Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Star Wars

Now that most of us have seen The Force Awakens at least twice, I thought I'd share my opinion on the matter. There are spoilers but if you haven't seen the movie yet, you obviously don't care all that much.

I did enjoy it. More so the second time than the first. From the previews, I was afraid it was going to try to please the wrong way; having token character multi-ethnicity/women because people blamed George Lucas for not having enough, having a cute round robot because they can and it is cute (also, it is cute). I also didn't care for the aesthetics of the previews either.

I was pleasantly surprised that my fear about the previews didn't materialize in the actual movie; BB-8 is cute but not ostentatiously so, and it is quite funny, possibly more so than the combo C3PO/R2-D2 ever was. John Boyega's Finn and Rey never felt forced and were certainly acted much better than many of the prequels' characters. I cared for them and could relate to their stories. Well done J.J. as far as I'm concerned.
On the aesthetics... I don't know... not convinced. Everything felt so "earthly". I didn't feel I was in a galaxy far far away. Jakku is a recycled Tatooine, that doesn't count, and the death-star... same.

For some of the planets' terrains, I turned to my wife a few times to say "Mmm, that looks like Scotland" (Ireland actually). I wanted to be in another universe. This impeded my suspension of disbelief.

Moreover, all the environments felt small and constrained to me. For example, the resistance's bunkers look, well, like tiny nondescript WWII bunkers, while Episode's IV and V's rebel bases were nothing I had seen before and the matte paintings were effectively used to add to the illusion. They had character, and an architectural presence. Better camera work was used to showcase them.

Rebel base on Yavin 4 in  Episode IV

Rebel base on Hoth in  Episode V

Speaking of architectural presence, I have always loved what Ralph Macquarrie and Doug Chiang did for the original series and the prequels; the out-wordly scale of the environments, the continuity in the difference between movies, the cohesiveness and sculptural beauty of the Star Wars universe. I didn't find much of this in J.J.'s StarWars, not enough to my taste anyway.

Now, my bigger problem... Have a read at this little movie synopsis I wrote and think of a StarWars movie that fits...

"A young adult, full of dreams, is stuck on a sand planet. The character's life changes when he/she encounters a cute robot containing plans that could save the universe from an evil empire if only they could be delivered to the small pocket of resistance.

That robot incidentally escaped during a battle led by the master of  the evil side of a strange force, during which the said plans were placed within the robot's to hide from grasp of the empire.

The black-hooded master of the dark side of the force is the spiritual, right-brain side of evil, in opposition to the military leader, a rational general which is in charge of the planet-sized (and shaped) death-star.

Meanwhile, we learn that our young protagonist is also strong in this Force. She/he has to decide whether or not to leave his/her past (childhood) behind and fight for the good cause.

Using the death-star, the Empire's general, destroys one/a few planets.

Heroes are captured and tortured but finally escape, just in time to mount a plan  involving shooting down one of its components that would eventually create a chain-reaction and destroy the death-star.
One of the heroes must manually deactivate the shields to give the rebels access to the death-star for this attack.

Meanwhile, lightsaber fights occur. A major character dies to the hands of the black-hooded evil-force master.

The heroes manage to blow-up the death-star and escape. The leader of the dark-side escapes in-extremis."

The Force Awakens works beautifully because of its references to A New Hope. These were more than winks and nods, The Force Awakens is A New Hope re-imagined for 2015. So much so that when trying to think of what is original to the new movie, the principal (only?) thing is the new characters.

I enjoyed it enough to see it twice because the images were still new to me. But beyond that, will I long to see this story told to me again in the future the same way I do for the other movies in the series (except for Attack of the Clones, but that's another discussion), at this point, I am not sure. Because there's an episode that has told that story as well and, more importantly, before...


P.S. Hate to say this but I don't think it is John Williams' most memorable work either. I liked 'Rey's Theme', 'The Scavenger' (which introduces 'Rey's Theme'), and the second half of 'Torn Apart'. The rest is mostly ambiance or reminiscence of canon themes, which doesn't conjure the images in my mind that previous work of Williams' did.