Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sunday night I proudly proclaimed to my friends on Facebook that I had purchased my tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night. I was especially excited because seeing a Star Wars film on its opening day was on my bucket list since I was a kid. I came very close when Revenge of the Sith was released but I missed it by a day due to my family changing their plans at the last minute. I was immensely disappointed by this at the time because the understanding was that there would be no more Star Wars movies. Ten years later here we are with the beginning of the fabled sequel trilogy.

Facebook Filter: Jedi Anthony Nogales

I’ve done my best to ignore the hype leading up to this movie. Years ago I would have spent my time trying to uncover every detail of the plot that I could but these days I lack the time to devote myself to uncovering these secrets. I watched the trailers when they came out and speculated a little with my friends but ultimately I decided that this time around I wanted to just watch the movie and enjoy the ride.

Facebook Filter: Sith Lord Zknik E.

As we neared the premiere I surrendered myself to the excitement. It was about this time that Facebook added a feature in which users would be allowed to add a lightsaber to their profile picture. This overlay was available in both Jedi and Sith versions which made it interesting when looking down my Friend’s List and seeing who I’d have to fight if the Force was a real thing. At present count my Jedi friends outnumber my Sith friends by a wide margin which, by prequel logic, means the Force is in balance.

The Force Awakens Movie Ticket Stub

I had opted to purchase my tickets on Fandango and, with the 8PM and 10:30PM showings sold out, I quickly purchased a ticket for the 11PM showing. While a friend had invited me long ago to attend the film with himself and his boyfriend, I politely declined indicating that I was going to wait a few days for the crowds to die down. My reasoning being that the rowdiness of the audience during the film might sour the viewing for me so it would be best to wait. I told my aunt about this and she encouraged me to try to see it on opening night just to have that experience.

With my tickets purchased I was satisfied that the showing would work well for me. I reasoned that no responsible parent would allow their child to stay up at 11PM for a 136 minute movie on a school night. I was discussing this with a friend who promptly told me, “You do know the kids are on winter break right?”

Star Wars costumes are welcome but...

On the morning of December 17th I drove down to the Park Place mall to meet a new friend of mine for a cup of coffee. While we were there I made a point to swing by the theater to see if there were any lines forming by diehard fans. Though the first showing was still ten hours way at that point I wondered if there would be any fellow geeks waiting in line: there were none.

I drove down to the mall at 9:30PM to claim my tickets in the event that there was a long line. By this time there was a long line which I was pleased to see was filled with Jedi and fellow geeks all excitedly buzzing about the movie. I even ran into my friend Nacho there as I walked to the theater. Fortunately there was no line to the ticket counter itself where I was able to quickly get my ticket. The long line that stretched to the doors of the mall was for the people waiting to get into their showings.

A warning to those who haven’t seen the movie yet, from this point forward there will be spoilers.

Movie Theater Selfie

At long last the lights dimmed and the iconic words appeared on the screen: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

The instantly recognizable Star Wars theme blared as the opening crawl began to appear:

Luke Skywalker has vanished.
In his absence, the sinister
FIRST ORDER has risen from
the ashes of the Empire
and will not rest until
Skywalker, the last Jedi,
has been destroyed.

With the support of the
REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa
leads a brave RESISTANCE.
She is desperate to find her
brother Luke and gain his
help in restoring peace
and justice to the galaxy.

Leia has sent her most daring
pilot on a secret mission
to Jakku, where an old ally
has discovered a clue to
Luke’s whereabouts….

Rather than describe the entire movie in detail, I’ll use this point to jump into what I didn’t like or what confused me about the film. I was a little confused by the Republic existing yet there being a Resistance. I would have presumed that if the remains of the Empire became the First Order that they would go to war with the Republic. I later brought this up to a friend stating, “I’m not sure what the current galactic political climate is here… because after the prequels I suddenly find myself giving a shit.” Is there an uneasy truce between the First Order and the Republic (or other reason) that forces the latter to operate secretly through this Resistance front? Later on in the film I would get that impression.

Kylo Ren: Lost Child of Severus Snape

Now I’ll jump to slightly after the end of the film. A friend had asked me what I thought of the movie as we were walking out of the theater. All I had to say at that point was, “Kylo Ren is truly the grandson of Anakin Skywalker. They’re both whiny little bitches.”

Another thing that was very distracting was the actor himself. Kylo Ren is revealed to be the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. With all respect to Adam Driver, I immediately wished they had cast someone more handsome as the son of Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull disappointed me with Shia LaBeouf playing Ford’s son so in this regard I’m used to disappointment.

Then, while we’re on the boat of shallowness, the ears were a distraction. As I said to a friend this morning, “I guess Jar-Jar was in the movie after all.” I realize I’m no Channing Tatum but I also accept I’m not an actor.

J.J. Abrams' Signature Lens Flare

The First Order has built a planet-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire star systems. I’m sure I read that somewhere on Reddit or something months back but it seemed too fantastical to be real. Here it is: Starkiller Base. When I heard the name I immediately thought of Galen Marek, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who also went by “Starkiller” in the videogame Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. To me this was the final death knell for the overpowered Sith apprentice.

Logistically the question I have about this planet-size weapon is how is it moved? I didn’t pick up anything on how the weapon travels to different locations. The film did say that the weapon is powered by sucking in the energy of a nearby star, which is then stored, and finally blasted at whatever the First Order has designated as a target. The end of the film had the base suck in the entirety of the nearby star which was meant to be used to destroy the Resistance base planet.

If it really can’t move does this mean that, after the massive financial undertaking required to build this weapon, it is only good for two shots? Who the hell in the galaxy has the funding to fuel such wasteful, space-Nazi projects!? The Koch brothers?

The Star Forge

Also what is the science behind Starkiller base being able to suck in an entire star? I can understand the mechanism being able to suck the plasma from the star to use the power for whatever purpose. That was the concept behind the Star Forge in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I can buy that. What I don’t buy is that something the size of a planet can hold the amount of energy contained in a star and not be destroyed. Assuming that Starkiller base and it’s star are the same sizes as Earth and our sun, then the weapon would have to contain the matter of something 1.3 million times its size! Compressing that much matter to that small of size would make it super dense. Congratulations, space-Nazis! You just made a black hole and you’re standing on it! I’m no astrophysicist but wouldn’t this, at the very least, have some effect on space-time?

Now there are some who would say, “Dude! It’s just a movie.” I would tell them, in that case, to quit complaining about their misinterpretation of the use of parsecs.

Bro Force, Assemble!

There is a scene where what I call the Bro-force plots their attack on Starkiller base. The way I remember it, the recently turned renegade stormtrooper Finn tells Oscar Isaac’s character Poe that he needs to rescue his friend who is being held prisoner on Starkiller base. Poe then gathers a bunch of Resistance pilots and tacticians and after practically glancing at the schematics decide that they’re going to blow up a component on the weapon which should destabilize and destroy the base.

The whole scene had a sense of this being a drunken college fraternity planning the attack on the Death Star. “Yo, bros! My boy here has to save his girl from the bad dudes on this base!” “Bro! You can totally destroy this thing here and blow the whole thing the f$$k up!” “Alright, bros! Let’s do this!”

Desert planet local finds droid carrying important information for galactic rebellion...

My friend Doug and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between this movie and some of the previous movies. Essentially what we have here is a little robot entrusted by an important member of the Resistance with delivering a vital piece of information. Little robot is helped along by one of the desert planet’s local youngsters which fate has forced to leave said planet behind. We already saw the stormtroopers butcher the civilians and now they’re pursuing the little robot and girl.

Sound familiar? Sounds like A New Hope if you ask me. I can accept there’s a new cantina sequence with a new band playing a new catchy tune, but there’s even the element of saving the girl trapped on the superweapon. You thought you could pull one over on us? Nice try, Abrams!

Captain on the bridging the gap!

I’m not big on fan service for its own sake. That said I’d say there’s more nostalgia in this film than fan service. One thing that excited me about The Force Awakens was seeing our old friends joining us again! The scenes in which the audience cheered the loudest were on the nostalgic elements of the movie. While I’m normally very quiet during a movie, even I couldn’t restrain a cheer when the Millennium Falcon was revealed. Being on board again and seeing the familiar set made the fan boy in me cheer. From the dejarik board and training remote from A New Hope *to the maintenance pit where Han frantically attempted to fix the hyperdrive in *The Empire Strikes Back.

TIE Fighter Attack

I loved the cinematography in The Force Awakens. The shot above, one of my favorites, has been said to be a homage to Apocalypse Now. Just the way the camera followed the dogfighting starfighters was pretty intense! I’m also glad there was none of the J. J. Abrams signature lens flare that I could see.

Poe tortured by Kylo Ren

I really enjoyed the dialog in the movie. I found myself quoting some of the witty one liners well into the next day. One of my favorites took place at the beginning of the film when Poe is captured by Kylo Ren. While staring down the masked would-be Sith, Poe asks, “How does this work? Do I talk first? Do you talk first?”

In another scene, Finn is helping Poe escape from the First Order. Poe asks, “Why are you helping me?” Finn responds with, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” After a moment of silence between the two of them Poe realizes, “You need a pilot.” “I need a pilot,” confirmed Finn.

BB8

When I saw the first trailer for this film I was skeptical about the idea of BB-8. I initially wrote him off as a stupid droid and would likely be one of the things I disliked about the movie. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve fallen in love with this little droid! By the end I found myself cheering on BB-8 most out of the characters. I can’t articulate why I love this little droid so much but I want one, if only to give me an encouraging thumbs up every once in a while.

As I was walking back to my jeep at 1:30AM, I got an email from Audible informing me that my preorder of The Force Awakens audiobook is ready for me to download. I clearly forgot I used one of my credits to purchase this book months ago so that was a pleasant surprise. Merry Christmas to me, I guess. I’m hoping the book will provide more in-depth detail as to what happened in the movie and help me make sense of it all.

Who hurt you?

People ask me what I thought of the movie and after this first viewing I gave it a conservative 7 out of 10. I’m sure that by the time the Blu-ray comes out and I’ve watched it ad nauseum that it would have grown on me. Still it’s a fun, action-packed adventure mixed with nostalgia and good humor. It has now been 24 hours since I watched the movie and I’m excited to see where this next trilogy takes us! This film is a great start!

Filthy casual!