Thimblerig’s Spoilerific Thoughts on Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_AwakensI never thought being in Kazakhstan could give me a pop culture advantage. In this case, I was able to enjoy a most surreal experience: seeing Star Wars Episode 7 in English in a cinema in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a full day before most people in the United States. And it was a treat to be sitting in the audience with my 12 year old daughter and my 14 year old son, a multi-generational viewing experience that I’d not had before with a Star Wars movie.

After the lights came up, and the credits were rolling, I desperately wanted to write four words on my social media. Four small words that would have been the spoiler of spoilers. I actually laughed, thinking about how many friends I would lose with that little stunt.

And so I didn’t do it. I resisted the dark side.

Because I like my friends.

That, and I didn’t want to wake up some night with a lightsaber buried in my chest.

But be warned. Now, that I’m home, writing on my blog, I will write those four words. Not now, but very soon.  So, if you have not seen Star Wars Episode 7 yet, and you are trying to steer clear of spoilers, then steer way clear of this review. Because it will be chock-full of spoilers.

***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS***

Having gotten that out of the way, I’ll start my review with four other small words, not spoiler words, but important words nonetheless.

Star Wars is back.

If the prequels showed us anything, they showed us that it was easy to lose sight of the feel and the energy of the original trilogy. It was easy to set out to make original trilogy prequels, but to make something else altogether. While each prequel episode had something redeeming, there was quite a bit more that sent them spiraling off into space.

The prequels were not terrible movies in and of themselves, but they were terrible Star Wars movies.

But now? Star Wars is back.

J.J. Abrams brought it back.

Yes, with this film, Abrams managed to restore several of the things that made the original trilogy great.

Star Wars is about people

harrison-ford-han-solo-xlargeEpisode 7 works because it is a movie that is primarily about people, not trade federation blockades or secret clone armies. Yes, big events are playing out in this film, but they are the backdrop, not the focus. People are what matter in this film, and not just the good guys – both sides. Not only do the people matter, but they also act like real people. They relate. They argue. They emote. They struggle. They risk everything for each other, and for bigger things. They live, and they die.

Oh, boy, do they die.

But I’ll get to that.

Star Wars is about risk

In this new/old universe that J.J. Abrams has given us there is risk. Risk that someone may not make it out alive. Risk that someone may run away from their destiny. Risk that the darkness is much too powerful, and that the light side will never be able to defeat it. Even risk that the bad guy might fall to the light.

In this new film, everything can be questioned, the outcomes are not a given, and power is found in the strangest of places.

Star Wars is about fun

finn-new-star-wars-teaser3-xlargeThe movie also brings back the fun. We loved the original trilogy because they were fun rides they didn’t get bogged down in bureaucratic proceedings, or endless scenes of people sitting in chairs talking about things. The movies were about people in motion, taking us along with them as they lived on the brink of disaster. Episode 7 is a fun ride from start to finish. People do talk about things, but usually while taking deep breaths after just escaping one catastrophe, and right before plummeting into another.

And it’s not just roller-coaster fun, it’s also laugh-out-loud fun. This is a movie that is brimming with wit and humor. Not in a silly way (ala Threepio in Attack of the Clones), but in a real way. People say the kinds of things that people might really say in an attempt to blow off steam, or reacting to the madness around them, and you can’t help but laugh.

Finn and BB8’s interaction on the Falcon…

Rey and the stormtrooper in the interrogation room…

When the two stormtroopers come around the corner as Kylo Ren is destroying the interrogation room…

Finn suggesting to Han that they use the force, and Han’s reaction…

Han using Chewie’s crossbow for the first time…

And on and on…

Star Wars is about the mysteries of the universe

ew_21-xlargeSpecifically, the force – and the nature of the force. The prequels got all bogged down trying to make the force into a science. Episode 7 turns it back into a mystery. In this movie, the force is something that is unknown but not unknowable, and we get to see a new generation start to learn about it.

And there’s nary a mention of a single midi-chlorian, thank the Maker.

Ultimately, I walked out of the cinema feeling like I had just read a love letter. A love letter written by J.J. Abrams to all of us who loved the original trilogy. This was the movie we wanted the prequels to be, and then some.

Given, just like the films in the original trilogy, this is not a perfect film. The dialogue might be light years ahead of both trilogies, but it is still sometimes a bit corny. And in his attempt to make an homage to the original trilogy, Abrams veered dangerously close to just plain copying some pretty big ideas, situations, characters, and settings.

But it worked. Even with the flaws, the movie worked in spades.

All of that said, here are some bite-sized spoilerly thoughts:

share_1200x627There is no creature resembling Jar Jar in this film.

I now have some new favorite images of the Millennium Falcon, which still kicks butt.

X-Wing fighters are cool once again, especially when being flown by Poe Dameron.

Apparently, stormtroopers are now trained to duel with swords, and by extension, light sabers.

J.J. Abrams kept the sex out of Star Wars.

Kylo Ren is not nearly menacing enough, even with the heinous act he commits, but he has potential to grow into something pretty menacing.

Enough with the doomsday devices with kill-switches, already. An homage is great, but again with the one weak spot on the big space station? Please, no more.

Han Solo said “I have a bad feeling about this”, but Admiral Ackbar did not say, “It’s a trap.”

What happened to Wedge Antilles?

Teasing Luke before running the credits definitely answered the question of why he wasn’t in the trailer or the poster, and it’s because he’s really not in this movie. In fact, if this had been a Marvel movie, the scene with Luke would have been an end-credits scene – a tease about what was to come.

But the film worked. On all different levels, for this lifelong Star Wars fan, it worked. I am fully re-invested in the franchise, and will be there on opening night for Episode 8, if I am able.

And oh – I almost forgot. The four small words I really, really wanted to post on social media as soon as the lights came up? The spoiler of spoilers? The “I am your father” moment of this film?

Abrams killed Han Solo.

And while I may never forgive Abrams for doing this, I do have to admit that it was the perfect death for the old scoundrel – dying trying to save his son from the dark side, and then Chewie’s chilling reaction?

A tear-inducing moment the likes of which we haven’t had since Nicholas Meyer killed Spock.

hqdefaultBut one point that I feel I should point out – in this case, Han most definitely did not shoot first.

 

 

 

 

 

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Star Wars Episode VII Concept Art

Warning!!!

Spoiler images ahead!!!

If you wish to walk into the theater on December 18, 2015 with absolutely no knowledge about anything to do with Episode VII, then click away to another page.

Maybe here?

Or, you can read my open letter to J.J. Abrams: Please keep the sex out of Star Wars!

Otherwise…

These images just hit the internet today, and they are fantastic.  They look like classic Star Wars, but with new elements thrown in.  Exactly what an old fan hopes for.

The images were first found here, but you can see them by just looking down the page here.

I can’t wait to see how these all piece together!

 

J.J. Abrams, Please Keep the Sex out of Star Wars

Dear J.J. Abrams,

Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of  your work.  I loved your Mission Impossible movies; got lost on the islands with the survivors as I watched Lost; sat on the edge of my seat as you ran us around New York dodging monsters in Cloverfield; and thought you had a fantastic and original homage to Spielberg with Super 8.

And then there’s Star Trek.

star-trek-into-darkness-poster1I know you got quite a bit of flack for your reboot of Star Trek, but I generally fall on the side of the assentors.  To put my thoughts on your reboot into context, I’m not a die-hard Trek fan, but I have been to a convention and stood in line for Marina Sirtis’ autograph.  I’ve read countless novels from the series, and have seen most episodes of every incarnation.  I loved what you did with the reboot because you took an old property in danger of fading away into irrelevance and breathed new life into it.  You and your writers figured out an ingenious way of wiping the board clean, creating a very Trekkian alternate timeline, and in the process you didn’t destroy everything that came before.   You made Trek cool again for a new generation.

I even liked the lens flares.

When the news came out that you would be taking the center chair for that other little space series, I was relieved.  I’d read of your love of Star Wars, and since I’m only a couple of years younger than you, thought that we could have even watched A New Hope in the same theater.  I feel like the property is in good hands, that you’ll do the series justice, and I wish you all the best with Star Wars, Episode 7.

And now, with Variety reporting that you have started filming, I have one huge heartfelt favor to ask – one Star Wars fan to another.

J.J. Abrams, please keep the sex out of Star Wars.

Let me go back to your Star Trek reboots to explain why I’m making this plea to you.  I know that Captain Kirk is a stud, but could you really only communicate that by having him hop out of bed with a pair of Caitian girls in Into Darkness?  (I had to look up their species – I’m not that big of a fan!)  I know that sex sells, and Alice Eve is certainly attractive, but did we really need Carole Marcus modeling her underpants?  Just how did that scene propel the story forward?  And everyone knows that Orion slave girls are a desirable commodity in the Star Trek universe, but did we really have to have a shirtless James T. and his green-skinned classmate monkeying around in the dorm room in your first Trek film?  What did that do to help us understand Kirk’s character arc that couldn’t have been done in a less TMZ way?

In case you are tempted to throw off my request as just another prude playing the part, I need to remind you that the Star Trek movies were at least partially aimed at kids.  And while the argument can be made that Trek is the more adult series, I posit that the same argument cannot be made about Star Wars.

xwingPerhaps it is because George Lucas saw the huge profit potential of aiming his series at children, but Star Wars has always been about the kids in the audience, with adults enjoying being along for the ride. This is one reason why my generation – who loved the original trilogy – generally dislikes the prequels: the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks (who my kids LOVE, but I can’t stand); the less than stellar performances by key-demographic-hitting child actor Jake Lloyd (I blame Lucas’s hubris as a director for that); and the general emphasis given to special effects over story and character development.  But Lucas made these films to entertain the entire family, not as films that push boundaries and create controversy, and he made them for primarily for the kids of the generation, not for the generations that came before and want the movies to scratch their own itches.  The films have earned over $12,000,000,000 in toy sales, for heaven’s sake!  And while I know plenty of 40 year old fans have their toy collections, my guess is that most of those toys were bought for kids.

Am I really the only film lover who has grown tired of directors taking movies that are hyper-marketed to kids and sexing them up for absolutely no reason whatsoever?   The worst offender in this regard has to be Michael Bay and his muddled and confounding Transformer movies, with the masturbation jokes, robots with testes, and the long lingering shots of Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  

But I digress.  Let me leave behind the giant transforming alien robots and return to a galaxy far, far away.

Purists will undoubtedly bring up the infamous princess Leia metallic bikini in Return of the Jedi as a counterargument.  Yes, it was bare skin on a Star Wars screen, but here’s the big difference:  in this case Leia’s wardrobe pushed the story forward.  Leia’s willingness to wear the bikini demonstrated that the character was willing to undergo abject humiliation – not for the rebellion, but to help save the man she loved.  leiaIt humanized an otherwise rather cold and difficult character.  Given, I could be totally off base here.  Maybe Lucas only added the bikini to titillate his largely teenage male audience, of which I was one.  But even if that is the case, the choice made sense in the context of the story, and the character wasn’t simply objectified and sexualized.  Leia maintained her strength and grace through the entire opening act of the film, in spite of the wardrobe.  Thankfully, Lucas never showed us Han and Leia rolling around in whatever the Millennium Falcon used for a sack, and we never saw a buff Luke Skywalker tearing off his shirt to show off his jedi areolas while training with Yoda.

So, Mr. Abrams, please avoid the temptation make Star Wars sexy to appeal to the older kids and adults trying to relive the past.  Please respect that there are those of us of your generation, with families like yours, who want to take our families to watch Star Wars and and not have to explain why two of the characters are naked in bed together, or why they are stripping down to their underwear.  Our kids are getting way too much exposure to too many things much too early as it is.

Please, Mr. Abrams, allow Star Wars to remain a safe haven!

And if that makes me a prude, then guess what?  There are lots and lots and lots of other prudish parents out there who feel the same way.  Guaranteed.

And by the way, if you happen to talk to Michael Bay, will you ask him to please cut it out?  I’d like to take my kids to see Transformer movies, too.

Sincerely,

Nate Fleming
Author of Thimblerig’s Ark

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Art