The Force Awakens: the Good, the Bad, and the Nostalgic.

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Get your popcorn ready and settle into your X-Wing, because this is a franchise I will always have a hell of a lot to say about – and this is coming from the girl who talks more than the average person on any given day. Also, I should definitely mention – this post is not in any way, shape, or form, spoiler free. I repeat, this post is NOT (!!!!!) spoiler free, so please keep that in mind if you have yet to see the film.
I know you’re probably sick of hearing this from everyone right now – but I really have been a Star Wars fan my whole life. My parents are massive fans, and I simply was brought up with it. One of my strongest childhood memories was the feeling of dejection when leaving the cinema after Revenge of the Sith, I just couldn’t deal with the fact that Star Wars was now over. Forever. But huzzah!!! Disney bought the franchise, and one of the perks of the capitalist society we live in is sequels!!!
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Whoever thought I’d see the day where I would rejoice in Disney buying out Lucasfilm? Probably me to be honest. I trust Disney more than I necessarily should do. Regardless, I was still hesitant about the new film. I may have had blind faith in Disney – but not in J.J Abrams. The most recent Star Trek film had left much to be desired in terms of positive representation for both women and POC, and I felt he would most likely do the same to a franchise which, unlike Star Trek, already has a terrible history of poor representation. Piss poor. But fortunately, I stand corrected. In saying all this, I was hardly surprised by the amount of positive representation in the film. The backlash against the lack of female or black characters in the original trilogy, and even the prequels was so immense, to ignore it now in 2015 would’ve been outrageous, and simply downright offensive. But even if this representation was only born from the backlash from previous episodes, it is nonetheless a thing that they fixed, and I’m overwhelmingly happy no matter the reason. It also shows that women do make great main characters, just like POC do, something which the scifi genre often has trouble realizing, and something it often needs reminding. ALSO on the topic of representation, but also not really, I loved seeing non-Jedi/non-force-strong characters using lightsabers. That shit can be used by anyone, and when in a situation like that, hell, I’d be picking it up too.

The characters themselves were so well-written there is simply no way people can argue against the use of minorities in scifi anymore, that is my firm belief. Poe was most definitely my favourite of the newcomers. I felt he made a great Star Wars character, one with the right amount of good looks and heart to make him a long standing character – a healthy mix between Hans’ dirty scoundrel good looks and Lukes’ stifling purity and spirituality. But yes, Oscar Isaacs’ stunning face was also a massive bonus for me, especially compared to how harsh his face (and character) was in Ex Machina (and just as a sidenote: he’s not simply a pretty face, and has a pretty good grasp on how to answer stupid questions about BB-8’s gender, although I still haven’t determined whether what he said was in jest, as Ex Machina has some fairly confusing things to say about gender, but that’s a whole other post on its own and I need to get out of this parenthesis.) Finn as well, I felt, was a fantastic character. Finally we get to see some depth in the stormtroopers, something I had been dying for since the glimpses we got in Clone Wars! He was hilarious, and his jokes stayed true to the light-hearted comedy of the original trilogy – something sorely missed in the sequels – and John Boyega played him almost flawlessly. And again, another newcomer who isn’t afraid to speak out on representation and racism. Basically, what I’m trying to say is –

Rey and BB-8 were also great newcomers, and I especially fell in love with BB-8. Initially I was afraid of BB becoming a JarJar type experience, but that didn’t happen. It was as if R2 had a child – a child whose body structure helped emphasise emotions wayyyy more. Basically, GIVE ME MORE BB.

The villain…. Well, it’s safe to say my emotions are mixed. Ordinarily, in any other film, this character and actor would’ve given me chills. He acted brilliantly, and his storyline was… Effective enough, but to me, he simply was not a Star Wars villain. Can we just start with his name? Ben? BEN??? I’m praying that is an abbreviation of a name (like Ben Kenobi was in A New Hope) because Ben is NOT a Star Wars name otherwise. And his villain name?? I suppose we’ll model him after Darth Vader almost to the T but not give him a Darth name? Kylo Ren is simply not formidable enough in my opinion, and dropping the Darth title wouldn’t have been my first choice. And then there was his face. I’m not being a dick, he has a great face for acting, and he’s not by any means ugly, he’s a gorgeous specimen, but all the build up they had of him being behind a mask? I felt there needed to be SOME reason behind the anticipation. I imagined either a well known actor, or someone who had an uncanny resemblance to either Han, Luke, or Anakin. SOMETHING to make hiding his face for so long be worth it. But it wasn’t just his face, it was his storyline. He’s a Skywalker’s son, he’s pulled towards the dark and the light, and he needs to kill an old mentor Jedi and a close relative before coming out on top. It’s just a little too familiar, there’s too much of Anakin’s storyline in him, and with his costume styling, well, it felt lazy. I understand that Vader was what MADE the franchise, but his story is done. I’m not complaining that they created a new series, I mean I’m so far up Star Wars ass at this point I’d pay thousands just to watch Luke pop a pimple, but really, we all know this is just a cash grab on Disney’s part, and it looks lazy if they try to draw more out of the Vader story. They should’ve taken a leap of faith like they did with Darth Maul, and create an entirely new character.
The plot, I felt, was just the same. Not only do we have an all new Darth Tantrum (as my friend nauticx so aptly put it,) we also have a whole new Death Star (albeit like, 5 million times bigger), a new hero(ine) with a strong connection to the force and an emotional connection to desert wastelands, a cute droid, and basically, characters that come together to form what we in 2015 would call #squadgoals. What I’m getting at is, I just paid $30 to watch A New Hope on the big screen at midnight, mere hours after I had watched it in my living room. Do I resent Disney for it? FUCK NO, I loved every minute of it!!!
The mis-en-scene as well, I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt it stayed true to the original trilogy in subtle, yet effective, ways that the prequels simply didn’t. The planets were beautiful, yet understated. The prequels tried too hard to always outdo itself with how stunning the settings were, with Naboo in particular, so much that it failed to understand the simple beauty the originals found in Tattooine, and the Forest Moon of Endor. Those planets (and forest moons) were stunning in ways that CGI need not tamper with, and The Force Awakens returns to that frame of mind. The scene where Rey is gliding down a sand dune is gorgeous in its vastness and its simplicity, and I have nothing but respect for that. The colour palette as well, I felt, was another subtle way The Force Awakens nodded to its original roots. The prequels featured so many bright oranges, red hues, and just an implosion of colours, but the original Star Wars colour palette was far more neutral and natural, with the occasional blue overtone, and The Force Awakens not only recognised that, but replicated it. No outrageous costuming or sunsets here, just a whole lot of black, white, and sand, the only pops of colour being the lightsabers, and the occasional orange jumpsuit.
The CGI however, now I have another bone to pick here, but it wasn’t up to par like I thought it would be. There had been so much hullabaloo about how this film was going back to its practical effects roots and ?? to what effect? I felt I saw little enough practical effects, and just in general, fuck all aliens. The film was predominantly humanoid, which, is normal for the main characters, but for minor characters there were very few, and you didn’t get an intro into entire species like you did with, say, the Ewoks. And the aliens we DID get an intro into, such as Maz Kanata (who I didn’t realise was played by Lupita Nyong’o, which is cool) and the alien monsters we see in Han and Chewie’s ship, just didn’t LOOK like Star Wars aliens. Something about their designs just didn’t stand up. I was saddened to see the lack of puppety aliens that were so frequent in the OT, and really what made them so special. I’m all for new designs, but this is a tried and true franchise and in this case I feel it’s best to stick to what you know – although the presence of Admiral Akbar was overwhelmingly welcome for me. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I mean with the CGI is that there was too much of it. I understand fully that they need to cater to an audience who is accustomed to high-quality animation these days, and I harbor no illusions about my own partiality to well-done effects, however this franchise made it’s beginnings because of its practical effects, and with the improvements we’ve made today – what with WETA workshops work on countless other successful franchises, as well as personal franchise achievements and additions to museum exhibitions – I feel it would not be petulant of me to expect, not just MORE aliens, but ones that are practical instead of CGI. It’s about a balance between welcoming the new technology of today, and respecting the roots that got you here in the first place. The presence of X-Wing fighters took the load off though. There was so much of the old mixed in with the new, that I’m willing to let a lot of the CGI slide, despite the rambling rant you just read – if you’ve made it this far that is.
     I know I’ve complained a lot, and I truly did love it, and I’ve noticed all other reviews on it have been overwhelmingly good, but I just didn’t walk out feeling as gung-ho as everyone else. I’m no Star Wars expert. I’ve loved it my whole life, but I will never claim to be the last word on it, so I’m not saying you need to agree with everything I’ve said, but I’m so used to walking out of films I’ve anticipated for so long feeling overwhelmingly satisfied, no matter how shit everyone else thought it was, and for the first time that didn’t happen. Even if I’ve written all of this sounding unnecessarily sullen, I promise you, I’m still going to watch it in cinemas at least a dozen more times, and there are a number of things I simply can’t fault. The Millenium Falcon reveal was perfect. The C3PO reveal was perfect. The jokes were perfect. The use of music was fantastic – there was enough use of the original scores updated with new music that it felt organic, and perfect for this 2015 updated film.
     The ending, in particular, I cannot flaw. Seeing Luke there, solitary but always so spiritual, I was screaming from excitement inside. That face is not a face I could easily forget, and certainly not one that will ever cease to create a feeling of excitement in me. His absence in the film was the most interesting part for me, the storyline I enjoyed the most, and honestly, just seeing Luke turn to Rey, as they looked so similar, yet so different, I felt an unwavering sense of (new) hope for the franchise – one that won’t hesitate in the future to open casting to people of all walks of life, and perhaps in the future, more aliens too (please, I’m dying for a Twi’lek.)
TL;DR: the practical effects weren’t up to my (high) standards, and the plot was simply a New Hope repeat, but overall, I had a great time, and all the amazing new characters made up for anything I could possibly have disliked.
I also realise I haven’t mentioned Leia/Carrie Fisher once, and I’m sorry about that, because I love her like I’ve never loved another, but there really isn’t too much to say about her presence in the film other than how much I adored her relationship with Rey.
     I’m  still going to give it a 10/10 though, because I’m always a slut for Star Wars.

Author: Manic Pixie Film Girl

Graduated with a film and politics degree. Business owner and social media manager by day, fangirl by night.

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