Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The True Return of the Jedi

In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope (or Star Wars as those who were alive before the prequels called it) was released.  It captured something that is an almost indescribable feeling. I was 20 when the first movie came out, and I ended up seeing it in theaters several times.

Then Lucas decided to do the prequels which were to tell the story of the rise of the Empire and Darth Vader.  He also decided to  tinker with the original trilogy using technology that did not exist when they were originally made.  He discovered two things. First, fans really didn't care if Han shot first.  In fact, they kind of liked the fact that he did. Second the original movies had never been about the special effects.  It was that feeling.

Unfortunately, the three prequels didn't really demonstrate that understanding.  They became the FX versions of Star Wars with cartoon cut-out characters, awkward love scenes, and bad dialog.  I read one article that announced that the prequels were not really that bad and had received a bad rap because the expectation did not meet the reality.  I thought then as I do now, "No, they really were that bad." I stood in line to see the re-release of the original three and for Episode I.  After I saw Phantom Menace, I did not stand in line to see any of the prequels.

And so, Disney bought the franchise from Lucas and gave the movies which were to sequel the original three to the guidance of a director recommended by Steven Spielberg:  J.J. Abrams. Abrams was given a herculean task.  His success as a remake artist, a title he does not particularly like, was not without his detractors.  His reboot of Star Trek was critically disliked for his use of lens flares and that he basically reset the entire Star Trek pantheon.  I for one like the movie and the franchise reboot. I was not enamored with the lens flare.  So, Abrams who had been looking to make something not-a-reboot or sequel took on Star Wars. He did so because he loved the series, Spielberg recommended him, and they paid him a boatload of money.

Star Wars VII became a work of love for the next three years.  Two things you need to know: all the fan theories you've read are mostly wrong and "The Feeling," yes that FEELING, is back.  If ever there was a movie that could fail because the hype of expectation did not meet reality, The Force Awakens is it.  It does not fail.

I offer no spoilers in my review. I am going to tell you one thing that makes not a bit of difference: my favorite cameo in the movie.  In the movie, the Jedi mind-trick is used.  No surprise there.  When you see this scene, know that the guy in the storm trooper costume is Daniel Craig - that's right James Bond  is in the movie.

When the final release poster came out there was a noticeable absence, the character of Luke Skywalker is not on the poster.  Fan theories ran rampant.  What we didn't know was that the poster matched the movie.  It is the idea that the movie, set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, is a quest movie of sorts. Our heroes, too, are looking for Luke.  No this is not a spoiler.  It is the premise.

Force Awakens blends the old cast and the new in a clear definable way. We are glad to see the original cast as long lost friends and excited to see things like the Millennium Falcon and Luke's blue lightsaber (not a spoiler - it appears in the movie trailers) which is not explained as to how it was recovered from Luke's amputated hand in the Cloud City. The action sequences are perfect and a tribute the battles of the original three.

Just as interesting are the new generation of cast members.  There is the rover and junk collector, Rey played by Daisy Ridley. There is the rebel pilot, Poe Dameron who is played by Oscar Isaac. There is Finn a storm trooper deserter played by John Boyega.  Finally, there is our new bad guy, Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver.  Their scenes sparkle on the screen.  The chemistry between Boyega and Ridley on screen is good and strong.  It is the new ones that actually make this newest addition work so well.  Even the new mechanical, the robot BB-8, has personality plus.

The Force Awaken captures that FEELING what was missed in the FX fest that was the prequels.  Is it a perfect movie? No. There are plenty of scenes that seem lifted from the original story of A New Hope. The plot tends to parallel the original story, but as I said, it is a work of tribute and love that fanboy, J.J. Abrams, wanted to make.  It works.  I liked it and on a bright note, there are few if any lens flares.  I am more than willing to  go see it again in theaters, and that is something I have not done since Jedi.  I liked it in IMAX and 3-D.

The Jedi have indeed returned.