I have never been more frightened to write a review in my entire life. I think Disney could have saved millions of dollars on promotion by just releasing one trailer, and letting the Church of Star Wars fanboys/fangirls do the rest. The indoctrination of the masses has reached epic brainwashing proportions, and it seems you can't even have a serious intellectual debate anymore. Either you love everything about Star Wars, or you're an idiot, a loser and probably a bed wetter. Actually, you can dislike Star Wars... as long as you're talking about the Prequels.
But I'm not here to rehash my love of sci-fi/fantasy, imagination, creativity and respect for the mythos George Lucas created. Nor am I here to talk about my utter disdain for J.J. Abrams as a director, as I did here, and here... and here. I'm here to say that I finally found a theater that wasn't sold out, that had available parking, and post Christmas shopping stupidity to finally watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The plot (non-spoiler): It's Star Wars, thirty years after Return of the Jedi.
After watching with a very open mind, in my humble opinion (if I'm still allowed to have one), there were many elements I enjoyed! And some parts... I didn't *ducks* If you loved it, that's great! I'm very happy for you! But I want to be clear about why I didn't enjoy SOME of it, so I'd like to break down all the players (playas?) as clearly as I can, so I don't get beaten up by nerds/geeks for my lunch money. And for the record, these are my opinions. I'm not trying to jump on some bantha wagon of haters and I'm not trying to use any jedi mind tricks on anyone. I can only hope you can understand my perspective.
The real hero of this movie is producer Kathleen Kennedy. I'm beginning to appreciate more and more how much influence a good or bad producer has on the final release. Many years ago, an idiot producer named Rick McCallum played Yes-Man to every moronic idea from George Lucas and helped create three movies with very little substance but lots of pretty effects. Today, we call them Prequels. Another director I used to love, Zack Snyder, was guided to make the horrible appearance of Man of Steel. Then you have Kevin Feige, who is the super genius that produced some of the greatest Marvel movies ever, (Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, etc). And Gary Kurtz, the original producer of Star Wars A New Hope, helped prove there is good in Lucas after all. Ironically, Rick McCallum was producer of the Special Edition.
Kathleen Kennedy's credits include the original Poltergeist, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jurassic Park, and many more. And maybe they can't all be winners, *COUGH*indianajonesandthecrystalskull*COUGH*, but she definitely has proven she knows how to oversee and guide a project to create a fantastic film. So, credit where credit is due... She helped reign in director J.J. Abrams, because it doesn't look like his typical style. Maybe she helped him understand what a real color palette is, and convinced him not to use the shaky cam, and finally helped him recover from his lens flare addiction. Or maybe they had many important meetings after reading my blogs.
Either way, giving proper credit, Abrams made a lot of fun ship battles. There were some great moments watching the Millennium Falcon and X-Wings flying around. And I have said in the past, he knows how to make ships look cool as he did in his version of Star Trek. So for the most part, visually, surprisingly, it works.
Now let's talk story...
The credits list Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt. I want to know exactly who wrote what for this movie. I have a lot of respect for Kasdan for writing the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I respect Arndt for writing Oblivion... but that's about it. Abrams helped create/wrote for Lost and Fringe, which are two shows I kind of liked... sometimes. So I want to know what each person added to The Force Awakens, because honestly... the writing was just okay.
There were some nice ideas, but for the most part, the plot was very thin, and a re-hash of everything we saw in A New Hope. And I'm pretty sure they pulled the Devil/Super-Devil scene from Family guy, ("This here's your Death Star. And this is the Super Death Star."). Sure we get some interesting new characters that have a lot of potential, and there were some nice lines of dialogue... but some eye rolling lines of dialogue as well. It does have a decent sense of humor, and lots of fun action sequences, but almost no backstory that gives any motivation and help us understand exactly what's going on and why.
"Oh Deeesher, you're such a hater and total idiot!! Everything will be explained later!". And that's fine, you moronic lump of clay but I prefer my movies to be reasonably self contained. I don't mind ending on a cliff hanger, and I don't mind wondering about certain aspects of a movie. I don't need everything spoon-fed to me, but I think there were plenty of missed opportunities to give us a solid foundation of characters and situations that we could clearly understand and care about much more.
For example, think about Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars Ep. IV. Between worrying if he could get to Tosche Station or not, whether his uncle would ground him forever for losing a droid, hoping he gets enough blue milk in his diet, and wondering if he can ever get off this sandy rock to have some excitement in his life as he stared into the beautiful twin sunsets of Tatooine against the powerful John Williams score, we really cared about Luke! We wanted him to get the girl, and we were eager for him to learn more about The Force.
This is the basis of a hero's journey! How about Guardians of the Galaxy? As a young boy, we see Peter Quill's mother die and suddenly he's taken away and in that very short scene, we choke back the tears as we instantly care about what happens to this character. Steve Rogers from Captain America, was a little guy who got beat up all the time and did all he could to save everyone including jumping on a grenade, even though he didn't know it was a dud, long before he ever got his super powers. Or how about the 1978 Incredible Hulk TV series, where in the first 5 minutes, Banner dreams of his wife and their wonderful marriage, and her sudden death as he wakes up in bed alone. THOSE are powerful moments in character development!
Now in Ep. VII, we get Rey and Finn, who make very sudden rash decisions based on... what??? Someone suddenly getting a conscience for no apparent reason, isn't quite enough for me to care about what happens to them. Someone living alone on Not-Tatooine, collecting junk for muffin powder, isn't really pulling at my heartstrings much. I care just enough to keep watching, but I'm not really emotionally invested in them like I should be. As it was, in my theater, there were moments of lol, but nobody cheered, because there was no real attachment to these people. The entire movie is set up for sequels, which I think is just poor writing. A New Hope is awesome, because we care about what happens to those characters, and we don't need to see the other movies to understand it.
The acting was good and the new cast did a great job, but the older classic characters felt out of place. It was as if older people were just pretending to be Han Solo and Leia. Ironically, Chewbacca and C3PO still felt like Chewbacca and C3PO. I think we could have had a movie that focused on the legacy of those classic characters, without actually seeing them. The galaxy is a big place, and with the Force, lightsabers, X-wings, TIE Fighters, and even the Millennium Falcon, there was enough to help us understand and accept this as a continuation of the story.
So, sure it was enjoyable, but it didn't feel like THE GREATEST MOVIE IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND!!! It felt like a way overly hyped fan film. It just didn't make me feel like I was eight years old again. I have plenty of other movies and TV shows that do that. If I had to rate it, if Slave Leia is a perfect score, and Jar Jar is the lowest, I would give this an IG-88. Sure he looks cool and plenty of details to examine, but he didn't really do much and we don't know anything about him, (assuming Disney destroyed all canon regarding him as well).
And for all you idiots that think I'm not open minded enough to see this objectively, I will remind the members of the jury how I was really excited about the new Star Trek movies, and I was disappointed, and how I really didn't think Avengers would work, but I loved it, (read all about it here).
And now, since it seems I have failed in my teachings... I will go into hiding for thirty years. If you need me, I'll leave a partial map in my droid.