I have soooooooo many thoughts to write down about JJ Abrams' newest chapter to the whole Star Wars universe. So many. As a lifelong fan (like most of you hosers), I have a long and complicated love/hate relationship with the Lucasfilm story of the Skywalker clan and their quests for greatness.
So, the original Star Wars movie (post-theatrically tagged "Episode IV - A New Hope") came out in1977. It was a hit. George Lucas (creator and proprietor of the series) made millions on the original three films and all the tie-in toys.
Then, 16 years after Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (which showed us how Luke helped to end the Sith reign on the galaxy), we got the Star Wars prequel trilogy, which told the tale of how one annoying and whiny kid named Anakin Skywalker grew up to be one of the greatest movie villains of all time. You all know this. You also know how George Lucas (who wrote and directed the prequels without any help from any other more talented craftsmen) completely dropped the ball with these three flicks, saturating them with so many shiny computer-generated effects, and focussing way too much on throwing (what he thought was) pretty things on the screen and pandering to children with Jar-Jar, instead of nailing down a good story and characters whom you wanted to hang out with, or getting his actors to, you know, act.
And then, something like eight years after the last prequel movie was released, George Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, to Disney for a brazillion dollars and his children's souls (he's too crude a business man to use his own for any kind of exchange). It was soon announced by the House of the Money-Grubbing Mouse that they would then start making and releasing new Star Wars movies, starting in 2015 and continuing until the universe ends.
And now here we are, at the end of 2015, with JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie blowing away all box office records, and pretty much making everybody share a giant sigh of relief that it wasn't another turd of Phantom Menace proportions. Abrams (the creator of TV's Alias and Lost, and the director of such feature films as Super 8 and Star Trek - the Unhappening), being the one hand-picked by Lucas to take over the reigns of the first new, non-George Lucas-run production set in the Star Wars universe. Abrams and all the writers and producers actually flat-out poo-pooed George's original draft of how he wanted the next trilogy to go, and so Abrams seemed to be a pretty good candidate for the job, and the fans rejoiced, and hopes were set extraordinarily high... Again.
(I won't go into how this deal with Disney erased the entire rambling, confusing, and mostly retarded Expanded Universe of Star Wars [which takes place after Return of the Jedi, and is almost solely based in books and comics], mostly since other than Timothy Zahn's amazing trilogy of novels from the early 90s, almost all of that stuff blew.)
Anyway, finally, after all these years, we got a new official Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Big whoopity-doo... The only question that matters is "Does it suck like The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, or is it as much fun as the original trilogy of Hope/Empire/Jedi?" The quick answer is it is really entertaining. This new flick has the excitement and energy of the earlier movies, what with the characters constantly running from things, shooting at things, blowing things up, and fighting against almost impossible odds. It grabs you and shakes you like a British nanny, while yelling in your face, "You are watching a new Star Wars movie! Enjoy it! See, we learned from Lucas' shitty prequels and left out all the boring stuff so that you would smile again! So SMILE, damn you, SMILE!"
And I did. I smiled while watching it. But as soon as it was over I realized what it was that I actually just saw... The Force Awakens (from which now on I will refer to as "TFA") is basically just a remake of Episode IV - A New Hope.
Spoilers, for the 3 of you who haven't seen TFA yet (though after its opening weekend global gross of $530million, I'm guessing that number is probably closer to 2).
Episode IV - A New Hope was all about a small droid storing important information in its databanks, and getting trapped on a backwater desert planet while the bad guys (led by a man dressed in black, wearing a cool mask, and who's strong with the Force) searched for it. That droid meets a local desert dweller, who then meets up with smuggler Han Solo, who then gets the droid and the information to the good guys, who then have to send a small band of fighters up against a giant planetoid death machine. The good guys blow up the bad guys' base, but they lose an old, grizzled warrior in the process of the journey, yet there's still hope with those few who show strength in the Force — that mysterious energy field created by all living things that surrounds us and penetrates us, binding the galaxy together.
In case you couldn't tell, the previous paragraph describes the general plot to Episode VII - The Force Awakens too.
Yes, lots more happens in TFA, and there is a new generation of heroes and asshole bad guys that we follow, but seriously, they just Mad Libs'd the original movie's plot with new worlds and character names. But once again, that doesn't mean that it wasn't an enjoyable flick, only that I just don't understand why the Empire/First Order keeps building Death Star-like machines that only a handful of Rebel/Résistance fighters can blow up only hours after the super-weapons become fully operational.
Let's get back to the plot now.
So TFA follows a Stormtrooper for the First Order (the organization that took over the role of "evil empire" after Emperor Palpatine was tossed down the shaft of the second Death Star, and most of his military might was blown up at the Battle of Endor in Jedi) who turns traitor to the Order and runs away. This ex-trooper, a guy named Finn, meets up with a hawt desert rat girl named Rey, who has found a small roller-droid who claims that it has important information for La Resistance (the organization that took over the role of "rebel alliance" after Palpatine died and a New Republic was brought to power). TFA is also about Kylo Ren, the second in command of the First Order who has a dangerous Darth Vader-complex. We get quite a bit of Han Solo and Chewbacca mixed into the recipe, and then a little bit of Princess Leia, a cameo by Admiral Ackbar and that weird-looking alien with the segmented mouth who helped Lando fly the Aluminum Falcon in Jedi, and then Luke Skywalker is added on as a mystic quest (he's been missing for years, and nobody, no how, can find him) in order to hopefully bring him in as a power player in Episode VIII.
I liked almost everything about this movie. I feel the need to state that as straight forward as I can. I liked almost all of the characters (though I detested Kylo Ren, who was almost as whiny as Anakin was in Episodes II and III), I loved the battles (both space ship fights and man-to-man combat, of which there was actually quite a bit), I was humming the new music as I left the theater, and I really enjoyed the overall feel of the whole thing. It FELT like a Star Wars movie again, as opposed to whatever the fuck the prequels were, which focused more on politics and the legalization of blockades instead of action, scripts, and great characters. And even though I hated Kylo Ren, he had the best scene in this whole movie... One of his men comes and tells him they didn't get they droid that they were looking for, and without saying a word, he ignites his not-well-put-together lightsaber, and starts slashing the shit out of the room in one of the most insane temper tantrums I've ever seen put on film. Beautiful... And it shows what a total choad he is, brilliantly.
Most of the creatures in TFA were created with puppets and makeup too, and not much in this thing — except for, surprisingly, the Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke — looked obviously like terrible CGI. This looked like something that the creators of the original 70s and 80s Wars movies made, just with a whole lot more money. Like I said in the past, JJ Abrams can really emulate other directors when he wants to. This ability of his is actually very impressive.
Oh, and finally, I liked how the Stormtroopers in this movie were actually pretty badass. They were a deadly, well-trained unit, and overall they were a threatening force. When they arrive on the scene you actually get nervous for those facing them, as opposed to the earlier movies where we're TOLD they're elite and super accurate shots, but for the most part they couldn't hit a wall in a 7-foot-cubed room.
What didn't I like about TFA? Not much, but the poor rendering of Supreme Leader Snoke was show-stopper bad. It looked like a CGI character from a Sci-Fi movie in the late '90s. Seriously. I also hoped for a plot that didn't involve a giant planet-sized weapon that blows up other planets. Not only was it done before, but it was done TWICE before. And most of all, I detested Kylo Ren. I see where they're going with him (he's a confused youth being manipulated and twisted to the Dark Side by a powerful Force Lord, and he's made to idolize Vader), but the execution of this character left a shit-ton to be desired. Instead of being Episode IV, badass Vader, Kylo was more like Episode II, whiny, loser Anakin... But in a cool mask. He has totally badass Force powers (stopping the blaster bolt in mid-flight was super sweet to see), yes, but he's beaten (multiple times) by a girl with no Force training at all. Darth Vader in Episode IV was a villain whom you loved to hate, Kylo Ren is a simply a bad guy you just plain loathe. I wanted someone like the charismatic Jaime Lannister, or the terrifying Mountain, but instead we got the annoying Viserys Targaryen.
One last thing — and I hope that this is something that they clarify in the next one........ Who's on what side in TFA? There's apparently a New Republic, which is what the Rebels were trying to set up in Episodes IV, V, and VI, and the First Order, which is the remnants of the Empire, but what is The Resistance? They are the left over Rebels, sure, but the new government is their baby, so they wouldn't be resisting that, right? And if they are the New Republic's soldiers, wouldn't they just be known as the Republic Fleet or "The Army?" I think I read somewhere that they were insurgents funded by the New Republic set up in the First Order's territory, but that's not made clear at all in the course of this movie.
Let's see.... Characters, special effects, music, plot.... Yeah, I covered it all. Good times to be had, and I'm really looking forward to the next chapter in the Star Wars series. Just please, do not give us another Death Star, or Starkiller Base, or Sun Crusher, or, or whatever else you want to call it. You're paying these writers millions of dollars, get them to give you something fresh. And DON'T just remake Empire for Episode VIII. Move forward, please.
This... THIS is how they replace me and Vader for this new trilogy? I mean, the two of us just DOMINATED the galaxy in the first three movies, and we were both scary AND capable. This new guy, Kylo "Wannabe-Darth" Ren is nothing but a total fucking pansy!
And MY replacement? Jesus, his name is "Snoke." It rhymes with joke. And is it just me, or does Snoke look at least mildly retarded? I'm serious. He gives me a kind of "Sloth from The Goonies" vibe.
And come the fuck on, Snoke. How dare you put an untested whiny loser with a granddaddy complex in charge of your entire operation! That Kylo kid was such a complete pussy! You have to make sure your minions are willing and able to murder anybody that you order them to. Start off by actually training them to sword fight, and then letting them murder unarmed children. That punk, Kylo, got his ass handed to him by a girl who'd never picked up a lightsaber before that day! Oh, and who does he kill that's supposed to be a big deal and the way to his path down Darkside Way? An elderly fuddy duddy whose biggest character moment was re-written in the old trilogy with shoddy CGI when they didn't want him killing somebody in cold blood?
Apparently EVIL is only "evil lite" now. That's just pathetic. I think I'm going to go "Force-ghost scare" the shit out of Snoke now. I'll wait till he's on the holo-phone though... Really make him look bad in front of his peeps.
Yaaaay! Finally, a Star Wars movie that, when it was over, I didn't want to erase from my memory!
I miss the Ewoks, but I found that BB-8 was a close second in cuteness. I also really liked Rey and how tough she was, and how when we first meet her she's not whining about going to Toshi Station for power converters. Instead she's using the Force to salvage valuable tech from downed Star Destroyers... Well, maybe not valuable tech, but scraps that she can trade for food. Then she rescues BB-8, then she saves Finn, then she saves Finn again, then she saves Finn once more, then she beats Kylo Ren in Force thoughts, then she saves herself from prison and from Stormtrooper Daniel Craig, then she saves Finn's ass one more time by way of a light saber battle that kicked the ass of every other light-sword fight previously filmed, due to its furious, gritty, not-overly-choreographed way. I loved me some Rey!
Yeah, yeah, the plot was just another Death Star that had to be destroyed, but since the way they went about it was slightly different from anything done before, and we got to hear Harrison Ford grumble, "So how do we blow it up?" when the techs are going on and on about its power and abilities, I'll forgive it for the copy pasta.