Squeaky Mouse Droid: Star Wars – NO SPOILERS
Hey there, Star Wars fans. The Force Awakens is out there among us, and chances are that you’ve all seen this film. As Comic Booked’s resident Star Wars columnist, I will soon be posting a full review of the film – spoilers and all – very shortly, after I have had a chance to see the it again. That first viewing was a huge event, with so many fans in attendance and so much anticipation, and there was a lot that had to absorbed on that first viewing, and I don’t think that a proper opinion of the film from a more critical standpoint can be derived from that viewing. So what follows in this column are a few random thoughts, and it will be generally spoiler-free.
Generally. I wll be talking about the general story, which actually follows the Star Wars template fairly faithfully. As a result, I don’t think that discussion of the overall story constitutes much of a spoiler. Most of what I would consider to be spoiler material lies not within the plot, but with the characters. Security has been so tight on this film; to get the maximum amount of enjoyment from it, Disney had to keep those secrets. IT might all be out there now that the film is released, but I wanted to talk about a few other spects of the film. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you know that the makers of this film have at least one big surprise waiting for you. I won’t go into that, not here.
So, this is a really great movie. It is the is the best experience I’ve had in a theater in along time. Though not perfect, there was so much to love about this movie. It’s actually kind of amazing that this was not only the most fun I’ve had at a blockbuster film in some time, but – lo and behold – realizing that I was back in Star Wars. That fictional universe is kind of sacred, mythological ground, and it was kind of surreal to know that I could be placed in that world again. The green screens, flat settings, and endless conversations about politics and love that happen while people are sitting on couches in the prequels are nowhere to be found here, because the characters are two busy going from one tight spot to another that lived-in technology that was the hallmark of the old series. There were some really great chemistry among the characters, and the villain was so much different than he would at first seem to be.
We’re talking Kylo Ren now. No spoilers, but this guy wants people to see him as a badass, and for much of the film they see him as just that. His ability to use the Force is impressive: he was able to a stop laser bolt in midair. Yet there’s more to him than you might think: his mask is definitely hiding something.
My favorite new character was Poe Dameron, the hot shot pilot. I knew it was Oscar Isaac going in, but Isaac doesn’t even seem to be acting here. He is Poe Dameron, and Poe Dameron just feels like that perfect Star Wars character. He knows how to fly an X-Wing like it’s no one’s business, he knows that the galaxy is not a friendly place, but he’s also a good judge of character, and he sees something in the former stormtrooper, Finn, that he trusts. I love when the audience can tell a lot about a character’s instincts without any dialogue explaining it, and that is why Poe worked as character: you trust him. All the new characters were interesting, but what I liked about Poe is that, unlike Rey’s journey from nothing to hero, or Finn’s journey from stormtrooper to hero, Poe is just a hero from the get-go; he’s not the outsider character. “Star Wars-ing” is what he does.
Then there’s Harrison Ford as Han Solo; Harrison kills it as Han. Director JJ Abrams somehow got Ford to really put on a performance and not mail this one in, and we get a slightly more grizzled version of the galaxy’s greatest scoundrel. His interactions with Chewbacca were as funny here as they were in the originals. There was a running gag involving Chewie’s weapon that was a hoot.
One thing I want to point out about this film is something that wouldn’t really fit in a spoiler-filled review, so I’ll mention it here: I love the little details we get in here about every day life in this galaxy. Everything seems so specific and believable. I found myself really paying attention to everything about Rey’s dealings with the local merchant, and I found myself studying little things, like the currency was being used. I loved seeing Rey return to her home (a rusty old AT-AT that remains a relic form the days of the Empire) and actually making her dinner. I loved the inside of Maz’s palace and he wide variety of alien creatures there, and, largely because these creatures were fashioned in a workshop instead of animated from ones and zeros on a computer, it looked so good on screen. It looked like Star Wars.
Make no mistake: the Millennium Falcon was the real star of the film. The ship looked great. I knew going in how the ship would be revealed (yeah that was spoiled for me) but it still was a moment of great joy.
A few points of contention now: While the cast had great camaraderie, there were moments when it seemed that the writers didn’t quite trust that chemistry, and the young actors in the cast had one or two extra lines of dialogue to reinforce nice character beats, and these extra lines were clearly not necessary. As a result, I felt that there were moments were the acting seemed a bit too earnest. “But I was going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.” Yes, even more earnest than that.
My other big gripe in the film (other than an underwhelming Captain Phasma, who did not earn her spot on an already-cluttered movie poster) was Starkiller base. This planet destroying machine is a planet in and of itself. While I kind of like how it needed its own star’s energy to power itself, it makes little sense that anyone could survive on the Starkiller without the sun during those moments that the bad guys are using the weapon. Stars are more than just sources of light for orbiting planets. Without the sun, we’d die, simple as that. Kind of reminds me of JJ’s Star Trek movie where a character tries to stop a sun from going nova by turning that sun into a black hole. What does it matter: in either case, any planets that orbit that sun would be screwed.
My biggest problem with Starkiller base was that it tried to outdo the Death Star. Simply making a bigger Death Star doesn’t mean it will make it better for the story.
That doesn’t really matter. This movie is a lot of fun. The villain story has a lot of heart. Learning more about our hero, Rey, seems to be the journey that the new trilogy is on, and that is a journey I want to sign up for.
To Bob Iger, chairman of the Disney Corporation: Thanks for bringing Star Wars back!