REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

20 12 2015

J.J. Abrams is perhaps the chief nostalgist of our time, and he often executes this fascination with such panache that we might as well call him a classicist. The reverence he pays to the films that inspired his own work serves to elevate those movies to a higher cultural plateau. And, as if anyone had not noticed the influence of “Star Wars” on a generation of moviegoers, they have definitive proof in the second relaunch of the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Abrams, working with original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan, finds that sweet spot between paying homage to the old and forging ahead with the new. The film’s action is primarily driven by two new heroes – the orphan girl Rey (Daisy Ridley) soon to discover extraordinary powers and ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who gains a conscience after witnessing the slaughter of innocence. They go up against a new sinister antagonist in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who works in tandem with the eerily fascist politician General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).

Yet for all these new characters, there are also the old ones there in supporting roles – Han Solo, Luke and Leia Skywalker, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 are all back. John Williams’ score livens up the film. The Millennium Falcon is back. Heck, Abrams even maintains the distinctive wipes and editing transitions from the original Lucas films. Anyone who feared drastic change in the series with the passing of the reins ought to be more than reassured by “The Force Awakens.”

The coexistence of the old and the new provides every bit as much tension as the plot, which I will continue to avoid discussing in any depth lest I reveal a spoiler. (I kept my head in the sand as much as possible regarding “Star Wars” news in order to experience the film with as fresh of eyes as possible, and it paid off.) Yet even with Rey and Finn as the primary engines of action in “The Force Awakens,” the film feels practically like a mirror image of the original 1977 “Star Wars.” This was no doubt intentional, I assume, but the amount of bowing Abrams performs before the mythology of the franchise keeps his film from standing as tall as it could.

Certainly future installments in the new “Star Wars” will go deeper and bolder, making an even greater case for the series’ relevance and importance. For now, though, this served its purpose to reawaken the vanguard of longtime fans and excite a new generation. I must say, I am on board for what comes next. B+3stars

Random Factoid #427

28 09 2010

WARNING: Today’s factoid is pretty much a rant in the style of “Really?” from SNL’s Weekend Update.

My opening statement comes from some wonderfully sardonic writer at Cinematical:

You may recall that many ‘Star Wars’ fans were unhappy with the prequels, and that as a consequence of the fans’ anger, Episodes I, II, and III are only the 7th, 30th, and 12th highest-grossing films of all time, with a combined worldwide gross of just $2.4 billion. Duly chastened by this catastrophic failure, George Lucas announced Tuesday that those prequels, along with the three original films, will be re-released in 3D. This will fix everything, since the main thing people didn’t like about the prequels was that watching them didn’t require special glasses.

Really, George Lucas?  You are rereleasing the “Star Wars” movies in 3D?  Your estimated worth is over $3 billion; isn’t it time to stop trying to make money off the “Star Wars” trilogies and just move on?  You haven’t directed anything other than that series since 1973, so maybe a new project could do you good!  When you are that rich, you aren’t allowed to shamelessly money grub like this!

And really, 3D conversions?  We still have to put up with you?  I thought you were going to DIE with M. Night Shamalamadingdong’s reputation.  I’m sorry, but I’m not so desperate to see a movie in 3D to see a movie that gets a cheap-o conversion, nor am I so desperate to see the original “Star Wars” movies like my parents saw them in a theater.

I don’t have the incredible wit and biting humor of Seth Meyers, but that’s my best stab at the ridiculous news emerging today.

Random Factoid #124

29 11 2009

If you haven’t gotten to laugh at something pathetic today, this factoid will give it to you.

I lay out the tickets in my collection in a grid format.  The normal sized tickets lay six in a row.  Going into the summer of 2005, I had 5 tickets on the last row on a page.  We were headed to an AMC theater to check out the new “Star Wars” movie, but this was bad news for me.  I knew I had to convince my family to use the auto-ticket machine, or there would be a big empty space on my page.  When we walked in the theater, there was no line at the normal kiosk.  I started with casual suggestions but then turned to begging.  It was to no avail.  If you ever look through my collection and notice a glaring blank space, this is its story.

Random Factoid #123

28 11 2009

I’m not the kind to hold a grudge against a person. A website, that’s a different story.

I have not used Fandango to purchase advanced tickets since 2002. I pre-ordered tickets to “Star Wars: Episode II,” and there was some sort of a mix-up with the system that caused me to miss the first 15 minutes of the movie. If you ever read the factoids, then you will know that picking up on a movie already in progress is something I really despise.  Even though I’m sure that the technology is updated and millions of people use it without problems, I still haven’t forgiven Fandango.

Random Factoid #49

15 09 2009

My subscription to Entertainment Weekly began in July 2003 when my family became members of Blockbuster Video.  They extended a free trial, and I loved looking at it so much that my mom began paying for a subscription.  I often saved them and cut pictures of movies out of them.  I stored the cut-outs in an old Nike shoebox.  On occasion, I would take similarly themed clippings and put them together in a collage which hung on my wall.  I recall creating a Star Wars, Walk the Line, and a Reese Witherspoon collage, who was then my favorite Hollywood star to drool over.