My mini-review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Enough time has gone by that I think it’s acceptable to dive into spoiler territory now. But there WILL be spoilers, so be warned, those of you who haven’t seen Star War: The Force Awakens — SPOILERS beyond this point.

Personally, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens on the first viewing, but I had some problems with it — too many structural callbacks to A New Hope, too much CGI, and not very good CGI — seriously, do we really want the Big Bad to be a lame CGI construction? There is no reason for Snoke to be CGI; he’s very humanoid. Also, Snoke is a silly name. And there was no scary villain like Vader, no towering figure of evil kicking ass. Keylo Ren is more of a conflicted, angst-driven Anakin-esque figure — which is actually pretty great. I love having a conflicted villain. Keylo is fascinating. But no Vader. And Snoke is a goofy hologram on a crappy CGI set.

I had other problems with the movie, but those started to fall away on the second viewing. Because, on the positive side, the movie FELT like Star Wars. It felt like Star Wars more keenly than the Prequels ever did. It was FUN. The characters were a blast (although I didn’t feel like we got to spend enough time with any of them. We didn’t have a long, get-to-know-you period with any of them like we did with Luke.)

But anyway, the movie WORKS. It’s a blast, a nitro-fueled ball of energy filmed against largely practical sets (that are gorgeous and very Star Wars-y), which really helps sell the reality of the universe. When the sets aren’t practical, like the awful CGI bridge at the end with Han, they’re less good. Seriously, the CGI in this movie is terrible. But fortunately so much of it is practical, and beautifully made, with vibrant directing, likeable acting and exciting Star Wars-y stuff going on.

I can’t wait to get to know the new characters better, especially Poe. I understand he was actually meant to die in this movie, but they decided to keep him around, and I’m glad they did. Hopefully he’ll have a bigger role next time around. His daring heroism feels so refreshing in this jaded age.

I love the fact that the lightsaber duel wasn’t all leaping and jumping around. It wasn’t for looks so much (as in Phantom Menace) but for substance. I want an explanation for how Rey is able to go up against Keylo Ren without training, but I’m assuming she absorbed some of his own training during their mind meld, so I’m willing to let that slide.

I love that Finn was a garbage man.

I want (and will probably get) a comic book about each of the aliens in Kanata’s bar.

I’m still wrestling with my feelings on the movie, but overall I’m starting to love it. A third viewing is definitely required. It was during the second viewing of Phantom Menace that it really began to sink in that something was way wrong with the Prequels. On the second viewing of Force Awakens, I only began to like it more. A third viewing might push me over the like line into love.

What about you? Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Conjectures for the future of the series? Is Rey Luke’s daughter? What’s up with her vision?

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Thoughts on Sense8, a new science fiction series on Netflix

Thoughts on Sense8, a new science fiction series on Netflix

Has anyone else seen Sense8? I just finished watching it the other day and found it a fascinating meditation on narrative, character and gender. If you enjoyed Cloud Atlas, Sense8 is probably for you. It is very much a continuation of those themes and that style of storytelling–different characters in different parts of the world, blurry gender roles and sexuality, shadowy forces out to get our heroes, etc. It’s a bit slow, but deliberately so, and beautifully realized. It’s not for everybody, but it is unlike any other television show that has gone before. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t devour it as eagerly as I do some other genre shows, but I found a lot to admire about it, even if I did have to look away during the mass-birth montage. It is certainly an epic piece of art, and kind of brilliant.

That said . . . to enjoy the show, you do have to have a strong tolerance for certain things, like gay stuff and a slow build-up, and that’s why I say it’s not for everybody. But if this is the sort of daring, quality stuff that Netflix intends on producing, I’m excited for what comes next.

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On the new Alien/Predator/Prometheus franchise

HERE is great write-up about the new mega-franchise coming our way, and one I’m really excited about — the Alien/Predator/Prometheus franchise. I love the idea of them trying to Marvel Universe-ify these stories and I’m fascinated by how it will turn out. Could we really see three big budget sci-fi horror series produce regular entries with occasional cross-overs and team-ups (or whatever the equivalent would be)? My mind boggles. But it sounds so cool! I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, though. For instance: “They’ll all be rated PG-13″! Please be good, please be good.

I love the Alien franchise quite a lot, or at least the first two, and I’m very fond of “Predator”. I kind of love “Prometheus”, with some caveats — I wish the main character was better-realized, for example. That said, there were two terrific characters in that movie that I’m thankful to have in my head: David and Charlize Theron’s character (I forget her name). Both actors were on fire in that movie and their characters were amazing (whether I can remember their names or not). I can’t wait to see David in P2.

There are a lot of ways these new movies could go bad, though. For example, allowing Alien 3 and 4 to be canon. As far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t exist in the new universe. They were bad, and they killed off all the characters, or turned them into half-mad clones. “Predators” introduced some mythology that may not jive with the tone of the original movie, and perhaps it should be excised from canon. Predator 2 obviously establishes the link between the two franchises, Alien and Predator, although not perfect it’s a fun movie and can stay, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, this whole idea sounds like a blast, and I can’t wait to dive back into this universe . . . provided that shoe stays right where it is.

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