I LOVED the Force Awakens - Here’s Why:
12/29/2015 12:47 AM Filed in: Blog
Let me first say that this has MAJOR spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t read this.
32 Years. That’s how long I’ve waited to see what happened to Luke Skywalker. I was eight years old when I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater and I’ll never forget it. I was blown away by the movie and the Star Wars Universe as a whole. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recited lines that weren’t on script or how many times I’ve acted out roles that were “just out of camera range” while running around the yard with a Rayovac “lightsaber” hilt fighting off stormtroopers and Darth Vader.
I can tell you this - it made my childhood awesome.
As my dad once said: “Star Wars for you is like Westerns were for my generation”. He was right. Instead of pistols and horses, I traded up for lightsabers and X-Wings.
Just after college, I looked forward for the Phantom Menace. I had began collecting Star Wars figures and I do believe that each one brought back a little bit of my childhood.
I also remember watching the Prequels and being shocked at the direction that Lucas was taking the films. It wasn’t the past that I had written for it. It wasn’t the past that millions of us had written…
And in all honesty, he couldn’t have written it.
Now, I’m not about to get into Lucas bashing here, but I will offer up this - Imagine that you’re the most successful filmmaker of all time. You made billions of dollars off of a movie that you made a long time ago. You even created an entire cottage industry of special effects and sound effects. Not to mention and a toy line that was more successful than anything that had ever come before it (and anything since). What do you do when you want to make your next film? You surround yourself with people who won’t tell you “no”. That’s right. “Yes” men.
The problem with that is that you’re not forced to solve problems in a creative way. The solution (usually for worse) often becomes money.
Vintage Ray-O-Vac "Lightsaber" that I used to cut down many a bad guy.
Let me explain. And pay attention - it’s gonna get a little bumpy….
When Beethoven was writing his ninth and final symphony, he was completely deaf. He didn’t rely on the styles of the day or the common practices of the modern symphony of his era. He couldn’t. He couldn’t hear them. All he could do is dig deep within his soul to write what was within him. Yes - he knew the intervals of pitch and chord progressions, but he added a CHORUS to a symphony. A CHORUS! TO A SYMPHONY! That hadn’t been done before, people. Ever. Not to mention the harmonies, melodies, and sheer power that is in the final movement has made even atheist consider a higher power. He submerged himself so deep in his creativity that he created something new. And much greater than himself.
Fast forward a bit (and stay with me here)…
When the mechanical shark didn’t work on Jaws, Stephen Spielberg was forced to take the movie in a different direction. He couldn’t just go with seeing the shark make every attack on film. It wasn’t gonna happen that way. Here he was with his first major film with studio execs breathing down his neck about budget - and his main character doesn’t work. Imagine how he felt every Friday when payday came around and he has to collect his draw from the studio…. And they’re all like: “How’s the film going, Steve?” You think really damn quick on how to solve problems. He had to. It was the only way he was going to save that film.
And the result? Your ass STILL hears a half step ascension every freaking time you go in the ocean. Every. Single. Time. You KNOW you do…. Yes you do.
The same scenario happened with Lucas during the original Star Wars. When special effects companies couldn’t do what he wanted, he had to start his own company to make it happen. He had to rely on creative people telling him that it could be done and they themselves had to think outside the box. Everyone around him had to be creative. As the director, Lucas had to be creative too. There was no option.
Lucas directing Star Wars in 1977. On Set with Sir Alec Guiness.
That’s the rub. When money is no object, you have a lot of options. When being creative doesn’t have to be one of them, that’s a very very bad thing.
See where I’m going with this? Back to the prequels for a bit…
Lucas didn’t understand what he created because he was never a fan of his work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he liked it - but he was the creator, not an actual fan. He only understood it from the inside looking out. He didn’t grow up with Star Wars. He didn’t run through his yard at 8 years old cutting down stormtroopers and saving Princess Leia. He didn’t send letters to Santa to get the “right” action figures for Christmas. He didn’t act out 10,000 possible movie scenarios with the action figures. I promise you that millions of kids already wrote their own version of the prequels in their mind. And up against those odds, there was no way that he could dig in that same creative well that the rest of us did every single day. He simply didn’t relate to Star Wars on a visceral level the same way that we did.
He’s able to make the prequels with an unlimited budget and effects and lo and behold - they’re not good. They don’t feel like Star Wars movies. The dialogue is weak and it doesn’t add up to what he told us in the previous three movies.
Wait - what? Why isn’t this good? This is a Star Wars movie. They’re supposed to be good.
I’ll admit - I told people that I liked Episode I when it came out. I watched it with my Friend Ben (who’s a great writer) and one of the first things he said before he even got up out of his seat in the theater was “That was horrible”. At first I denied it. But as time went on and the second movie came out, I felt more and more like he was right….like It wasn’t going to get any better, either. I remembered Ben’s words still in my mind. Then after the third movie, I was completely honest with myself in watching it. I didn’t like them that much.
All that being said, I collected damn near every toy from those prequels. Some are really great toys.
Sure, it came with Lightsabers, it came with Darth Vader, it came with Yoda, it came with the droids. But it missed the deepest root of the Star Wars tree. If Star Wars is about anything, it’s about hope.
In 2009 I saw the reboot of Star Trek in the theater. I’m a marginal Trek fan at best. I like it, but I don’t like all the nerdy bullshit that goes along with it. Something really odd happened to me while watching this film - something really unexpected. I actually cried during the opening sequence where Kirk’s dad is telling his wife goodbye - knowing that he’s going to die. I didn’t even know why. It then occurred to me that it was the first time in my life where I could relate to this scenario. I was now married. This affected me in a totally different way.
I walked out of the theater and said “That was better than all three prequels. Why the hell didn’t they get this J.J. Abrams guy to write and direct the new Star Wars movies?”
I was happy to find out years later that he in fact would direct the next one.
On December 18th, I watched Star Wars, Episode VII on the opening night. My tickets were originally for the 17th, but our company Christmas party was that night. After the movie, I left the theater IMMEDIATELY wanting to see Episode VIII. And I mean IMMEDIATELY.
BB-8 Looking for answers.
I absolutely fell in love with Poe, BB-8, Rey, and Finn. Big time. The characters were very real and very fun to watch on screen. And MAN - THOSE NEW STORMTROOPERS LOOK AWESOME!!!
I just saw it tonight for my second time and I can honestly say that it’s TWICE AS GOOD THE SECOND TIME!!!!
I wasn’t scared watching this movie for the second time. I knew what was going to happen and I could just sit back and enjoy it.
Every character has real grit to them in this film. Rey is full of hope and joy. She smiles in such a way that you can see that she truly enjoys meeting the new people that enter her life. I’ve thought to myself that I would never think to act her part in that way but when you see her do it, it really adds that glimmer of joy to her character. It’s like she’s truly mesmerized by meeting new people. Not to mention, she’s an absolute badass. I think she may very well be the toughest mofo in the Star Wars galaxy. She’s obviously one of the best pilots too.
Speaking of pilots…. POE ROCKS! His delivery is absolutely perfect. His comic timing, his wit….. it’s perfect. I absolutely love his relationship with BB-8. I love that he loves his droid - much the way that Luke loved R2. Oh yeah - the boy can fly! I think I counted 8 or 9 Tie Fighters that Poe shot down in that long camera sequence over Takodana. Then to have Finn react to it was icing on the cake. He said what everybody was thinking.
Finn is also perfect for his part. A stormtrooper gone good. Nice touch! He’s got a lot of depth as a character and he’s a perfect counterpart to Rey. He’s also got very real earthy vocabulary. This feels really nice in this movie. Hearing him say “dammit” and “hell no” finally opens up the Star Wars vernacular a little and gives it a little more grit.
I’ll admit, watching Han die was tough. It was actually tougher the second time. I honestly had tears in my eyes watching Chewbacca react to his death aboard the Falcon. Watching Kylo Ren struggle with knowing that he had to kill his father was even more powerful the second time because you then knew what he was struggling to do. It made his performance of that scene absolutely perfect. The tears in his eyes while he killed Han were haunting.
Holy shit these actors are good.
And Rey. Oh Rey. You felt every pain she was going through on screen. Every fear, every joy, and every pain. You could even see the look in her face when she drew confidence in the force and became at peace with it. It was breathtaking.
When I left the theater tonight, it was clear to me that this movie had made me feel like a kid again. I wanted to know what Luke had been up to. I wanted to know if he felt responsible for Kylo’s turn to the dark side. I wanted to know if Rey was his daughter. Hell, before the movie even started, this Duracell commercial ran before the trailers and I was tearing up then. It’s because this is EXACTLY what I did when I was a kid. It’s exactly why I collected the figures. It’s exactly why I ate eight boxes of Fruit Loops to get a free Han Solo in Stormtrooper disguise figure. I was that kid.
I didn’t have the LED light up lightsaber but I did have a Rayovac with a broomstick in the handle.
And you know what? It was spectacular. And it made my childhood awesome.
And I, like Luke and Rey, had Hope.