Star Wars Ep. 7 – An opinion piece.

 

So, the day finally arrived. Star Wars Episode VII has arrived in my lifetime and George Lucas has nothing to do with it! I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, but considering how I generally dislike the “prequel” trilogy of the early part of this century – I awaited this one with somewhat baited breath. While I am mostly pleased with what JJ Abrams gave us, there were some aspects that I feel could’ve been handled better and some that even exceeded not only my expectations, but anything I could have imagined on my own. Needless to say, its a landmark film for me for being the first 8am release day screening I’ve ever attended recreationally. At any rate, here are my thoughts on the details of the film:PLEASE NOTE – From this point forward this entire piece is one gigantic spoiler. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read further, unless you don’t give a fuck — then by all means continue.

I’m going to start by giving a general overview opinion and then a good, crap, and in between detail section. I’ll close with what I think about the future.

Let me start off by saying that I enjoyed the film very much. I took a few days after my initial viewing as I clearly felt I was on a bit of a “contact high”. As that receded, I began re-thinking some things and ended up seeing the film again a few days ago and was disappointed with a lot more than I initially was. While I feel Abrams and his entire team accomplished a great deal, the amount of plotholes, questions raised, and overall “feeling” of the film leaves more to be desired than I expected after my first viewing.

The overall critical aspect of the film is that it very much feels like a “rehash” or to be gentler, a “reboot” of 1977’s A New Hope. I agree with this generalization wholeheartedly and while I understand the reasoning for going this route, I think it was a bit disingenuous and may prove to be the series’ undoing as we move forward. Considering Disney is literally planning a Star Wars film for every year for at least the next 5 years, burnout is a higher possibility than ever before. Had this episode been coined a “A Newer Hope”, it would not have been a lie. At the end of the day, I think JJ Abrams played this episode entirely too safe, which was arguably necessary after the prequel trilogy. However, it’s a laudable achievement and not a bad film.

The Good:

Rey – I especially enjoyed Daisy Ridley’s portrayal of this plucky young scavenger from the planet, Jakku. She carried her weight impressively while onscreen with the icons and generally stole the scene almost every time she was there. I have very little to criticize about this character or performance, but on my second viewing I laughed out loud when she mind controlled the stormtrooper while she was a prisoner and not for the comedic value (although that stormtrooper was portrayed by Daniel Craig, which is kinda cool). Her Force powers were almost too refined. I assume we’ll get an explanation for this, but my initial thought is that it was just an easy way to get her out of those situations in the film.  That said, I was on the edge of my seat during the lightsaber duel with Ren, in a scene that was reminiscent of and a more frenetic version of The House of Blue Leaves scene in Kill Bill when Beatrice Kiddo duels O-Ren. (O-Ren/Kylo Ren) I wonder if that was an Abrams Freudian slip.

The Demise of Han Solo – I knew someone was going to die and my guess going in was that it was going to be Han. I was dreading the moment even though I did not know it was coming and I was pretty blown away with how it was handled. Considering the criticism I have over the introduction of Kylo Ren (below), this scene almost wholly reinvigorated my interest in where they’re going with Ren. Kudos to Harrison Ford for stepping right back into the iconic role one last time and proving he’s one of the most under-appreciated actors in terms of skill ever. He’s more than just a star. The only gripe Id make is that when Rey/Chewie make it back to Leia, Chewie non-chalantly walks by Leia without even a look. Maybe that’s how Wookies grieve I guess.

Technical aspects – The dogfighting sequences were outstandingly produced and the use of practical effects was seamless with the CGI. This was a well-crafted film technologically and I appreciated how it was paced.

Luke Skywalker – Perhaps the only way I was spoiled going into the film was that Luke had a very small role. His 2-3 minute long scene at the very end is easily my favorite in the entire film. From the moment you see him with the back turned to the camera I had chills and when “The Force Theme” is playing was just pitch perfect. I was disappointed initially with the minor spoiler, but the payoff ended up being fantastic. “Bring on Episode VIII”.

The Bad

General Hux – Domhnall Gleeson is a very strong actor who possesses a good amount of gravitas and nuance (see Ex: Machina), however his portrayal of this was so hammy and so over the top, he just lost me in every scene he was in. Was JJ yelling “More Himmler” or “More Heydrich” at him in between takes?

The First Order – The first episode of “The First Order” being the lead baddie was a bit eh. I did not find them very imposing and their whole existence in the Star Wars Universe is perplexing at this point. My guess? They’re a red herring. There’s something deeper going on here.

Starkiller Base  – This is in line with my previously mentioned and more fuel for the”A Newer Hope” criticisms. Oh, its just a REALLY BIG Death Star. C’mon guys. Please don’t build another one in time for Episode IX.

Captain Phasma – They take the coolest looking stormtrooper EVER created and turn her into a pushover. Was it all for the trash compactor line? I find it hard to believe someone who is as seemingly badass as she would be pushed over like that. They have some work to do to fix this character.

As you can see, my gripes are almost entirely about the villains.

The Wait And See

Kylo Ren – An overly petulant Emo bastard who betrayed his entire family. The first half of the film I hated Ren and not in the villain/heel way. I just thought he was a shit character. His outbursts were comical (the scene where the two stormtroopers turn around while hes throwing a tantrum is hilarious though). He’s got something in common with Luke now though having killed his father. There’s something to be said though that from the moment he removes his mask, his character gets a lot more interesting and killing Han was the best thing to happen to his character.

Finn – So stormtroopers aren’t all clones now? John Boyega did an admirable job and overall his performance was inoffensive, but I can’t say I was impressed with him or his character. I didn’t hate or like Finn, but I am interested to see where they go with him.

Snoke – Terrible name and I doubt that’s his real name. I think Snoke has potential to go either way. It will be an interesting few years to see what else they have planned, but a bit too Palpatine-ish in his introduction. It was telling to me how he basically blows off the fact that Starkiller Base was destroyed and caring more about continuing Ren’s training. More fuel to my theory that “The First Order” is a bunch of showy horseshit.

Overall despite my gripes I did enjoy the film. I don’t think its a patch on Lucas’ original trilogy and I’m praying that Episode VIII is not a rehash of Empire. Rian Johnson is a very capable director and I have a strong feeling he can deliver. There’s a lot of questions to be answered. One other critique I read asked a question I have too. Did everything Luke, Leia, and Han accomplish in 4-6 end up being meaningless? They’re all miserable in Episode VII and rightfully so.

Grade: B+

In the hierarchy, I’d rank this one 4th overall in terms of quality. Better than the prequel trilogy, but not a patch on any of the original trilogy’s films.

 

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