Walking into the theater on Friday, December 18 was the culmination of years of waiting for further installments of one of the biggest, in my life, film trilogies to have ever been made. It’s safe to finally talk about the films a bit, but I am very careful here not to mention too much. Let’s get started…When the initial trailer hit for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I teared up. Seeing Carrie Fisher reprise her role was stirring to say the least. Over the years, we’ve never been far from Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill’s voice has been gracing us with some spectacular moments as well. In fact, the entire franchise has haunted toy shelves and other merchandise since 1978 without a break in service.
Am I going to ignore some other incarnations? The Clone wars cartoon is on my Netflix cue, as we speak. I have the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars on DVD as well. Tartakovsky made the epic Samurai Jack and Power Puff Girls, so yeah, I recognize his efforts there too. The computer animation Clone Wars is a joy to watch, with great story telling and great characters. It helps you to love Anakin, despite everything, and to view his decline toward the dark as not so clearly cut. He didn’t just wake up one day and decide the Dark Side was the answer. Life happened and that is exactly why it is so hard for him to unwind from that decline. Had he lived, I doubt the change would have stuck so well.
In the new edition, for those who haven’t yet seen the film, you will fall in love with BB-88. I am astounded by this Franchise’s ability to make you love a character that doesn’t talk or emote in any sense of the words. Yet, as the small droid winds his way into the dessert, you feel afraid for him. And all the subsequent scenes where he runs for his very existence, your gut cinches. I guess that is just the reaction of a brain equipped with empathy. Those who don’t see it lack the empathy that would allow them to.
Despite having no emotion and no understandable language, BB-88 does a better job of anchoring the viewer to the film than any of the other characters that enter the frame. I felt as though many of the relationships were hurried. It felt as though our connection to old friends were taken for granted. Certainly, as this is following up with characters we well know, those characters don’t require the background or building that the new ones do. I felt that Rey, Poe and Finn were underdeveloped, perhaps Finn more so than anyone. They sort of just flapped out in the breeze of the story, disconnected, but yet so integral to the path. And, they waited more than half the film to give me any clue as to Rey’s past. That’s bad scripting.
I never read the comics/books that were published from the 1980s onward, so some of these characters are 100% new to me. I have knowledge of some of the things that come to pass in the accepted cannon, and I’m struggling to add them up with this film. Who was the giant grey alien??? What does he want? What are his motivations? Is this the Wizard of Oz?
There were too many questions left open. Were the filmmakers afraid of giving spoilers? There are ways to tell a story without giving up the information you need to hold back. The failure of the writers to do so could actually hurt the longevity of the euphoria felt by fans. Once the shine has worn off of these new flicks, the picking apart will begin. This happened with episodes 1-3, which gradually became more and more painful to watch.
I was so very glad to see old friends together on the screen again, but there were things that didn’t set well and will become increasingly annoying with time. For instance, that far too long shot at the end and aerial cam spinning bit. That did not feel Star Wars at all. I felt more like I was in Hell Boy sequence, perhaps The Hobbit. The glitz of using well-known actors to voice some of the characters seemed to be more important, at least in the marketing, than storytelling, as well. Gimmicks. We all know that gimmicks aren’t lasting in film.
Overall, the film was exciting enough to keep my attention and things moved along rapidly so you didn’t have the time to really complain much in the moment, that you had no connections. I’m not certain I will be as eager for the next, or to buy this on DVD when it comes out.