Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #592

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: December 18, 2015 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Space Opera
Budget: $245,000,000
Box Office: $2,000,000,000
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 136 minutes
Director: J. J. Abrams
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Based on characters by George Lucas
Cinematography: Dan Mindel
Score: John Williams
Editing: Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon
Studios: Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot Productions
Distributors: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures
Stars: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Joonas Suotamo, Pip Andersen, Simon Pegg, Kiran Shah. Greg Grunberg, Warwick Davis

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♫ Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Boy Meets Girl Waiting For A Star To Fall

[2] John Williams Main Title/The Attack on the Jakku Village

[3] John Williams March of the Resistance

 

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That force is a powerful thing you know. I was around seven-years-old when I was first introduced to the Star Wars universe and would be lying if I said that it didn’t capture my imagination somewhat. Here was a classic tale of good versus evil, with colorful characters, tons of heart, and an undeniable charm that was impossible to resist. Like any other boy my age I was spellbound and, when George Lucas expanded on his vision to the tune of two similarly rip-roaring sequels, I queued up enthusiastically and came away from both screenings more than satisfied. I collected the action figures, engaged in feverish discussions with co-pilots, and ruminated over the sexual orientation of C-3PO just like everyone else. That said, while others around me were prepared to devote their very lifeforce to what was happening a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the novelty soon wore off.

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Was I some kind of freak of nature? Had something been lost in translation? Perhaps I was immune to Jedi mind tricks. Immune? No. Indifferent? Vaguely. It wasn’t as though I crusaded against the franchise or wished it ill-health, more that it seemed to have itself more than enough devotees already and my time and energy appeared better furnished elsewhere. Indeed when Lucas returned to the hot seat in 1999 for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and attempted to capture the public’s imagination once more, I didn’t even offer it my attention. Fanboys were largely up in arms and each had their own forceful opinion about Jar Jar Binks and countless other liberties they felt had been taken with their most treasured commodity. Meanwhile, I just let it go on around me, and carried on sucking the techno lollipop The Warchowskis had so kindly donated. I was now officially “cold” and ready to be struck off Jedi records once and for all.

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So clearly the force isn’t strong in this one then? I’m positively willing myself to answer that poser with an eruption of “no” but, in the words of the great Stephen King, sometimes they come back. And come back they did. Boy did they come back. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew – there appeared to be something of a reunion planned and this time the stars felt aligned for something truly wondrous. There was mild trepidation of course, but not the kind felt by those resolute to serving or derailing the cause. I believe there are two kinds of Star Wars fans – those gleefully accepting of any tokens tossed and the bloody-minded bruisers for whom more than enough still wouldn’t be quite sufficient. Then there was me, perched on a bar stool at a Tatooine tittie bar watching millions upon millions of light sabers fire up in unison and attempting to work out what all the fuss was about.

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Fuss just doesn’t cut it here. The entire free world tuned into these fresh coordinates and Hasbro shares rocketed overnight. I’m of the opinion that a Pez dispenser is a Pez dispenser, regardless of headgear and observed the retail frenzy from my safe vantage, pledging not a solitary space token to the cause. However, something was awakening inside of me, and I’ll provide you three guesses as to what that might have been. No it wasn’t a hernia and neither was it an unruly xenomorph but kudos for playing along anyhoots. What it was I simply hadn’t primed myself for: the force, dormant for a full thirty-stretch, and growing stronger with every passing second. Naturally I endeavored to shrug off its inner yoo-hoo as acid reflux, but there was nothing astringent about its suggestion. Instead it tabled an offer, one which appeared rather thoughtful given my petulant prior objection, and I felt obliged to consider it painstakingly.

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Have you ever heard the term “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face”? Should I refuse to embrace the force, then I would be depriving myself of a future proofed space opera that cost almost a quarter of a billion dollars to assemble. I would be flicking the bird at the rebel alliance, hoisting the underwear of J. J. Abrams way up into his Death Star trench, and robbing myself of an opinion I am still very much entitled to, be it one way or the other. It was then that I realized I never actually made it out of that trash compactor all those years ago and it was time to scurry out of the debris and head straight over to Yoda’s for a speedy crash-course on how to channel these urges. On my arrival at Dagobah, I was greeted with a most disheartening bulletin. Three decades late I was. 900 fucking years offering sound advice and he waited until I needed him most to finally croak. There was evidently only one thing left to do – Obi-Wan Kenobi was my only hope. Turns out that I was shit out of luck there also.

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Deaths come in threes I hear and I wasn’t sure if I could bear mournsome trek number three to yet another distant burial ground so I flagged down The Millennium Falcon and clambered aboard to catch up with Captain Kirk and the guys. What? Don’t tell me he’s snuffed it too. I can almost hear the fanboys seething right now as it would appear that I am approaching their beloved franchise without a solitary ounce of deference. However, my objective is not to toss a wrench in the works of such a well oiled vessel and neither harm nor foul is my driving force this day. I’d be a callous bastard if I treated such esteemed company with disrespect and I actually feel that I can offer unfettered perspective as the weight of expectation is a burden I’m not afflicted with. Like any film I approach, Star Wars: The Force Awakens begins with a fresh slate, and is not obliged to live up to any preset configuration.

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So I guess that synopsis would be the next logical move right? Not wishing to be cantankerous but I’m not really feeling utilizing my column space that way. The film has currently fetched over $2 billion worth of interest so I’d say we can skip such menial formalities and get to the nuts and bolts of the matter. Let’s not forget that we have a whole universe to cover and I’ll get to as many waypoints as I feasibly can in the name of shedding any necessary light and shade across our subject. Points of interest are far too plentiful here to pick at plot threads and I’d rather just do us all a favor and say that they captured the very essence of Star Wars and provided more than enough reasons to care. With so many old hands lent, certain touchstones are an absolute given, and there’s a spirit of homecoming about events that constantly reminds us what zip code we’re in.

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Ford and Fisher pick up precisely where they left off and their on again/off again chemistry yields no less magnanimous results. The former has lost none of that incorrigible twinkle and resumes his post as though the last thirty years have been spent cryogenically frozen. Granted he’s a little fuzzier round the edges but this just adds to his world-weary charm and he commands our attention from the very first moment we spot the wookie. This old sea dog may not have any new tricks to boast of but, the last time I checked, his old tricks were still in working order. We care not whether he suffers from intermittent erectile dysfunction, only that he still knows how to land himself and his associates in hot water and glean something amusing from Chewie’s clinging fur. There’s a spot of playful parody to the character of Han Solo but then when wasn’t there? Not everyone has to be so fucking glum right?

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However, let us not forget that this is the first in a brand new trilogy and cannot rely solely on familiar faces to stake its claim. Abrams and team have that base soundly covered, with five fresh additions in particular bubbling to the top of his flavorsome broth. Fresh-faced pathfinders newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega acquit themselves superbly to their roles as spirited scavenger Rey and reformed Stormtrooper Finn, and neither once look in danger of fumbling the torch. The casting of Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson as Resistance X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron and tyrannical First Order commander General Hux is beyond inspired. These two men impressed me tremendously shoulder to shoulder for Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and have kept it up ever since, thus I’m guessing that both will play more significant roles as this three-piece develops.

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Then we have Adam Driver as the spoiled seed of Han Solo and Leia’s harvest, Kylo Ren and, while I’m not quite clear on which is the dominant gene here, his cranial features lend themselves perfectly to one so conflicted in purpose. Every now and then, there’s a dud batch of Force, and Ren turned out to be a little more susceptible to rancour than the other kids in the academy. It’s a battle for sure and he’s multi-dimensional enough not to surrender without a significant struggle, but the deadest of eyes can tell no lies and he feels way too justified in his actions to go slapping on those happy stickers just yet. We need us some good vs. evil on a more intimate scale and there’s a humanity to Ren, albeit tenuous, that makes his character fascinating to observe.

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If I were C-3PO or R2-D2, then I’d be looking rather anxiously over my shoulder right now as new droid on the block BB-8 is simply adorable and rolls up our blind side when we’re least expecting it. Alas, words are a program too advanced for one so spherical, so he does the next best thing and emotes by way of gesture and bleep, to bonny effect. Speaking of R2-D2, he spends most of his time on the docking station, leaving C-3PO to blather on about being hard-done by to an ocean of deaf ears. Thankfully, Chewbacca hasn’t lost any of his untamed sensitivity, and we still desire to rub his belly each time his master’s back is turned. Star Wars: The Force Awakens celebrates both old and new open-handedly and, most critically, meshes them incredibly well.

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It goes without saying that technical marvel isn’t in question as a quarter of a billion tends to buy rather a lot of bells and whistles, and every last cent is accounted for as the effects are no less dazzling than we would expect from the most lucrative sequence of movies in cinematic history. 136 minutes flashes past like Oscar Pistorius at a crime scene dash and we almost forget all about poor Luke Skywalker in all the excitement. Fret not as he shows his face before Abrams dips for the all-important photo finish and behind that dense beard lies a man who still has plenty of time to shaft his own sister. All in good time Luke. You of all people should know not to rush the Force.

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I could continue but will leave the facts and figures to those more accountable than I and, instead, head on back to the Tatooine tittie bar and attempt to instigate a good old-fashioned bar room brawl. The most important thing here is that I have rediscovered the Force, know that it is still strong and precisely how to access it once again in 2017, caught up with some old friends, rubbed noses with some new ones, and feel absolutely none the wiser as to what Andy Serkis actually looks like in real life. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the very epitome of epic spectacular and provides a fresh lick of paint to an old formula, without once forgetting where it owes its very existence. Yet still some diehards aren’t satisfied and that dismays me greatly. Take it from the guy perched on the fence with Yoda’s ashes in one hand and a light saber he still has no idea how to wield without self-inflicting mortal injury in the other, it’s wiser not to fight it. Unless that’s your thing of course, in which case, live long and prosper. What’s with the frowns?

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

 

Dedicated to our princess Carrie Fisher. Twinkling bright and eternally.

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Read The Matrix Appraisal
Read The Matrix Reloaded Appraisal
Read Blade Runner Appraisal
Read Ex Machina Appraisal

 

Richard Charles Stevens

aka

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

Copyright: Grueheads Films 2016

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