Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Star Wars is Back!

I've been putting off writing a review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens for a while now, not because I didn't like it but because I'm having a hard time focusing enough for any kind of detailed analysis rather than just going "SQUEEEEEE!!!! STAR WARS IS BACK!!!!!" I thought I needed to see it again to process it beyond just the excitement, especially since I came down with a cold about halfway through the movie (seriously, suddenly I couldn't stop sneezing and someone turned on a faucet in my nose, and I ran out of tissues). So I saw it again, and I may have had more detailed things to say, but I still pretty much felt like I did back in 1977 when my mind was blown and I sat in the back seat shooting down TIE fighters with the window crank handle as my family drove home from the movie. Though I did refrain from rushing out to tell the entire story to all my friends the next day this time around, and I forgot to help my mom look for the Star Wars sheet set she says she still has (yes, I had Star Wars sheets on my very princessy canopy bed, which I think sums up my personality and interests quite nicely).

So that's pretty much my non-spoiler review. I didn't hate the prequels as much as a lot of people did (not that they were great movies, but they didn't ruin my childhood, or anything like that), but this movie actually really felt like Star Wars. It felt like a real world instead of a computer graphic, and the characters talked and acted like people rather than robots (and that includes the robots). I actually think these new characters are more three-dimensional and fleshed-out than their original trilogy counterparts were at this point in that trilogy. Those characters were essentially archetypes. There wasn't a lot of depth or detail to them, and to some extent that helped because it made them so universal. These characters all feel more real. They have more defined goals and motivations. I also think that this movie works as an entry point in the series, with the previous generation characters functioning a lot like Vader and Kenobi did in the first trilogy, where we knew there was a history there but we hadn't seen it play out yet. If this was your first Star Wars movie, you might not get the impact of all the moments and references, but you could still follow the story and figure out the older characters from context, like we had to do with the original. The difference now is that if you're intrigued, you can go watch the backstory right away instead of having to wait to see what further hints are dropped in subsequent movies or a trio of prequels.

And now for the spoilers. Go away now if you haven't yet seen the movie. Really. Trust me on this one, it's better unspoiled.

When I was nine, I wanted to be Princess Leia. I remember that a big part of what drew me into the first movie was that first glimpse of Leia, looking so vulnerable in that flowy white gown with the hood up over her head as she put the recording into R2-D2. Then a moment later she was shooting at Stormtroopers and sassing Darth Vader, and I decided I wanted to be her. I can only imagine what I'd have thought about Rey at that age. She doesn't have the princessy gown, but she's still so pretty even as she goes about doing stuff. She's got mechanical aptitude, can handle a staff, knows how to fly, and is a quick study -- and she's NOT a Mary Sue. I'm a big fan of the term and have been known to employ it to criticize bad writing, but the main character in a story is allowed to be hyper-competent without being a Mary Sue (a Mary Sue is more likely to be a hyper-competent secondary character who ends up taking over the story to the detriment of the main character). There are plenty of reasons given in the story for Rey to have every one of the skills she has, and there are broad hints that there are other reasons why she's the way she is that will be unveiled as the story progresses because that's what the story's about.

My current personal theory is that she's Luke's daughter, who was believed dead. I got the strongest feeling that Han and Leia figured out exactly who she is (which would explain that hug between Rey and Leia the first time they meet) and that maybe even by the end of the movie Rey has recalled who she really is. If Luke thought his family was killed, that would explain his retreat into exile -- would he have gone to sulk just because of losing a trainee to the Dark Side? But he might if he believed his failure had led to the loss of his family.

I love the idea of focusing on a Stormtrooper as another hero because one flaw in the movies is that most of the bad guys aren't treated like real people. Giving one a face and a conscience so that he questions his allegiance and takes action makes them all seem maybe a little more human. If Finn has a choice, then what does that mean about the rest of them? He's just so adorable being so out of his element and so enthusiastic and loyal once he makes friends.

I kind of want to smack Kylo Ren upside the head, but I think you're supposed to. I'm a little worried that apparently the fangirls see him as so dreamy. Ugh. He's a brat. But he's still more interesting to me than Darth Vader was after the first movie. Vader in the first movie was really just a menacing thug in a cool costume. He had no character depth, no motivation, no conflict other than being opposed to the good guys. Kylo Ren has all kinds of crazy stuff going on in his head, which should at least lead to some interesting material.

Now let's hope they can keep the good stuff coming in the next movie.

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