Friday, December 18, 2015

As Expected, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Is the Best Movie of 2015

Finally, after a long time of waiting, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally upon us!

Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilms and an Episode 7 was announced, I had been greatly looking forward to this movie.  In fact, understandably, this is the movie that I’ve been hyped the most of watching this 2015.  It is, like, the “Holy Grail” of movies.  And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

As I expected, this movie indeed gets my nod for best movie of the year.  It’s the greatest movie theater experience I’ve had since 2012’s Avengers.  It’s truly pretty epic!

But to be honest, I’m “high” on this movie right now.  There’s always the chance that any objectivity for evaluation is being intensely compromised by my passionate geek fondness for Star Wars, that if I let my emotions settle down, I might find this movie not as great as I thought it is after watching it for the first time.  Many years ago, I was quite fond of Episode I and Episode II for a while, and thought of them as great movies, as if I was being obliged by my fandom for Star Wars to like them and consider them “great movies.”  But after some time, I finally fully realized that they weren’t as good as I had believed they were (btw, I actually consider Episode III a flawed but good movie).  So there’s probably a need for me to rewatch this movie a couple of times before I can be completely definite in what I think of it.  Nevertheless, that said, I’m utterly certain that I won’t be retracting my initial evaluation of recognizing it as “great movie.”  Even if I eventually find it lesser than my initial thought of it, it’s unlikely that the decline would be radically significant.

Thus, no matter what, I can confidently pick Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the best movie of 2015.  There’s no other movie this 2015 that I had more enjoyment with, and with the year almost ever, it’s extremely unlikely for me to encounter another movie that I might deem superior.

This movie deserves to be watched without knowing anything about it (but, of course, it’s preferable to have some familiarity with at least the original trilogy) so I won’t give too much detail about the plot in this review (however, I have some assorted spoiler-y thoughts in the miscellaneous musings below).  Here are some mild details which I think is safe to provide without really spoiling anything:
  • The movie is set 30 years after Episode 6.
  • The Rebel Alliance has become the Resistance, while the remnants of the Empire have become the First Order.  The two are at war.      
  • The old characters are around, but the new trio of heroes are Ray, Finn, and Poe Dameron.
  • Kylo Ren is the main villain. 
  • BB-8 is adorable.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is immensely thrilling, fun, and spectacular.  As a film production, it’s very praiseworthy – kudos to J.J. Abrams for masterfully helming this movie.  There are a lot of beautiful shots; the cinematography is immaculate.  The visual effects are amazing, and so are the sound effects.  The score is stirring as expected.  The action scenes are exciting, while the dramatic scenes are powerful.  The pacing does not drag, but flows in a smooth and riveting manner.  The characters are terrific, and the performances by their respective actors are terrific as well.  Also, it has a healthy amount of humor, objectively making it the funniest Star Wars movie ever.

But though Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an overall awesome film, it isn’t perfect either.  There are some noticeable flaws, and I wasn’t as awestruck and mindblown as I wanted to be.  Furthermore, I feel that there are too many parallels with the original Star Wars movie (i.e. A New Hope).  But the negative points that I find in this film are very minimal.  They didn’t derail the movie for me.  This movie is so awesome that they didn’t matter.

All in all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a glorious success in reviving the franchise for more big screen triumphs.  It’s an emotionally gratifying movie experience.  And with this strong start, the likelihood of another beloved epic Star Wars trilogy happening is very, very promising.

Episode 8 can’t come soon enough!

Miscellaneous musings (with SPOILERS!!!): 
  • Why are there only X-Wing Starfighters?  Where are the Y-, A-, and B-Wings?
  • One of the great things about this movie was its trailers.  They were very well-made.  It avoided the problem with movie trailers nowadays: the tendency to give a comprehensive narrative summary – basically spoiling the entire movie’s plot.  Many times, movies have been made predictable due to its trailers.  Thankfully, the trailers for The Force Awakens didn’t do that.  They didn’t show too much.   They offered just enough to get us pumped, but the movie was still wrapped in mystery – there were plenty of room left for surprises.  Indeed, less is more.  
  • The best aspect of the “less is more” marketing is the absence of Luke Skywalker in the posters, promotional art, and trailers.  It adds much intrigue to the movie.  Now, Luke Skywalker is indeed in The Force Awakens.  But the way the character is used is probably my biggest disappointment in the movie.  He only appeared in the last minute!  This means it’s only right that he wasn’t in any of the marketing materials since he basically didn’t have any significant presence in the movie.  I was hoping that the reason he wasn’t included in the trailers and promo art is because he’s going to have a very shocking function in the movie.  But it turns out that the reason of his omission was a pragmatic one (since he didn’t participate in the movie’s main narrative anyway) instead of a set up for a delightful surprise.  We have to wait for Episode 8 before we can really see Luke in action once again.
  • Maybe the purpose of Luke’s absence is to put the focus on Han Solo.  He has a big part in this movie – a sort of “guide” for the new characters.  And Harrison Ford was terrific.      
  • You can see the death of Han Solo coming a mile away.
  • I’m sad that Luke and Han never got to reunite with each other.
  • The actors that played Rama and Mad Dog in The Raid have small roles here.  Disappointingly, they aren’t involved in some kickass hand-to-hand combat sequence. 
  • I find some fascination for Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux.  I like the “fascist” tone of the character.  I hope he’ll turn out being a thoroughly fascinating villain in the future.    
  • Captain Phasma is an overhyped character.  She really didn’t have anything to do in The Force Awakens.  Maybe she’ll have a bigger role in Episode 8?
  • Kylo Ren is fantastic.  He isn’t a poor man’s Darth Vader at all.  He has layers that are distinctive.  He has an intimidating presence, but he is also vulnerable.  He’s not only a great villain, but a multi-faceted character as well. 
  • I found Kylo Ren’s radio-ey voice a bit distracting at first.  But it grew on me.  I eventually found it appealing.   
  • It was heavily hinted that Kylo Ren is going to have a heel-face turn in the future.  I feel that such happening’s eventual.  But I don’t mind if ever I’m wrong.  If something unexpected happens to this character, then that’s great.  But if he indeed returns to the side of good, I hope the execution of such development will be done creatively and rivetingly.   I love well-told heel-face or face-heel turns.
  • Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is the “cool guy” character.  He’s supposed to be the best pilot of the Resistance.  And, thus, he has this confidence in him, but not in an a-holey kind of manner.  He’s oozing with likability.  He deserves to have a bigger role in Episode 8; I know there’s more that can be done with this character.
  • As a defecting Stormtrooper, John Boyega’s Finn is a unique character.  His origin and struggle give him a distinctive depth.  He’s the type of character that you’ll go all out rooting for.  In addition, Boyega’s great comedic timing makes Finn a charmingly funny character.      
  • I love Daisy Ridley’s Rey.  She’s on her way of becoming one of my most favorite fictional female characters.  I love that a female character is serving as the “Luke Skywalker” of this new trilogy.  And I will even argue that her character arc in Force Awakens is better than Luke’s in A New Hope.  Can’t wait to see her have her Return of the Jedi moment – where she’ll finally be a complete Jedi Master.   
  • Another nice touch in the trailers and movie posters was the fact that Finn was portrayed holding a lightsaber while Rey wasn’t.  The effect is that the attention of the question “Who could be the new Jedi in The Force Awakens?” is put on Finn.  Now, it doesn’t truly neutralize the “guessability” of Rey’s real identity, but it’s still a clever “red herring” that should have given the eventual revelation a sense of surprise.  Unfortunately, though there’s no image of Rey with a lightsaber in the posters and trailers, there was however a promo art released (leaked?) of one.  It was obscure, but it was out there.  When The Force Awakens was still months away, that promo art was what gave me the idea that Rey is the “Luke Skywalker” of this new trilogy.  A minor bummer since it would have been tremendously better if they never released (leaked?) such promo art.     
  • Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have landed their dream roles and savored every second of it.  This is very apparent in their respective performances.  The Force Awakens gave them the opportunity to show what they are capable of, and they delivered.  The future is bright for these young actors. 
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn – who first appeared in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy of novels – is arguably the best character from the Star Wars Expanded Universe (which had been officially declared as non-canon after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilms).  I’m still hoping that he’ll make a big screen appearance in Episode 8 (or 9).

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