Wednesday, December 23, 2015

We Three Kings and The Force Awakens (review)

A few things.

As mentioned previously, my book, Honor At Stake is going through a serious price drop. The usual $22 paperback is now under $8 as of this writing, so buy now while supplies last. Yes, really, there are 7 left at Amazon.

The Pius shorts are still on sale. Both Pius Origins and Pius Holidays are less than a dollar on Kindle, and the complete Pius Tales (with bonus material) is in paperback and on kindle

Now that that's out of the way, first up: Christmas Music! Enjoy.

By the way, can you guess what I saw this weekend?  One hint.

So, what did I think of The Force Awakens?

Story: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Luke Skywalker has gone missing, and his sister Leia is tearing the galaxy apart looking for him.  Unfortunately for the operative she sends, so is the Empire clone called "The First Order," who are even MORE of a set of Nazi clones than the Empire was. Apparently, they even kidnap children and brainwash them to be stormtroopers, given them an ISIS / Al-Qaeda feel. The map to Luke is hidden in a droid, who is on the run from the bad guys (yes, this is an obvious call back to A New Hope). Instead of a farm boy, the droid finds a scavenger and a turncoat stormtrooper, and they find, through a series of unfortunate events, our original heroes.

So, a few notes.

First: better than any prequel film. Period.

And no Jar Jar.

Second: JJ Abrams is trying for a lot at once, and pulls it off quite well. There are lots of call backs to the original trilogy, but basically reimagined and come at from an interesting angle.  Yes, there is a superweapon, but it's not the Death Star, it's kinda worse. We have holographic chess, visits to Tunisia and Ireland for on-location shooting, and other similarities, but used in new ways. Some people have called this a remake of the first one. Not really. Though do not go into the cave. Period. It never ends well. Though I have to ask, why is Linda Hunt running Mos Eisley cantina in Rivendell?L 

Also, "Luke, I am your father" has gone on to whole new levels of odd here.

And no Jar Jar.

Third: The pacing is fast. Remember how Empire Strikes Back was a chase film with some Yoda thrown in? Take out Yoda, and amp up the speed of the chase, and you have the right idea.

Also, high marks for special effects and music. John Williams is in top form, and I suspect that his instructions were "Give us new music that sounds like Star Wars, without using ANY of the same musical motifs."  As for the special effects, it's nice that not everything was CGI. 

Did I mention no Jar Jar?

Four: acting was solid.  Harrison Ford pretty much just had to show up.  There are some aspects that are almost more like parody at time -- mostly to point out that Han was really bad at being a smuggler.  As far as Carrie Fisher ... well, her on screen time was obviously limited for very good reasons -- mostly being that she has aged really, really badly, but booze and drugs will do that to you. 

The newcomers were surprisingly good.  They gave good performances, and the young woman lead reminds me a lot of Kiera Knightly. And who knew that Andy Serkis did such great voice work ... that wasn't Gollum?

All in all, a great fim.



Yes, someone will die. From the original cast. Though this should surprise no one -- because if I were writing the script, I'd be killing off ALL of the original characters, since they're old, getting older, and few are aging gracefully. Whether or not they will die in a manner befitting their character is another conversation, and something I'll probably have to mull over on future viewings.

There is a sequence where JJ Abrams is making fun of how bad a smuggler Han Solo is, and that goes a little heavy on the parody -- it doesn't take you out of the film, and it doesn't NOT feel like Star Wars, but I'm wondering why Marlboros from the Final Fantasy series is on screen.

There are plot holes, but they are so obvious that I expect it's stuff they're saving for later on in the series. For example? Where Luke's original lightsaber ended up in a Mos Eisley cantina on Middle Earth, in the possession of Linda Hunt. When questioned about it, it's "don't ask. Some other time."

Also, our bad guy, Kylo Ren is ... interesting. He has more depth than Darth Vader ever did, sure. Though he isn't as intimidating as he thinks he is, or as much as he wants to be. He really does want to be Darth Vader when he grows up.  On the one hand, he's well written. On the other hand, we didn't see him on his best day.

By the way, we need a clarification in the next films of what the hell is going on.  It's at least 20 years, if not 30, since Return of the Jedi...why is the "resistance" and the Republic two different things? Shouldn't the Republic be fighting this First Order? If they weren't, why was the Republic attacked during the movie? Didn't they beat the Empire? Didn't the Rebel alliance win? What the hell happened? Is this First Order a splinter group of the Empire? If it is, where the bleep did it get so many resources? Somebody just EXPLAIN.

Also ... I was promised Benedict Cumberbatch in this film. I didn't get him, damn it. I feel cheated. :)

Be well, all, and Merry Christmas.

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