Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alarmed Forces

[This review is synched with Jamas' over on The Truth Behind. Check it out!]

Hello, and so I done saw That Star Wars today.

Spoilers! You've now been warned , thankyou :)

Yep, loved BB-8, too!

Short review: Yeah, I liked it. Quite good, actually. Not perfect, but pretty good.Sadly, it might be a little dark and violent for Jet Jr. If it were a Harry Potter movie it'd definitely be one of the later ones.

Gosh, now that's not helpful. How about a comparison? Jurassic World? Both it and The Force Awakens are, in essence, soft reboots whilst still referencing and including elements from the past, and both were made specifically to do this - a heavy dose of fan service to keep the studio heads and die-hards happy, while perhaps reading new ground in the next chapter. Of course, the original Star Wars did much the same, in that it condensed major ideas from George Lucas' script to set things up for more involved sequels.

The Force Awakens then is a release to be judged as much on its success as a series return rather than a new chapter in an expanding franchise. In that regard, it can't really do wrong - even the familiar set pieces and character types are handled pretty well- the swapping of the three leads in particular, with the first half of the movie setting up - and then dashing - expectation about who will be the hero, who the cocky pilot, who the reluctant leader, and so on. It was a good trick, and was helped immensely by the chemistry shared by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaacs (who is going to have quite the year in 2016 with his role in the next X-Men movie added in.) This was good, solid casting, as was Domnhall Gleeson and Adam Driver; their characters' rivalry was as much a highlight of the movie as the easy friendship of the good guys.

So then, there are the highlights, beyond the spectacular SFX, the heart-thumping dogfight choreography (the Falcon's early outing being a particular highlight) and the big images - Starkiller Base hitting the same score as its smaller predecessors with greater impact. The younger Simian was enthralled by them all. And somewhat shocked by the twists in the story (though sadly not immune to idiots spoiling plotlines beforehand) - but even these moments were true to the original trilogy; as I found myself thinking at a crucial time in the story threatening a hapy resolution "no, that's not how things go in Star Wars - children kill their elders..."

Some further thoughts, then: Bravo on the higher quotient of women in this chapter, and in particular women meaningfully moving the plot along an being part of the action. Women everywhere! X-Wing pilots, barkeeps, Generals, Imperial Officers (and what's more, people of colour in those roles!), and of course, central figures. Rey is a great character - not too cocky, but assured in her own self-reliance, so the running gag of Finn clumsily attempting to fill a traditional 'male' Hollywood role only to get knocked back by Rey lands naturally.

Black hat du jour Kylo Ren is similarly a self-conscious hero, coming across as something of a Vader wannabe because... well, he is. It's an essential part of his flawed, broken character, , but one which as we see makes him all the more dangerous. With the promise that he'll 'complete his training' under the new Emper- er, Great leader, expect him to come back deadlier and more focused on getting that lightsaber.

A word also to the overarching ideas behind this reboot sequel trilogy. Now that the cosmology of the Force has been set in stone (by the most cynical of the original series, no less), the idea of the Force needing 'balance' immediately invites a notion of a cycling narrative - and again, Leia indicates as much by drawing a straight line from Sith to Empire to this movie's First Order. Folks, the series could now go on forever - and may well do. In the mean-time Ren's rise to power strikes me as a deliberate (and so far more satisfying for being less fleshed-out) riffing on that of Anakin Skywalker's - and Luke's role in the whole thing looks to be a great kicking off point for movie two. 

So, a reliable entry, if not an entirely surprising one. There's definitely enough in the air to make the next installment the one to watch, though. In the mean-time, job done, JJ.

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