Star Wars: The Force Awakens (An Extremely Non-Spoilerrific Review)

Sean’s from the 70s.  Jay is an 80s chick. Sean is kind of a nerd.  Jay, not so much.  Sean saw Star Wars: A New Hope (though he still just calls it, “Star Wars”) at least 20 times before his eighth birthday.  Jay had never seen any Star Wars movie until this past weekend.  So what did they think of Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Sean: As a kid, I always loved Star Wars.  I’m at the younger end of the Star Wars generation since I never knew a world without it.  Too young to see the first two in theatres, I caught up by Return of the Jedi thanks to the miracle of VCRs and HBO showing Star Wars around the clock in 1983 (and I kept watching it over and over every chance I got).  Star Wars felt like it belonged to me since it was happening just as I was growing up and learning what movies were.  And because of my age I was still young enough to not be at all cynical about product placement or Ewoks by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around.  To my seven year old self, it was all positive that Return of the Jedi served firstly as a mechanism to manufacture more toys and second as a conclusion to my favourite movie series.

luke skywalker return of the jedi

My two favourites: Luke in his Jedi robe (though I kept losing the lightsaber)…

leia return of the jedi

…and Leia as a bounty hunter (though I always was looking for that goddamn helmet too)!

The only negative was that I had to convince my parents to buy all those action figures and vehicles, but fortunately I was a very spoiled kid so I got more than my share (but sadly, not the amazing Imperial Shuttle, though I’m over the disappointment, I swear).  It helped that I was willing to do pretty much anything to “earn” more toys, whether it was mowing the lawn or painting the deck or saving my proofs of purchase from other toys so I could send away for the Emperor!

The prequels were a whole other matter.  I was so disappointed to see how boring Darth Vader’s backstory was on screen, as opposed to how awesome it had been in my head, having patched it together through whatever references were offered by the original trilogy.  And I don’t think it was the 16 year gap in between, since even in university I was perfectly happy to watch the original trilogy over and over (and I wasn’t alone, my roommates and I would often spend Saturday afternoons watching all three back-to-back-to-back).   Anyway, even though I was still am mad about the prequels’ wasted potential, I watched all three, even seeing the last one in theatres.

Which leads us to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Having really enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, and since chronologically we could sort of forget the prequels ever happened, I have had high hopes for The Force Awakens ever since it was announced.  And Jay was nice enough to track down tickets even though she could not have been less excited to see it.

Jay: The only exposure I’ve had to Star Wars was a set of sheets I inherited from my cousin Tim, who’s a decade or more older than I am.

The infamous Star Wars sheets. I also had a flannel blanket but we buried my dead dog in it.

The infamous Star Wars sheets. I also had a flannel blanket but we buried my dead dog in it.

I guess he grew out of his single bed so I got his sheets, and spent a good deal of my youth sleeping with Harrison Ford. Plus, I exist in the world. I haven’t seen the movies, but I’ve seen plenty of stuff that references them, so I almost didn’t have to. I can never remember if C-3PO is the big gold robot or the little blue and white one, but I know it’s a robot. It’s just that the Star Wars universe never appealed to me. Science fiction will always have to work harder to convince me, and so will movies with talking animals, green aliens, and make-believe weapons.

So no, I hadn’t seen Star Wars, and I really didn’t care to. My life felt perfectly complete without it, and to be honest, I think 2015 is already way too inundated with movies that are meant for young boys but consumed by grown men (I’m looking at you, Marvel). But I could see that this movie meant something to Sean. It was a revival of his childhood, a tribute to his youthful imagination, and a chance for the franchise’s redemption after the last trilogy sullied things up. Kevin Smith said he cried when he visited the set of the Millennium Falcon because it reminded him of that feeling he’d had for it as a child. And how many times do we really get to recapture those magical feelings once we’re grown up? Not too damn many. It did nothing for me, I wasn’t even curious about it, but I resolved to be by Sean’s side when the portal to his boyhood opened up on the big screen before him.

And you know what? I didn’t hate it. I was enchanted by John Boyega’s Finn and the arc of his character. I had fun slotting together the puzzle pieces of Star Wars trivia I’ve picked up over the years (mostly from The Simpsons, I think) and seeing how they translated 30 years later. I was charmed by Harrison Ford’s rapport with the furry beast Chewbacca. And I felt the momentum of the piece really drove me forward and kept .facebook_1450656563309me interested despite the fact that I was jumping in blind for movie #7. So I was feeling pretty juiced about it, squeezed Sean’s hand during all the parts I thought he must be loving, and had plenty of follow up questions for our car ride home. But you know what? When the credits rolled and I looked over at Sean expecting to see rapture, he shrugged his shoulders. It was okay, he thought, but not great. Not even as good as Creed – not even as good as “The Avengers” he said – “Wait- there was an Avengers movie this year, right?” He couldn’t even remember if there was an Avengers movie this year, but if there was, it was better than this.

Ladies and gentlemen: Sean’s lacklustre response FUCKING BROKE MY HEART. Here I had drummed it up as this Big Fucking Deal and it’s not even going to crack his top ten this year.

Sean: I had no idea Jay was so invested in this, for my sake.   And she’s invested in everything I’m interested in, she’s amazing like that.  I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My complaints about it are minor and spoilery so I won’t get into them here, but it’s a solid movie and objectively I would rank it third out of the Star Wars movies, behind A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (yes, ahead of Return of the Jedi as a standalone movie).  That seemed like a ringing endorsement but Jay was expecting more and after reading her thoughts above, I understand why.

let's blow this thing and go home

“You’re all clear, kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home.” BEST. SCENE. EVER.

This should have been my thing, it should have taken me back to my childhood, it should have sucked me in and made me talk about it for days, and it didn’t.  As a gateway/jumping on point for the next generation of fans/consumers, The Force Awakens works really well.  As fan service, it ticks all the boxes and I don’t think that anyone who anticipated like I did will leave the theatre disappointed, exactly.  But you know what?   This all felt like something I’ve seen before (twice) and I’ve seen it BETTER before (twice).  I’m not trying to be a contrarian asshole (just a regular asshole) when I say that if J.J. Abrams was shooting for greatness, he missed the mark here.  Paying tribute to the feelings I had as a kid is not enough to give me those feelings all over again.  And if you pay tribute by imitating something beloved, the fact the script includes ironic acknowledgements of the imitation does not help make the imitation great.  It only tells me that the imitation was a conscious decision and you went this way rather than coming up with something new.  That’s not reassuring to me in any way and it didn’t invoke nostalgia within your movie.  It just made me wish I was watching the original trilogy and that took me completely out of what was happening on-screen in yours.

second death star explodes

Not quite as epic but still awesome, and the afterparty made it a classic (original footage of the afterparty not found and there will be no Hayden Christensen cameo here).

Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough for The Force Awakens to take a new path.  Maybe my expectations were too high.  Because again, The Force Awakens is a good movie and I enjoyed the ride, but I couldn’t truly love it when it felt so much like a remake.  To quote Jimmy Johnson for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life, “Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?”  The Force Awakens is safe and good, but it’s not the great movie I was hoping for, and that’s why I can’t put it in my top ten for the year.

I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a score of seven Kessel Runs out of ten.  Seeing that score is as painful for me, Jay, as it is for you.

Jay: What the fuck’s a Kessel Run?

Sean: Oh Jay, we absolutely have to watch the original trilogy.  Something tells me I still hold all those magical feelings from my youth, but the path to them is through the greatness of Episodes IV, V and VI rather than trying to recapture those feelings through something “new”.  There will always be room for new Star Wars stories, but for me I don’t think the originals will ever be topped.

Jay: I think you of all people should be a little more open-minded about sequels. You are, after all, husband #2, and you’d better hope I don’t court warm fuzzy feelings toward “the husband of my youth.”

 

 

 

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60 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens (An Extremely Non-Spoilerrific Review)

    1. Sean Post author

      I went in blind but had really high expectations. It’s not a bad movie but I didn’t think it was great, and that’s what I was hoping for.

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  1. Chris

    Seems like everyone is reviewing Force Awakens at the moment! As a fun escapist movie it worked for me. Funny how some of us know Star Wars films off by heart while others never watched them. Sorry to hear Sean didn’t love it, I guess for fans the story might feel like imitation.

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      1. fragglerocking

        Righty-oh, will get ear plugs. I did mean what kind of sound, for instance George Lucas developed THX sound processing for Star Wars 3 (original 3) and it was mind blowingly immersive and awesome. Was hoping the new movie had something equally impressive.

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  2. Christopher

    As a fellow 70’s child (although a few years ahead–I saw the original Star Wars in the theater) and one who also had most of the toys (but not the Imperial Shuttle, although I was the envy of my friends for having Boba Fett’s ship) as well as three ceramic lamps made by an aunt (R2-D2, Darth Vader, and Yoda, all of which a local comic book store was thrilled to buy earlier this year), Sean’s feelings speak to me–and I haven’t even seen the new film yet. Just from the trailers I’ve thought, well, here we go again: a handful of people from different backgrounds going up against a guy in a black mask with a red light saber.
    Maybe I’ll enjoy it more because my expectations are so low. The original Star Wars really was something special. I think what sums it up is a conversation I had with someone from an older generation about Star Wars. I said, “I’d never seen anything like it.”
    She replied, “Neither had anyone else.”

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    1. Sean Post author

      I love that quote and I hope you enjoy The Force Awakens. I think low expectations are the key, it’s good but it’s not the same (mainly because it IS the same if that makes sense).

      Also, that’s awesome you had Slave I. I had it as well and it was definitely the best ship in my collection! The chair that moved from the hatch to the cockpit as well as the ramp that swung down were so amazing, I kept inventing reasons for Boba Fett to land, unload frozen Han Solo, load up again, and head to another planet where he would repeat the process.

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  3. kmSalvatore

    Oh you 2 crack me up . Great read!!!
    I don’t not care to spend money on most Sci fi!!! I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces on tv. They don’t do a thing for me. With that said , my daughters were born watching them all , yes they grew up with all them just like you Sean . I don’t know how they feel now.. Being female, lol and far from
    Thanks for sharing , I got a good chuckle

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  4. Liz A.

    Considering all the build up, I don’t think any movie could live up to those expectations. It just can’t. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment on why. That it’s back is awesome, though.

    I remember all the Star Wars toys. We pretty much got all of them as kids. We had to give them to our father when we were done with them. And he still has them to this day.

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      1. Jay

        Don’t you dare blame your mother! Mothers are expected to keep their kids’ junk indefinitely. If it was important, you should have kept it with you, cluttering up your own living space!

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  5. ruth

    I’m with you that I wasn’t blown away by the movie. Yes it was fun and entertaining, but it wasn’t spectacular. I did revisit the original trilogy and that increased my enthusiasm a bit about this franchise as I was kinda meh about it for the most part. I ended up posting a long post on it though, but it seems that my quibbles didn’t bother the die-hard fans (surprise, surprise) 🙂

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      1. Sean Post author

        That’s ghost Obi-Wan admitting he lied to Luke about Darth Vader. I thought you’d like to see ghost Obi-Wan in action since you were so annoyed by the concept of ghost jedi 🙂

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  6. In My Cluttered Attic

    Went with my youngest and we had a great time. Lots of wit in this one and the action, yes reminiscent of the original Star Wars, or is it number 7? Disliked the last three films in the series, but didn’t hate them. There were many moments in this one that hearken back to the original film, but I didn’t feel it distracted from what was fun about this one. I was only disappointed once in the film, but I won’t say what it was? Nice, but honest review.

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  7. bp7o9

    Just saw it last night. You hit it right on the head: no new story here, just a rehash. I will say this: got to see the 3D version, and it’s well worth the extra cash. Abrams did a great job using 3D to its best advantage in every scene. Overall, I see it as more of a reboot than an extension of the saga. Loved Finn and Rey. About time we see a better representation of all people in the Star Wars films.

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    1. Jay

      Yes, seeing Kylo Ren’s hair in 3D is truly something. I’ve never dated a darth anything, but I have dated hockey players (ugh) so I do wonder: where’s the helmet hair? Is it just me or is this new bad guy kind of emo?

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      1. bp7o9

        rofl! Oh, yes! Worst. casting. ever. By no stretch of imagination would a child of Han and Leia look like that emo wimp. Such a wanna-be vader!

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  8. Jay

    I have no Star Wars fandom to speak up, and my JJ Abrams appreciation starts and ends with this – a nod to the TV show Felicity! Did you see it?

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  9. Prudence

    The buzz is starting for Episode 8, news of casting calls and whatnot. It’s going to be pandemonium once again come 2017. Rian Johnson’s taking the wheel this time, and judging from how fantastic Looper was, I have a feeling that that 7 kessel runs might just increase a notch or two. Hopefully. 🙂

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  12. jhubner73

    I was born in 1973, so Star Wars WAS my childhood. I think we may have owned stock in Kenner at some point(or should have.) The movie was everything I hoped it would be, though I found myself not really thinking about it much after I left the theater. I took my 10 year old son, as he’s become a big fan of the movies. He loved it, and through his enthusiasm I was a little more excited about it had I been just some sad 42 year old guy in the cinema trying to grasp onto a Lucasfilm childhood.

    That said, I did get a little tingly when the Millenium Falcon took off for the first time.

    The toy I never got that I always wanted was the AT-AT, and I’m still not over it.

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  14. DotedOn

    Sean, I’m sorry this movie didn’t match your expectations. I loved this review. You and Jay make me smile every time! I admire you both. I can feel the love you have for each other in every word! 🙂

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  16. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    In my “disappearance off the face of blogging Earth” for the last few weeks, I missed this (and definitely specifically went looking for it this evening).

    Sean, you are the second person I know who said similar things about this movie. I definitely fell into a camp that loved, loved, loved it – enough that I went back this weekend for a second time, and will probably hit it up for a third time if I can find the time in the next few weeks. For me, I think part of not caring that it is so similar to previous movies is that it seems like it’s going somewhere entirely different (of course, that could also just be that I’m spending far too much time looking at Internet theories and/or convincing myself that this is the case).

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    1. Sean Post author

      Sorry I missed this! Hope you had a good break. I’m glad you liked this and can understand why. I was more disappointed than anything because The Force Awakens felt so much like a Star Wars movie, right from the start, and I felt they took the safe way when they could have made something really great. But it’s still a good movie, and so much better than the prequels, as I confirmed by forcing Jay to rewatch them!

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