  I do love a female action hero (like Zoe in Colombiana).  I grew up around a lot of tough women, so I have an affinity for women who can kick butt and keep it moving.  Rey has that potential.  They tease us with glimpses of her back story, which will need to be fleshed out in future films and if they hold to form, in the next episode, we'll find out who Rey's father and/or mother are.  Female leads in action and sci-fi are always fun even when the movie sucks, and better when the movie doesn't suck.  Daisy Ridley is a fresh face and a fresh change of pace.  I like that about her.  Time will tell if she gets to be in the upper echelons of female action leads like Scarlett Johansson, Qi Shu, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Ann Moss, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Anjelina Jolie, Linda Hamilton, or even Pam Grier.  (SPOILER ALERT 2!!!)  Although a buddy of mine (we used to call him "Wheels" Muhammad) points out that bringing in a female lead/jedi - as well as making the black male lead a possible love connection in a sci-fi mega series like Star Wars - translates into a major funding opportunity because it makes the series more accessible to two demographics that typically do not get much to look for in these kinds of movies.  Now, you have a reason for women and non-white guys to go see movies that generally whitewash race to the extent that brown folks do not exist in fictional distant futures or universes or alternate worlds - see everything from Dune, to Blade Runner, and the Hobbit (sorry to the #BoycottStarWarsVII racists, but I hope JJ Abrams makes more history in the next Episode by incorporating Marvin Gaye in the score by having BB8 play "Let's Get It On" while Finn and Rey get busy on the Millenium Falcon).

The salient points about The Force Awakens are 1) true Star Wars fans should love this movie, if for no other reason than it gives them another look at something they already love + they do it so well that it is almost a remake, 2) the graphics are far superior to what was available back in my infancy (when the A New Hope dropped, I was almost a full year on this earth and just 40 years away from taking over the world... I'll send out a memo when I do), 3) there's a black Storm Trooper, son!  I don't think you heard me... A BLACK STORM TROOPER.  Although, I don't understand why he had to lose the accent for the role?  We seem to cast an awful lot of people from across the pond, just to have them lose their posh English accents, but I digress.

BTW: Shout out to PAJ1 for calling out the similarities to Spaceballs (if you never saw Spaceballs, it's a freaking Mel Brooks classic - your life won't be right until you see it.

Anwya, if the Force Awakens happens to be too full, or sold out... I strongly suggest that you check out Creed or even Chi-Raq (but not with the kiddies).

IMTHATDUDE gives Star Wars: Episode VII (The Force Awakens): 4 

5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

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