(Editor’s Note: We have no idea if we are officially out of spoiler range for the new Star Wars movie. To be perfectly honest, we don’t care all that much about spoilers here. We are of the opinion that if you can’t enjoy entertainment that’s been spoiled, then perhaps it wasn’t all that entertaining. Besides, the movie has been out for more than a month now. If you haven’t seen it by now and care at all about spoilers, then you get what you deserve. With all of that being said, if you continue to read from this point forward, there are major spoilers to the movie.)
Kylo Ren, real name Ben (most likely named by his Uncle Luke Skywalker in honor of Obi Wan Kenobi) Solo (because he is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa) kills his father in an attempt to complete his transformation to the Dark Side. I warned you. Enjoy the following funny SNL bit as a peace offering. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can talk about the rest of the movie. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to Han and his angry, angry son later.
I already gave my first impressions of the movie right after we saw it. If you read that article, you know that I enjoyed it very much. Half of it was nostalgia, half of it was watching it through the eyes of my own children, and the most important third half of it was being able to introduce this universe to my father in law. I’ve since had some time to ponder the movie more. You probably think that means that the glow has since faded and that I’m now going to write about how the movie is not as good as I first thought. Well, you’re partially right. As time passes, the glow naturally fades and it might sound like I’m bashing the movie, but I’m not. The internet has just created this environment in which you can’t criticize anything without being a hater. Know, then, that I still enjoy this movie, want to see it again and thank it for saving the franchise from the better taste of the prequels. And, I’m one of the few who kind of enjoyed Episodes I-III. Imagine the people who thought the movies were the cinematic equivalent of being warmed inside of a Tauntaun and how relieved they are that a good Star Wars movie was made before they died.
Or, should I say, remade. How’s that for a segue into my first criticism? As with all of them, it is a minor complaint and one that can be easily explained. Nevertheless, I should discuss the good and the bad. Maybe I should take a bad news/good news approach to the article. Seems like the best way to write it. That way I can avoid the inevitable internet accusation of drinking the haterade. Besides, honestly, no matter how much I complain, I did enjoy the movie very much.
Still, always bad news first. From the opening scent of the movie, when the giant star destroyer flew across the screen, I felt that there was something familiar about this movie. It’s not just because they decided to bring everyone back, either. We all knew that was going to happen. Also, I’m not the only one who thought this. I’ve spoken to several friends who had the same reaction. Okay, enough rationalizing, let’s look at the evidence.
The aforementioned star destroyed sets the stage for nostalgia. I thought, “Wow, that’s just like the beginning of Episode IV.”
A cute droid carries information that is vital to the good guys.
A black masked and cloaked villain with an altered voice. This one is explained in the movie through storytelling, but still suspect at first. Kylo Ren idolizes his grandfather and wants to be just like Darth Vader, so there’s your explanation.
An unspectacular protagonist from a desert planet ends up being extremely important to the fate of the galaxy.
There is some mystery regarding this protagonist’s life story.
This progtagonist becomes the protege of a former scoundrel turned wiser old man who clearly knows more than he’s saying.
The past catches up to the old man on several occasions forcing him to reconcile with that past. He still does not reveal the whole truth, however.
There is a power struggle for the second in command of the dark side army.
The good guys have a critical meeting inside of a cantina on a planet in the far reaches of the galaxy. At least this cantina is not on the same planet that the protagonist lives.
This group, known as the New Order, have built a planet sized space vessel capable of destroying planets.
The good guys are a rag tag bunch that happens to have some of the best pilots. They destroy the so called “Starkiller” by finding and exploiting it’s single weakness against impossible odds.
The wise old guru is murdered by someone close to him in front of his friends who are all powerless to help him.
The protagonist and antagonist fight to a stand still as the battle to destroy “Starkiller” rages around them, concluding as the vessel begins to tear itself apart.
The protagonist finds a wise old Jedi master on a remote planet surrounded by water. Okay, so this one is more Episode V, but movies are also slightly longer on average than in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
In case all of that wasn’t obvious enough, my main complaint is that the movie is nearly an exact retelling of Episode IV. Okay, now for the excuse making. I will rebrand it as the good news after the bad news. First, they had to reintroduce the series for several reasons. One, I mentioned that I mostly enjoyed the prequels. Many others, to put it mildly, did not. In less sugar coated terms, most, by a wide margin, fans hated it with the fire of a thousand Starkiller beams. There is so much more for nerds in pop culture these days that fans might have abandoned Star Wars altogether for Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or any one of the Marvel series on TV or Netflix. What better way to get fans back into it than by going back to where it all started and reboot the story as well as support.
Two, those of us who have been there all along are getting old. It is harder to get us to buy the tie in merchandise, other than the video games. If those old farts are anything like me, they brought family and friends to the movie. My kids have already seen the original movies, but my other guest hadn’t. Perhaps by introducing them with a proper introduction, they are more likely to get hooked and revisit those first movies. Even if they don’t, they’re in now. They finally have a Star Wars that they can call their own. See, it’s a legitimate complaint, but one that makes sense if you just think about it.
Back to bad news. I talked about the final battle in the list of similarities Kylo Ren battles against Rey (the lead protagonist mentioned in that same list) after fighting against Finn (who I haven’t even mentioned yet and it’s not because I’m racist, which is exactly what a racist would say. Damn. Moving on.) and mortally wounding or killing him. After having just watched the movie, I discussed it with my cousin. I brought up that I felt it a little strange, and even a little convenient, that someone who had studied as a Jedi and then in the dark side for who knows how long lost to a woman who only hours earlier picked up a light saber for the first time. True, there is some ambiguity surrounding Rey’s history and parentage, but I still made the point to him. He replied, “Well, Kylo was shot in the side.” which is a plot development that I had overlooked in my excitement. That is actually a great explanation, Skywalker spawn or not. There are other inconsistencies like that, but that one bothered me the most.
Even so (good news), the inconsistencies aren’t as glaring as the original trilogy that could have been explained by the prequels, but were actually made worse in many cases. Add in the silly tinkering that he did when rereleasing the original movies and those things are an absolute mess now.
Other than those two minor complaints–that can honestly be made about any movies and especially sequels that have made it to the 7th movie, I enjoyed it and cannot wait for the next one. As soon as we left the theater and sat in the restaurant waiting for our pizza, I searched on the tablet to find the release date for Episode VIII. I was genuinely upset that we would have to wait another year and a half (now moved to two years) for the movie to be released. In our video on demand, binge-watching society, that is an eternity. Hopefully spoilers start showing up soon and I can at least find out if my theories are correct.
Until then, I suppose I still have some Clone Wars to watch. There is also the new series Rebels and I have to show my father in law the first six movies. There is the machete order to try there. Maybe I will see this one again. There is plenty of Star Wars fun to keep me busy until Christmas 2017.
Good news? There’s less than 700 days as I write this.
Bad news? There’s almost 700 days as I write this.
(Editor’s Note: Spoiler Alert! This movie was awesome!)
My history with Star Wars is well documented. Perhaps not on this page, but all it takes is a single inquiry or comment and I will tell you all about it. What’s that? You want to hear all about it? Perhaps another time. Let’s just say that I am of a certain age and temperament that lends itself to minor obsession with the films. I’m not a costume guy, but I did attend a midnight showing of Episode III and I made Christine come with me to watch at least Episode IV when it was re-released into the theaters. She’s still “on the fence”, but I think she hates the movies and merely tolerates them like I do country music. You have to make sacrifices for the ones you love.
Since the boys have been born, much of my Star Wars experience has been of the Lego variety. They’ve seen some of the actual movies, but we’ve spared them the more intense Episode III and I despise everything about Episode II, so they might not have seen that one, either. News of Episode VII had me excited, then apprehensive because Disney and JJ Abrams (ugh), and finally back to a fevered pitch of fan boy enthusiasm that culminated in ordering tickets for the official premiere date for me, Liam, Aiden, and my father-in-law.
I wasn’t sure how to structure this article, but I had a flash of inspiration and I”m going to go with a running journal starting on Thursday afternoon. That’s when the excitement really started to ramp up to nearly mythical levels.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
4:45 pm: While at tutoring, I got a text from my wife that read, “Dinner at my Moms at 5:30 pm.” Okay, cool, no problem. While dinner at her mother’s might not seem all that interesting or relevant to a story about Star Wars, I assure you it has a place. Stay tuned.
6:30 pm: Dinner was ham and au gratin potatoes. it was delicious and, you are right, has nothing to do with Star Wars. You just have to appreciate the little things in life.
Side note: I have not been as excited about the movie as expected. Maybe the grind of the end of the semester interfered. Perhaps, because we don’t have cable, I have been able to avoid the incessant advertising.
Yes, in case you don’t know, we are the annoying family without cable that uses that trait as one of our identifying characteristics. I found myself saying, “We don’t even have TV at home. Why are you arguing over TV?” to my 5 year old.
Well, after dinner, the hype machine finally got me. A commercial came on for Dodge (or ram or are they the same thing? Who cares, right?) with Star wars music in the background and I made a comment about buying the truck just because they put Star Wars on it. My father in law replied with, “They’ve been putting Star Wars on everything.” Sure enough, the next commercial was a tie-in, too. I have to admit that I got a kick out of that one, though.
6:49 pm: After the commercial, I said, “Okay, that one was funny.” and my wife rolled her eyes. She had already been making side comments through and after dinner and I just had to ask her to stop. I don’t usually get defensive about my nerd love, but Star Wars is different. As I explained to her, I’ve been watching these movies since I was a kid and now I’m taking my own kids to see them. When she first said, “I love you.” I replied with, “I know.” I’m not a super Star Wars fan, but buried deep down, I am.
6:50 pm: To assuage my hurt feelings and pump the gas (or tug the steam whistle, but that sounds weird) of the hype train a little, I watch the trailer again. Now that I’m more familiar with the new characters, watching it gives me the ASMR something fierce. I watch it five times. Aiden joins me for one of the viewings.
7:15-10:30 pm: The hype is somewhat diminished by having to write a final. Tests are the absolute worst part of my job (I know #firstworldproblems) but they are a necessary evil.
10:30 pm: Speaking of necessary evil…Watching one of my favorite streamers on Twitch and someone comes with the chat with, “Just got home from Star Wars.” Immediately he is hit with the “No spoilers in this chat!!” by several users and a couple even ask for an unconditional ban “just in case”. Look, I get it….sort of. Your lives are so devoid of suspense and surprise that you live vicariously through movies and television. But, serious, the “No spoilers!” gestapo has gotten out of hand. The guy is simply trying to start a conversation about something he enjoyed and assumes that you enjoy as well. I, and one other, responded with, “Is it any good?” He said that he really enjoyed it and listed off the reasons without giving away any major plot points.
10:45 pm: Shortly after, my cousin contacted me to compare notes. I told him that I had yet to see it and we also went on to discuss the movie without giving anything away. We talked at length, too, about a variety of subjects. We expressed a desire to see the movie more than once. He assured me that JJ Abrams did a good job, which I was still a bit worried about. We both lamented that our wives showed no interest in the movie. Having already seen the movie, he was particularly dismayed that his wife wasn’t there. We moved onto female representation and it sounds like they are trying to appeal more to women with this series.
As an aside, my feeling is that this film is about leaving the past behind and reinventing Star Wars for the future. I know, that sounds weird. But, I contend that the disastrous prequels were meant to be for the hard core fans, but Uncle George overcompensated and we got what we got.
Oh well, maybe the boys and I can wear her down over vacation and get her to see it with us. It is really something that I want to share with her. After I see it, maybe I can find an angle.
12:15 am: I joked with my cousin that I might not even sleep because I was so excited. That became a lie as I crashed on the couch watching Twitch.
Friday, December 18, 2015
6:15 am: Alarm goes off and today is the day! All I have to do is give two finals, one tutoring session, and I will be on my way to the theater. I’m excited, but I also think that I might have a cold coming on.
11:15 am: One final given and the tutoring session done and I need to go get some medicine and do Christmas shopping at the mall. I’m not looking forward to this at all. Oh, hey, what’s that? It’s a pretty cool looking R2D2 shirt that I can wear to strengthen my nerd cred. The shirt and lunch at my favorite Greek place made the “have to do”s all worth it.
2:15 pm: Last final is done! I’m so excited that I’m going to go out to the van and take a nap! I know, I know, all of this build up to the big day, it’s almost time, and that’s my response. I’m pretty sure that this cold is actually the flu. So, I curl up in the van for a short winter’s nap.
3:00 pm: Nap over! Let’s do this. I drive to Amherst, find my father-in-law’s truck, and park near him. I meet them all in the theater, post to my Facebook (because it’s not official unless it’s on social media), grab the tickets, they get popcorn and soda, and then we go stand in line for the movie. The half an hour wait in the theater for the movie to start is excruciating and made all the worse by the cheesy pre-show advertisements that they show. By the end of it, I scream, “Let’s go already!” Not one to get faked out, I also say, “Is it actually starting?” when the Lucasfilm logo comes onto the screen. Thankfully for me and those in the immediate vicinity who were sick of my whining, it was actually starting. The theater went black, the title came up, the theme song started, and applause began.
7:30 pm: The opening wasn’t the only applause worthy moment. I’m pretty sure that Aiden even got the theater going a couple of times when some of his favorite characters came onto the screen. I gave the movie a standing ovation. It wasn’t perfect, which goes without saying, but it was a very good movie. They paid homage to the past in the right way and they are definitely moving the franchise forward at the same time. As with many fans, I was a little down on Star Wars after the prequels and then the Disney sale, but everything has worked out well so far. Even though I’m pretty sure I know how Episode VIII and IX will continue the story, I’m still unbelievably excited to see both of them. We still have a good year and a half, so I guess the only course of action is to go see this one a couple of more times.
If you’re a fan, you’ve already seen and drew your own conclusions. If you’re not a fan, this is actually the perfect movie to get into the series. After you’ve done that, go back and watch the originals. If you still love Star Wars after that, avoid the prequels altogether, except for maybe Episode III and Episode I if you can stomach it. As always, May the Force be with you.
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