Saturday, January 16, 2016

Star Wars – The Force Awakens, a review and literary discussion


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SPOILERS FOLLOW HERE! Don’t read if you have not seen the new movie!

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LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILERS!
Lit discussion first, review second.

The general reception for the new Star Wars is strangely mixed, from what I have personally encountered. It’s strange because The Force Awakens (hereafter TFA) is an obviously great movie. Not perfect (there’s no such thing), but a much better than average movie. The writing is great, the acting is top-notch, the sets are beautiful, the costume and makeup design is fresh yet iconic, the story is compelling, the use of practical effects is Muppet-level marvelous, etc… It’s fantastic.



So why are there so many people so hateful of this movie?

I think, mostly (based on my personal discussions with people), because of the destruction of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Disney, knowing that they’d be making a Star Wars movie each year for the rest of eternity, declared that all of the previous novels, comic books, video games, and anything-else-not-the-episodic-movies was no longer canon (meaning, no longer the “truth” in the story of the series).

My sketch of BB-8!
To many fans of the novels, Disney basically blew up their home planets, as if millions of life experiences suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

When we consume media, such as novels or video games, these things become real experiences and stories lived. For readers, novels are escapes that become more real than actual life. Sometimes, characters we meet in novels feel like friends. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember what happened on the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts the night the Dark Mark was seen.

Now, imagine Harry Potter was bought out and then the new owner told me that nothing in that novel was the true canon. Now, all of that was just the “Legend” as Disney dubbed the Expanded Universe. How would I feel? Probably bad. You can’t tell me that so many characters I’ve spent time with no longer exist, that what I’ve experienced for myself through reading isn’t what happened. I read it; I was there!

And, from the people I’ve talked to that hated TFA, that’s the big problem. They aren’t following the books. They aren’t acknowledging the engagement of the novels and other media that fans have been clinging onto for the 30+ years since the original trilogy. That hurts. It’s like finding out that you’ve lost 30 years to amnesia. I can understand being upset.



But—

 There’s always a but, I know. But Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill are like 60-70 years old and wouldn’t be able to accurately portray what the books have written anyway. You could recast them (and they are casting a young Han Solo for a spinoff movie) so that you could play out the novels, but doesn’t that feel like a missed opportunity to bring back the old cast to hand down the movies to a new generation?

Also, great directors, like J.J. Abrams, are artists. They deserve to create their own stories, and not be hampered down to what others have written. Besides that, movies need surprise to build intrigue. Right now, there are hot debates on who Rey’s parents are, if Snoke is Plagueis, what Luke’s role will be in the next movie, if Han Solo pushed the button on Ren’s saber, if Finn has the Force, and even if Kylo Ren is a secret plant by the Light Side.

a weird photoshop I made of Kylo Ren with a penguin head
These debates fuel excitement and fun for the fanbase, new and old, because we don’t know. If this movie had been based on the novels, then we would already know and there would be no fun in speculation. Remember the prequels? Nobody debated on if Anakin would become Darth Vader, because we already knew. Would Obi Wan live through his duel on that lava planet? Yeah, we knew. Life or death moments in movies don’t feel exciting if we already know who lives through them. The Prequels suffered for this, majorly.

And Disney couldn’t afford another prequel. I recently rewatched all of the Star Wars movies in preparations for the new one, and yeah, the prequels have some bad, bad moments that make you cringe. There are good things in those movies, but there are major issues that keep the prequels from being good. I personally believe one thing that made the writing in the scripts so bad was the forced (pun?) limitations based on it being a story that has already played out. We had already had a movie that told how Anakin’s story begins (Episodes 5 and 6), so the prequels were unable to write plots that could surprise us.

TFA could not fall into that trap. It needed to start fresh, as it begun a new era of Star Wars as owned by Disney. It played on the past bringing parallels with A New Hope, but it did not rely on them to create compelling characters.

My experiences with the Expanded Universe are as follows: I’ve read the The Thrawn Trilogy (very good books, actually) and played a few Star Wars video games that I barely remember. I’m not as attached to the EU as someone who has read the hundreds of novels, so maybe I just don’t get it, but (there’s always a but) Star Wars movies (not games or novels) are mainstream, and there’s no reason that TFA shouldn’t be considered a great movie by the average moviegoer.



My review:

I loved the movie very much. I think it's the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. The new characters were excellent, with a wonderful cast. BB-8 was the perfect new droid cast member. I thought the final scene was ingenious. Han Solo got what he deserved (a good death) (seriously, who wanted Han Solo to sit around and die of old age???). The Starkiller base was the weakest part, being that it was just another, bigger Death Star, but it wasn’t all that bad. Kylo Ren was my favorite character, and I think he’s what Anakin should have been in the prequels.

My Official Review Score for The Force Awakens: 9.6/10 



Predictions for the next movies:

Kylo Ren will be the hero in the end. He will lose his struggle against the light. In that way, he will ultimately mirror Darth Vader.

Rey will fall to the dark side, as she is the new “Anakin.” I predict this because she would have likely slaughtered the defeated Kylo in her rage had the planet not broke apart and separated them.

Rey is a Kenobi, mostly because of her accent. However, I believe there will be a character who has the last name “Skywalker” by the end of this trilogy. I don’t think Star Wars would end the Skywalker lineage with Luke.

Supreme Leader Snoke is Darth Plagueis, yeah! I believe this theory. I believe he created Anakin Skywalker by his Sith powers (remember, he had no father), and I believe he may have also created Rey. Darth Plagueis is the Sith Lord who trained Sidious, AKA Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine believed he killed his master, but Plagueis had control over death, and so lived (notice his broken face). For those who are confused, there’s a scene where Palpatine and Anakin talk about the story of Darth Plagueis in the prequels:


My last prediction is this: Jedi Academy. I think that this trilogy will end with Luke Skywalker having fulfilled his mission from Yoda, to pass on what he has learned and restore the Jedi Order. I don’t know if Luke will live until the end of the movies, but his influence will at the school for Jedi.