Dec 21, 2015

[Movies] Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

So we managed to catch an early morning screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last Saturday at SM Mall of Asia's IMAX Theater, and it was quite the experience. And while I'm sure a lot of folks entered the theater with a mixed feeling of excitement and fear. After all, the infamous prequels are hard to forget even now.

Plus I will always have the struggle of being a big fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe that covered the more creative period when the various books and comics handled the responsibility of telling the stories of the Star Wars universe beyond Return of the Jedi. This new movie invalidates all those books and years of reading about the stories and adventures of a particular version of those popular characters. So the excitement for a new movie was a little bittersweet because of this shift.

And despite my being more of a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan, I'd like to think that I still have a decent appreciation for such big science fiction entertainment experiences. So yeah, this was still a big event to be excited about. And it's always rather fun to join in the enthusiastic cheers of a fandom as large as folks who love Star Wars.

Synopsis: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh movie in the core movie franchise series and the first new release since Disney acquired Lucasfilm. The movie was directed by J.J. Abrams with a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt and J.J. Abrams as well.

It has been 30 years since the second Death Star had been destroyed along with the Emperor. Since then, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared from the public eye and his sister, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the new Resistance is desperate to find him. From the ashes of the Empire has arisen a new faction known as the First Order that seeks to control the galaxy as the Empire had once done. And while the New Republic is a young government still hoping to do right for the galaxy, they are not the kind of political force that they hope to be.

On the arid planet of Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has come in search of information that might lead to the location where Luke Skywalker has hidden himself. The planet is also home to one Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger struggling to eke out a living. When the First Order  together with a Dark Jedi known as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) comes in search of Poe and the map to Skywalker, it falls to the astromech droid BB-8 to help complete Poe's mission.

Now it's pretty obvious that J.J. Abrams decided to really crank up the nostalgia factor of this movie by closely following the overall structure of A New Hope, which in turn was fashioned after the classic monomyth - The Hero's Journey. Thus we have Jakku as a replacement for the desert planet of Tatooine and a brave little robot in BB-8 instead of R2-D2. Some might argue that this was a perfect decisions to tie into what had come before. Others may say that it lacked originality. It will ultimately be up to the individual to decide how they feel about the movie from this perspective.

As much as this movie is a sequel, you can't fully shake off the feeling that this movie is also sort of a remake. Given the recent history of Abrams and his work with the Star Trek reboot movies, we all know how he likes to play around with the old in order to turn it into something new and this movie certainly has a lot of that woven into the narrative. That again can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about the older movies or if you had even seen them.

Another aspect to the story that felt very in your face was the whole notion of parents and children, thus a large sense of the old giving way for the new. So as much as we know that Han Solo is in this movie thanks to the trailer, we also have the likes of Poe Dameron as a much younger yet equally dazzling pilot really driving the assault for the Resistance. We have a new Resistance replacing the Rebellion in their efforts to repel the First Order instead of the Empire.

Speaking of new characters, the one whose performance struck me the most was certainly Daisy Ridley as Rey. She's quite the strong and intense young woman who has a lot to contribute to the greater batter. But she's also a woman conflicted about her past and for some reason tied to Jakku. How Ridley manages to portray the complexity behind her role and the overall development of her character in the movie is definitely one of the high points.

The movie's core story is interesting enough, but certainly with it's share of strange plot holes that are an inevitable result of a zealous desire to make things somehow awesome by forcing certain scenes to happen in order to serve the plot somehow. Not all moments are as organic as we'd like them and there are quite a few leaps forward as characters simply take on roles assigned to them in order to be somehow greater. John Boyega didn't exactly strike me given his role was a runaway Stormtrooper and he just had a very weak presence on-screen.

But Star Wars: The Force Begins is all about giving something that the fans can enjoy while positioning things in a manner that still welcomes newcomers of all ages. It did a lot better in striking a balance between drama and humor without going to the overly silly, "we're really just marketing to children" philosophy. Thus the movie gets a good 4 rumors about Luke Skywalker's location out of a possible 5.

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