December 22, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens [with spoilers]

I saw The Force Awakens again, this time at the Arlington Capitol Theatre with Tom and Adam. I am now updating my December post in February 2016, well outside the Spoiler Exclusion Zone:
I don't mind that the plot is very similar to the original trilogy. I feel that the writers are acknowledging that the prequel trilogy introduced a fundamentally different, complicated, and boring plot, so at worst, this is an overcorrection towards simplicity. Anyone who complains that this plot was a repeat of the original trilogy doesn't appreciate that the original trilogy plots were very simple, and the Return of the Jedi included tons of repeated elements from Star Wars!

I was pleased and glad that the new cast was so good, and that the filmmakers trusted their story with them for the entire first act of the movie.

I was amazed how cute and charismatic BB-8 could be. I laughed out loud repeatedly at his double-takes.

Oscar Isaac is hella handsome. If I can sense it, the ladies must be going gaga over Poe Dameron.

Baby Daddy?

Daisy Ridley is great as Rey, and it's obvious to me she's Luke's daughter. One of my favorite music cues from A New Hope is the theme playing when Luke leaves the Owen & Beru's dinner table and gazes out at the binary sunset. This same theme music plays twice when Rey is girding her Force power in pivotal moments, especially during the lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren. Fans seem to think this is "too obvious", but there's no other established characters that make sense, and all other possible answers are too random to be dramatically useful- there's no way her parents are new characters unrelated to any established characters. Fans also wonder how Luke could abandon his daughter on a desert planet just as he was as a baby (see the last 30 seconds of Revenge of the Sith), but that's what's so poignant about it!

Theory A: Luke's the baby daddy. He didn't know Rey existed until she showed up on Rock Island Planet with his old lightsaber. Perhaps she was kept a secret from him because the baby mama feared The Force?
Theory B: Luke knew about Rey, but kept her away from him for her protection or some other motivation we don't know about yet - just as Luke was secreted away from Darth Vader. Luke would never let his daughter rot on Jakku, so her abandonment may have occurred after he entered seclusion on the Rock Island Planet.

The Lightsaber

Where the heck did Goldfish Lady erm, Maz Kanata - get the old blue Skywalker lightsaber? Kenobi gave Luke Anakin Skywalker's old blue lightsaber in A New Hope, and Luke used it until he lost it (along with his hand) on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. While most casual fans can speculate that the lightsaber is calling to Rey because she's at least "strong with the Force" and more likely a Skywalker too, but I bet most viewers forgot that Luke lost the blue lightsaber and built a new green lightsaber before Return of the Jedi. So how did the blue lightsaber end up in Kanata's basement? I never thought about it before, but I would presume when Vader cut off Luke's hand, the blue lightsaber fell out the bottom of the Cloud City and was lost in the gas giant of Bespin thirty-six years earlier? Does the Cloud City have some kind of colander built into the bottom to catch tools that get dropped over the side?

Just when you think every elderly English actor has been used up, Max Von Sydow shows up! He's done sci-fi/fantasy before, but Flash Gordon and Dune were a long time ago. Coincidentally, Dune (1984) and Flash Gordon (1980) were produced during the sci-fi/fantasy movie fad made possible by Star Wars' success.

I struggled to see elderly movie star Harrison Ford as Han Solo. He's been a movie star for so long, and he's over 30 years older, that I struggled to see him as the same character. I had similar trouble with Carrie Fisher, but in her case, her voice is so different, and her mood was so restrained and melancholy, she didn't seem like the same person I remember from the 1980s.
Obviously we haven't seen Mark Hamill do much acting yet, but I bet he's going to be must easier for me to digest than Ford and Fisher, maybe because I haven't seen him act in anything for 30 years. His bearded, enrobed look reminds me of Oliver Reed's character in Gladiator.

Weird Facts

When they announced The Force Awakens, fans noticed (but could not believe) that Hamill is older than Alec Guiness was when he played Kenobi; Hamill is also a few years older than Reed was when he died in 1999 before Gladiator was done shooting.

Funny Quibbles

  • When Finn's comrade dies and smears a bloody handprint on his Stormtrooper helmet, that was the first example of blood in the Star Wars saga since Ben Kenobi cut off that guy's arm in the cantina! I suspect Lucas decided early on to keep his movies bloodless, so this moment stood out.
  • This was the first Star Wars movie where no characters lost a hand, arm, or leg to a lightsaber! See my post Simply Disarming for the complete limb count.
  • Episodes 1-6 begin with the Twentieth Century-Fox logo and Lucasfilm logo, with the Fox fanfare playing, followed by the title card "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." This is a Disney/Lucasfilm joint,  so obviously the Fox logo and fanfare is omitted, but the new normal is odd to me: silence over the Lucasfilm logo, silence over the "long time ago" card, then the Star Wars theme crashes in over the Star Wars logo. It's too bad there's no majestic-enough Disney fanfare they could have used over their Enchanted Castle logo to replace the Fox logo.
  • I love the crashed Star Destroyer buried on Jakku, but it doesn't look quite big enough to me. Is the scale off? Especially when the Millennium Falcon flies through it, it didn't seem mammoth enough.

I'm A Sucker

Maybe some moviegoers saw this coming, but I was completely shocked that Ren killed his father on the gangway. Harrison Ford famously lamented that Solo did not die in Return of the Jedi, and I have to admit his death on Endor, or perhaps in the assault on the Death Star, would have added some much-needed gravitas to that otherwise lightweight feel-good finale. In 2016 it's easy to imagine that Ford agreed board the Millennium Falcon one more time- as long as they killed him off this time!