Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars Returns (SPOILERS)

I promised, and here it is.

Personally, I had a fair amount of hope when Disney bought Lucasfilm. Whatever else you say about the Mouse, they've developed a good record of buying cinematic properties and then giving people creative freedom to, well...not fix what isn't broken and sometimes fix what is.

The Force Awakens isn't quite A New Hope - but it's enough to make one forget (or repress) the disaster that was the prequels. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The visuals were right on (I skipped the 3D version for various reasons), and Abrams' decision to film analog and use actual props for everything worked. Star Wars needs that edge of reality, not the hyper cleanness of CGI (One of my complaints about The Expanse).

The plot was a little bit predictable - it was very much "We're just going to make a new Star Wars movie and have fun with it" but might have echoed the original a little too much for those of us who remember it. However, you know what? That's what I wanted. The people who complained it was too like the original have a point, but...for many of us, that's really where they needed to go.

There was only one "Abramsism" in the movie - apparently the First Order's "superluminal weapon" can be seen from anywhere in the Galaxy and you can tell where it's being pointed. Not too bad, and far more considerable in Wars than Trek. (The other things that made me go "Uh" were the Millennium Falcon being fueled up and spaceworthy after sitting in a junk yard for years and just how did they move a planet to a new solar system every time they needed a sun to fuel the superweapon without damaging its ecology anyway?). Oh, and they got lazy with "what does a Stormtrooper wear under his armor?" - Finn's garb looked like they bought it at the local Wal-Mart.

But I could look past that for the stunning visuals, the Millennium Falcon flying through a crashed Star Destroyer, and yes, that adorable droid. Yeah, I'm one of those people who thinks BB-8 is too cute for words.

Daisy Ridley was perfectly competent as Rey. John Boyega was absolutely amazing - he managed to get an insane amount of emotion across while acting in full Stormtrooper armor. I didn't really feel I saw enough of Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron to judge. Harrison Ford hasn't changed except for going grey, but Mark Hamill was almost unrecognizable under the requisite Jedi Master beard.

My one casting issue was that Adam Driver did not match well with Ford and Fisher as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (A much better name than Jacen). He actually looked more like a Stark than a Solo or a Skywalker. Sorry.

The movie did fulfill one of my biggest Star Wars dreams: A major character playing a significant role who is a ground pounder. Star Wars has always put the romance of the pilot first, and that's fine. Leia is a diplomat despite holding the title General in this movie, but everyone else has always been pilots. Rey, our newest Jedi-in-training, also a pilot. But Finn doesn't know one end of a ship from another, and I love it. Him trying to work out how to fire the Falcon's guns is hilarious.

Now, the speculation. This movie left a lot of unanswered questions, and I'm addressing a few of them. With guesses, of course - for the fun of it.

1. Yes, Han Solo is dead. Let's get that out of the way. Even if it didn't look pretty final, the echo of Kenobi's death at the hands of his student wasn't anything these writers could have passed up.

2. Leia never trained as a Jedi because she chose not to - and because she felt she could serve the Light better with the talents she has. She is still "strong in the Force" and using it to a point, but anyone who thinks it's silly that she didn't train...I think it's a point of the character. (And in some ways, she's truer to the ideals than some who've held a lightsaber in lower canon).

3. Finn is probably also Force sensitive. Although we're shown that at least some Stormtroopers get training in bladed weapons, the fact that he picked up a lightsaber and didn't chop any part of himself off with it indicates, or should, that he has some sensitivity. This might also explain why the conditioning he was put through ultimately failed at its very first test.

4. Rey is not Ben's twin. Or other sibling. Sorry...if they go that way I'll accept it, but as of right now I'm not buying it. There is absolutely no way that another child would not have been mentioned in the conversation between Han and Leia, and no way Leia would let her daughter out of her sight. The only way Rey could have been stolen from them would be if their memories were wiped. I could almost buy that somebody could mind trick Han, but Leia? Nah. Nope.

She's obviously Luke's daughter, and probably one he didn't even know he had. I think we'll get filled in on that in the next movie. She definitely has a look of Leia about her...and I can't see that Luke's lightsaber would call to somebody who was not a blood relative. Cousins makes the ultimate confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren just as bittersweet as siblings and simply makes more sense.