And Now We Speak About The Force Awakens
This will be spoiler-free.
I cannot promise the comments will be spoiler-free.
Assume that the post will be safe.
But the area below it may be TOXIC WITH SEPTIC STORY SPOILAGE.
Let us begin simply with:
AHHHH OH SHIT I LOVED THIS MOVIE
WHEN CAN I SEE IT AGAIN
BEE BOOP BLURBY DOOP
*flails around with a cardboard tube lightsaber*
*trips on scattered Star Wars LEGO bricks*
I’m back. I’m feeling much better now.
And now, a scattered smattering of thoughts in no particular order:
1. This is a love letter to the Star Wars universe — not just the universe, and not just the characters, but all the intangible narrative stuff that surrounds it. It is very much about how Star Wars feels. And how its stories are told. It is positively honorific of that. This is no small compliment when I say that The Force Awakens just plain feels like Star Wars from the first minute. It’s nostalgic, but not in your face about it, I don’t think?
2. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega need to be in everything together. Hepburn and Tracy, Bogey and Bacall — they had such wonderful chemistry together as these two people flung into adventure. Their characters are intensely fun to watch. You care from them from the first moment you meet each. (I would take more Poe Dameron, though — he’s awesome in TFA, but I want more!)
3. BB-8 is my master now. He is like a baby R2D2. He is like a dog and a kitten stuffed inside a roly-poly Christmas ornament. He’s super delightful and elicits pure joy from me shut up.
4. Kylo Ren is a surprisingly effective villain. Tragic and deeper than the trailers lead you to believe. He is far more than just some mustache-twirler. He is vulnerable.
5. It’s worth talking about how much fun this movie is. That is something that must be stated — fun is not as easy as you think to create. It’s certainly not the end-all be-all of the experience, nor should it be. Fun is a shallow metric. But it’s a vital metric just the same. A Star Wars movie that isn’t much fun isn’t one I want to see again. This film plays fun like a fucking symphony. It knows when to nail those moments of laughter and delight, it knows when to hit on tension and when to create those moments where you want to jump out of your seat, holding your head and screaming with fear or laughter or fear-laughter.
6. Some have noted that the film’s story bears a big resemblance to A New Hope, though I’d argue it’s beyond that — this film remixes a lot of beats from all the films of the OT (though very few from the prequels, I find). It feels designed to remind you of Tatooine and Endor and Hoth. It feels keen to echo archetypes and the Death Star and some of the same twists and turns — but then, at the same time, it twists them and turns them in new ways. It is a remix in the artful way, not the warmed-over rehash way — they’re playing the same notes but making a new, unexpected song with it. Myth, actually, works a lot like this, so I’m on board.
7. Sometimes, these beats become overtly fan-servicey, though. Not too many, but there are few moments that feel more like narrative artifice than genuine storytelling all in effort to elbow you in the ribs and say, EHH? EHHH? REMEMBER THAT OTHER THING? WE ARE REFERENCING THAT! RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW! WHAAAAT? ISN’T THAT CRAZY? Sometimes, it works. Other times, it feels like a square peg stomped into a circle hole.
8. The film also occasionally engineers exposition in a way that feels like it’s because the audience needs it — at a few moments, characters exposit even though they should damn well already know what they’re telling one another. And it feels like classic AS YOU KNOW, BOB storytelling. Both characters know the story but we don’t, so somebody’s gotta be a mouthpiece for it. It’s effective in that it does deliver information, but it doesn’t always feel organic.
9. That said, exposition isn’t too heady or heavy — the movie actually doesn’t go out of its way to explain a whole lot. In this way it harkens back to A New Hope. Worldbuilding for me is best when its explanations are cast to the margins — like, A New Hope drops all this stuff in your lap and just expects you to deal with it. “What are the Clone Wars? Enh. Who is Jabba? Whatever. THERE’S SOME SHIT GOING ON YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND, HUMAN.” And then it skips past them, tra-la-la, not caring if you know. That may feel frustrating at first, but that’s a fertile seed-bed where your imagination grows. For years people expounded on what the Clone Wars actually were. It was awesome. And then the prequels came and — okay, listen, this isn’t prequel hate, but it’s worth noting that the prequels took a very different approach to this. The prequels seemed designed to prequelize not just the universe, but to give origin points for damn near everything. “HEY WANNA KNOW WHERE BOBA FETT CAME FROM? OF COURSE YOU DO BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A VITAL CHARACTER IN THE FIRST THREE MOVIES, IN THAT HE’S A CHUMP WHO GETS TRIPPED INTO A SANDY SPACE SPHINCTER. LET’S PREQUELIZE EVERYTHING. HERE’S SENATOR DIANOGA. HERE’S THE SECRET PLANS FOR THE DEATH STAR TRASH COMPACTOR. HERE’S THE VERY MOMENT THAT HAN SOLO IS MESSILY CONCEIVED.” Episode VII does almost none of this. The 30-year-gap between films is not bridged with a great deal of information. A part of me hopes they never bridge it completely.
10. I get chills thinking of a few moments from TFA. Some real strong OH SHIT moments.
11. Listening to the soundtrack now and I like it a lot, though it didn’t stand out overly much while watching the movie? That may have just been because I was all OH SNAP OH WHEE WHIZBANG AAAAAH. That said, the last track just before the credits is magical. Which is appropriate, I think: this film does the impossible and feels quite a bit like magic. And it represents both kinds of magic: it vacillates between the smoke and mirrors of a magic trick, and then when that falls away it delivers something close to real narrative sorcery — a Jedi Mind Trick all its own.
12. Speaking of snap — OH SNAP WEXLEY. That’s right. Snap Wexley, played by Greg Grunberg, is also Temmin Wexley, from a little book called Star Wars: Aftermath. Don’t believe me? Boom! It’s official now, over at Star Wars Dot Com. This of course is the gateway to getting Mister Bones in a Star Wars movie. I PRAY TO MOVIE JESUS TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
13. A small complaint about the film — it moves along at a breathless pace. That’s good, for a lot of it. I like that it isn’t there to waste our time. That being said… I don’t mind when a film wastes my time earnestly and with purpose. The Force Awakens doesn’t have a great deal of oxygen. The original trilogy is full of oxygen, and sometimes, quite curiously, that’s a function of budget. You can’t do two hours of whizz-bang stuff, so you pack it full of dialogue and character and tension and mystery. Jaws works because the shark was fucked up and so they had to do a lot of stuff with keeping the mechanical shark hidden. With films now, the budgets are big and the possibilities are endless, and this film takes advantage — as such, it races from set piece to set piece, barely pausing to catch its breath. It’s fine, mostly, but sometimes the film suffers from feeling like it needed to pause, slow down, catch some air. Quieter moments. It has them! It does. But overall, the story feels like it takes place over two hours instead of however long it actually takes.
14. The aliens in this movie are on fleek. Whatever “on fleek” means. Most of the alien species are unrecognizable, which is fun. People have screencapped and dissected the cantina scene from Ep IV for years looking for cool aliens — some scenes in this movie will get similar treatment, I suspect. Nice design. The whole film feels that way, too — everything feels used up, worn in, epic when it needs to be, intimate when it doesn’t. I go back to the word organic in terms of how it all comes together. It feels grown together. A forest of trees instead of a greenhouse of potted plants.
15. The spaceship battles are pyoo-pyoo kaboom awesome.
16. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that lightsaber fights happen. And they are jaw-dropping. In fact, one of the fights in this movie is maybe my favorite ever put to film. FOR REALSIES.
17. So, wait, when is Episode VIII coming out? Not tomorrow? GODDAMNIT
AND NOW WE PLAY THE WAITING GAME