30
Dec
15

Back From the Dark Side…of the Theater

*****

Put away the zit cremes and Ovaltine. Take a deep breath. And, get ready to go geek-to-geek with one more lengthy, nit-picking but honest assessment of the latest “blockbuster” movie.

Okay. I saw it, the big spectacle of 2015, the film so many have been waiting for with some trinket of a past generation clutched nervously between their sweaty hands, the movie seasoned adults are supposed to inject into their inexperienced kids so they will continue to pick sides and wage wars between dark and light, the epic 38 years in the making handed over to the Disney Empire and the guy who put together LOST.

**********
The Good:

If you miss Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the heroes who survived the 70s/80s films, they’re ALL back. The only characters who have not returned are the ghosts, the desert people, the Cantina regulars and a few members of the Sith/Empire. [But, it looks like one of the old crew wanted to nip this thing in the can by taking the big plunge. Shh!]

The visuals are spectacular. The 3D isn’t throwing much in your face, but the depth perception tricks are used well, including some intense spaceship fight scenes which make you feel like you’re living through a video game. Just about every environment is covered from desert to forest to snowy mountains. But, when you have Disney money backing your enterprise… Well, as the founder of Jurassic Park says, “Spare no expense.” I’d expect no less with all the modern technology and countless technicians/artists at one’s disposal. I imagine a massive army of stormtroopers sitting at drawing tables and beside film-processing mach–er, computers.

Lupita cannot lose. After being spotlighted for playing a slave, she becomes the red carpet fashion plate who rarely if ever misses with all of her stunning and trendsetting outfits. Now, she’s my favorite new character in the latest installment of this series. [I was semi-hoping she’d be cast as a Jedi with some sort of tribal face paint and eggplant robe.] You would miss her if you did not know her voice. No big spoiler here; she’s the yellow Yoda of the story. [I love you, Lupita/Maz.]

Daisy Ridley is a lovely heroine (even if she resembles the younger prequel Anakin crossed with Padme). But, what do you expect from the female lead? Everyone loved Leia (even if some criticized the “bun” hairdo). I loved Padme (but not all of her outfits). And, she uses her natural voice (which is refreshing when I think of all the Brits and Aussies using American accents in films). [I am guessing she gets the accent from her mother?]

Boyega’s Finn is a complicated man. No, he’s not Samuel L. Jackson (nor Richard Roundtree) but a good stormtrooper…er, bad stormtrooper turned good. …He’s with the Rebellion! Anyway, he’s a nice addition to the cast/story. [I like him slightly better than Lando. You know, Finn’s dad. Shh!]

Racial diversity is more apparent. And, women, well, two women, are added for more powerful roles…though one doesn’t do much. But, it’s a slight improvement on the original trilogy. [What about the “prequels?” There was a female bounty hunter in one of those, and she was badass.]

The whining I hated with the two previous trilogies is gone! Well…not exactly. There’s still a little whining and tantrum throwing by the Dark Side. It’s just restricted/sent to a private space sans rubber walls where the villain can slash the place apart. [It’s not like anyone is ever going to use those computers again, anyway.]

The star Jedi is NOT the one to strike the big, successful blow against the enemy! That’s right, it’s one of the smaller potatoes…who just happens to be the best pilot with dark hair.

A new R2 is used well. The little rolling ball of excited chatter is more likable than Number 5 from Short Circuit. [If you don’t know who that is, you’re obviously a prequel baby.] He’s sure to spawn a whole line of toys, speakers, other gadgets and remote control replicas.

—————
Is it just me or does the good list weaken as it reaches its end? Well, let’s get to the rest of it.
—————

**********
The Bad:

In seven words, it’s Star Wars, the Vader saga, revisited. If you watch the Darth Vader trilogy and the new film together, you’ll pick up on matching character looks/types and repeated dialogue.

In five words, there is no new story. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a few small surprises, tiny kernels of continuation forty years after Darth Vader falls. But, you’d think more would have changed. And, as they say in the movie, the Empire is gone. So…why are there still stormtroopers running amok under new leadership which looks EXACTLY like the old leadership? [Then again, what changed between World War one and two other than who started the fight and why?]

In three words, too much recycling. I think the crew (including the director) were so scared to try anything new after the barrage of hate mail flew at the “prequels” that they went a VERY safe route to please everyone. [I guess furry little creatures were too dangerous because there are none.]

Unfortunately, this hit rock bottom when the big surprise weapon was revealed. At that moment, my smile wilted. If you are following my train of thought, you can guess what awaits our heroes and devastates worlds. It’s been done! And, I am tired of this constant upgrade of power which only falls the same way the old power did, anyway!

I mean, seriously, J. J.! You put a toaster over the Tatooine lizard’s head. Some of the stellar visuals are reused…though perhaps at new angles or with new computer enhancements. Even the big surprise from The Empire Strikes Back is essentially given a face-lift with new characters in the scene. And, you killed one of my favorite characters!

If you’re going to kill one of my favorite characters, why not get rid of the stormtroopers, too? If anyone wants to use force, it’s me, using physical force to knock some sense into your head. [Don’t worry too much, you’re still better than the guy who ruined Transformers and who is probably raping the Ninja Turtles before a sequel to that remake as I speak.]

If you want the truth, J. J., I think you do better sticking with the revised Star Trek franchise. [I have only seen trailers and interviews, but it looks good.] I take no enjoyment from being a member of the hate police. But, I am rather sick of all the Star Wars “swag” and undeserved domination of science-fiction interest. And, even if you’re tired of hearing it, you slowly lost me on LOST. You spent all those years not telling people they were watching the Twilight Zone.

It’s still too quick and easy for the good guys to find the fatal flaw in the enemy’s plans (even if the enemy does some serious destruction first…and just as quickly/easily). Apparently, we come into the “story” at the moment when the “aha moment” hits. Again, that’s been used in the previous films. It smells of lacking plot to fill the space between “Here are your new cast members.” and “Here is how the enemy falls.”

The very first Star Wars to be made was the “best” chunk of a lengthy story possibly too big for Lucas’ mind to handle. He didn’t want to bore people to tears with a long, ongoing war. So, he cut it down to a highlight reel to sell tickets and save people from cardiac arrest (from too many hours planted in theater seats which were not as luxurious as they are now). Still, people felt the need to sell toys and related kids’ bedroom items before Christmas, stoking the fire of future collecting/hoarding/resale crazes. Then the story grew; it continued with a new stage of the same war waged on the snowy side of some planet and a third in a jungle occupied by little teddy bears with spears and rocks. And, in the end, the Empire’s emperor fell.

This is not the first rodeo for the “guardians of the galaxy.” [Yea, I used a Marvel title, also purchased by Disney.] Get on with the story. Write something new while properly representing the old; show progression. Or, tell fans you are remaking the originally released film with new effects/technology and let them decide how to feel about that. Me? I’d be looking for a red lightsaber if I saw another remake (though I do respect the effort to improve upon what may have been limited by technology at the time if it is closer to the artist’s vision and given his/her consent).

With a good writing team, this “story” could have spanned three films and saved the big explosion for the third (using a DIFF-ER-ENT weapon as the ultimate target). But, no, this is now Disney’s battle cruiser; and we know Disney has been recycling/rewriting old tales since Snow White. So, as I said, you get Star Wars in a new, shiny package with plenty of the old trilogy squeezed into one film for the old generation to pass onto the new. Heck, why watch the original films when Disney will repack them for you? I expect another “big weapon” to appear in the third repackaged film of this new series. Surprise me with something different. I dare ya.

**********
The Ugly…er, my final rating?

Out of 5 stars, I give this one 2 1/2, average. 5 star visuals with a 1-2 star story. Even 2 stars is generous for the recycling. And, as many already know, this isn’t the end of it. There are two more sequels to round out another trilogy. Knowing Disney, there are spin-offs in the works, probably throwing some more kid-friendly TV shows and movies to surpass what was once Droids and Ewoks. And, with that is sure to come even MORE merchandising which has already been insane. It’s enough to make you hate Christmas. And, we sure don’t need that.

One question for those who have seen the film: [Don’t read this if you have not seen it.] Why doesn’t Leia sense Luke’s presence when he contacts R2-D2 (if she can feel what happens to Han and is able to feel Luke throughout the original trilogy)?

If I could:

1) I would erase four of the previous six films, removing the bits from A New Hope that repeat in The Force Awakens and salvaging the good parts primarily from The Empire Strikes Back with traces of Return of the Jedi to complete the chapter. You could squeeze six weak stories into two good films or spread the pursuit of bringing down the enemy over three stronger than weak films.

2) And, yea, I’ll say it, I’d cast someone else as or rewrite Luke’s script so he doesn’t seem so whiny and naive with unbelievable luck. If there’s one character in the first trilogy to be made that bothers me the most, it’s Luke. [I’d love the films if the focus was on the relationship between Han and Leia.] C3-PO is a close second. He’s the robotic equivalent to Donkey in the Shrek films. I’d say he’s as bad as some think of…

3) I’d keep Jar Jar Binks in the prequels. Not because I want to further anger those who hate him but because he’s perfect for Disney who created Goofy and now holds the keys to the whole shabang. Cheers to Lucas on ensuring a luxurious retirement!

4) I’d keep the pod race but remove the lucky shot from The Phantom Menace.

5) I’d strip the Clone Wars down to the bare bones, re-purposing the sickly General Grievous (who was a bit of a disappointment), saving Count Dooku (who is just about as good as the actor was in the Lord of the Rings films) and sparing viewers the madness that is the excess of troopers along with the dragging factory and arena showdown scenes (except for the bit when Mace Windu chops off Jango Fett’s head).

**********

In short, see the new film to enjoy the ride. Just don’t invest much in it. Don’t hate the “prequels.” But, why are they considered such a failure?…for being different from the future? Is it possible the first three chapters of the six-part saga were changed to once again hopefully please more fans than they originally would have? At least, J. J. won’t be called a TRAITOR! [I’m just throwing in a word repeated in a few of Boyega’s scenes for whatever reason, not calling anyone a traitor, presently.]

And, for those of you who have had no interest in the Star Wars movies whatsoever, bless your hearts. You might have the last semblance of imagination to create new stories that span the stars. May the creative force, divine inspiration, be with all who read these words and use it wisely.

 

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