Friday, December 18, 2015

The Force Awakens...What the fandom can't see right now. (Movie review)

[Warning: This review contains plot details from the film that could be considered spoilers.]

The Force Awakens opened last night reinvigorating a movie franchise that was long overdue. Newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac infuse the project with a freshness that wasn't seen since episode 4 opened all those years ago in 1977.

The film goes straight to introduce the new characters, which are well rounded and relatable:
Rey (Played by newcomer Daisy Ridley) is a fangirl living in the desert planet of Jakku who grew up alone admiring the tales of the rebellion. Finn (Played by Johnn Boyega) is a reluctant Stormtrooper who after witnessing the brutality of the first Order decides to go leave them for good. While Poe Dameron, (Played by Oscar Isaac) is the best friggin' pilot in the resistance (and he actually lives up to that)

Ridley's performance is tender, beautiful, relatable, and tough. God do we love this girl! Boyega's Finn is actually really funny, while still making it interesting  to watch and leaves us wanting to know more.  Isaac's Poe is daring and trustworthy. Definitely a guy you want to have on your side on a sticky situation. (You better have more of those buddy scenes with Boyega in the next installment. The saga needs more of that).

Despite the superb management of special effects, effective use of wipe transitions, well developed cinematography, brilliant editing, multicultural cast and practical effects which are welcome by every fan, the movie does little in regards of story. It fails  in explaining what happened with the republic, how come the empire is still at large and doing so well after all these years, and why on earth are they called the resistance? Since it seems that is the First Order the one relegated to a small planet.  None of these questions are answered in this installment. Still, the movie gives tantalizing  fan boy service through the entire exposition with  jokes, familiar wrecks of fan favorite vehicles, familiar phrases, and more.

The score unfortunately doesn't shine as much as in other installments and is plagued by chase, and incidental music rather than original tunes. The only outstanding piece was "Rey's theme" though you can still hear some good classic tunes thrown in there like the "Millennium Falcon" and some more.

The movie reaches a nerd climax when Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) is reintroduced to the franchise. Han hasn't changed much, he is still the same cocky old smuggler, thawed to perfection for this installment with the same wits and funny lines that we all love and remember. Yes! it now feels like Star Wars!  All this, while the main (apparent) plot of the movie seems to find Luke Skywalker who has mysteriously vanished.

And that is when it gets weird...

The first 3 quarters of the movie felt very Star Warsy but as the film develops, you start to feel a familiarity in regards of plot that you have seen before:

-Evil Empire: Check
-Rehashed opening scene with a star destroyer at the beginning (just a different angle): Check
- Missing droid with important info inside: Check
-Stranded character in a desert-like planet: Check
-Character who is a great pilot: Check
-Daring escape from the desert-like planet: Check
-Mission to deliver the droid to the rebel base: Check
-Rip-off cantina scene : Check
-Death Star-like planet that blows stuff up: Check
-Blowing a planet(s) by said Death Star-like planet: Check
-Major flaw in the design of such weapon: Check
-Lead female character captured and tortured by bad guys: Check
- Rebels finding the design flaw on such weapon: Check
-Attack on such weapon, that seems is not going too succeed: Check
-Killing of a major character in the third act to "inspire" the new characters: Check
-Trench run rip-off scene: Check
-Rebels blowing the weapon: Check

Yes, The Force Awakens is a camouflaged reboot of the Star Wars franchise, that uses the first one as its template. Though it still has some outstanding moments of its own.

While the good guys are the best part of this movie, the villains are the worst: Kylo Ren (Played by Adam Driver)  is a villain with a serious inferiority complex that throws tantrums (literally) every time something goes wrong. He mirrors the daddy issues seen on Empire with Luke and Vader but quite frankly fails to deliver the fear and presence that Vader had. General Hux (Played by
Domhnall Gleeson)  is probably one of the few who still retains that "imperial" feeling about the First Order,  however  back talks and diminishes Ren every time (who can blame him?) Vader- mind you- would have just choked him.

Captain Phasma, the oh! so praised character played by Gwendolie Christie, has few scenes throughout the flick, and on her last one, she is pushed out of frame like a muppet. Adding to that disgrace, as soon as a gun is pointed to her head, she flinches and helps the rebels, and -we assume- is discarded in a trash compactor thanks to the petition of Han Solo.  I hope she can redeem herself in the next chapter.

Finally Snoke....The much anticipated character played in CGI by Andy Serkis is nothing but a holographic Gollum on steroids (really DOES look like him) or a 10 foot Voldemort (choose what fits you) whose real size is yet to be seen since all of his parts are only holograms. Not frightening or intriguing at all.

They all fail to capture the ominous presence of the Empire, the fear that you felt when Darth Vader or Maul were on screen, is replaced by a villain with daddy issues whose personality is WORSE than teenage Anakin. Oh and the Stormtroopers haven't improved in regards of aim either, although they look way cooler.

Fans are raving. Words like "is like seeing the first Star Wars again", "My childhood is back!" are being uttered everywhere.  Well...duh! The force Awakens uses the same template of "A new hope" with similar plot twists, and  identical camera angles, while giving you very little new.  I expected a far more imaginative plot instead of the refry of a 30 year old story.

It's all concealed within an almost subliminal  cinematographic language meant to make you feel like you are a kid again, (sorry JJ, those of us who speak movie, can see through it)  while giving you almost nothing new. Maybe in a few months after the fandom fires die, people can see The force Awakens for what it truly is: A cash grabbing machine, that has reinvigorated the franchise for a whole new generation with new interesting and adorable heroes, an utterly UNNECESSARY death,  dull villains and a legacy cast that probably won't survive the final chapters of this new saga.

But we all knew that.

Star Wars opens nationwide in theaters on December 18th

Chris "Hunter" D.