Gah, what to write, what to write first, what to say that hasn’t been said?
When I heard that there was a new Star Wars film coming out, I was reticent because of the heaping pooh that the prequels are. They’re not even train wrecks—you don’t want to look at them, and it’s easy to pull yourself away. In my mind, they never happened. When I heard that Spielberg-wunderkind J.J. Abrams was helming it, I was skeptical that it was just a fan’s rumor. Too good to be true. And only when I saw the teaser did I believe it. Abrams is a film master, and can do no wrong. If he can do what he did with Lost and Star Trek, this is going to be a masterpiece.
But, I’ve also grown to learn that you should never hope that anything or anyone will fulfill all your hopes and dreams, and that imagination and expectation are some of the two best things in life, rarely superseded or even equated by reality. I actually just got done watching a documentary on the making of The Phantom Menace, and I found it sad that the moviegoers at its premier were having such rapture as they awaiting the lights to dim. And still, I can relate. I wanted so badly for Episode I to be what it should have been, and I denied that it was anything less. I was so devoted. This is pathetic, but I even feel asleep to the VHS every night for like two months! And it wasn’t because it was even a good film; it was just because of the role it had. I was effectively a Lucas-sucks denier. And I don’t know how I did it, since the films are so foreign to the Star Wars universe. And, with every other SW fan, I feared that The Force Awakens would follow suit.
My brother-in-law, who is the biggest SW nerd that I’ve met, teased the crap out of me since he saw it before I, and made it sound like it was the exactly what I had been harboring my feelings away from. But there was no way it could be the Messianic sequel. I dismissed it, especially since I knew what over-amping a film does. Nerds rightfully lauded The Fellowship of the Ring, yet simultaneously deflated it for anyone who hadn’t seen it. They made it out to be so spectacular and like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Which is true. But, when you have no reference for expectations, your satisfaction can only go up, not down. If you were one who had heard the hoopla and then saw it, it was probably just “okay.” It’s my belief that you should avoid hype over any art or media, and just experience it for yourself, and reflect. Don’t get involved in film reviews or friends’ rants. Just see it for yourself. Sadly, I did a little bit of both of the frenzy and the distanced objectivity. Thus, TFA didn’t live up to what I wanted it to, but also very much pleased me.
It’s been very difficult articulating, let alone identifying, what I didn’t like. Eighty percent of me liked it, while the rest had a weird discomfort: like having seven pairs of red socks, three that are ghastly pinkish and argyle, and one that is slightly more saturated and made with synthetic fabric. I read tons of reviews, and found scant that helped me see my opinion. I knew the work had already been done for me, so why try to be a critic when every freaking critic out there has been waiting since Episode III to review this film. With a little patience, I found two things that helped me grasp the fuzziness: this HelloGreedo review, and subsequent article on matte painting the old SW sets.
Now, read this article on the craft that is absent from Abram’s film. Because this is gone, so is the matte palette. There is too much vibrancy in this new film. Part of that is due to the 1970s and 1980s era that the originals were made, but it’s also a significant element that impresses on the audience. Sadly, this element made it feel too much like the prequels. The story was good, as were the characters and dialogue (in a very charming Abram’s way), but it didn’t feel enough like SW. Does it ruin it? No. And you can see there are many more chances to re-align the saga with the later films. The directors and writers are very talented, especially Gareth Edwards.
All in all, TFA is at least nine times better than any of the prequels, and eighty-five percent as good as the originals. I like it, and can’t wait to see it again.
Second edit: I saw it a second time, and I loved it so much more! Acknowledging that it’s an Abrams’ film makes it a lot better, because his style is greatly funnier, snarkier, and more cinematic than the originals. Yes, in a way, it is better. (“Heresy!” someone says. “This moof milker creates a disturbance in the Force.”) The humor and fun bring the SW fan family together, and make a more enjoyable film. Initially , I did think that he could have used more maquettes and puppets, but he used enough. I will say that I wish he used models instead of CGI landscapes for a couple shots.
My overall favorite element was that Chewbacca became an actual character! He has funny dialogue! He was basically unnecessary in any other appearance, other than to fly the Millenium Falcon; he wasn’t a supporting character, nor even a foil; he was just Han Solo’s loyal dog. Now he actually has a very vital role in bridging the gap and continuing the legacy. I really like this film. I think my first screening was tainted by my looking for reasons to not like it. Everyone I know who has seen it more than once says it’s better the second time, and they’re right. Go see it again.
PS: The new Star Wars: Battlefront video game is very nearly the playable incarnation that SW gamers have been awaiting. [Yeah, despite all I said above.] It only needs a Dagobah map and tauntauns and wampas. If you’ve got a Playstation 4, add me on PlayStation Network via “PatDoGood” or “AnOrphanGrlScout.” I wanna fight ya!