I know, I know…I’m a book blog. What the heck am I doing reviewing a movie that basically everyone is going to see? Am I jumping on a the nerdy bandwagon? Am I making a grab for followers or interest? Or am I just writing a piece about something that made me have some feels?
I’ll give you a hint…it’s the last one.
So here’s the thing. I have a very mixed relationship with Star Wars. There are things about it that I love: lightsabres, robots, and intergalactic space politics. But there are also things that I loathe: a heavy focus on what is “light” and what is “dark”, poorly done cultures (wookies can’t pronounce their own names), and a serious lack of speaking female roles.
But, all that being said, Star Wars has a very special place in my heart.
I was seven when I got the chicken pox. It would be a day or two before the spots showed up but I still felt like my head had been hit by a hammer and the only thing I could nibble was cheese. I was spending Sunday, as usual, with my grandparents. My Grandmother assumed I was sick and tucked me unto the couch with a pile of blankets and put on one of the five VHS tapes that she owned, it wasn’t holding my attention.
By the time the quirky nun was getting the VonTrap children to sing about does and rays I was hurling up my cheddar lunch. It was not a good day. My Grandpa took pity on me and lifted me from the couch into his lap and put a rag on my forehead and a cup of water in my hands. He smelled of cigars and cedar, which was a great improvement from the scent of cheddar vomit.
“Here,” he said switching the video tapes. “Let’s watch this instead.”
He put in A New Hope and I was caught up from the first scrolling words….which he had to stop a time or two so I could catch up. I was enamored with Han Solo and desperate to have a robot friend before the first hour was done. I was lost in a world of wonder.
We watched the first two movies that day, and the final one the following Sunday while I smelled of calamine lotion and oatmeal. By the end I was cheering and dancing and happy as a clam that teddy bears had saved the universe.
Hey, I was seven, don’t judge me.
I can’t say that I was a fan then. I was a kid and would go on to explore a billion things before I was swept up in the Jedi/Sith craze. I saw the prequals when they came out. I played about a dozen video games with the star wars theme. I own two versions of the pen and paper role playing game. There is an entire shelf on my entertainment center for all the Star Wars moving pictures that I own (including both The Clone Wars, and Clone Wars). My closet has not one, not two, but THREE different outfits for the setting that I’ve put together for conventions.
To be honest, in doing all that, I never felt that same wonder that I had as a child, tucked in my grandfathers lap, watching the story unfold.
But there I was, standing in the rain and cold, wearing my x-wing pilot inspired dress, sharing with all the other early view fanatics that couldn’t wait until Friday to see the film. I was, once again, not feeling great but I wasn’t going to have anything spoiled for me by going a few days later. I crowded into the cinema with a popcorn and a massive stack of lemonade and waited to feel whisked away once more.
And to be honest there were moments when I felt it.
Sure you’ve got to sit through about thirty minutes of previews that you could watch on you tube, and there was a woman sitting in front of me that kept checking her phone. But despite that I did experience that ‘lost in the story’ sensation intermittently throughout the film.
And yeah, it’s only intermittently.
What the film does well:
-It incorporates the original characters with ease. They feel like their own people continuing on their own stories.
-The new characters don’t feel like a rehash of the old characters, though there are some similarities.
-BB8…oh my god.
-Tugging at your heartstrings
-The cinematic score
What the film does not do well:
-Character growth/change happens in several sudden moments that felt…weird.
The stories foundation was pretty great. I loved the idea of it. Once i read through the opening scroll I was like ‘fuck yeah, that is a great story idea’. But the film seemed to be focusing too hard on drawing some parallels with the original trilogy that it sort of forgot to be its own thing.
Also the ‘big reveals’ that happened during the course of the film weren’t handled very well. I wasn’t hit in the gut with them, but rather poked in the chest. I feel that this was predominately a pacing problem. The story unfolds awkwardly, with the history given in tossed around banter rather than flashbacks or poignantly expressed dialogue.
I think this heavy handed style was do, in no small part, to JJ Abrams style of direction. I have seen it in other films and I’m hoping that Rian Johnson (director of Looper and The Brothers Bloom) can even out the pacing issues and help bring star wars to it’s new era.
Overall I give the film a 7/10. It was worth seeing. I did not feel that my time was wasted, but rather felt my inner editor going ‘okay, that’s cool, but what if you moved that here’.