Sunday, December 27, 2015

[Spoiler Free] Theatrical Review: Star Wars Episode VII- The Force Awakens

Date: Friday December 18 2015
Time: 11am
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 3 (my sister, mom and I)

Duration: 136 minutes (+ 6 trailers)

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
Composer: John Williams

Rey- Daisy Ridley
Finn- John Boyega
Poe Dameron- Oscar Isaac
Kylo Ren- Adam Driver
Han Solo- Harrison Ford
Maz Kanata- Lupita Nyong'o

Former Princess, now General Leia- Carrie Fisher
Luke Skywalker- Mark Hamill

Opening Remarks and Trailers:

It wasn't my intention to see the movie the day it came out... but I also didn't want to wait too long. God forbid there are a couple nerds that plaster social media with spoilers and break the non-verbal contract of non-posting for a couple weeks after its release... 

There was a small line in front of the box office, namely because it didn't open until 15 minutes before the start time. The theater was half-full, not super crowded by the time the movie started. Most arrived during the previews.

And leave it to the BIG movies where they have multiple previews.
1) we walked in at the end of "Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass"- we saw it a couple movies ago for the first time
2) "Allegiant"- I'm going to keep asking until I see it- why do we need two movies for this final book?
3) "Captain America: Civil War"- oy, the tension in the room [in the trailer itself] on this one... right now, I can see this from both sides. it's also a good thing that RDJ is booked for two more Avengers movies because it wasn't looking good for Iron-Man with that Captain America/Winter Soldier tag team.
4) "X-Men: Apocalypse"- this is the final X-men movie in this franchise, I think, and they're pulling out all the stops. Oscar Isaac is in this one as well, but other than his voice [not iconic yet], there was no sign of him. It definitely looks like an end-game type of story that explains how Professor Xavier went bald, but like the way he became paralyzed in this franchise, I'm not completely on board.
5) Another "Batman v Superman" trailer, but different than the same damn one I'd been complaining about these last several reviews. Disappointed because Ben Affleck seems to be doing that stupid Bat-voice Christian Bale ruined the character with... Excited to see Wonder Woman get in the action and about the possibility all three can come together to defeat a common enemy

The final preview- for Disney's "Zootopia" elicited a groan from me. But there was a scene that so hilariously fit how I was feeling at the time that all was forgiven :P It involves sloths at the DMV...


The subtitle really should be "reawakens" but that would be a little too pretentious and self-aware...

I had a literal "Fan Boys" moment when the words "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away..." appeared on the screen... then the movie and the text crawl...

Basically, it brought us up to speed on what we can expect from the state of the galaxy, which, appeasing the nervous Luke Skywalker fangirls, includes him.

Going in, I didn't go through the trouble of dissecting all of the interviews and trailers. But thanks to one particular picture, I actually guessed one plot point involving Poe Dameron (new hot-shot X-wing pilot played by Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) a storm-trooper who's gone rouge.
An unlikely collaboration with some great action-packed results.

Right away, I really liked all of the new characters and the actors who portrayed them. Unless he gets saddled with a traitorous storyline in a future sequel that's of Lando Calarissan proportions, Oscar Isaac doesn't need to worry about people not liking Poe Dameron.
The only real downside is that he has the least screentime of the three new core cast members. And the majority of his scenes are in the X-wing cockpit. For me, that's about as satisfying as having RDJ in the Iron-Man suit-- occasionally, you see his face, but he's not the one doing all the acting.
But that's just me personal nit-picking...

Daisy Ridley plays Rey, a scavenger who lives on the planet Jakku (think desert planet Tatooine, but with one less sun). You thought Princess Leia was a strong female character. You thought Luke Skywalker was a reluctant hero. She's the combination of these two archetypes and does it amazingly. Assuming she does more in her acting career than this franchise, she's going to be the biggest new star to come out of it.

Finn gives us a perspective that we probably didn't think to explore until he presented us with the opportunity. How does one come a storm trooper? What makes them tick? Do they have any free will? And is it possible one to stop being a storm trooper?
His greatest highlights come from how he interacts with the other characters. Also finding out whether he will be able to rise to the occasion when he's in the trenches- either on the ground or manning the guns on a spacecraft. For anyone who hasn't seen a Star Wars movie before, he's the one that can be identified with the most because they're discovering their way through this crazy fictional world together, basically.

In one trailer, which was basically cast interviews on set, there was a lot of talk about doing these trilogy right. It would have real sets and rely much less on CGI.
There are also a lot of elements in the storyline, dialogue and otherwise that harken back to the original franchise. Particularly the notion Rey and Finn wind up with the task integral to fulfilling the plot. And along the way they do run into Han Solo and Chewbecca, which of course is awesome itself.

As for the First Order, which is the new wave of storm troopers and enemy forces, we find our new mega villain known as the Snoke- who is particularly this giant ugly CGI character being played by Andy Serkis, a new general (Domnhall Gleeson is kinda like Peter Cushing's character in the first Star Wars movie except he has ginger hair), a female storm trooper platoon leader (never see her face, but we hear her- she's Finn's former commander). And of course we have our main villain Kylo Ren, who probably carries the most spoilers of anybody so I can't say all that much. But there's one aspect of his personality that generates one of the movie's funniest moments-- probably the closest the theater came to breaking out in full hilarity.

Another character I hope to see more in the future sequels is played by Lupita Nyong'o. She's another motion-capture role, so we see her expressions and her voice in a different body. I wouldn't exactly say she's like another Yoda, but she is wise and helpful to our protagonists.

Beyond that- the movie plays out really well from start to finish. There's a lot of great laughs and gripping action sequences- some where we were holding our breath. There are plenty of twists as well as room for sequels. There's a lot of potential with these new characters the way they're written. As a big fan of the series in general, all the hype leading up to this was met and I can't wait for more.
Heck, my mom wants to see it in 3D- which I probably won't be up for unless we can bring in someone else who hadn't seen it with us the first time.
One day later, she had a talk with my sister because she gave away a big spoiler from the movie at a workplace Christmas party... yeah, unfortunately, it's probably not the kind of movie you can talk about in full for awhile.

But it seriously should have been considered one of the best movies of the year.
I hadn't seen the Mad Max movie from this year. One of my aunts saw it and said it was great. But the reviews overall are uneven, so I cannot trust it be given "best movie of the year"- certainly not by IMDB. They're great with trivia, but their ratings system isn't idiot proof...

But yeah, this Star Wars movie has to be one of the best movies this year. Definitely the best movie I saw this year... which probably suggests that it was a sucky year for movies... more on that in a future entry.

Grade: A+

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